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Newspaper review: Powerful despatch on Syria situation

Papers

The Times leads with a powerful despatch by its correspondent in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

He says that just a few weeks ago, the population focused their survival on dodging shellfire and bullets.

Now, it is a city without electricity, fuel, water and phone links, where an abandoned people are sliding into an abyss, forced to devote their energies to the most primitive human search of all - the hunt for food.

The correspondent, Anthony Loyd, writes that cries of "we are hungry" and "give us bread" stalked his journeys down Aleppo's central streets, where begging has become commonplace.

Tax bill

According to the Daily Mail's lead, Facebook has been accused of creating "tomorrow's generation of problem gamblers" by introducing casino games where people can bet up to £500.

Under a deal with a gaming company, the social networking site will offer Las Vegas-style slot machines and games such as roulette and blackjack. Facebook tells the paper that players will be subject to strict controls to verify their identity and check they are over 18.

The Independent gives prominence to remarks by the head of internet giant Google that he was "proud" of the steps the company had taken to cut its tax bill.

Eric Schmidt told Bloomberg that minimising tax liability was called "capitalism", and the company's tax structure was based on the incentives that governments had offered.

Energetic moves

The Sun's main story is that a 46-year-old father of three has collapsed and died after dancing to the chart sensation, Gangnam Style, at his office Christmas party.

Eamonn Kilbride had joined others at the party in Darwen, Lancashire, in performing the energetic horse riding-style moves made famous by the South Korean singer, Psy.

The man's death is reported by several other papers, too.

The Daily Telegraph says it has prompted a doctor to warn middle-aged revellers to take care when copying vigorous dance moves during the party season.

Editorial decisions

Several papers accuse David Cameron's official spokesman of putting pressure on the Daily Telegraph over an investigation into Culture Secretary Maria Miller's expenses.

The paper says Craig Oliver indicated that the story was poorly timed because of her role in implementing the Leveson proposals on press regulation.

Downing Street has said Mr Oliver was not trying to influence the paper.

But the Telegraph says it would be hard to find a clearer illustration of why the state must be kept well away from editorial decisions.

The Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror and the Sun all agree.

Show of strength

The Financial Times says the world has become a more dangerous place after North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket.

The international community can no longer dismiss Pyongyang's muscle-flexing as mere bluff, it says.

The Daily Telegraph describes the move as a crippled nation's show of strength.

An expert writes in the Daily Mail that the launch represents yet another step in North Korea's determination to be able to launch a nuclear strike on cities on America's Pacific coast.

In the Independent's view, Pyongyang has injected a disturbing element of uncertainty in an already unstable region.

'Upsetting players'

Finally, a darts fan was forced to leave a match that was being televised live after the crowd disrupted play with chants that he looked like Jesus.

The Daily Express says when members of the audience spotted Nathan Grindal, who has a beard and long hair, chants of "Jesus" quickly spread through the crowd.

According to the Daily Telegraph, security staff were called amid fears the chanting at Butlins in Minehead, Somerset, was upsetting the concentration of the players.

The Sun says the bouncers escorted Mr Grindal to a bar where they bought him a pint and told him to watch the rest of the match on television.

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