Northern Ireland

What the papers say

Newspapers

Journalist Fionola Meredith takes a look at what is making the headlines in Thursday's newspapers.

Concerns about winter fuel cutbacks are highlighted in the News Letter.

Possible cutbacks to the winter fuel payments are a "high risk strategy", according to Ann O'Reilly of Age NI, the older people's charity.

There is speculation that the payment - worth £250 or £400 to the over 80s last winter - could be cut by £50 for new recipients and £100 for the oldest.

The Belfast Telegraph is worried about an apparent drop in the number of "homegrown" television programmes appearing on our screens, according to new Ofcom figures.

The paper describes it as "cultural neglect" which must be addressed by the broadcasters.

The Irish News focuses on a young GAA player who is willing to risk her life to fulfil her ambition to play in a Croke Park All-Ireland final.

Diagnosed with a rare heart condition, Rhona Torney was told to give up the sport she loved.

But now the 23-year-old is returning to the game, in defiance of the risk to her health, taking up the corner-back position at Croke Park next month for Antrim against Waterford in the Premier Junior All-Ireland final.

"You only get one chance, and you might as well do something you enjoy," says Rhona.

Lower sights

The Independent carries a warning for top A-level students from the universities minister.

It could be summed up as "must aim lower" - David Willets tells the paper that top-performing A-level students should consider lowering their sights and applying for a less prestigious university next year.

The paper says that his comments immediately provoked a furious response from lecturers' leaders.

Meanwhile, the Irish Times looks at the financial crisis facing higher education in the Republic.

According to a government-commissioned report, a new student loan scheme should be introduced "urgently".

The Daily Telegraph reports that television, phones and Facebook are taking over our lives.

Almost half the average person's day is now spent watching tv, using mobiles, computers or other communication devices, official figures suggest.

People are also using several media at the same time - surfing the internet while watching tv, or listening to the radio as they write emails.

And it's not just the young - "silver surfers", the over 55s, are the fastest-growing age group for internet take-up.

Caught napping

Meanwhile, the Independent reports that the organisers of Pope Benedict's forthcoming visit to Britain have earmarked time in the Pope's schedule for him to have a little snooze.

Quite a big snooze actually - the 83-year-old gets three or four hours every afternoon.

The paper says organisers may have been influenced by the Pope's trip to Malta this year, when he was rather embarrassingly caught napping through a Mass attended by tens of thousands of pilgrims.

And finally, the Sun is worried about super-sized rodents.

Residents on an estate in Bradford say their homes have been invaded by giant rats, twice the size of common types.

They often pop up in kitchens and lounges and, according to the paper, one 30-inch monster rat - dubbed, perhaps inevitably, Ratzilla - was shot dead.

The Sun says that it's feared that some could be "super rats" from South America. But the president of Yorkshire Rat Club said that rodents, like humans, could simply be getting bigger and fatter as food becomes more readily available.

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