The week ahead: riots, Strauss-Kahn, banking, NEETS, GCSEs, GDP

A journalists’ to the week ahead, provided by forward-planning news service Foresight News.

The sight of the 150-year-old Reeves Furniture Store being gutted by fire was one of the starkest and most striking images to emerge during this month’s London riots. Today the man charged with starting the blaze, Gordon Thompson, appears for a preliminary hearing at Inner London Crown Court. The maximum sentence for arson with intent to endanger life, with which Thompson has been charged, is life imprisonment.

A month ago on Monday, Norway was rocked by a bomb attack in Oslo’s government quarter and a shooting spree on the island of Utoya which left 77 dead. Suspect Anders Behring Breivik is due in court next month.

In the second of the week’s court cases Dominique Strauss-Kahn returns to the New York State Supreme Court for a further hearing. With the credibility of DSK’s accuser Nafissatou Diallo being challenged, prosecutors last week seized on leaked medical records which cited assault and rape as causes of injury immediately following the alleged attack. The defence lawyers’ response? To reject the report’s credibility. Already one of the most intriguing court cases in recent years, this is rapidly becoming one of the most acrimonious as well.

The British Banking Association’s high street banking figures, released on Tuesday, provide a monthly update on the strength of the mortgage market and household finances. Last month’s figures suggested that savings were being used to pay higher household bills, while returns were being kept low by miniscule interest rates, while the mortgage market, despite some month-on-month improvement, was still weak. Tuesday’s numbers are likely to indicate more belt-tightening all round.

Statistics on NEETs (those 18-24-year olds not in education or training) are released on Wednesday, a week after labour market statistics showed unemployment had hit 2.49 million and youth unemployment was heading back towards 1 million. The Government has attempted to address the employment problem with the rollout of the Work Programme this summer, but with thousands of A Level students left disappointed at the lack of university places last week, NEET numbers could soon surpass the record high shown in last year’s Q4 figures.

It’s been a difficult summer for David Cameron. There’s been criticism of his handling of the riots in England and questions about Andy Coulson that just won’t go away, so the chance to step back and celebrate his daughter’s first birthday on Wednesday will provide some welcome respite. Florence Rose Endelion Cameron was born a year ago while the PM and his family were holidaying in Cornwall.

GCSE students receive their results on Thursday and the debate over the dumbing down of examinations can be resumed just as the brouhaha over A Levels was dying down. Last year brought record pass rates and a five-year old becoming the youngest ever person to pass a GCSE exam, while ‘experts’ claimed that exams were too easy and the age-old debate over girls outperforming boys continued. It all sounds so familiar…

The drought in East Africa has taken something of a backseat newswise to tphone hacking and, latterly, rioting  in this country. However, the situation continues to worsen, with Somalia particularly badly affected with five areas of the country suffering from famine. On Thursday the African Union hosts a pledging conference in Ethiopia in an attempt to drum up support for humanitarian efforts in the region. UK Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell pledged an additional £25m in emergency aid during a visit to Mogadishu last week.

Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has called an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Friday, with ministers expected to vote on austerity measures which were proposed following another emergency session last week. Zapatero is not seeking another term as prime minister at November’s elections but his Socialist Party will hope that this savings plan does enough to overturn the public’s lack of confidence before then.

Friday’s also a big day for the UK, economy-wise, bringing as it does the revisions to GDP estimates from last month. The first estimate showed growth of 0.2 per cent, down from 0.5 per cent in the previous quarter, with the Chancellor George Osborne calling the figures ‘positive news’, while his shadow, Ed Balls, accused him of having implemented policies which were choking the UK’s recovery. However it’s spun, 0.2% doesn’t bode well for year-end results.

The annual Notting Hill Carnival begins in London on Sunday; following calls for the event to be cancelled in the wake of the violence which affected this city earlier this month, organisers have proposed earlier start and finish times this year. It’s hoped that 7pm finishes will prevent trouble flaring when darkness falls; whether revellers will be ready to stop partying when the music’s turned off is another matter.

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