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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 06:56 GMT 07:56 UK
Papers discuss smear test blunders

"A Betrayal of Women" is how the Daily Mail describes what it calls the appalling blunders in the NHS screening programme which led to 14 women in Leicestershire dying from cervical cancer, after being given the all-clear.

The Sun views the situation as so horrific as to be almost beyond belief.

The whole country will be blazing mad about the tragic failure, it supposes.

But in an editorial, The Times warns against provoking one of the health scares to which, it says, Britain is so prone.

It urges women to repeat their tests rather than stampede away from screening altogether.

And writing in The Mirror, the National Cancer Director Professor Mike Richards says that without screening, more women would have died and a lot more would have required major treatment.

Ronnie Biggs poll

The impending return to Britain of train robber Ronnie Biggs after e-mailing Scotland Yard, prompts The Sun, the The Express and The Mirror to carry phone polls asking readers if he should spend the rest of his life behind bars.

The Guardian points out that Mr Biggs has a lot of people to thank for his years of freedom.

But above all, it says, the robbery could never have been carried out today, because the unreliability of Railtrack's timetables makes a precision operation impossible.

Meanwhile The Independent lists what happened to 14 other men involved in the robbery.

It says up to three others are thought never to have been arrested.

Neatly tying Ronnie Biggs' return to the foot-and-mouth crisis, Matt's cartoon in the Daily Telegraph features a cow, sitting by a swimming pool outside Hotel Rio, writing a letter which says "I'm sick of running from Maff - I want to come home and give myself up".

Football teams' proposed merger

The Sun devotes its final four pages to the proposed merger between Wimbledon and Queens Park Rangers football clubs.

Beneath a mock-up of how the new strip might look - with blue and yellow hoops - is one of the many articles about fans voicing their anger at the plans.

But there is at least one voice of support from the chairman of Third Division Barnet.

Tony Kleanthous, whose team would avoid relegation to the Conference if the merger goes ahead, tells the paper that he will clutch at any straw to stay up.

At the opposite end of the football spectrum, before Arsenal and Liverpool kick-off for the FA Cup Final, fans will be treated to the singing of two opera singers, discovered when they were busking in Covent Garden.

One of the organisers, Nadia Raibin, tells The Times she picked Karen England and Rebecca Knight because they were "two good-looking ladies who could belt out a tune".

Raining fish

After the wettest twelve months on record, the Daily Mail suggests that it would not be unusual for it to be raining cats and dogs.

But the paper reports that a group of golfers in Wiltshire had a round disrupted when it started raining dead fish.

Fifteen goldfish and koi carp fell onto the fairway at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Golf Club.

Weather experts tell the paper that a mini-tornado probably sucked up the contents of a nearby ornamental pond and when the storm died away, gravity would have taken over.

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