TEN years ago, this week Americans hailed Barack Obama as the first black US president.

Speaking to thousands of his supporters in Chicago he said: "Because of what you did on this day, change is coming to America."

Gordon Brown led the tributes, hailing the new president-elect's "inspirational" ascent to the White House.

Speaking from No 10, the Prime Minister declared: "This is a moment that will live in history as long as history books are written."

Mr Brown described Mr Obama as "a true friend of Britain", while emphasising their shared commitment to "progressive" politics.

In the North-East, The Northern Echo revealed how the investigation into the huge fire that ravaged the King’s Hotel, in Darlington was pointing towards the cause being arson.

The fire was believed to have started on the top floor of the building – known for more than 100 years as the King's Head Hotel.

The flames quickly took hold, prompting a six-hour rescue operation, involving 60 firefighters, ten fire engines and a police helicopter.

Detective Inspector Phil Curtis, of Darlington police, who led the inquiry, said: "We have interviewed the people who were present at the hotel more than once.

"From the discussions we have had, it is fair to say that arson is now considered to be a distinct possibility."

Meanwhile, villagers in Langton, near Gainford, County Durham fought to keep their traditional red phone box after a phone company considered replacing it with a modern glass version.

Gainford and Langton Parish Council agreed to adopt it for only £1 to prevent it from being replaced.

People in the village said the traditional-style box fit in better with the rest of the architecture in Langton.

Langton councillor, Clive Dennis said: "Red phone boxes are an iconic design and a part of British tradition, like double-decker buses.

"In a small hamlet like Langton, it is even more important we keep it because there are not too many defining features."

Although the well-known red kiosk remained in the village, the phone was disconnected.

It would have cost the parish council £500 to keep the phone in service.

Councillor Dennis's wife, Pat, said: "When the phone box was first threatened, we said to BT that we thought a modern one was entirely out of keeping with a country village like Langton, and they listened to that.”