Newspaper headlines: Flu jab failure, Gary Glitter case and Ukraine peace plan
Amid reports that the number of deaths this winter will be the highest for 15 years, this winter's flu jab is declared "useless" by some papers.
The Daily Telegraph describes how the dominant strain of the virus currently in circulation is a "different mutation" from the type prepared last year for inoculation. "As a result, the vaccine is working in only 3% of those given it, when it is normally effective in around half," the paper says, quoting public health officials describing outbreaks in care homes and a surge in hospital admissions.
As the Daily Mail notes, the NHS spends £100m a year on its flu vaccination programme, targeting "at risk" groups such as the elderly, pregnant women and those with underlying illnesses. However, it quotes Katherine Murphy, from the Patients' Association, saying: "It beggars belief that health officials weren't aware just how badly the vaccine was working a long time ago".
The Independent explains that the World Health Organisation makes recommendations on the strains of flu to be used in vaccines each year but that it takes six months to produce sufficient quantities. "So if changes in the virus occur once production has started it is too late to change it."
- "Husband builds chapel of love" - A man pretended he was building a shed while creating a private chapel with stained glass windows and antique pews, for his wife, says the Express
- "Dark side of the moob" - Almost 200 men have had breast reduction operations paid for by the NHS in the past five years, says the Sun
- "Carry on Postie!" - a postman who's delivered to the same homes for 24 years is to keep his round after villagers protested against a plan to replace him, says the Daily Mail
- "Get a pizza the action" - A student designer has invented a pizza-flavoured condom, says the Daily Star
'Life of depravity'
The conviction of former pop star Gary Glitter for child abuse leads several papers, such as the Daily Star, to conclude that he'll "die in jail" after being sentenced later this month.
The Telegraph notes the police's description of the 70-year-old as a "habitual sexual predator who took advantage of the star status afforded to him by targeting young girls who trusted him and were in awe of his fame".
And it profiles the "showman whose greatest performance was hiding a life of depravity and abuse", charting his rise to fame during the glam rock era and subsequent downfall when he took a laptop to PC World for repair and an engineer discovered thousands of images showing child abuse. As the Daily Express reports, Glitter was arrested by police working on the Operation Yewtree investigation set up in the wake of claims made against DJ Jimmy Savile.
It wasn't the first time he was accused of abusing children in the UK, says the paper, quoting a woman who claimed he abused her as a 14-year-old, saying he'd asked her to dress as a schoolgirl and call her "daddy". Her claims led to court action but the star was cleared of all charges in 1999, the paper says.
The Sun says Glitter was "almost exposed as a paedophile" during an appearance on TV's This is Your Life, when writer Tessa Dahl said her sister had charged "adolescent schoolfriends in school uniform" £5 to see Glitter when he was a guest of the family. The rocker "was seen putting his finger to his lips in a bid to silence" Dahl, whose family had no idea about his deviancy, the paper says.
Meanwhile, the Mail quotes campaigners describing as "outrageous" the star's use of legal aid to fight the claims, despite living a "flamboyant" lifestyle in a £2m Marylebone mansion flat and receiving a reported £300,000 a year in royalties. "The Ministry of Justice pledged to claim back the five-figure cost of his defence, most of which was spent on his QC," it says.
The ongoing talks aimed at bringing an end to the conflict in Ukraine are in the headlines, although front pages are as focused on politics outside the eastern European nation as the war within its borders.
As the Financial Times reports, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are to meet their Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a bid to break the deadlock. But the FT adds: "A senior EU official suggested that the initiative was prompted in part by fears that momentum in Washington was shifting towards supplying defensive weapons like anti-tank missiles to Ukraine - a move Ms Merkel and Mr Hollande oppose."
While Moscow has drawn up a peace plan that "drew in France and Germany", Britain and the US have been left "out of the loop", says the Times. "There was deep unease about an initiative that seeks to calm the west's new Cold War with Russia, yet sidelines Britain and America," the paper says. In the analysis of the Times's Moscow correspondent Ben Hoyle: "With much of Europe set against arming Kiev and the US coming round to the idea, Mr Putin may finally have found the issue with which to splinter the front against him."
The Guardian says that while the threat of providing arms "puts some urgency behind the need to put a stop to Mr Putin's adventures" in eastern Ukraine, the weapons risk escalating the conflict and could fall into the wrong hands. Instead, it argues that cutting out Russian banks and firms from the Belgium-based Swift international transfer system would deliver a "serious jolt" to Moscow's finances without the threat of widening the war.
The Telegraph says the fact the European leaders are travelling to Moscow might "smack of desperation to some, particularly as Mr Putin is generally seen as the principal aggressor, having illegally annexed Crimea and dispatched an estimated 9,000 Russian troops to eastern Ukraine" to support rebels. However, it says we should hope their efforts are sufficient to break the deadlock, adding: "The alternative is frightening to contemplate."
Independent cartoonist Dave Brown offers his take, picturing the German and French leaders loading an enormous cannon with a nervous-looking dove of peace.
With Wales hosting England in rugby union's Six Nations opener, the sport pages make much of Welsh accusations that their opponents have been using illegal obstruction tactics to gain an advantage during attacking play.
However, commentators are more focused on who's likely to win the match. Former Welsh international Gareth Thomas writes in the Times that his compatriots will win by at least six points, and probably "run away with it towards the end of the game". The Independent's Chris Hewett agrees that Wales are a "safe bet", pointing to their stability - compared with England's "lack of familiarity" as a team - as a vital factor.
One man who'll be doing his level best to prove them wrong is England hooker Dylan Hartley. But he'll be as focused on "keeping his nose clean", accepting in the Sun that - given his chequered disciplinary record - he'll be under the microscope. "I just want to concentrate on playing my best rugby and repaying the selectors' faith in me," he says.
The Telegraph's Mick Cleary has his eye on a bigger picture, saying no matter what happens tonight, or during the course of the Six Nations, "it will all be related in some manner to the World Cup in seven months' time". He says: "It will linger in the subconscious, act as a spur in those moments of training-camp weariness, or as a taunting middle-of-the-night whisper when self-doubt talks the bedroom."
England's World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward also has his eye on the global prize, writing in the Mail: "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that England possess good enough players to win the World Cup." Despite that, he predicts they'll finish second to Ireland in the Six Nations and places Wales 3rd and Scotland 5th.
Despite all the excitement about the tournaments, the Daily Mirror is as interested in the girlfriend of England captain Chris Robshaw. It reports that she tweeted a photograph of herself wearing a skimpy nightdress and holding a roast chicken. She had, apparently, promised him a "naughty dinner" ahead of the big game.
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