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 Of the 30 remaining, 10 died before being caught and 20 had their indictments withdrawn.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.

Getty
Show Hide image

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.

0800 7318496