Newspaper headlines: Obama drubbing, petrol price warning, superbugs and saffron

Thursday's newspapers are in agreement that US President Barack Obama has been left with a bloody nose after sweeping Republican gains in Tuesday's mid-term elections gave them control of both the Senate and Congress.

According to the Independent, while Democrats had been bracing themselves for losses, the "wreckage wrought by the Republican juggernaut exceeded their worst fears".

Image copyright Reuters

The Guardian, which features a photograph of a dejected-looking president on its front page, suggests the Democrats woke to the "political equivalent of a pounding hangover".

"The defeat is a significant blow to the president, whose low approval ratings contributed heavily to his party's electoral drubbing," writes the paper's Paul Lewis.

The Daily Telegraph's political editor Peter Foster wonders what the Republicans will do with their new-found power.

"Do they spend the next two years dancing self-indulgently on Mr Obama's political grave, or do they dig the foundations of a credible challenge for the White House?"

The Financial Times reckons the result gave the Republicans a "sharp psychological boost after sweeping defeats in the past two presidential elections". They will now press for a pro-business agenda, including tax cuts, it predicts.

The Times says election night was a "humiliating defeat" for the president but "could hardly have gone better for the Republicans". It adds they "must now prove to angry Americans that they can get things done in Washington if they are to avoid a repeat of the previous election cycle, when they made historic gains in 2010, only to lose the White House race two years later".

In the Daily Mirror, political editor Jason Beattie says Mr Obama is "reduced, mocked and isolated on home turf" even as the rest of the Western world holds him in high esteem.

"Given a chance to vent their frustrations... American voters pummelled their president like a punchbag", he writes.


'World needs him'

So what now for Mr Obama?

In its leader, the Times suggests voters on the right have "repudiated his entire agenda" while those on the left "can scarcely reconcile the inspirational newcomer of 2008 with the weary insider of 2012".

But the paper says his healthcare reforms and stewardship of the economy has ensured his is "not a failed presidency" and predicts he will now seek to build his legacy abroad.

The Daily Mail says Tuesday was the "day Americans proved their love affair with Barack Obama is over" but it is a "grim moment indeed for the free world to be led by a lame duck".

The Guardian suggests the mid-terms were a watershed for a president "who staked so much on a message of hope and change". But it urges Mr Obama not to waste his last two years in office with a slide into defeatism.

Image copyright AFP

On issues such as Iran and climate change and other fields where the US role is indispensable, the world needs him to "keep trying", it says.

The Financial Times says it will "take real gumption" for Mr Obama to make the most of his predicament. But there is an opportunity to rejuvenate his administration and "achieve big feats" in foreign policy.

The Independent says in domestic terms, Mr Obama is now the "lamest of lame ducks". But it is vital his weakness does not extend to foreign policy and Republicans must work with him.

The vote results, it says, were "obviously, a disaster for the Democrats, but bad news as well for a world that, for all its ambivalence about American power, invariably looks to Washington for leadership at moments of international turbulence".

The Daily Telegraph's leader column believes Mr Obama can still redeem his "battered reputation". "With so many critical issues dominating the international agenda... there has never been a better time for an American president to display courageous and effective leadership," it says.


Pump prices

The Daily Telegraph's front page story focuses on a Treasury warning to petrol companies and supermarkets that oil price cuts must be passed on to motorists.

Image copyright PA

The main UK fuel suppliers and distributors have denied pump prices have not been reflecting recent falls in the price of oil but Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is to write to them.

The Daily Mail suggests critics are likely to say that Mr Alexander should be proposing further cuts to fuel duty rather than just pleading with the petrol giants.

And the Sun concurs. Its leader column also says there is "plainly scope for more cuts" from the fuel companies and wonders about the "crippling fuel surcharges airlines slapped on flights" when the wholesale prices soared.


Hobbyists v cynics

The Times reports that Dutch scientists have developed the first effective alternative to antibiotics.

The paper says it is being hailed as a significant advance in the fight against drug-resistant infections. Scientists claim it is unlikely the superbug MRSA could develop resistance against the new treatment, which is already available as a cream for skin infections.

Meanwhile, the Daily Express and Daily Telegraph examine a study which suggests having "a sense of purpose" can help people live a longer and healthier life.

Researchers from University College London, and the US universities of Princeton and Stony Brook looked at 9,000 English people with an average age of 65 and their findings have been published in the Lancet as part of a special series on ageing.

The Telegraph's science editor Sarah Knapton says people who engage in regular uplifting activities, such as golf, gardening or seeing their grandchildren were found to be fitter and healthier. They are said to be 30% less likely to die within eight-and-a-half-years.

"Pensioners with sense of purpose live two years longer than cynics," is the Telegraph's headline.

The Express sums it up by saying: "How you can add years to your life: Find a hobby and live longer".


Mexican wave

Image copyright Reuters

The Prince of Wales is widely pictured in the papers, participating in a dance in Campeche, Mexico, on the last day of his four-day tour to the country.


Legal headaches?

The Guardian says an investigation into deals struck with Luxembourg has uncovered "multi-billion dollar tax secrets" of some of the world's largest multinational corporations.

Leaked documents show the state "is quietly rubber-stamping tax avoidance on an industrial scale", it reports. The paper says firms have legally used complex webs of internal loans and interest payments to slash tax bills at a time when there is political pressure to clamp down on such schemes.

Meanwhile, 40 senior judges and lawyers have written to the Daily Telegraph to warn that the UK will become a "safe haven" for foreign criminals and fugitives if it opts out of the European Arrest Warrant. It comes as David Cameron is facing a Commons vote and a potential rebellion from backbench Tory MPs opposed to the measure.

And there is news of another potential legal headache for the government in the Independent. In an interview with the paper, Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem justice minister, criticises Conservative Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, for having "failing, kneejerk" policies on crime.

The Independent highlights his comments as the latest example of the Lib Dems distancing themselves from their coalition partners ahead of the general election.


Saffron back in Walden

Image copyright AP

At about £75 a gram, saffron is more expensive than gold. And now the spice has returned to the fields of England for the first time in 200 years - and in the Essex town of Saffron Walden, the heart of production in Tudor times.

The Daily Telegraph reports that farmer David Smale is cultivating his crop at a secret location.

Saffron growing died out in Britain as the painstaking harvesting methods became too expensive to compete with cheap imports from Iran and Kashmir, explains the Daily Express.

The Times says Mr Smale is planning a twentyfold increase in production next year, both in Essex and at his family's former plant nursery in Exmouth, Devon.

His endeavour ensures Saffron Walden will now "rejoin" the list of British towns with "appropriate names", it adds.


Making people click

Daily Mirror: Benedict Cumberbatch is engaged to girlfriend Sophie Hunter - millions of hearts break

Times: Immigration - it's all about prejudice, not jobs

Independent: Camp Bucca: The US prison that became the birthplace of Isis

Daily Telegraph: The haka is scarcely more than a circus display now

Daily Express: Heartbreaking last photo of missing dog shared by thousands