The papers: 'War on Ebola'

  • 9 October 2014

"UK troops to battle killer epidemic" is the crosshead the Daily Mirror uses over its story that 750 British military personnel are to be sent to Sierra Leone to help combat the Ebola outbreak.

The paper reports that Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says the action is necessary to prevent "what is currently a crisis from becoming a catastrophe".

The Mirror says the troops will join US forces and the joint force -"including engineers, logistics experts and medical staff" - will "build and run Ebola medical centres and a health training facility".

Image caption A health worker explains Ebola sanitation in Sierra Leone

The outbreak, which has killed 3,800 people in West Africa, has seemed closer to home after the first patient to catch the disease in Europe was identified.

The Mirror says Spanish nurse Teresa Romero Ramos, who is being treated in a Madrid hospital, learned of her diagnosis from reading a newspaper website.

"Nobody told me anything. I found out on my mobile. I suspected something because at the hospital they stopped coming in. Nobody told me to my face," she is quoted as saying.

The case has caused uproar in Spain, the Independent reports.

Medical staff claim they have not been adequately trained or equipped to deal with Ebola, the paper says, and some auxiliary staff say "they had had no more than a 30-minute course" about the virus.

The case has also caused protests amongst Spain's animal lovers, the paper adds, with a 350,000-signature petition begging officials to spare the life of Excalibur, Ms Romero Ramos's dog, who is scheduled to be put down as a precaution.

The Independent says three people were injured in ugly scenes outside the nurse's apartment as activists tried in vain to stop the regional government's van removing the animal.

The Guardian's lead story suggests the West may have woken up to the threat of Ebola too late.

It quotes the head of the World Bank Jim Kim as saying: "We were tested by Ebola and we failed. We failed miserably in our response.

Image caption Excalibur

"We don't need to stop all travel from these countries. It's going to be impossible to stop people.

"The way to stop the flow of patients from these countries getting to the rest of the world is to have programmes that will treat people and increase survival dramatically. It's possible."

The Daily Mail calls for screening at airports - "a simple temperature test and questionnaire" - to match measures put in place in the US, where one Liberian man has died of the disease.

The Daily Telegraph's leader comment says it is time to "be vigilant" but "we should avoid hysteria. Ebola is not as easily transmittable as, say, influenza, and the NHS is good at managing unusual infectious diseases".

The paper says screening what Public Health England says would be "huge numbers of low-risk people" is not a sensible policy.

"But public reassurance is important; and while not screening for it seems sensible now, the policy needs to be kept under review in case this crisis becomes a catastrophe."


'Snake-pit'

The apparent inactivity of Turkey, just across the border from a Kurdish city in danger of falling to Islamic State (IS) extremists, is much commented on.

The Times's leader says holding Kobane in Syria is imperative to prevent IS having "a hold on what is essentially a long Nato frontier".

The paper says Ankara, which has "confined itself to the role of spectator, its tank regiments watching passively as the smoke rises over the town" must become a "full-blooded" Nato ally and allow heavy weaponry and supplies to reach Kobane's defenders.

The paper says it should put its "anxieties" about Kurdish militancy in Turkey to one side and allow the US to fly air strikes from its territory.

The Daily Telegraph reports angry clashes between Kurds (both indigenous and refugees) and the Turkish authorities over the issue.

Image caption Turkish tanks on the Syrian border

Its headline says it clearly: "Angry Kurds accuse Turkey of collusion with jihadists as 'hell' unfolds on its border"."

The paper adds "many [Kurds] have accused the Turkish government of secretly ferrying weapons to IS while simultaneously preventing fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) - outlawed as a terrorist group in Turkey - from crossing into Syria to help the Kurdish militias".

"They are working on the basis that the enemy of my enemy is my friend," a Kurdish man tells the Telegraph's reporter on the Syrian border.

Prof Mark Almond, a historian who has taught in Turkey, writes in the Telegraph that Turkey is likely to seek a price if it acts against IS in Syria.

The Turkish government - led by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose party has Islamist roots - is "sure to insist that Kurds remain not only stateless but also defenceless.

"Meanwhile, will European members of Nato swallow their opposition to Turkish entry into the EU?"

Image caption Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Almond writes any action, and it is not guaranteed, will be "unilateral" by Turkey and if its troops banish IS from Syria "the Middle East's snake-pit of conflicting rivalries will remain.

"Will Israel, for instance, be happy to see allies of Hamas brought to power in Damascus by Turkish troops?"

