CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Papal letter was a disgraceful deceit (Independent)

The letter is clearly an effort to restore the credibility of the Church, says Colm O'Gorman, yet, disgracefully, it was used to attack secularisation, displaying more concern for preserving the Church than for the safety of children.

2. Pope Benedict XVI's challenge (Daily Telegraph)

Conversely, Telegraph View defends the letter, saying that the Pope must continue to take calm and decisive action that will prevent his visit to Britain being overshadowed by the paedophilia scandal.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

3. Post offices can kickstart Labour's radical agenda (Guardian)

Jackie Ashley says that a People's Bank, operating from post offices, would herald a new version of back to basics -- valuing the reality of people's lives and their institutions.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. Take a 13 per cent pay cut. You know it makes sense (Times)

Libby Purves looks at Ireland, where public-sector pay has been sharply cut. Unlike the whingeing public-service unions here, Middle Ireland knows that a secure job is a privilege.

5. Why are we paying to educate EU students in our universities? (Daily Telegraph)

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, says the next PM should take a leaf out of Margaret Thatcher's book and demand a rebate. It is unfair that the stretched university system should subsidise EU students.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

6. Our defence policy is caught between pride and guilt (Guardian)

Fear of looking weak drives everything, says Julian Glover. Britain keeps buying the wrong equipment at the wrong price for the wrong wars. The army will be brilliantly equipped to fight in Helmand by the time we pull out.

7. Designs that ignore a wider terrain (Financial Times)

A consensus on US financial reform is emerging, says Clive Crook, but international co-operation is necessary to make regulation work.

8. The way to control the banks is through their accounts (Independent)

Looking at the financial system a little closer to home, Nicholas Jones says that although politicians have the power to stop the gambling at the heart of the way our banks work, they encourage it.

9. Berlusconi's bubble is almost at bursting point (Times)

Bill Emmott discusses the current state of Italian politics, which is anything but amusing. If Italian voters put the boot in, Silvio Berlusconi's coalition partners can seize the chance to bring him down.

10. MPs stuck in the lobbyist mire (Guardian)

It is 16 years since the big Tory MPs' cash-for-questions scandal, but standards in public life still fall short, says Peter Preston, discussing the Channel 4/Sunday Times lobbyist exercise.

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Inside a shaken city: "I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester”

The morning after the bombing of the Manchester Arena has left the city's residents jumpy.

On Tuesday morning, the streets in Manchester city centre were eerily silent.

The commuter hub of Victoria Station - which backs onto the arena - was closed as police combed the area for clues, and despite Mayor Andy Burnham’s line of "business as usual", it looked like people were staying away.

Manchester Arena is the second largest indoor concert venue in Europe. With a capacity crowd of 18,000, on Monday night the venue was packed with young people from around the country - at least 22 of whom will never come home. At around 10.33pm, a suicide bomber detonated his device near the exit. Among the dead was an eight-year-old girl. Many more victims remain in hospital. 

Those Mancunians who were not alerted by the sirens woke to the news of their city's worst terrorist attack. Still, as the day went on, the city’s hubbub soon returned and, by lunchtime, there were shoppers and workers milling around Exchange Square and the town hall.

Tourists snapped images of the Albert Square building in the sunshine, and some even asked police for photographs like any other day.

But throughout the morning there were rumours and speculation about further incidents - the Arndale Centre was closed for a period after 11.40am while swathes of police descended, shutting off the main city centre thoroughfare of Market Street.

Corporation Street - closed off at Exchange Square - was at the centre of the city’s IRA blast. A postbox which survived the 1996 bombing stood in the foreground while officers stood guard, police tape fluttering around cordoned-off spaces.

It’s true that the streets of Manchester have known horror before, but not like this.

I spoke to students Beth and Melissa who were in the bustling centre when they saw people running from two different directions.

They vanished and ducked into River Island, when an alert came over the tannoy, and a staff member herded them through the back door onto the street.

“There were so many police stood outside the Arndale, it was so frightening,” Melissa told me.

“We thought it will be fine, it’ll be safe after last night. There were police everywhere walking in, and we felt like it would be fine.”

Beth said that they had planned a day of shopping, and weren’t put off by the attack.

“We heard about the arena this morning but we decided to come into the city, we were watching it all these morning, but you can’t let this stop you.”

They remembered the 1996 Arndale bombing, but added: “we were too young to really understand”.

And even now they’re older, they still did not really understand what had happened to the city.

“Theres nowhere to go, where’s safe? I just want to go home,” Melissa said. “I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester.”

Manchester has seen this sort of thing before - but so long ago that the stunned city dwellers are at a loss. In a city which feels under siege, no one is quite sure how anyone can keep us safe from an unknown threat

“We saw armed police on the streets - there were loads just then," Melissa said. "I trust them to keep us safe.”

But other observers were less comforted by the sign of firearms.

Ben, who I encountered standing outside an office block on Corporation Street watching the police, was not too forthcoming, except to say “They don’t know what they’re looking for, do they?” as I passed.

The spirit of the city is often invoked, and ahead of a vigil tonight in Albert Square, there will be solidarity and strength from the capital of the North.

But the community values which Mancunians hold dear are shaken to the core by what has happened here.

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