What the papers say

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Journalist Mike Philpott takes a look at what is making the headlines in Wednesday's newspapers.

The News Letter reports on the intensive negotiations as Finance Minister Sammy Wilson met his colleagues at Stormont late into Tuesday night in an effort to reach a budget deal.

When the paper went to press, its reporters were being told that one of the provisions was a rescue plan for the Presbyterian Mutual Society, with a proposed £225m being made available.

The Irish News concentrates on some other measures, including a pay freeze for civil servants earning more than £21,000, a tax on plastic bags, a reduction in the use of consultants by Executive departments and an increase in the regional rate.

It also reports that health spending won't be ring-fenced, but there's no plan to bring in water charges over the four years covered by the budget. The story also makes the front page of the Mirror.

The Belfast Telegraph relegates it to page 2, leading instead with an interview in which former Northern Ireland manager Billy Bingham talks about his divorce after 24 years of marriage.

The Irish Times reports that the government in the Republic will acquire sweeping powers to restructure the banking system, allowing Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to appoint special managers if a bank is in trouble and to stop future bonus payments to staff.

But there's embarrassment for Mr Lenihan in the Irish Independent, where it's reported that 100 of his staff have been paid bonuses during the past year. One payment was for 200,000 euros.

'Next Susan Boyle'

One person in the Republic who isn't worried about money appears in quite a few photographs.

Mary Byrne was back at her supermarket till for one final time, posing for pictures after reaching the semi final of the X Factor.

She tells the Independent that she hasn't made a penny yet, and even though she plans a career in music, she would have no qualms about returning to her old job if things didn't work out.

The Irish News has no doubts on that score - it describes her as "the next Susan Boyle".

The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is once again the subject of many headlines in London.

The Guardian leads with his bail application, and describes the outcome as "a small but significant victory" - even though he remains in jail pending an appeal by the Swedish authorities, who are trying to have him extradited.

The Mail describes the court proceedings.


On one side, it says, stood some of the most expensive lawyers in the land. On the other, "a formidable line-up of celebrities, notables and do-gooders willing to pledge Mr Assange's bail money".

The Independent leads with a piece by Vaughan Smith, a nightclub owner who's allowing Mr Assange to live at his house if he's released. He writes that he's preparing for one of the most unusual Christmases he has ever experienced.

Finally, in a not unrelated story, the Daily Telegraph has been looking at some of the information stolen by hackers from Gawker Media - a blogging network popular with technology geeks.

But it turns out that they are no better than the rest of us when it comes to computer security.

An examination of the stolen passwords shows that the most popular by far are 123456 and "password".

Other common words are the names of technology companies, because when choosing passwords, many people type in the first word they see - and that's usually the manufacturer of their computer monitor.

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