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  1. Thousands of bright children are being "systematically failed" by England's non-selective secondaries, education inspectors warn.

    A culture of low expectations means England's able pupils are failing to gain top GCSE grades, Ofsted says.

    Two-thirds of pupils, some 65,000, who achieved Level 5 in primary school maths and English tests failed to get A* or an A in both subjects at GCSE.

    Head teachers questioned the statistical basis of Ofsted's claims.

    Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Brian Lightman said: "I have real concerns about Ofsted's evidence base for drawing these conclusions.

    "Level 5 is a wide band that that includes a range of ability levels, not just the brightest students. The government has said that for children who come into secondary school with a Level 5, expected progress means a B at GCSE.

    "Of course we want those children to achieve even higher, but for Ofsted to say that they are underachieving if they don't get an A or A* is unfair to those students and their teachers."

    The report - The Most Able Students: Are they doing as well as they should in our non-selective secondary schools? - found more than a quarter (27%) of previously high-attaining pupils had failed to achieve at least a B grade in both English and maths.

    Ofsted defines high-achievers as those achieving a Level 5 in both English and maths in national curriculum tests, commonly known as Sats taken in the final year of primary school.

    Based on observations of 2,000 lessons, visits to 41 schools and school performance data, the report found staff in some non-selective schools did not know who their most able pupils were.

    In 40% of the schools visited, the brightest students were not making the progress they were capable of, and many had become "used" to performing at lower levels, with parents and teachers accepting this "too readily", Ofsted said.

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  2. A man accused of imprisoning three women for about a decade in his home in Cleveland, Ohio, has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and kidnapping.

    Ariel Castro, 52, said nothing as he appeared briefly to be arraigned on 329 counts, including 139 of rape, 177 of kidnap and two of aggravated murder.

    But the defence appeared to hint of a possible plea deal if prosecutors rule out the death penalty.

    The women were Michelle Knight, 32, Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23.

    The murder charges relate to Mr Castro allegedly starving and beating one pregnant captive until she miscarried.

    Defence lawyer Craig Weintraub said after Wednesday's hearing: "Mr Castro currently faces hundreds of years in prison with the current charges.

    "It is our hope that we can continue to work toward a resolution to avoid having an unnecessary trial about aggravated murder and the death penalty."

    The accused, a former school bus driver, is in custody on $8m (£5m) bail. His indictment runs to 142 pages.

    Last week he was taken off suicide watch in jail.

    Ms Berry, who disappeared in 2003 the day before her 17th birthday, escaped on 6 May from Mr Castro's home, along with her six-year-old daughter born in captivity.

    The other women were then freed from the house. They were all reportedly abducted after accepting car rides from the accused.

    Ms Knight vanished in 2002 when she was 20. Ms DeJesus was 14 when she went missing in April 2004.

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  3. The World Bank has cut its growth forecast for China amid warnings of slower but more stable global growth over the coming months.

    The bank now expects the China to grow 7.7% in 2013, down from its earlier projection of 8.4%.

    It also cut the forecast for global economic growth to 2.2% from 2.4%.

    The bank said growth in China, the world's second-largest economy, had slowed as policymakers look to rebalance its growth model.

    Over the past few decades China has relied heavily on exports and government-led investment to boost its economy.

    However, a slowdown in key markets such as the US and Europe has seen a decline in demand for Chinese exports, prompting concerns whether China can sustain its high growth rate.

    There have been calls for China to take measures to boost domestic demand to offset the decline in exports and rebalance its economy.

    While Beijing has been keen to boost domestic consumption, analysts have said that the shift in its growth model may see China's growth rate slow in the short-term.

    The World Bank's cut to China's outlook comes just six months after it raised its forecast for the Chinese economy.

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  4. There has been a "minor explosion" at the constituency office of Conservative MP Nick Boles.

    A bang and the sound of breaking glass were heard at the junction of North Street and Burghley Street in Bourne, Lincolnshire, shortly before 01:30 BST.

    Police said there was only minor damage to the building and no-one was injured. A man has been arrested.

    Mr Boles, the Grantham and Stamford MP, said he understood a home-made device had been thrown through a window.

    He said he did not know anything more than that but hoped to learn more "in due course".

    Caroline Glithero, who lives nearby, said she heard two explosions about 45 minutes apart.

    "I heard two very loud bangs and on the second one I went to see what it was and found a lot of debris and a window broken," she said.

    Lincolnshire Police said a 24-year-old man had been arrested and was helping police with their inquiries.

    A spokesperson said early indications suggested the incident was not linked to any wider issues or recent events in the county.

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  5. Six men from the West Midlands have been jailed for up to 19-and-a-half years each for planning to bomb an English Defence League rally.

