Newspaper headlines: Islamic State girls fear, Oscars previews and cricket 'shame'
Images of three schoolgirls passing through security at London's Gatwick airport, apparently bound for the fighting in Syria, provoke shock on front pages.
The Daily Star says the trio used their "half-term holiday to... become Islamic State jihadi brides", printing a map showing the route taken by the teenagers aboard a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul on Tuesday.
"Why did they let straight-A girls of 15 fly to join jihad?" wonders the Daily Mail, quoting one Islamism analyst saying: "When three young girls - two only 15 - arrived at the airport without parents and wanted to board a flight to Turkey, which we know is a staging post to Syria, it should have alerted suspicions." The runaways were "on police radar two months ago", according to the Times, having been questioned when an old school friend travelled to Syria in December. However, the paper says they were not kept under watch by counter-terrorism detectives.
The Sun ponders the "riddle" of what it is about the "medieval life" with Islamic State (IS) extremists that appeals to youngsters. "Most teenagers rebel. Years later they look back with amusement," it says. "That won't be the case for the three missing girls... For them, there is a point of almost certain no return once they set foot in the IS-controlled region of Syria."
Analysis by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation in the Daily Mirror says there is an "increasing trend" of youngsters travelling as a group because they are "influenced by their peer groups". It adds: "It is not yet clear if this is through school groups. What we do know is that the internet plays a big part in the radicalisation process." Bethnal Green Academy is understood to have put measures in place to try to prevent radicalisation, says the Times.
The Guardian says an estimated 550 women from around the world have joined the conflict, many of them in confusion over personal identity. "Evidence from a slew of former radical recruiters suggests that they seek to free their targets from being caught between the traditionalist strictures their parents impose and more mainstream liberal expectations from school friends," it says.
"Instead recruiters offer a third way, a sense of belonging to a 'global' cause in which the young radical is free to join the caravan of war wherever it may be in the world." However, the Times says several British teenagers seeking "an exciting life as a jihadist's bride" have walked into a "mundane or cruel existence". It adds: "It is not uncommon for girls or women to be prevented from leaving their houses or allowed out only when accompanied by a guardian. Outside the home, a brutal regime awaits. Women are beaten or even killed if they do not cover up every inch of their body."
- "Do your supermarket shop in France and SAVE money" - the Mail's Tom Rawstorne saves £63.83 on a massive family shop - even accounting for travel costs - "thanks to the plunging euro"
- "Hull are top of the league" - but only when it comes to website TripAdvisor's visitor approval ratings, explains the Sun
- "Blue plaque for Dolly the Sheep" - the Society of Biology is to unveil a memorial to the cloned sheep at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, reports the Times
- "'Little Britain' thief jailed" - a shoplifter stole food while using a wheelchair to pretend to be disabled, in scenes similar to the Andy and Lou sketch in the TV comedy, reports the Daily Express
The press is gearing up for Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony and several critics have a go at naming who "should" and who "will" win each category. Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw sums up the general consensus in predicting it's "Boyhood v Birdman" in the battle for the best film and director categories.
Both, according to the FT Weekend, are examples of "the unstoppable rise of independent cinema" at the awards. In four of the last five years, the best picture Oscar has gone to independent films, with Warner Brothers' American Sniper this year's "only bona fide studio film with a shot at winning".
However, the Times suggests that "America's tastes, and those of the 6,000 actors, producers and technicians who vote for the Academy Awards, are way out of sync" saying that analysis of online conversations shows bookies' outsider American Sniper to be the public's preferred choice.
"The tendency to shower niche titles with Oscars has sparked anxiety," it says, adding: "An internal memo leaked last month showed that the Academy still fears that viewers will shun tomorrow's ceremony because most of the nominees are 'art films rather than major blockbusters'".
According to the Daily Telegraph, all nominees are winners because those who don't claim a statuette will get "a decent consolation prize", in the form of a goodie bag worth $125,000 (£81,000). It includes a train ride through the Canadian Rockies, a silver necklace inscribed with the venue's coordinates, a "customised candy and dessert buffet" and $250 sex toy. "Unfortunately, the recipients will also find something else landing on their doormats: A hefty tax bill," the paper adds.
The tabloids are as interested in the activity surrounding the ceremony as the films. The Sun's Emma Brankin describes 58 different parties in four days, including Elton John's charity bash for the Aids Foundation - "a masterclass in opulence, with Gordon Ramsay providing food and Nile Rodgers and Chic the music" - the "fabled Vanity Fair after-party" and "Madonna's early-hours celebrations".
Meanwhile, the Mirror enjoys reliving the "most bizarre" Oscar moments, from Alice Brady's best supporting actress statuette being stolen by an imposter in 1938 to Tom Hanks accidentally outing his high school drama teacher as gay.
With cricket writers having had time to digest England's World Cup mauling at the hands of co-hosts New Zealand, they are left searching for language to describe just how bad things were in Wellington. For the Guardian's Mike Selvey, it was "beyond the realms of simple humiliation". He writes: "England cricketing disasters can come with the bar set very low, but even by their lofty standards this was par excellence."
"The match was over before they even switched on the massive floodlights at the ground, so at least England's ineptitude is good for the environment," writes Nick Hoult in the Telegraph, which describes the side plumbing new depths in an "abject collapse". The Times says they were "obliterated", the Express offers "shamed" and - for the Sun - they were the "doughnuts" at the stadium nicknamed the "Cake Tin".
As usual, there is no shortage of former England captains queuing up to put the boot in. In the Daily Mirror, Sir Ian Botham calls them "the laughing stock of the World Cup". The Times's Mike Atherton reckons "too many senior players are underperforming", while Andrew Strauss is quoted by the Daily Star warning "there are going to be a lot of axes flying around" if the form doesn't improve.
For Nasser Hussain, writing in the Daily Mail, England look out-of-date compared with New Zealand's "imaginative, attacking tactics and aggressive field placings". He says: "The bottom line is that England still play old-fashioned limited-overs cricket. Their default position is still to go back to Test players, like we have seen with Gary Ballance, rather than a more attacking option."
Neither is the Mail too confident about England's next game in the group stage, declaring: "Oh no, here come the Scots!"
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