Newspaper review: MPs' expenses back in focus

Papers

The issue of MPs' expenses returns to the front pages as latest figures show Members of Parliament are now claiming more than they did before the scandal in 2009.

"They still have their snouts in the trough," declares the Daily Mirror, alongside a close-up picture of two pigs with the thought bubble: "When I grow up I want to be an MP. Oink!"

The paper says the "Commons gravy train is still going full steam ahead".

The Daily Mail is particularly struck by the disclosure that a quarter of MPs now employ family members, a rise of nearly a fifth in a year.

It says wives, children and even parents are on the public payroll, some enjoying salaries as high as £50,000 for office duties.

Mass of evidence

The Times, in its lead story, reports that UN weapons inspectors will blame the Assad regime for last month's gas attack in the Syrian capital Damascus.

It claims they have gathered a mass of circumstantial evidence indicating that the munitions must have been fired from government lines.

The paper says the finding will throw President Putin on the back foot as the US and Russia wrangle over how to force the Syrian leader to get rid of his chemical arsenal.

President Assad's promise to relinquish his banned weapons is widely reported.

But the Independent says his insistence on the US first lifting its threat of military strikes risks upsetting a delicate diplomatic process just as it was getting into high gear.

Mail sale

The Guardian is predicting a "week of nationwide chaos" in the postal service as unions plan "maximum disruption" to coincide with the sell-off of Royal Mail.

The Daily Mirror comes out strongly against the part-privatisation - calling it a "£3bn raid by a Tory-led government with a phobia about public services".

The Daily Express is concerned about a "treasured part of British heritage" ending up in the hands of foreign owners.

But the Financial Times argues that private ownership, combined with vigilant regulation, can bring large benefits for consumers.

The Independent thinks the sell-off makes business sense but warns there are political pitfalls in tampering with a venerable national institution such as Royal Mail.

The Times business section strikes a positive note, telling prospective shareholders to expect big dividend cheques in the post.

The Daily Telegraph's Matt cartoon shows a postman getting an unusually friendly welcome from a dog: "Let me guess," the postman says, "you've become a Royal Mail shareholder."

Balloon flight

Finally, several papers describe how American adventurer Jonathan Trappe is trying to cross the Atlantic - dangling from 370 helium-filled balloons.

"Just popping overseas" is the headline in the Sun.

The Guardian says the trip is expected to take up to five days and, depending on the weather, the 39-year-old aviator could land anywhere between Iceland and Morocco.

But the Daily Mirror appears to have little faith in the success of the mission, calling it "sheer balloonacy!"

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