Newspaper headlines: Aleppo's 'darkest day' and rail strike 'chaos'

Syrian residents arrive in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood after fleeing the violence of Bustan al-Qasr, 13 December 2016 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Daily Telegraph reports the final hours of the battle for Aleppo were "remorseless in their brutality".

The end to Aleppo's "four bloody years of battle" features heavily among Wednesday's papers, while on home soil suggestions to stop rail strike "chaos" dominate.

The Daily Telegraph reports the years of fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo ended with its "darkest day".

It says the final hours of the battle were "remorseless in their brutality".

But the deal to evacuate civilians and rebel fighters could offer "some hope of survival" to people in the east of Aleppo, says the Guardian.

The paper says there is growing anger at the international community for abandoning residents to their fate.

One opposition council member in the city tells the Financial Times he can't describe his feelings - "I can't be happy, even though I'm going to be saved from death."

'Another bloody tragedy'

The Telegraph says the former Chancellor, George Osborne, was right to tell the Commons on Tuesday that the West bears guilt for what has happened in Aleppo.

But not because countries should have intervened, the paper says, rather because it should have been made clear to rebels that there would be no Western involvement.

"In civil wars," the paper says, "sometimes the wrong side triumphs."

The Daily Mail calls the situation in Aleppo a "meltdown", while Wednesday's Mirror brands it "another bloody tragedy".

The deal in Aleppo all but hands victory to President Assad, claims the i.

Editor Oliver Duff says "we're not even bothering to say 'never again', as we did after Srebrenica and Rwanda, or Cambodia. Gone is the pretence, the trust in politicians' ability to save people's lives far away from us".

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Image caption The Daily Mirror says the renationalisation of railways is the only way to solve a "long-running sore".

The majority of newspapers are in agreement over the misery caused by Southern Rail's latest round of strikes.

But the papers are less agreed on how to respond to the industrial action.

The "train chaos" on the Southern network shows the need to renationalise the railways, says the Daily Mirror.

The paper says it is "throwing its weight behind growing calls" from union bosses, MPs and the public.

Mirror columnist Paul Routledge argues that passengers and workers are suffering because of Conservative obsession with privatisation, and that renationalising is the only way to solve a "long-running sore".

But the Daily Express is one of several papers which says that it is time to "get tough" with the unions.

Meanwhile, the Sun argues that those who walk out should have to pay compensation to those who are affected.

Costing taxpayers £50m

Writing in the Daily Mail, Max Hastings agrees the government should introduce financial sanctions against unions striking in vital sectors such as transport.

The columnist asks how to cut out what he calls the "cancer of union militancy", saying rail unions in particular have blackmailed employers and government, and inflicted misery on the public.

He says that, as a nation, we must embrace change or go to the wall.

"My life shouldn't be dictated by rail strikes, but it is, and will continue to be until this madness stops," a Southern rail commuter tells the Guardian. The paper details a day of chaos and recriminations.

The i calls it "the worst rail strike since privatisation", and hears from an architect from the south coast with no sympathy for either side in the dispute - "no amount of compensation can make up for this. I will take my bitterness to the grave".

The paper's travel editor Simon Calder says the dispute is a proxy war about modernisation of the railways, which have not moved on with society.

Wednesday's Telegraph reports that the strike is costing taxpayers £50m, but saving money for Southern's owners, GTR.

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Image caption Einstein provides the proof needed to convince sceptics of the truth behind Santa Claus's "impossible" Christmas Eve flight

If you are struggling to explain to a sceptical child about how Santa Claus achieves his remarkable global delivery feat, help is at hand.

A scientist at Exeter University has worked out that Einstein's special theory of relativity makes it possible, reports the Telegraph.

For example, Santa and his reindeer travel at such speed that they would shrink, so they can squeeze through even the tightest of chimneys.

According to the Daily Mail, Dr Katy Sheen also thinks Einstein could explain why Father Christmas appears not to have aged - because relativity means time slows when an object moves at high speeds.

The paper says she wrote to him aged seven asking why he never got older. She was not satisfied with the explanation that it was "all magic" so she decided to produce a more rational explanation.

A radical rethink

The Times highlights what it says is the worsening problem of NHS patients being discharged in the middle of the night.

In the four years since the paper exposed the problem, it says the number of people being "ejected" from wards at night has risen from 220,000 a year to 250,000.

The NHS ombudsman tells the Times the discharge of frail, older people sometimes goes horribly wrong because they don't have the support they need.

Its editorial says a radical rethink is needed on how social care is funded.

The Daily Express agrees, welcoming the suggestion that councils could be allowed to raise more money to fund care.

It says ministers must then make unpopular decisions, as "failing to act now risks storing up far larger problems for the future".

Post-Brexit world

The Guardian looks ahead to a report due on Thursday from a House of Lords committee looking at the effect of Brexit on the financial sector.

It is expected to warn that banks urgently need a transitional deal to stop tens of thousands of jobs moving abroad.

The paper says banks want clarity on their future relationship with the EU long before the end of Article 50 negotiations.

Getting left behind by competitors in the post-Brexit world is something the economy cannot afford, the Sun says.

It devotes an editorial to the report which says the UK's 4G mobile network lags behind Peru and Albania.

We all roll our eyes over dodgy reception, it says, but this is "a genuine scandal which is damaging Britain".

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Image caption The president-elect has named Exxon chief executive Rex Tillerson as secretary of state

Donald Trump's developing administration is a "cabinet of curiosities" and "wickedly hard to gauge", according to the Financial Times.

The paper is examining the choice of the Exxon chief executive Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, and struggling to interpret it.

"Foreign and military policy," it says, "is up in the air... which could unsettle allies and embolden enemies."

The Times thinks Mr Tillerson could redefine American diplomacy - though not necessarily in a good way.

He embodies the two quandaries facing the Trump presidency - Russia, and conflicts of interest, says the Guardian.

It says Donald Trump is gambling on the Republican Party falling into line to support him, as it did during the election campaign.