A general election will be held in Ireland this month after Prime Minister Brian Cowen stepped down. The government, which was made up of Fianna Fail and the Greens until the junior party’s withdrawal on 23 January, is likely to be replaced by another coalition.
2. North America
The author Yann Martel has abandoned his mission to educate the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, in the value of literature. Over the past four years, Martel had sent him a book every fortnight. “I’m tired of using books as political bullets and grenades,” he said.
Sudan’s vice-president, Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, has confirmed that the north will accept the south’s vote in favour of secession. Some 99 per cent of the south backed independence, which is planned for July this year.
Residents of Queensland were advised to “grab each other and get to a place of safety” as Cyclone Yasi neared the coast. The storm front, 500 kilometres wide, was described by Anna Bligh, the state premier, as a “monster”. Tides seven metres above normal and winds of 250km/h were expected.
The British actor Henry Cavill will play Superman in the forthcoming film by Zack Snyder. Britons are cornering the market in American superheroes: Welsh-born Christian Bale is the current Batman and The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield, who was raised in Surrey, will star in the next Spider-Man movie.
The Davos economic summit in Switzerland brought together world leaders and bankers, such as Barclays’s Bob Diamond – and Bono, who was campaigning for polio awareness. David Cameron and George Osborne were reportedly “bruised” by doubts cast on their economic policy.
Sales of ebooks for the Kindle have overtaken paperback sales for the first time, according to the online retailer Amazon. It now sells 115 Kindle downloads for every 100 paperbacks sold.
Bacteria in mice’s stomachs affect their behaviour, scientists have found. Animals bred in sterile environments without “gut flora” were more adventurous and less anxious, according to a study at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Researchers wonder if these bacteria affect the brain development of mammals, including human beings.
The singer James Blunt’s mother has come to the defence of her privately educated son, following a report on Radio 4’s Today programme, in which the producer Pete Waterman accused the music industry of being “snobbish”. Jane Blount wrote that, while her son was “hugely appreciated” around the world, he was criticised in Britain “because of his background”.
Could a tropical fish help scientists treat heart failure? The zebrafish can mend its own heart muscle: if part of the organ is removed, it quickly grows back. The British Heart Foundation is trying to raise £50m to investigate whether this discovery can help the 750,000 Britons with the condition.