Rotherham child abuse scandal and Islamic State jihadist fears in headlines
Many papers point the finger at officials in Rotherham over their failure to prevent organised child abuse over a period of 16 years, and wonder why no-one has lost their job as a result.
As print deadlines approached pressure was building on South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright, who previously spent five years in charge of the town's children's services. The Daily Telegraph noted Home Secretary Theresa May's call for him to stand aside.
The Daily Mail's later editions report Mr Wright's resignation from the Labour Party but his refusal to quit the £80,000 elected commissioner's post on the basis that "he never saw damning reports into abuse". Under the headline "we won't take the blame", the paper also profiles others it believes are culpable of failing to act during the period children were abused, including three social services chiefs, a trio of chief executives and two Labour councillors.
One of them, strategic director of children's services Joyce Thacker, "decided to remove three ethnic minority children from their foster parents because of their affiliation to UKIP", recalls the Daily Telegraph. The Independent reports that at least three former senior officers who had a role in child protection have since left Rotherham for more senior roles elsewhere.
Fears of problems in other areas are also the focus of the Guardian, which quotes a child protection charity describing child abuse as "endemic". The University of Bedfordshire's child exploitation specialist Dr Helen Beckett tells the paper: "You could write the same report about any number of different places." The Sun's "justice campaigner" Sara Payne agrees that: "This case is by no means the only one but it does fairly represent the state of child protection across the UK." She demands that ministers "outlaw [anti-victim prejudice] and hold those child protectors to criminal account for failing those children".
Meanwhile, the Times reports former Labour MP for Rotherham Denis McShane's admission that he held back on investigating the problem of Asian men sexually exploiting mostly young white girls because he is a "Guardian-reading liberal leftie". "There was a culture of not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat," he told BBC Radio 4's World at One. It's the sort of attitude that leads Daily Express columnist Leo McKinstry to declare: "Multiculturalism is to blame for the Rotherham abuse."
Islamic State intervention?
The rise of Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria continues to cause concern for the press, with the Daily Mirror reporting comments from Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe that as many as 250 British jihadists who joined the fighting there might have since returned to the UK. The paper quotes comments made by two British extremists who suggest in a video that they would be prepared to behead people if they were to travel home.
As the Daily Telegraph reports, Sir Bernard has called for ministers to consider stripping jihadists who have fought abroad of their passports and citizenship. The broadsheet also quotes him pledging to take tougher action on extremists and prevent them from blocking the streets to "preach hate".
Meanwhile, other papers focus on the political dilemma faced by the West over whether to intervene. Conflicting reports of Britain's stance appear in the Times and the Guardian. The former suggests that Prime Minister David Cameron is reluctant to increase the UK's involvement beyond the current measures of providing air surveillance in support of US bombing raids, despite US President Barack Obama's call for a "coalition of the willing" to launch air strikes against IS.
However, according to the Guardian, Mr Cameron intends to indicate at the coming Nato summit that Britain is keeping its options open. Ex-international development minister Alan Duncan has raised the prospect of the UK eventually joining the air strikes, provided it was part of "a well-coordinated international effort", the paper says.
Triumph over internet trolls is a theme in Thursday's papers. Shaunna Lane tells the Daily Mail how she "stayed in the house for weeks" after being inundated with "messages from perverts" when her ex-boyfriend posted nude images of her on a revenge porn website. She was also subjected to degrading abuse and "vile threats", says the paper.
But it reports that she's defied the trolls by publishing the images herself to raise awareness of the issue and call for stricter laws.
Meanwhile, the Independent reports that academic Mary Beard - who was subjected to misogynistic abuse and sexual taunts after an appearance on the BBC's Question Time - has become "unlikely friends" with one man who called her a "filthy old slut". The Guardian quotes from an interview with New Yorker magazine in which she explains that he had taken her to lunch by way of apology. She's since written job recommendations for him so he didn't suffer in the long term for "one moment of idiocy", the paper adds.
Ex-Revolutionary Communist Party organiser Mick Hume, however, leaps to the defence of free speech in the Sun. He complains: "We have seen simple-minded football trolls jailed for tweeting idiotic abuse of rivals, Spurs supporters arrested for calling themselves the 'Yid Army' as a badge of pride; Gillingham fans nicked 'for a racially motivated public order offence' after calling Steve Evans, the famously fat and Scottish manager of Rotherham United, a 'fat Scottish w****r'." Pointing to fashionable demands for "freedom for oppressed Iranian artists", he adds: "Free speech is for allegedly fat and mostly white, male football fans, too."
The findings of a report describing the UK as "deeply elitist" are illustrated in the Times with a bar chart showing the percentage of people in key roles who were privately schooled, ranging from senior judges (71%), through Civil Service permanent secretaries (55%) and newspaper columnists (43%) to local government CEOs (8%).
Claims that everyone has a chance to rise to the top are a "cosy myth that lets those born to comfort feel both virtuous and superior when they do well", according to the paper's columnist Jenni Russell. She argues that "social diversity should be a national mission, with class as important as ethnicity or gender".
The Independent calls for increased availability of funding for postgraduate study and more extra-curricular activities in schools, while backing an idea to make job applications "university-blind". It warns: "While we ponder, countries that are not so hidebound are powering ahead."
Other proposals are for firms to be forced to declare the social background of their workforce or to make a "contextual evaluation" of applicants' academic achievements to give greater weighting to those with good grades from poor-performing schools, reports the Telegraph. However, its editorial argues this is "ridiculous", saying: "Most employers recognise the benefits of a socially diverse workforce but, ultimately, they hire on the basis of specific skills and qualifications... Rather than making employers jump through new bureaucratic hoops, far better to raise the standard of education in state schools."
The Guardian's Owen Jones thinks the report misses the point. "The flaw... is an implicit assumption that inequality is not the problem, but rather that our current inequality is not a fair distribution of talents. Surely Britain's chronically unequal distribution of wealth and power has to be tackled too."
Weird and... wonderful?
The launch by two Bristol chefs of a beef stew doughnut, dusted with paprika instead of sugar, gives the Daily Mirror cause to explore weird culinary combinations from around the world. It finds chocolate cake with burgers on sale in the US, caviar and white chocolate in the Netherlands and horse meat ice cream in Japan.
If any of those meals resulted in food poisoning then - as the Sun reports - the compensation on offer may not be too palatable. It quotes from a survey highlighting dubious company goodwill gestures, such a free meal at the restaurant that made someone ill, vouchers only redeemable in the US and a free meerkat adoption.
The Sun also uses reality TV star Chantelle Houghton's deal to be the face of a dating site for single parents as an excuse to run-down some more unusual celebrity endorsements. They include One Direction Ugg boots, Steven Seagal energy drinks, Heidi Klum fat-free crisps and JLS condoms.
Making people click
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