    Omar Khan, Jewel Uddin, Mohammed Hasseen, Mohammed Saud, Zohaib Ahmed and Anzal Hussain had all admitted terrorism offences in April.

    Five of the men took a bomb, knives and sawn-off shotguns to the rally.

    But the plotters arrived after the EDL event - held last June in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire - had ended.

    They were caught by chance after their car was stopped and found to have no insurance.

    At the Old Bailey, Khan, Uddin and Ahmed were sentenced to 19-and-a-half years in jail, with a five-year extension on licence.

    Hasseen, Hussain and Saud were jailed for 18 years and nine months, with a five-year extension on licence.

    Extended sentences, introduced in England and Wales last year, mean offenders serve at least two thirds of their main sentence in custody. After release, they are on licence in the community for the rest of their sentence plus the extension part.

    Sentencing the men, Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC said the explosive device had been a "horrible weapon" that would have caused serious if not fatal injuries.

    He said it had not been an amateurish attempt but wide-ranging and determined.

    Judge Hilliard told the men: "How was it that you became involved in a crime of this gravity? At least part of the answer to that question must come in the tide of apparently freely available extremist material in which most of you had immersed yourselves."

    The judge said the extremist material was "not difficult either to obtain or share".

    "In this case, it can only have served to reinforce the defendants' resolve to behave in the hideous way that was planned," he said.

    EDL leader Tommy Robinson and his deputy Kevin Carroll called out "God save the Queen" from the public gallery as sentence was passed.

    Sobs could be heard from other observers, and shouts of " Allahu Akbar" (God is Great in Arabic).

    All of the men except Hasseen travelled to Dewsbury where an EDL rally was taking place on 30 June last year.

    The gang's plan only failed because the event finished earlier than expected - they arrived at around 4pm when it had finished shortly after 2pm.

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  6. A former CIA technical worker has been identified by the UK's Guardian newspaper as the source of leaks about US surveillance programmes.

    Edward Snowden, 29, is described by the paper as an ex-CIA technical assistant, currently employed by defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

    The Guardian said his identity was being revealed at his own request.

    The recent revelations are that US agencies gathered millions of phone records and monitored internet data.

    A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the matter had now been referred to the Department of Justice as a criminal matter.

    The Guardian quotes Mr Snowden as saying he flew to Hong Kong on 20 May, where he holed himself up in a hotel.

    He told the paper that the extent of US surveillance was "horrifying", adding: "We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place."

    He added: "I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things… I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded."

    Mr Snowden said he did not believe he had committed a crime: "We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me."

    Asked what he thought would happen to him, he replied: "Nothing good."

    Mr Snowden said he accepted he could end up in jail. "If they want to get you, over time they will," he said.

    He said he also feared the US authorities would "act aggressively against anyone who has known me. That keeps me up at night".

    Mr Snowden said he had gone to Hong Kong because of its "strong tradition of free speech".

    Hong Kong signed an extradition treaty with the US shortly before the territory returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

    However, Beijing can block any extradition if it believes it affects national defence or foreign policy issues.

    Mr Snowden has expressed an interest in seeking asylum in Iceland.

    However, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post quoted Iceland's ambassador to China as saying that "according to Icelandic law a person can only submit such an application once he/she is in Iceland".

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  7. Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill has pulled out of this weekend's Diamond League meet in Oslo as she continues her recovery from an achilles injury. 

     

    The 27-year-old pulled out of Saturday's Women's Athletic League Meeting in Edinburgh on the advice of the UKA medical team but she had been scheduled to compete in the Norwegian capital. 

     

    A statement released by her manager revealed Ennis-Hill's foot has been responding well to treatment but she has been advised to rest it further rather than risk aggravating it with only two months to go until the World Championships in Moscow.

     

    A clearly disappointed Ennis-Hill said: 'I am so frustrated as I want to get out there and start my season, but am being advised to look longer term and focus on a plan that enables me to be in the best shape for the World Championships in Moscow in August. 

     

    'Things are getting better and the stiffness is improving - but not quite as quickly as I would have liked.

     

    'My next planned event is the Combined Events Challenge in Estonia at the end of the month, but I know that my coach, Toni Minichiello, will be looking at the race calendar for the next few months and making a few new plans.'

     

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  8. Sony is set to sell the PlayStation 4 for a cheaper price than Microsoft's rival Xbox One.

    The Japanese firm announced at the E3 trade show that its machine would be sold for £349 in the UK, $399 in the US and 399 euros across Europe.

    It added that it would not impose restrictions on second-hand games.

    Sony also unveiled what its box would look like, having previously kept the design under wraps at its February PS4 press conference.

