Malaysia jet MH17 'horror', Cameron's 'infamous' high-five and 'hypocrite' Clegg

Powerful images of the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 after it was apparently shot down over Ukraine are used to effect on front pages.

And most papers dedicate several pages to analysis of what happened to the Boeing 777 - and the consequences for the world.

Initial reports suggesting a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists downed the plane might have been denied by the rebels. But the Daily Mail carries the transcript of a YouTube video on which, it says, the men "cheered the destruction of what they thought was a military aircraft". The Guardian details another audio recording during which two separatists appear to realise their error, with one commenting: "They found the first body. It's a civilian. I mean, it's definitely a civilian aircraft."

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The Mail's Ian Birrell suggests reports that Moscow supplied the ground-to-air missiles used in the attack provide evidence of "the blood on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's hands".

The Sun certainly agrees, using its front page to declare "Putin's missile" was to blame. For Prof Peter Rutland, writing in the Daily Mirror, "it looks like all roads lead to Moscow". He says "only sophisticated missile systems" could shoot down something flying at the passenger jet's 32-33,000ft altitude. And the Daily Telegraph's Con Coughlin writes: "There has been a marked build-up of sophisticated Russian weaponry since Ukraine last month signed an association agreement with the EU, which senior Kremlin officials at the time warned would have 'grave consequences'."

Arms specialists tell the Times that the 9K37-BUK surface-to-air missile most likely to have been used requires a "well-trained crew" and that the mistake may have derived from its crew only having been partially tutored in its use. "The mobile missile system relies on armoured track vehicles, radar and intelligence to acquire a target and attack, making it difficult for personnel properly trained in air defence to mistake a civilian airline for an enemy aircraft," reports Deborah Haynes.


Diplomatic 'crisis'

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For the Times's diplomatic editor Roger Boyes, the jet's downing marked "the moment the simmering civil war exploded into an international crisis".

The Telegraph's Peter Foster says US President Barack Obama faces "the toughest decision of his presidency". While Washington "defence hawks" warned there would be "hell to pay" if it were proved that Russia was behind the shooting, he writes: "The near silence from the White House on who was responsible only served to highlight the enormous stakes in play for US-Russia relations."

Meanwhile, the Financial Times analyses the effect of the West's financial sanctions on Russia, and the prospect for their extension. New measures imposed on Wednesday prevent Russian firms raising long-term finance in the US and the FT says this could raise the cost of borrowing, limit state spending and dampen economic growth expectations in Moscow.

But the Sun's editorial calls for stronger action: "This is the moment the world runs out of patience with Vladimir Putin... Western leaders who have baulked at confronting Putin can do so no longer."

Likewise, the Mirror argues: "Those powerful nations which have, so far, stood by and allowed Vladimir Putin and his bandits to ride roughshod over Ukraine MUST finally act."


Flight path 'routine'

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Some papers express concern as to why MH17 was flying over Ukraine in the first place, with the Sun saying "it could easily have been one of ours" and pointing out that dozens of British flights cross daily over the area. The Times prints a map of eastern European airspace showing aircraft "scattering in all directions on to other flight paths after the disaster" to avoid the Donetsk region.

"Did jet take short cut over war zone to save fuel?" asks Mail's headline, while the Mirror says the airline industry "ignored" an advisory note highlighting a threat over Ukraine. It quotes a former airport boss saying: "Airlines are all for saving fuel, time and money. They want to fly the most economical route, and the fastest route." However, he adds: "If there was any suggestion the route was unsafe, it would have been diverted."

The Guardian points out: "As recently as a month ago British airlines were given the all-clear to overfly the area where flight MH17 was downed, after being told that operations were 'normal' in the region."

Simon Calder writes in the Independent that despite travellers' astonishment that a plane might be passing over a conflict zone, "such flights are routine... The factions in such regions were thought unlikely to have the kind of weaponry that could reach a target at such altitudes". But he says: "The loss of flight MH17 shows that the confidence in the immunity of passenger planes in conflict zones was tragically misplaced."


Gesture politics

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Headlines accompanying photographs of David Cameron receiving a high-five from Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Parliament in Brussels might be enough to make the PM wince. "High-fives? So much for dignity, Dave," complains the Mail about the "forced bonhomie" of the welcome, reminding readers the prime minister tried his best to stop Mr Juncker becoming president of the European Commission.

"Why 5?" asks the Sun, which digitally alters the shot to produce four alternative - and altogether less warm - gestures Mr Cameron could have offered. Under the title "the infamous five", the paper's editorial says the greeting "sent the cringe-o-meter off the scale". And Times cartoonist Peter Brookes imagines the photo was the result of some creative cropping, drawing a fuller frame showing Mr Juncker's other arm making a V-sign behind his back and, likewise, the PM's with middle finger raised.

Not that Mr Cameron's deputy Nick Clegg will enjoy the morning's reports much more. "You unbelievable hypocrite, Clegg!" roars the Daily Mail, in response to the Liberal Democrats calls for changes to the "spare room subsidy" measures, which cut housing benefits for those deemed to have too many bedrooms. It contrasts Mr Clegg's words in April - when he defended the policy - with his latest statements.

"Despite having voted for the policy and defended it countless times, Mr Clegg isn't saying sorry, or that he was wrong. He is presenting the U-turn as proof of his own leadership qualities," reckons the Telegraph's Michael Deacon. And, drawing inspiration from the Open golf taking place on Merseyside, the paper's cartoonist Adams pictures the deputy PM pitching into a bunker in the shape of the words "bedroom tax", before hacking away fruitlessly - getting ever deeper - and eventually throwing out the ball by hand.

And the Guardian's editorial complains: "Having signed off on a ruthless experiment on hard-pressed people, Nick Clegg now seeks to disown it in the name of evidence-led policy. He should have done his analysis first." It adds that the U-turn only "furthers the impression that the Liberal Democrats are now in office rather than power - unhappy tenants in the government's spare room". This image is captured by Independent cartoonist Dave Brown, who sketches Mr Clegg leaving Mr Cameron's bed carrying an alarm clock set for the date of the next election. "And I'll be sleeping in the spare room," he tells the PM.


A Question of Variety?

A report by the BBC Trust suggesting that prime time features too many of the "same old shows", as the Guardian puts it, gives sub-editors a chance to dig out photographs of stars sporting 80s fashion.

As the i points out, the report says peak time on BBC1 has been "dominated by just 10 shows", all but one of which was at least seven years old. Meanwhile, the Telegraph highlights the average age of BBC1 and BBC2 viewers - 59 and 60 respectively - and the Metro reports a warning that plans to move BBC3 online could "alienate teen viewers", quoting the leader of a campaign to preserve the channel saying it would be "a mistake".

"Where have the family comedies gone?" wonders the Mail, saying: "In the past, programmes such as Bread, which followed the Boswell family in Liverpool, and Birds of a Feather, about sisters from Essex, were praised for their working-class focus."

The Sun's Leigh Holmwood reckons he has the answer, saying: "Mrs Brown's Boys is bawdy and rough around the edges - but it is the BBC's future." And the paper calls for more shows like Sherlock, Luther and Call the Midwife, which were praised in the report.

Meanwhile, Daily Mirror TV editor Nicola Methven defends the current programming line-up: "There are always new, distinctive, challenging programmes on BBC1 (Happy Valley, anyone?). While some shows have been around for years, does that mean the likes of MasterChef should be axed simply because it has endured? I think not."


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