The review: Wednesday May 7, 2014
Madeleine McCann It's unusual to see the Daily Star at the top of the grid, but if you are still riveted by the saga, then this is the best-looking front page. To be fair, though, the Mirror was ahead on this two days ago and its website has now moved on to being cross with Portuguese judges who won't let the Yard raid suspects' homes. Back to the dig, whether the police are looking at two, three or five spots is debatable. As is whether they will actually dig or simply examine with radar. As is whether roadworks or pipe laying could hold the key.
The main thing to remember with this flurry of activity is that Madeleine disappeared on May 5, so this week was always going to be full of new leads and developments. Next Monday is, or would be (depending on how optimistic you are) her 11th birthday, so there'll be no let-up before then.
House prices and mortgages Our other favourite subject for speculation returns as the Telegraph, Mail and i splash, courtesy of the OECD, which has lifted its predictions for economic growth in the UK and raised concerns about house prices zooming out of control. The Government's Help to Buy scheme, which is supposed to give people without huge savings a leg up, is under attack and there are suggestions that the minimum deposit should be raised.
SubScribe is on record as hating most house price stories because they are so generalised as to mean nothing to the individual. One £140m penthouse can skew the entire 'average' market. It's hard out there for people starting out; it always has been. London isn't a world of multimillion-pound properties for oligarchs and oil sheikhs. Rich foreigners jetting in to scoop up former embassies will not dispossess the young couples scouting round for a two-bed flat in Leytonstone.
There are 50 available on Rightmove from £185,000- £400,000, so they should be able to find a home if they have £20,000 savings and a joint income of about £50,000. That's quite a tall order, but it's about the same height as it was in 2008 - except that a £180,000 interest-only mortgage would have cost about £750 a month then. Today it is nearer £400.
In Luton our couple would have a choice of 93 flats ranging from £60,000 to £160,000, so they could get on the ladder with a £6,000 deposit and a joint income of about £20,000. If they were a bit richer and had, say £15,000 to put down and earned £30,000, they could afford a £120,000 flat. A repayment mortgage on that would cost less than £500 per month. Renting the same flat would be more than £600. It's not all bad news.
Halal pizzas The Sun has just discovered that all chicken used by Pizza Express is halal meat. First Subway bans bacon and ham from some of its cafes, now this. Whatever next? Probably Nando's and KFC.
The Independent and Guardian both reported the Pizza Express policy before the Halal Food Festival last September - and also that 20% of Nando's restaurants used only halal chicken; KFC was running a trial at 100 of its takeaways.
The Sun thinks it is wrong that customers aren't told that the chickens they're about to eat had their throats cut while they were still alive. Well, actually most chickens that we eat have their throats cut while they are still alive. That is, if they aren't taken in their transport crates and gassed.
The debate about halal slaughter is not about the methods by which animals meet their end, but the level of suffering involved. Pizza Express and Subway have both told the Sun that their poultry are always stunned before slaughter, which is in line with Defra policy.
Maybe the paper has a point. Perhaps every catering establishment should tell us not only the provenance of its produce (as in 'line-caught Atlantic cod') but also every detail of how each creature was killed and degutted; carcasses being swizzled around on centrifuges, for example. That should bring in the customers.
Which is all Subway, Pizza Express et al want to do.They recognise that there is a huge potential clientèle out there and they'd like to attract them by reassuring them that their food is prepared in line with various religious teachings.
It's not about nasty foreigners bringing their cruel slaughter habits to our takeaways. It's about capitalism.
Meanwhile, here is Defra's guidance on how to kill your chicken, including protect it from the rain, but don't worry about giving it food or drink if it has less than 12 hours to live.
The hunt for Madeleine
The Sun and Kate McCann
Missing an opportunity
The Greek Madeleine
She's still missing
World Press Freedom Day
The trial of the
The 2014 death toll
Journalists missing, in jail or held hostage
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