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Paper Monitor

12:00 UK time, Friday, 24 November 2006

If you're maintaining a night TV vigil through the first, bleak days of the latest Ashes series, there's no respite to be found in the newspapers.

On its masthead, the Daily Telegraph advertises some true, old-fashioned, moaning misery in the shape of Geoffrey Boycott's cricket analysis. But above all today, it's all about hospitals.

Like the many of the papers, the broadsheet's main picture has the late former spy Alexander Litvinenko staring out of his deathbed. In patient's robes, hairless and with monitors attached to his chest, the image makes an alarming contrast to previous snaps of an imposing-looking man in middle life.

The world of intrigue gives the papers much to ponder. The Times takes testimony from close friends, looks at the eye-opening development of deadly drugs for spies and follows the key figures fingered in the case.

Even on the Independent's typically alternative front page, there's little light. It relegates the spy story to page nine, but sticks with a medical theme to detail the "emergency" taking place on mixed sex wards. NHS problems can be a terminal subject, but it adds the spice of very personal testimonies - all naked patients, bits hanging out of beds and Scrabble interrupted by flashers. Paper Monitor is keeping its blood pressure in check.

Nudity again invades the front pages, not on the red-topped usual suspects, but the Guardian. It reports on the phenomena of Lactivists - breast-baring American activists who have laid siege to airport check in desks in protest at a breast-feeding mother being thrown off a flight. Blimey.

Only the tabloids themselves attempt to lift the mood. In the Sun, Britney Spears threatens to kill off the trend for leopard-print in just one picture, as she stumbles out for the night with fellow party-girl Paris Hilton. And the Daily Mirror brings us "chemistry" rumours from the set of Strictly Come Dancing. Now there's something worth staying tuned for, just one more sleep...

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