Newspaper headlines: Cancer 'cure' hope, Stephen Fry's 'bag lady' and laser danger

  • 16 February 2016

Three papers opt for some rare positive news, in the form of an apparent breakthrough in cancer treatment.

The Daily Mirror, Times and i all highlight the announcement that trials of immunotherapy on terminally ill leukaemia patients resulted in 94% of them going into remission. As the Mirror explains, the process involved white bloods cells - or T cells - being removed and genetically modified to detect and "kill" cancer cells, before being transfused back into the body.

"The essential aim is to stimulate the body's own immune defences to correctly identify and destroy cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched," explains the Independent's science editor Steve Connor. "It is increasingly apparent that the immune system naturally attacks cancer cells, which are probably produced all the time in the body. So the rationale is to boost this inherent process of clearing out rogue cells that have become cancerous."

The Daily Mail highlights the case of baby Layla Richards, from north London, who was "given a T cell treatment so experimental it had only been tested on mice" and went on to see her leukaemia wiped out.

The research is yet to be peer-reviewed and the Times points out that the trials produced some severe side effects in the form of lowered blood pressure, nerve damage and the death of two patients whose immune systems "went into overdrive". However, the paper's editorial column notes: "Even hardened veterans of false dawns in the war on cancer have spoken readily about a revolution in the way it is fought".

"One day we will beat cancer. Days like yesterday [when the breakthrough was revealed] are major milestones in the road," declares the Sun.


Eye-catching headlines

  • "Forget the paella, we want pies" - The Spanish have fallen in love with British pies, ales, tea and haggis, according to food industry sources quoted in the Daily Star
  • "Charles patron of 'carbuncle' National Gallery" - the Prince of Wales has been named the first royal patron of the gallery, 25 years after his criticism helped cause a planned extension to be scrapped, reports the Telegraph
  • "Terrorists, criminals and big-spending Germans take note - 500 euro bill to die" - the FT envisages the end for the big purple notes "many Europeans have never set eyes on"
  • "Lock up your pets... a giant eagle is loose" - A Steller's Sea Eagle - capable of carrying off a fully grown dog - has escaped from a birds of prey demonstration in Kent, reports the Daily Mail

Fry panned

There is plenty of coverage of the fallout from Stephen Fry's presentation of this year's Baftas, during which he joked that it was ironic that winning costume designer Jenny Beavan had collected her award "dressed like a bag lady".

TMS, the Times diary, notes that the Twitter backlash prompted an angry reaction from Fry, who pointed out that Beavan was an old friend and directed some robust language against his critics. The diary column says: "Proving what 13 years of hosting QI can do for your vocabulary, he flounced off Twitter declaring: 'Will you sanctimonious f***ers f*** the f*** off.'"

Image copyright EPA

It's not just social media the former Blackadder, and Jeeves and Wooster, star is quitting, according to the Sun. It reports that Fry is leaving Britain for a "fresh start" with husband Elliott Spencer in Hollywood. The paper sets out the "brainbox's quit list", which includes the three previous occasions he has removed himself from Twitter, departures from Instagram and his QI role, and his resignation as a director of Norwich City FC.

Libby Purves enjoys the irony of Fry being targeted by the "PC Twitter mob he helped create". She writes in the Mail: "Somehow, for all our traditions of liberty, mockery and argument, we have entered the age of affront and offence: the century of wounded feelings."

Meanwhile, in the Daily Telegraph, India Sturgis explainis "just who is Stephen Fry's Bafta 'bag lady'". She writes: "Even if you've never seen [Beavan] before, you've probably seen her work, which includes costumes for The King's Speech, Sherlock Holmes, Sense and Sensibility and the BBC mini-series that gave David Tennant a leg-up, Casanova. In addition, among her silverware, the 66-year-old boasts an Oscar for A Room with a View, an Emmy for Emma and a Bafta for her work on Gosford Park."

The Mirror's cartoon sums up the fuss by picturing an astronaut on the International Space Station telling a colleague: "Okay, I've popped outside to check.. It's all good, guys.. The world IS still turning."


What the commentators say

Media captionSunday Times education editor Sian Griffiths and FT energy correspondent Kiran Stacey join the BBC News Channel to review the papers.

Major laser

The revelation that a Virgin Atlantic flight to the US was forced to return to London's Heathrow airport after its co-pilot was dazzled by a laser provokes much reaction. The Guardian sets out the extent of the problem, citing figures showing 8,998 reported incidents in the UK between 2009 and June 2015. Some 48 of those happened at Heathrow in the first half of last year, with 32 at Birmingham and 24 at Leeds Bradford, it says.

According to the Mirror, a quick internet search shows "high-powered lasers with a range of 8,000 metres selling at £15". It adds: "In the wrong hands a cheap gizmo can be a dangerous weapon." However, the Telegraph says there is evidence their use "may not be entirely malicious". It adds: "Among the culprits appear to be so-called plane spotters who use the powerful beams to 'tag' the fuselages of aircraft they observe."

Image copyright PA

Dr William Wadsworth, of Bath University's physics department, writes in the Independent: "Current laser technology can easily produce hundreds or even 1,000 times the safe limit in a battery-powered device, which can be dangerous even at a large distance... Both the US [authorities] and the EU are trying to remove hazardous lasers from sale, but regulation and enforcement will need to be matched by a public willingness to understand the level of risk."

The Times supports a ban, pointing out that - in the last days of the Cold War - the US and Soviet Union signed a bilateral agreement not to use lasers against each other. "If diplomats believed that lasers endangered military pilots, it is past time to recognise the risks to civilians too. Prompt action does not always make bad law, and in this case is overdue."

The Daily Express is in no doubt as to what's needed. "The police face a difficult task in tracking down the culprit. But if and when they are successful whoever was behind this activity must be dealt with severely," it says. "Those few morons who do get caught end up merely with fines or suspended jail terms," complains the Sun. "They may think it's a harmless prank. Ten years' jail for recklessly endangering hundreds of lives ought to put them right."


Grumble 'effectively'

Figures suggesting Britons made 52 million formal complaints about products and services last year lead the Sun's Rod Liddle to declare that: "Far from having a 'stiff upper lip', we Brits are continually griping and whingeing." But he reckons it's a good thing: "The happier the people of a country claim to be, the dumber they are in general. They are too easily satisfied, more likely to be fobbed off with the second-rate."

The paper also lists the "top 20 British gripes", as identified by a poll for a popular beef drink firm, which include supermarket self-service tills, remembering whether it's bin day or recycling day, and being ignored by the barman.

In the Express, Anna Pukas says the Ombudsman Services figures indicate that Britons made 66 million complaints in total. But Helen Dewdney, of advice website The Complaining Cow, still reckons we're not doing it effectively enough.

"Going on Facebook or Twitter is not complaining, it's having a rant," she's quoted as saying, adding that companies bank on people not going through the right channels to seek redress. She offers 12 tips to "grumble effectively", including to act quickly, to be objective, formal and concise and "if you are not satisfied go to the CEO".


Making people click

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Mail: Heartbreaking photo captures the moment a young charity worker gives a starving two-year-old boy water after he was left for dead by his family because they thought he was a WITCH