NEWS FLASH! Top 5 News Stories You Should Know About - 21/1/13

This week has seen an end to the hostage crisis in Algeria where an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group took over a natural gas facility in the early hours of Wednesday morning and in Syria more than 100 civilians have been killed in a new “massacre”. Shoppers have expressed their disgust at the news that some beef products sold in supermarkets across Ireland and the UK contained horse DNA. Lance Armstrong has ended years of denials by admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France wins and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants the NHS to be paperless by 2018 - a move a report says could help save the health service billions of pounds a year.

Massacre in Syria

More than 100 people were shot, stabbed and possibly burned to death in the Syrian city of Homs this week. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the deaths came when the army on Tuesday swept through farmlands north of Homs, where it said around 1,000 people had sought refuge from fighting ravaging the city in central Syria.Witnesses said several members of the same family were among the 106 killed, some in fires that raged through their homes and others stabbed or hacked to death. "This needs to be investigated by the United Nations," said Rami Abdul Rahman, director of the UK-based activist group.

Government soldiers said all the bodies had been taken away and blamed Islamist militants fighting with the rebels. The SOHR said all of the dead appeared to be Sunni Muslims, who make up a majority of the population and have been at the forefront of the revolt against the state during the 22-month conflict that the UN says has left more than 60,000 people dead.

Algerian hostage crisis

This week an armed band of jihadist fighters, believed to be from a group that calls itself the Signed-in-Blood Battalion, raided a natural gas facility in Algeria, which is jointly operated by BP, Norway’s Statoil and the Algerian state hydrocarbons giant, Sonatrach. Taking dozens of workers hostage, the raiders claimed to be acting in response to France’s intervention in neighbouring Mali.

Algerian troops have now ended the siege. At least 19 hostages and 29 hostage-takers in total are thought to have died in the four-day stand-off.

The Algerian military's handling of the hostage situation fits their overall approach to terrorists, says Geoff Porter of North Africa Risk Consulting, a political risk consultancy that specialises in North Africa. "They don't negotiate with terrorists, and they don't pay ransoms".

Security across Northern Africa is now being reviewed and BP said that hundreds of workers from international oil companies had been evacuated from Algeria on Thursday and that many more would follow.

'Horsemeat beefburgers' investigated in UK and Ireland

Investigations were under way this week to try to find out how beefburgers on sale in UK and Irish Republic supermarkets became contaminated with horsemeat. Ten million burgers have been removed from supermarkets across Ireland and the UK and are now expected to be destroyed after Irish authorities found they contained traces of horse DNA. Irish food safety officials, who carried out tests two months ago, said the products had been stocked by a number of chains including Tesco and Iceland stores in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, where they were also on sale in Dunnes Stores, Lidl and Aldi.

Horsemeat accounted for approximately 29% of the meat content in one sample from Tesco, which had three frozen beefburger products sold in both the UK and Ireland contaminated with horse DNA. The UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it was working with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to “urgently investigate how the products came to contain horsemeat.”

Lance Armstrong Says He Cheated With Drugs in All Tour Wins

Lance Armstrong has admitted cheating during his cycling career by taking drugs through all of his record seven Tour de France cycling championships. Armstrong made the statement in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, admitting for the first time that he doped to win all seven of his Tour de France titles.

The 41-year- old American, was stripped of his Tour de France titles and banned from competing in Olympic-level sports for life in October after the U.S. Anti- Doping Agency published a 1,000-page report in which it said it found proof he engaged in serial cheating through the use, administration and trafficking of testosterone, erythropoietin and blood transfusions.

Cycling's governing body the UCI welcomed Armstrong's decision "to come clean and confess", and said the interview had confirmed it was not part of a "collusion or conspiracy". Armstrong described his behavior as "inexcusable" but has still left a lot of important questions unanswered.

NHS paperless by 2018?

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is calling for a paperless NHS by 2018 in a bid to save the government £4.4 billion a year. In a speech, Mr Hunt will say a first step is to give people online access to their health records by March 2015 and by April 2018, any crucial health information should be available to staff at the touch of a button. Privacy advocate Phil Booth said a paperless NHS may sound sensible in principle, but it “begs all sorts of questions – not least the security of highly sensitive personal information in an institution undergoing massive disruption that still regularly misplaces or exposes thousands upon thousands of people’s records”.

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