The Financial Times says Ankara's stance is endangering its growing rapprochement with the semi-autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq.

Ankara's stance "is going to have a searing impact on the Kurdish psyche" one commentator tells the paper.

The Guardian's comment says Mr Erdogan has reasons to be cautious other than the position of Kurdish separatists within his own country.

"Joining the fight against IS also risks a backlash, since that group, experts believe, has cells inside Turkey.

"The Ankara government recently secured the release of 46 of its diplomats held hostage in Iraq since June. The terms of this negotiation may well have included a quid pro quo."


'Opinionated'

In what may be the best bit of news for teenagers for some time, many newspapers report a large experiment to find whether children achieve more by getting an extra hour in bed.

In a number of widespread trials of neurological theories, the largest, the Times reports, will "test whether teenagers achieve better GCSE results by starting their school day later, at 10am, to suit adolescent sleep patterns".

Test teams will monitor 31,800 pupils at 106 schools to determine the answer, the paper adds.

The trials have been championed by a charity, the Education Endowment Foundation, set up by Michael Gove to explore the most effective ways of learning.

The lie-in idea has been pioneered at Monkseaton secondary school on Tyneside, and has raised the percentage of pupils getting top grades in maths and English from 34% to 50%, the Independent notes.

"The change was most marked among disadvantaged pupils, whose performance rose from 19% to 43%," it adds.

Other tests undertaken in the programme will explore the links between physical fitness and learning, and look at introducing "game show" competition elements within the classroom setting, the paper says.

The Daily Telegraph quotes Prof Colin Epsie, who is leading the sleep study.

He says: "We know that something funny happens when you are a teenager, in that you seem to be out of sync with the world.

"Your parents think it's because you are lazy and opinionated and everything would be OK if you could get to sleep earlier.

"But science is telling us that teenagers need to sleep more in the mornings. Society's provision for learning is school, but the brain's is sleep."


Animal crackers

In a slew of animal stories in Thursday's press, perhaps the most seemingly unlikely is a US court battle over chimpanzee rights.

The Independent says the case is making legal history by arguing that the concept of "personhood" should be extended to intelligent animals, the paper says.

At the heart of the case is Tommy, a 26-year-old former circus chimp who is kept alone in a shed near Albany, New York.

Image caption Herr Huber and his EU compliant charge "Doris"

"His lawyer", Steven Wise, who is acting for an animal rights group, says he aims to change the common law status of at least some non-human animals from mere "things", which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to "persons".

The case is using the same legal mechanism as was used to fight slavery, the Independent explains.

Tommy's owner says the ape - who is on the waiting list to go to a primate sanctuary - lives in a state-of-the-art £93,000 enclosure.

"He's got colour TV, cable and a stereo...he likes being by himself," Patrick Lavery told a US newspaper.

Perhaps a more perplexing case of animals being expected to be more like humans is reported in the Daily Telegraph and elsewhere.

Picturing a cow in an outsized nappy, the paper reports an angry protest by Bavarian farmers who say new EU fertiliser rules have banned their herds from leaving their characteristic pats in the Alpine meadows they roam.

The EU law, the Telegraph explains, aims to prevent nitrates from fertilisers on steeply sloping land leeching into water supplies.

Farmer Johann Huber has fitted home-made nappies to his herd to avoid losing subsidies which might be withdrawn if he breaches the ban.

"We have no standard nappies, they have not been developed commercially yet," he tells the Telegraph.

Image caption Someone might be in trouble, the Times suggests

The EU suggests the problem has been down to the German authorities' rigorous interpretation of the regulations, the paper notes.

If cow supply starts to dwindle, a feature in the Times suggests a possible alternative source of animal protein.

Food made from crickets is a new fad in the United States, the paper says, and in a project backed by a billionaire, a cricket-based protein bar is now selling at high-end American health stores.

Cricket crisps and cookies are also being sold, the paper notes, with children proving less squeamish than adults to try the insect snack.

And crickets are green in more ways than one - the Times explains a pound of cricket meat would use 2,000 times less water than the equivalent amount of beef, and 12.5 times less food to produce.

And the chirping, but nutritious, critters will produce 100 times less greenhouse gas.

But what price cricket rights?

Making people click

Sun "I gave up working for twerking"

Guardian Kangaroo boxing match caught on video

Mail Vaginal orgasm "doesn't exist"

Express I won't die like a sad old woman, says Lynda Bellingham