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The News Matrix: Wednesday 16 February 2011

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

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Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve