Newspaper review: Europe battle and obesity theories

Once again, Europe is high on the news agenda.

David Cameron and European Commission boss Jean Claude Juncker have held talks which precede a week in which the PM hopes to hammer out a deal to reform the EU in the way in which he wishes.

The Guardian's lead suggests it may not be an easy time for the PM.

It says France and Germany have agreed a pact to fashion a closer political union between eurozone countries - without the treaty revisions Mr Cameron seeks.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Cameron met Mr Juncker in the room in which Winston Churchill composed his "we shall fight them on the beaches" speech

"EU members and senior officials in Brussels have repeatedly voiced their reluctance to reopen the Lisbon treaty - the EU's fundamental constitutional document," the paper notes.

"The Franco-German initiative... would definitively close the door on treaty renegotiation."

Inside the Guardian its European editor Ian Traynor writes that all EU leaders talk of the need to reform the Community, "the trouble is they all mean different things".

The Daily Mail says the Franco-German accord is a "plot to boost EU power by stealth".

Of Mr Cameron's meeting with Mr Juncker, the Mail says the prime minister was facing "an uphill battle" to win sympathy from the man he lobbied hard not to be appointed to the EU's top job.

In its editorial, the paper questions why Mr Cameron is in such "a hurry" to settle the EU question.

"Any truly significant repatriation of powers from Brussels will mean treaty changes, requiring the agreement of all 27 of our partners. It is surely unrealistic to expect these to be settled in only a few months," the paper writes.

But to hurry could be the only option given pressure to stage the in-out referendum as early as possible.

The Times reports that employers' confederation the EEF has urged Mr Cameron to hold the poll in 2016 at the latest to end "creeping uncertainty" about a "Brexit".

Downward spiral

There are two separate front page stories about obesity in Britain's broadsheets this Tuesday.

The Daily Telegraph leads with research from Sweden suggesting that living near a noisy road, railway line or under a flight-path can lead to obesity.

Image caption London's noisy Tottenham Court Road

The paper explains that the scientists believe the noise raises stress levels in the body causing it to store fat "because it thinks it is heading for a time of crisis, when food may be scarce".

The leader of the study, Dr Andrei Pyko, says: "Our results suggested associations with waist circumferences, primarily in the age group below 60 years."

The Telegraph has a practical illustration of what this could mean, saying that a resident of London's Tottenham Court Road - where noise levels hit 80 decibels - could expect a waistline 0.55ins bigger than if they lived somewhere quieter.

The paper notes 25% of Britain's population is classified as obese, compared to Sweden's 3%.

Not everyone seems convinced by the study, carried out at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute.

Public health expert Dr Anna Hansell, of Imperial College London, tells the paper: "It's definitely too soon to blame your increasing waistline on traffic noise.

"The size of the reported associations with traffic noise are small," she added.

The Times' front carries a warning from a senior child health doctor that NHS anti-obesity campaigns costing millions are doomed to failure.

Prof Neena Modi says existing strategies are a "waste of time" as they do not realise "babies start to become fat even before they are born".

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Obesity begins in the womb, Prof Modi says

She says efforts should be focused on pregnant women and babies.

"An obese child is going to be an obese adult and an obese adult is going to have obese children, so we've got a very vicious downward generational spiral that we need to nip in the bud," the paper quotes her as saying.

Prof Modi - the President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health - says focusing on obese adults "generally didn't work" and instead resources should be used to "evaluate what can stop children getting fat".

Her advice is countered by nutritionist Susan Jebb of the University of Oxford who tells the paper, "It's just not correct to say that weight-loss attempts are not worthwhile.

"The problem is we're not offering them enough."

Fundamental building blocks

Back to politics, and the Independent's front page story says that Labour leadership hopeful Yvette Cooper has called for Britain to revolutionise "the way it supports families".

Her pitch includes a "Scandinavian-style" offer of 30 hours of free childcare a week for parents of children aged two to five, and tax credits to allow mothers of younger children to decide whether to spend more time with them, or go back to part-time work.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Yvette Cooper is seen as one of the front-runners in the Labour leadership race

The former Work and Pensions Secretary writes in the paper, "As a working mother of three, I've long felt that things like childcare or family policy were too often seen as soft optional extras rather than fundamental building blocks of a strong modern economy and of strong communities."

The paper adds that Ms Cooper is trying to position herself as a "centre way" candidate against Andy Burnham - who is thought to have much of the union vote - and Liz Kendall, who is seen as a Blairite "moderniser".

Times columnist Isabel Hardman says Ms Cooper has "organised might" on her side, with a "formidable" campaign, but "few people know what she really stands for".

Hardman says that Ms Kendall's team hope to use social media to "blow the leadership contest apart", while "trade union candidate" Mr Burnham seems "keen not to be seen as the union candidate" and is mainly talking about immigration and Europe.

The Daily Mail is one of a number of papers to claim that Mr Burnham is under pressure from the unions to "oppose all cuts".

"There is no demand for a switch to the Right, or back to New Labour," an anonymous "source" in the Unite union tells the Mail.

"People want to see a progressive Labour Party that's standing up for working people and that's got to be an anti-austerity message."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Priti Patel could see her seat in Witham, Essex disappear

On the other side of the political spectrum, the Times reports that David Cameron could face a backbench revolt over plans to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600.

Although the move should benefit the Tories by correcting a bias towards inner city seats, the paper says many Conservatives representing threatened seats could vote against the measure, expected to be put before parliament in 2018 or 19.

Senior Tories whose constituencies could be merged include employment minister Priti Patel, and Attorney General Jeremy Wright, the Times adds.

The Financial Times reports that David Cameron has warned backbenchers not to make to many travel plans in the next two months as he is nervous about losing crucial votes that will be taken in the early days of the new parliament.

Nuances of swearing

Let's go abroad for our lighter stories today, and one that few papers can resist comes from Turkmenistan.

The Independent reports on how a 21m-high marble plinth carrying a gold statue of the country's president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has been erected in the capital Ashgabat.

Mr Berdymukhamedov - elected in 2006 with 97% of the vote according to his party - already revels in the titles "the patron" and "national horse breeder", the paper continues.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Berdymukhamedov did not actually attend the unveiling of the statue to him, the papers report

But it notes that his cult of personality has not reached that fostered by his predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov, "father of the Turkmen".

The Central Asian autocrat festooned his country with golden statues of himself, and even renamed the months of January and February after himself and his mother.

To Australia now, and two stories that show different facets of the island continent.

The Daily Telegraph reports on a new dress code issued to Australian civil servants barring them from attending the office wearing "onesies, Ugg-boots and thongs [flip-flops]".

Jan Dorrington, a senior immigration department official, was questioned about standards by a parliamentary committee and asked whether staff actually turn up for work wearing Ugg boots.

"Ah, you'd be surprised," she told startled MPs, the Telegraph reports.

The Daily Mail reports that a New South Wales farmer was reported to the RSPCA for swearing at his sheep.

Ken Turner, of Boorungie Station, 80 miles north-east of Broken Hill, told a local radio station: "None of them actually told me they were offended."

The Mail adds that the report of maltreatment was brought by the Australian branch of animal rights organisation Peta.

One activist said: "While a sheep won't get the nuances of swear words what they will be getting is the threat inherent in the way it is used."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A sheep: subject of baaaad language, say the punsters on the Daily Mail

The RSPCA has discontinued the case, the paper adds.

And so on to a late Eurovision story, with news from the Daily Star that the Swedish victor of the contest, Mans Zelmerlow, has faced an internet backlash from furious Albanians.

It began, the paper explains, when Zelmerlow tweeted a post-Eurovision picture of himself resting on a sofa.

Albanians on social media noticed he appears to be resting his feet on their national flag, and furious condemnation, including death threats, have followed.

Zelmerlow says the pose was an "innocent mistake", the Star adds, and Swedish police are investigating the threats.

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