    For many in the audience at the Los Angeles event, the scale of the price difference came as the biggest shock.

    Earlier in the day Microsoft had revealed its new console would cost £429 in the UK, $499 in the US and 499 euros.

    "Clearly the big headline is that the PlayStation is going to be $100 less than the Xbox One when they come out in the US," Stephen Totilo, editor-in-chief of the gaming news site Kotaku, told the BBC.

    "Microsoft is going to need to look again at its price or explain why it offers better value, such as the inclusion of its Kinect sensor.

    "Of course, in the short-term it may not matter too much because when new consoles launch, supply is typically limited and hardcore gamers will pay anything to snatch them up. But six months or a year later on it will make a difference and Microsoft may feel at that point that it needs to match price with Sony."

    Sony also sought to distinguish its games machine by announcing it would not introduce any new restrictions on pre-owned disc-based games bought from friends or retailers, nor would it require users to regularly authenticate their machines via the internet to allow games to continue being played.

    By contrast, Microsoft has introduced limitations on who consumers can buy second-hand titles from and has introduced a requirement to connect to the net once every 24-hours to play games on the Xbox One.

    "With Sony continually pushing their gaming credentials and the development of the PlayStation brand for gamers throughout their presentation - it has very publicly slapped Microsoft across the face," said Alex Simmons, UK Editor-in-Chief of news site IGN.com.

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  9. New financial rules for migrants from outside the European Union are tearing UK families apart and causing anguish, a group of MPs and peers have said.

    They said thousands of Britons had been unable to bring a non-EU spouse to the UK since July 2012, when minimum earnings requirements were introduced.

    Children have also been separated from a parent, the parliamentary group said.

    The Home Office said the rules were designed to ease the burden of migration on the taxpayer.

    Rules that came into force a year ago require any British citizen who wants to sponsor their non-European spouse's visa to be able to show they earn at least £18,600 a year, rising to £22,400 to sponsor a child, and a further £2,400 for each further child.

    The inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, which is calling for an independent review of the minimum income requirement, looked at more than 175 cases from families affected by the rules.

    Forty-five claimed their inability to meet the income threshold had led to the separation of children, including British children, from a non-EU parent, the group said.

    In one case, a woman from outside Europe had been separated from her British husband and two sons, including a five-month-old baby she had been breastfeeding.

    Douglas Shillinglaw, from Kent, is among those to have been affected. His wife is in Lagos, Nigeria, with his five-month old son and her six-year-old son from another relationship.

    Mr Shillinglaw, a self-employed mortgage broker for two years, told the BBC he was being "judged like an employed person".

    "Self-employed income is different from employed income. I have got enough money to pay my mortgage and bills, and that should be enough," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

    "And should anything happen to me, I have a family that will take care of them. My family are wholeheartedly behind what I am doing."

    Mark Reckless, Conservative MP on the home affairs select committee, said the government had promised to bring down net immigration and it had done so by "bearing down" on bogus colleges, caps on work visas and reforms on family immigration.

    "If you are bringing someone into the country, then you should be expected to support that person without recourse to public expense," he told Today.

    "Over time, it might be possible that the regulations could be adjusted. There will be hard cases and we learn in light of those experiences."

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  10. China has launched its latest Shenzhou manned space mission.

    Three astronauts blasted away from the Jiuquan base in Inner Mongolia on a Long March 2F rocket at 17:38 Beijing time (09:38 GMT).

    The commander, Nie Haisheng, and his crew, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping, plan to spend just under two weeks at the orbiting Tiangong space lab.

    Wang is China's second female astronaut and she will beam the country's first lesson from space to students on Earth.

    The crew's capsule was ejected from the upper-stage of the rocket about nine minutes after lift-off.

    It should take just over 40 hours to raise the craft's orbit to the operating altitude of Tiangong some 335km (208 miles) above the planet's surface.

    This mission, the fifth manned mission by China and slated to be the longest, is designated Shenzhou-10. It is the latest step in China's plan to eventually put a permanently manned station above the Earth.

    Tiangong-1 is the demonstrator. It was launched in 2011 to provide a target to test rendezvous and docking technologies.

    The Shenzhou-9 crew - which included China’s first female astronaut, Liu Yang - hooked up with the module for nearly 10 days in June 2012.

    Nie's team aims to stay a few days longer, and like the crew of Shenzhou-9 will practise both manual and automatic dockings during the mission.

    Beijing hopes to launch its fully-fledged station at the turn of the decade.

    It is expected to have a mass of about 60 tonnes and comprise a number of interlocking modules.

    Like the International Space Station (ISS), it will have long-duration residents and be supplied by robotic freighters.

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