Newspaper reviews: Debbie Reynolds and May 'Israel row'

The ceasefire in Syria brokered by Turkey and Russia could mark a turning point in the six-year war and usher in peace negotiations, according to the Guardian.

The paper talks of the US being “sidelined” in Syria in recent months and “notably absent” from the brokering of the deal.

The i has a dramatic front page, showing people among the rubble.

“Truce in Syria,” says the headline, “After five years, 470-thousand deaths and eleven million refugees, the Assad regime and rebels agree to stop the fighting.”

The Daily Telegraph talks of a return to the Cold War, after President Obama’s decision on Thursday to expel 35 Russian diplomats, accusing the Kremlin of hacking the Presidential election.

It says the move has seriously escalated tensions between Moscow and Washington.

The Guardian says that diplomatic expulsions are normally met with exactly reciprocal action, but in this case, Moscow may pause for thought.

With Donald Trump, who has spoken positively about Russia and Vladimir Putin, just three weeks away from the White House, Russia may feel it is inadvisable to kick out 35 US diplomats.

Several papers have pictures on their front pages of Debbie Reynolds and her daughter, Carrie Fisher after their deaths one day apart.

The Daily Telegraph quotes what are said to have been Debbie Reynolds’ last words: “I just want to be with Carrie”.

The Guardian says the 84-year-old actress was arranging her daughter’s funeral when she suffered a fatal stroke and, according to the Daily Express, she “died of a broken heart”.

The Daily Mirror suggests mother and daughter will be buried together as does The Times, which quotes a relative saying: “I think that’s what they would have wanted.”

The lead in the Daily Express welcomes what it calls a “huge EU exit trade boost”.

The paper says Whitehall figures show that the Brexit vote helped to attract an extra £16.3bn of foreign investment into Britain.

It says the new Department for International Trade has secured a string of deals to boost jobs and growth.

The Daily Telegraph says the total is £15bn and quotes the International Trade secretary, Liam Fox, as saying the investment showed that countries across the world were betting on a strong UK economy post-Brexit.

‘Surprise, surprise’

But whilst money is coming in one way, it is going out in another, according to the Daily Mail.

The newspaper says that seven years after Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs launched a crackdown on the super-rich, it’s emerged that they are now paying even less income tax.

It says HMRC is is facing questions from the cross-party Public Accounts Committee over why the amount of income tax and National Insurance paid by individuals worth more than £20m slumped by a fifth between 2009 and 2015, even though the number of super-rich has surged.

However, “surprise, surprise” says the Mail, the rest of us are paying more. MPs say the figures are “truly shocking” while HMRC tells the paper the tax-take from the rich would have been affected by the economic downturn.

And the paper has another story on how thousands of families face eye-watering council tax rises of up to 16% to tackle the spiralling cost of social care.

The Mail says a number of councils are preparing to hold referendums on whether they can ignore a 5% cap on annual increases.

The Daily Mirror reports that hospitals are fighting a rising battle against cockroaches and rats.

A patients’ group tells the paper: “It’s getting worse. Health centres should not be overrun with vermin.”

The paper says Freedom of Information requests show that NHS trusts made 4,885 pest control callouts last year, costing £1m.

According to the Sun, the number of health tourists flying in to Britain to have babies delivered for free on the NHS in such hospitals has doubled in two years.

At least 2,167 women ineligible for care gave birth on English maternity wards last year, the paper says, and then refused to pay.

“The NHS is seen around the world as a soft touch and it’s getting worse,” the paper says in an editorial. “A birth can cost £,50,000. With health funding in dire straits we cannot afford to be soft-hearted”.

Learner drivers could be forced to spend 120 hours behind the wheel before sitting their test, the Times claims.

It says ministers are considering a mandatory minimum learning period to prevent young motorists taking to the road alone, with little practice.

Typical learner drivers currently have 40-50 hours of lessons. The Department for Transport tells the paper no decisions have been made.

No headers

The Professional Footballers’ Association has called for a ban on heading the ball for children aged under 10, according to the Daily Telegraph.

An academic study has apparently shown that players can suffer memory impairment after heading the ball, and the paper says there is anecdotal evidence of former players suffering serious brain conditions.

Banks have been accused of exploiting families who overspent at Christmas by bombarding them with “cynical” credit card offers, says the Daily Mail.

The paper says struggling borrowers are being offered interest-free periods of 43 months, cash sweeteners and gift cards, only to be stung with hefty fees on anything they fail to pay off before the deal expires.

A spokesman for the card issuers tells the paper: “Every application is subject to a rigorous risk and affordability assessment.”

And according to the Sun, 40 million Brits will celebrate New Year’s Eve with a “big night in” as record numbers shun an expensive evening out.

Apparently, three in four have said they plan to see in 2017 either at home or round at other people’s houses.

The Daily Telegraph also predicts that more people than ever will shun the fireworks, but says more than 3,000 police will be on patrol on the streets of central London.

Meanwhile, the paper’s Scottish edition says Police Scotland insists it has robust plans in place to ensure safety as Glasgow prepares for tomorrow’s “Old Firm” match at Ibrox.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association has branded the decision to hold the Celtic v Rangers match on Hogmanay as “senseless” and “outrageous”.

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