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The News Matrix: Friday 27 July 2012

British Gas under fire for huge profits

British Gas was accused of inflating bills at the expense of families yesterday after it announced profits of £345m for the first six months – or £1.9m profit every day. Despite the rise, the energy company increased prices in December 2010 and August 2011 by 24.9 per cent.

Obama weighs in to gun-control debate

President Barack Obama has called for tougher background checks on Americans trying to buy guns as he and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, engaged in their most extensive discussions on the gun control issue since last week's massacre in a Colorado cinema. MORE

Crucial negotiation over oil payments

Sudan and South Sudan resumed talks on oil payments yesterday for the first time since border fighting brought the countries to the brink of war in April. Pressure is mounting to make a deal on oil exports before a 2 August deadline, after which they could face UN sanctions.

'Psycho' killer shot victim at random

A killer who called himself "Psycho" has been found guilty of murdering an Indian student at random. Kiaran Stapleton walked up to Anuj Bidve, 23, in Salford, Greater Manchester, and shot him in the head. A jury at Manchester Crown convicted him of murder yesterday. MORE

Gu Kailai is charged with murder

Prosecutors in China have charged the wife of ousted Communist Party leader Bo Xilai with the murder of a British businessman, pushing ahead the case which sits at the centre of a messy political scandal. MORE

Officer numbers drop dramatically

The number of police officers in England and Wales has dropped to its lowest level since 2003, Home Office figures revealed. There were 134,101 officers at the end of March, some 5,000 fewer than the same time last year. The number of civilian staff fell by 8.8 per cent to 67,474, while the total number of community support officers dropped by 9 per cent to 14,393.

Authorities raise storm death toll

Chinese authorities have raised the death toll from the Beijing storm after the public questioned the previous tally of 37. The Beijing city government said 77 bodies of victims from Saturday's downpour had been found in the city as of yesterday, 66 of whom have been identified.

Tough policy deters potential investors

The Government's tough immigration policies are putting off foreign investment, a leaked report warned. UK Trade and Investment said half of potential investors named immigration policy as a primary concern – far ahead of tax or red tape. MORE

Baroness Warsi cleared by Lords

Conservative Party co-chair Baroness Warsi has been cleared of abusing expenses by a House of Lords investigation. Lady Warsi said she was "delighted" allegations she claimed for accommodation while staying at a house rent-free were dismissed.

Brand fined over 'tribute' to Jobs

Russell Brand has been fined £322 for throwing a photographer's iPhone through a window. The actor must pay the fine, issued in New Orleans yesterday, and complete 20 hours of community service. After hurling the device in March, he tweeted: "Since Steve Jobs died I cannot bear to see anyone use an iPhone irreverently."

'Snake man' proves a slippery customer

A man praised for "capturing" a boa constrictor he claimed to have found on a riverbank admitted yesterday that he made up the story. Günter Punschik said he had simply been getting rid of a pet he found too big to handle. "It turns out he could not get to grips with the snake," said an animal welfare officer.

Ape is hidden for apeing the punters

Indonesian zookeepers have moved an orang-utan out of visitors' sight so she'll no longer smoke lit cigarettes people throw into her cage. A Taru Jurug Zoo spokesman said that Tori, who has been smoking for a decade, had been moved to a small island within the zoo. It's thought she got the habit by mimicking humans.

Sailor cruises to transatlantic best

Sailor Alex Thomson has smashed the world record for a solo transatlantic crossing by more than 24 hours. The 38-year-old from Hampshire set sail in New York last week, and crossed the finish line in Plymouth at 6.17pm last night after eight days, 22 hours and eight minutes.

Doctor Who actress dies at 62

Doctor Who and Jonathan Creek actress Mary Tamm has died at the age of 62 after an 18-month battle against cancer. Tamm played Romana, the companion of Tom Baker's Doctor. Baker said: "She was a darling companion and wonderfully witty and kind. I'm so sorry to hear of her death." Tamm leaves husband Marcus.

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