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 Of the 30 remaining, 10 died before being caught and 20 had their indictments withdrawn.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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Why is it called Storm Doris? The psychological impact of naming a storm

“Homes being destroyed and lives being lost shouldn’t be named after any person.”

“Oh, piss off Doris,” cried the nation in unison this morning. No, it wasn't that everyone's local cantankerous old lady had thwacked our ankles with her stick. This is a different, more aggressive Doris. Less Werther’s, more extreme weathers. Less bridge club, more bridge collapse.

This is Storm Doris.

A storm that has brought snow, rain, and furious winds up to 94mph to parts of the UK. There are severe weather warnings of wind, snow and ice across the entire country.

But the real question here is: why is it called that? And what impact does the new Met Office policy of naming storms have on us?

Why do we name storms?

Storm Doris is the latest protagonist in the Met Office’s decision to name storms, a pilot scheme introduced in winter 2015/16 now in its second year.

The scheme was introduced to draw attention to severe weather conditions in Britain, and raise awareness of how to prepare for them.

How do we name storms?

The Name our Storms initiative invites the public to suggest names for storms. You can do this by tweeting the @metoffice using the #nameourstorms hashtag and your suggestion, through its Facebook page, or by emailing them.

These names are collated along with suggestions from Met Éireann and compiled into a list. These are whittled down into 21 names, according to which were most suggested – in alphabetical order and alternating between male and female names. This is done according to the US National Hurricane Naming convention, which excludes the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z because there are thought to be too few common names beginning with these letters.

They have to be human names, which is why suggestions in this list revealed by Wired – including Apocalypse, Gnasher, Megatron, In A Teacup (or Ena Tee Cup) – were rejected. The Met Office received 10,000 submissions for the 2016/17 season. According to a spokesperson, a lot of people submit their own names.

Only storms that could have a “medium” or “high” wind impact in the UK and Ireland are named. If there are more than 21 storms in a year, then the naming system starts from Alpha and goes through the Greek alphabet.

The names for this year are: Angus (19-20 Nov ’16), Barbara (23-24 Dec 2016), Conor (25-26 Dec 2016), Doris (now), Ewan, Fleur, Gabriel, Holly, Ivor, Jacqui, Kamil, Louise, Malcolm, Natalie, Oisín, Penelope, Robert, Susan, Thomas, Valerie and Wilbert.

Why does this violent storm have the name of an elderly lady?

Doris is an incongruous name for this storm, so why was it chosen? A Met Office spokesperson says they were just at that stage in their list of names, and there’s no link between the nature of the storm and its name.

But do people send cosy names for violent weather conditions on purpose? “There’s all sorts in there,” a spokesperson tells me. “People don’t try and use cosy names as such.”

What psychological impact does naming storms have on us?

We know that giving names to objects and animals immediately gives us a human connection with them. That’s why we name things we feel close to: a pet owner names their cat, a sailor names their boat, a bore names their car. We even name our virtual assistants –from Microsoft’s Clippy to Amazon’s Alexa.

This gives us a connection beyond practicality with the thing we’ve named.

Remember the response of Walter Palmer, the guy who killed Cecil the Lion? “If I had known this lion had a name and was important to the country or a study, obviously I wouldn’t have taken it,” he said. “Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion.”

So how does giving a storm a name change our attitude towards it?

Evidence suggests that we take it more seriously – or at least pay closer attention. A YouGov survey following the first seven named storms in the Met Office’s scheme shows that 55 per cent of the people polled took measures to prepare for wild weather after hearing that the oncoming storm had been named.

“There was an immediate acceptance of the storm names through all media,” said Gerald Fleming, Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann, the Irish metereological service. “The severe weather messages were more clearly communicated.”

But personalising a storm can backfire. A controversial US study in 2014 by PNAC (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) claimed that hurricanes with female names lead to higher death tolls – the more “feminine” the name, like Belle or Cindy, the higher the death toll. This is not because female names are attached to more severe storms; it is reportedly because people take fewer steps to prepare for storms with names they perceive to be unintimidating or weak.

“In judging the intensity of a storm, people appear to be applying their beliefs about how men and women behave,” Sharon Shavitt, a co-author of the study, told the FT at the time. “This makes a female-named hurricane . . . seem gentler and less violent.”

Names have social connotations, and affect our subconscious. Naming a storm can raise awareness of it, but it can also affect our behaviour towards it.

What’s it like sharing a name with a deadly storm?

We should also spare a thought for the impact sharing a name with a notorious weather event can have on a person. Katrina Nicholson, a nurse who lives in Glasgow, says it was “horrible” when the 2005 hurricane – one of the fifth deadliest ever in the US – was given her name.

“It was horrible having something so destructive associated with my name. Homes being destroyed and lives being lost shouldn’t be named after any person,” she tells me over email. “I actually remember at the time meeting an American tourist on a boat trip in Skye and when he heard my name he immediately linked it to the storm – although he quickly felt guilty and then said it was a lovely name! I think to this day there will be many Americans who hate my name because of it.”

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.