The News Matrix: Wednesday 16 February 2011

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The Independent Online

More die young every year in North

The health divide between the North and South of the country is at its widest in 40 years and is causing thousands of early deaths a study has found. Every year 37,000 people die in the North earlier than their counterparts in the South. MORE

Inflation at 18-month high as VAT rise hits

Soaring petrol prices, a sharp rise in the cost of alcohol and the hike in VAT to 20 per cent all pushed inflation to an 18-month high of 4 per cent in January, the Office for National Statistics reported. That was up from 3.7 per cent in the year to December. MORE

MPs call for death of opposition elite

Hardline Iranian MPs called for the country’s opposition leaders to face trial and be put to death after violent clashes between protesters and security forces. Tens of thousands turned out for a rally that was the first show of strength from Iran’s beleaguered opposition for more than a year. MORE

Imperial College first to charge £9,000

Imperial College London is the first university in England to say it will charge the maximum level of tuition fees. The respected science institution plans to charge £9,000 for all subjects from 2012. Cambridge University is considering fees of £9,000, but has not made the decision.

Chevron fined $9.5bn for Amazon pollution

The US energy giant Chevron came out fighting last night after a court in Ecuador ordered it to pay $9.5bn (£6bn) in fines and clean-up costs over oil pollution that fouled a swathe of Amazon rainforest along the country’s remote north-eastern border. The sum was the largest ever levied in an environmental lawsuit. The company is to appeal. MORE

Britain becoming a nation of gamblers

Almost half a million adults in Britain have a serious problem with gambling and the rate is increasing. The Gambling Commission found that 0.9 per cent of the population – or 451,000 people – have a problem, a 50 per cent rise from 2007. MORE

Bomber’s farewell message to daughter

Footage showing the 7/7 bomber Mohammed Siddique Khan bidding farewell to his baby daughter has been shown at the inquest. As he bounces the youngster gently on his knees, he tells her: “Learn to fight, fighting’s good.”

Envoy to replace Holbrooke

The US has ended its hunt for the replacement for the late Richard Holbrooke, the special US envoy to both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Marc Grossman, a long-serving diplomat, was selected after other senior figures turned down the post. MORE

Chandler finally reunited with wife

The detective writer Raymond Chandler has finally had his wish of being buried with his wife, Cissy, after her ashes arrived at a San Diego cemetery in a caravan of 1920s cars. Chandler died in 1959, five years after his wife, whose remains sat in a storage locker for 57 years. MORE

Battle of zoos’ cross-eyed crowd-pullers

An animal park has been preparing a cross-eyed wildcat named Frank for celebrity after Heidi, a cross-eyed opossum from a nearby zoo, became a smash hit on Facebook. Heidi became a star in Germany after her photo appeared in the mass-circulation Bild newspaper.

Soldiers seize sub used for smuggling

Colombian soldiers have seized a fully submersible drug-smuggling submarine capable of reaching the coast of Mexico after an intelligence tip-off. Colombia has seized at least 32 semi-submersible vessels designed to smuggle drugs over the past decade, including a dozen last year.

Larry the cat hired to tackle No 10’s rats

David Cameron has welcomed a cat called Larry to Downing Street, saying he will make a “great addition” to the No 10 team. The tabby was recruited from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home as a deterrent after sightings of rats outside the Prime Minister's official residence.

Weiwei sunflower seeds go for £350k

The first lot in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 100kg of Ai Weiwei’s porcelain Sunflower Seeds (Kui Hua Zi) – the first of his “Sunflower Seed” installations to appear at auction – has sold for £349,250 (£3.50 per seed) – way above the pre-sale estimate of £80,000-120,000.

Alcohol ‘affects women’s sleep’

Drinking alcohol before bed may disrupt the sleep of women more than men, according to a study. Women woke more often and for longer periods of time during the night than men did after drinking to the point of intoxication.

Facebook warning for teen politician

A sixth-former thought to be the UK’s youngest elected politician as councillor for St Ives in Cambridgeshire has been warned about making comments on Facebook and Twitter which might breach the council’s code. MORE