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Misuse of "than"

The American usage "different than" always jars on my ear but that isn't what I'm writing about here. I don't know what to call the error I'm describing so I'll give an example from today's Independent. It comes from a piece on falling fish stocks by Steve Connor.
... fishing fleets have to work 17 times as hard to catch a given amount of fish than the largely sail-powered vessels of the late-19th century.

"Than" should have been "as", since the sentence expresses a comparison. Alternatively, Connor could have said: "... 17 times harder to catch a given amount of fish than ...". But he seems to have blended the two to make a locution that doesn't work.

I've come across this mistaken usage a number of times recently. It seems to be infectious.

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