And in other news. . .

Five news stories you might have missed this week as phone-hacking continues to dominate the agenda.

1. Famine in Somalia

The UN has officially declared two areas of southern Somalia to be in famine, amid the worst drought to hit east Africa for 60 years. The UN said that the humanitarian situation in southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle had deteriorated rapidly. An estimated 11 million people have been affected by the drought in east Africa, but Somalia has been worst hit as it is already plagued by decades of conflict. The UN and the US have said that aid agencies need more safety guarantees from armed groups in Somalia so that aid workers can reach people in need.

The technical definition of a famine is as follows: a mortality rate of more than two people per 10,000 per day; acute malnutrition reaching more than 30 per cent; water consumption becoming less than four litres a day; and intake of kilocalories of 1,500 a day compared with the recommended 2,100 a day.

2. Serbia arrests last war fugitive

Goran Hadzic, the last remaining fugitive war crimes suspect, has been arrested by the Serbian authorities. Hadzic was the last man sought by the UN tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and has spent eight years on the run, according to reports.. Of the 161 war crime suspects indicted, 131 were caught or turned themselves in. Of the 30 remaining, 10 died before being caught and 20 had their indictments withdrawn.

The 52 year old led Serb separatist forces during Croatia's 1991-1995 war. He has been charged with the murder of hundreds of Croats and other non-Serbs and will be transferred to The Hague shortly.

3. NHS to be opened up to greater competition

Andrew Lansley announced on Tuesday that the government will open up more than £1bn of NHS services to competition from private companies and charities. Framed as greater "choice", this has raised fears it will lead to further privatisation of the health service.

The first stage, beginning in April, will see eight areas of the NHS -- including wheelchair services for children, and primary care psychological therapies for adults -- opened up for "competition on quality not price". If this goes well, the "any qualified provider" policy will be rolled out from 2013 to cover more complicated services, like maternity.

Lansley said that this was a toned down version of the government's initial plans for competition in the NHS, which the doctor called in to review plans termed "unworkable". However, shadow health secretary, John Healey, said this move was "not about giving more control to patients, but setting up a full-scale market".

4. Lashkar Gah handed to Afghan forces

A significant step forward was taken this week in the transition of power from Nato forces to Afghan toops, ahead of the end of combat operations in 2014. British troops in Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province handed control of the city Lashkar Gah to Afghan forces.

This follows Nato handing over Bamiyan, a relatively peaceful province, and the eastern town of Mehter Lam. Maintaining order in Lashkar Gah may pose a more serious challenge.

5. Eurozone crisis hits Britain's banks

Britain's three biggest banks saw more than £5bn wiped off their value on Monday, as the deepening crisis in the eurozone impacted on global financial markets. Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays were the biggest fallers on the FTSE 100, all losing at least 6 per cent of their value. This was caused by the results of Friday's stress tests on European banks, the possibility of the US losing its triple A credit rating and concerns about the political fall-out of the News International phone-hacking scandal for David Cameron.

Stocks fell heavily in Europe and North America. Meanwhile gold rose to a new record of more than $1,600 (£995) an ounce -- a surefire sign of skittish markets. This lack of confidence is being compounded by concerns that Thursday's emergency summit of EU leaders will fail to resolve the debt problems of the single currency's weak members -- again.

 

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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If Seumas Milne leaves Jeremy Corbyn, he'll do it on his own terms

The Corbynista comms chief has been keeping a diary. 

It’s been a departure long rumoured: Seumas Milne to leave post as Jeremy Corbyn’s director of communications and strategy to return to the Guardian.

With his loan deal set to expire on 20 October, speculation is mounting that he will quit the leader’s office. 

Although Milne is a key part of the set-up – at times of crisis, Corbyn likes to surround himself with long-time associates, of whom Milne is one – he has enemies within the inner circle as well. As I wrote at the start of the coup, there is a feeling among Corbyn’s allies in the trade unions and Momentum that the leader’s offfice “fucked the first year and had to be rescued”, with Milne taking much of the blame. 

Senior figures in Momentum are keen for him to be replaced, while the TSSA, whose general secretary, Manuel Cortes, is one of Corbyn’s most reliable allies, is said to be keen for their man Sam Tarry to take post in the leader’s office on a semi-permanent basis. (Tarry won the respect of many generally hostile journalists when he served as campaign chief on the Corbyn re-election bid.) There have already been personnel changes at the behest of Corbyn-allied trade unions, with a designated speechwriter being brought in.

But Milne has seen off the attempt to remove him, with one source saying his critics had been “outplayed, again” and that any new hires will be designed to bolster, rather than replace Milne as comms chief. 

Milne, however, has found the last year a trial. I am reliably informed that he has been keeping a diary and is keen for the full story of the year to come out. With his place secure, he could leave “with his head held high”, rather than being forced out by his enemies and made a scapegoat for failures elsewhere, as friends fear he has been. The contents of the diary would also allow him to return in triumph to The Guardian rather than slinking back. 

So whether he decides to remain in the Corbyn camp or walk away, the Milne effect on Team Corbyn is set to endure.

 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.