Islamic State threat, X Factor gossip and Cold War language in the headlines
- 30 August 2014
David Cameron's warning about the danger to the UK from Islamic State (IS) militants - coupled with the raising of the country's terror threat level to "severe" - gives the papers plenty to think about.
The Independent says it all adds up to a "climate of fear", as security sources warn jihadists are planning atrocities on British soil. The Daily Telegraph quotes the PM's comment that the situation presents the "greatest terror threat" in UK history.
As the Daily Star puts it: "It's coming to Britain right now." However, while ministers say an attack is "highly likely", they insist they are not currently aware of any specific threat, reports the Daily Express.
And while there is little detail of what the threat might involve, the Times reports that documents found on a laptop belonging to an Islamic State militant indicate the group is trying to get hold of biological weapons and to develop bubonic plague. Most papers agree that the threat is greatest from those returning from fighting in Syria and Iraq.
The Daily Mail explains how British militants travel to the conflict zone using a "sophisticated 'dead letter box' system" on the internet, saying: "Terrorist handlers are employing 'silent' email addresses that never actually send messages, but instead contain instructions in the 'drafts' folder. Would-be fighters are then moved from Europe undetected across the Turkish border to training camps in Syria." Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband uses an article in the Independent to call for a "multilateral alliance" to cut off IS funding and recruitment, and to organise political, diplomatic and humanitarian action.
In the Daily Mirror, security writer Neil Doyle spells out how people might notice the effects of the heightened security alert. "An increased presence of plain clothes police officers is to be expected on public transport... More armed patrols are also likely to be stationed around military bases and key infrastructure targets, such as power stations and oil and gas facilities." Airports security could see increased spot checks and even a reintroduction of a ban on liquids in hand baggage, he adds.
Most papers focus on how the government can best address the threat. Alan Travis writes in the Guardian that Mr Cameron faces a "huge task" to secure the support of both Home Secretary Theresa May and his Lib Dem coalition partners for stricter security measures, while any hopes of stripping people of their passports may be dashed: "As the government's lawyers have undoubtedly made clear, if you start depriving people of their passports, you breach international laws by making your own citizens stateless."
Mr Clegg is under "intense pressure" to end his opposition to new terror laws, says the Daily Mail, quoting Lib Dem sources insisting he had not ruled out "beefing up" powers but that he would not allow civil liberties to be "trampled on".
The Sun argues: "Nothing should be off the table when the prime minister comes to the Commons on Monday with proposals to stop IS terrorists who want to murder on our shores." The Mirror, though, sounds a note of caution: "In countering the potential threat of these 'militarised men'... the prime minister must avoid a kneejerk reaction which will destroy or erode our ancient freedoms."
Ah, the X Factor's back
ITV talent show X Factor's return makes headlines, with the Daily Star's front page speculating that returning judge Cheryl Fernandez-Versini - formerly Cole - could be facing the axe already. The paper reckons the show's boss Simon Cowell is fed up with her trying to pinch his luxury dressing room. "The music mogul moans that the former Girls Aloud star is becoming 'a princess' and 'Miss Bossy Boots'," it says.
"Hankies at the ready..." suggests the Express, pointing out that both Fernandez-Versini and fellow judge Mel B were "moved to tears" by performances in the first episode of the new series, to be screened on Saturday evening. "No tears from Simon Cowell, though," it adds. "Instead the 54-year-old loses his temper, smashing someone's guitar then refusing to pay for the damage."
As usual, there is an element of controversy as the new series gets under way. The Guardian reports that Cowell has defended a decision to lower the age limit to 14 in an attempt to draw in fresh talent, reports the Guardian. Even show host Dermot O'Leary has hit out at the move, reports the Mirror.
But according to the Sun, he's lucky to be fronting the programme again after a plane he was on with Xtra Factor presenter Sarah-Jane Crawford and guest judge Tulisa "plunged over the Bermuda Triangle". They had been returning from judge Louis Walsh's house on the island.
Meanwhile, Victoria Aitken - daughter of shamed former cabinet minister Jonathan - writes in the Daily Mail about how she was targeted by the show's producers and "fast-tracked" through the audition process, despite never having filled in an application form. She claims they wanted her to reveal her "sob story", writing: "From what I've seen, if someone's got a really ordinary back story - two loving parents, a beautiful sister and a dog - and they have the most amazing voice, the producers aren't interested. If they have a horror story but a voice like nails on a blackboard, it seems to be: 'Oh yes, fabulous. Come on the show.'"
'Cold War' chill
In Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, the Telegraph's Roland Oliphant hears from an army officer whose soldiers are "digging in" to face a force described by many as "rebels" just 20 miles away. "They're different to the fighters in Donetsk. We know what they're like, we've fought them before," he says. "These guys are different. Their kit, their uniforms, everything - they're Russian armed forces."
"Despite official denials that it is fighting in Ukraine, ordinary Russians are starting to ask whether their country is indeed at war," says the Guardian. "One mother, Olga Pochtoyeva, says when she approached officials with photos from a social media site that appeared to show her son had been taken prisoner in Ukraine, her claims were dismissed as 'provocations'."
The Financial Times's editorial says Western governments have long been wondering whether Mr Putin would order an assault on eastern Ukraine. "That such an attack is under way is no longer in doubt," it says. "This is a dangerous escalation of the crisis - and one that demands a response from the West."
Europe and the US had gone along with Mr Putin's "chicanery" in claiming that Russian forces weren't in Ukraine for a reason, the Guardian says. "If the Russians had never been in Ukraine, they might, in other words, cease to be there without an embarrassing fuss. This week we passed the point where such a tactic was defensible or could be deemed to be useful."
The Times's editorial column calls for robust action: "The first step must be to do everything short of sending troops to help Ukraine to close and seal its border with Russia. The West can and should provide Ukraine with armoured vehicles, night vision equipment, spy drones and cyberwarfare experts." It also says sanctions against Moscow must be tightened and that Europe must work out a plan to ensure Ukraine has access to fuel when Russia turns off its gas supply in the winter.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian PM's comments that he would seek Nato's protection against Russian aggression - and Russian President Vladimir Putin's response that his country "is one of the world's leading nuclear powers. It's best not to mess with us," troubles the Express. It describes the language as "chilling" and not heard since the Cold War days, explaining that Moscow would view any move by Kiev to join Nato as "provocative because an attack on one Nato member is seen as an attack on them all".
Tom Parfitt writes in the Telegraph that the comments were made during Mr Putin's "yearly trip to a patriotic youth camp" where it has become tradition for him to grab a microphone, casually answer questions from youngster and then say "something flinty sharp - a comment that shoots around the world".
According to the Daily Mail, a European Union ban on vacuum cleaners with a power rating above 1,600 watts - which is due to come into force next week - has led to a "stampede" among shoppers who are desperate to snap up more powerful models. "The buying frenzy looks set to intensify today and tomorrow, before the official ban on importing or manufacturing the machines takes effect on Monday," the paper says. It highlights some of the top-rated models which have sold out at major retailers.
Meanwhile, the Sun compiles a "hit-list" of electrical goods it says could be next to fall foul of Brussels' energy-efficiency regulations. Kettles, toasters and hairdryers could soon be powered down, it says, adding that lawnmowers, smartphones, car air conditioning and power tools are all being looked at. "Even fish tanks will have less coloured lights and fewer bubbles from next year," it notes.
Making people click
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Guardian: The untold story of how a culture of shame perpetuates abuse. 'I know, I was a victim'
Times: My name is Earl [Spencer]
Financial Times: Nato states create new multilateral force