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In the papers today: 16.01.08

As the man saying his prayers in his pyjamas says: ‘Houses Prices are falling and floods are rising. Kindly reverse the situation’. Cartoonist Roger Beale sets today’s agenda in the Financial Times.

‘Returns inUKproperty market dropped 3.7% in December’ according to the Telegraph, as housing markets return to an all-time low. The Financial Times chips in that confidence in the housing market has dropped to its lowest since 1992.

‘The sight of water where it shouldn’t be is enough to give me a panic attack. [then] We reach for the shovels’ says Elaine Nichols, resident ofTewkesbury, Gloucestershire, in the Independent . The town has been hit by floods only seven months on from the devestation wrought by the floods of 2007.

A more positive note comes from Jim Arnold, also quoted in the Independent who cheerily reminds us that the river had been doing this since the ‘first straw huts were built there’. ‘Bloody marvellous’ he says, while wading through floodwaters with his two spaniels.

Meanwhile as the water laps at the doors of homes in Gloucestershire, spare a thought for estate agents on the Costa del Sol. Yesterday’s trading update from Taylor Wimpey showed how theUKslowdown has dented their sales inSpainaccording to the Telegraph.

It sounds like our Culture Secretary has benefited from the same spirit of optimism shown by theTewkesburydog walker. On the same day that the Times reported that London Mayor Ken Livingstone admitted that the Olympic loan may never be repaid, James Purnell had to go to Parliament cap-in-hand. The Guardian's Simon Hoggart covers Purnell’s dewy-eyed eulogy to Olympian talent – ‘the inspiration for a whole generation’ – as he begged for £1.1 billion more for the Olympics. Hoggart points out that we will spend the equivalent of £180,000 every 44 minutes before 2012 to meet the bill, currently ‘nudging £10 billion’.

Wilkinson Eyre's Bristol academy may be one of the schools to suffer from falling pupil numbers as a result of the declining birth rate of the early '90s, according to Alex Baker's report on pupil place surplus in The Financial Times.

And now, onto nuclear accidents and giant rats. Fortunately these two do not occupy the same story, rather Martin Savage in the Independentdraws our attention to the Okiluto 3 nuclear reactor inFinland. The power station uses a European Pressurised Reactor design, one bedevilled, Savage claims, by ‘a slew of safety concerns, building blunders and spiralling costs and chronic delays’. The same system is being considered for use in theUK.

The giant rat was fromUruguay, where paleontologists have unearthed the fossilized skull of a rat reports The Times. At full size the creature weighed in at about 2.5 tonnes, or for those who find these calculations difficult, the size of a Ford Ka. In keeping with today's aquatic theme, seemingly to reduce the stress on its body caused by its large size, the rodent spent most of its time underwater .

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