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Portrait of the week

NHS and computers across the world crippled by ransomware virus

Also in Portrait of the Week: Trump accused of giving state secrets to Russia; Portugal wins Eurovision for the first time

20 May 2017

9:00 AM

20 May 2017

9:00 AM

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The National Health Service was one of the first big victims of a vermiform global ransomware computer infection going by names such as WannaCrypt and WannaCry, which locked computer systems. Hackers demanded $230 a time in Bitcoin to unlock them. Thousands of NHS devices were affected and outpatient appointments had to be cancelled. The Nissan plant at Sunderland was also hit. A 22-year-old from Devon, Marcus Hutchins, who runs the Malware Tech blog from his bedroom, found an effective kill switch that slowed the infection’s spread. Organisations abroad affected included Renault and Telefónica. Baddies had apparently unleashed the worm from software once in the keeping of America’s National Security Agency. Some people blamed North Korea.

A BBC Panorama investigation showed how litter enforcement officers were paid bonuses for handing out penalties for supposed crimes such as pouring coffee down the drain. Labour got used to its election manifesto having been leaked in full to the Daily Mirror and the Daily Telegraph a week early. In the real thing, nationalisation of the railways and some utilities and more money for the NHS, were to be paid for by a rise in corporation tax and in income tax for the top 5 per cent (those earning more than £80,000 a year), adding up in all to £48.6 billion in planned tax rises. Much-needed help with Labour’s campaign came from a new organiser, Andrew Murray, seconded from the Unite union. Mr Murray, whose father was Slains Pursuivant of Arms, joined Labour last year, having since 1976 been a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (and then the Communist Party of Britain). Ian Brady, the Moors Murderer, died aged 79.


Among bright ideas for the Conservative manifesto was the right to take a year’s leave to care for elderly relatives, one of 11 pledges to workers by Theresa May, the Prime Minister. The FTSE index closed above 7,500 for the first time. The annual inflation rate measured by the Consumer Prices Index rose to 2.7 per cent from 2.3 per cent a month earlier. Highgate School considered letting boys wear uniform skirts. The head was quoted as saying: ‘This generation is really questioning being binary in the way we look at things.’

Abroad

President Vladimir Putin of Russia blamed America for the global computer attacks. ‘Malware created by intelligence agencies can backfire on its creators,’ he said during a visit to Beijing. President Donald Trump of the United States said that the investigation of his links with Russia had become a ‘witch-hunt’, but then the Washington Post reported that he had spoken of classified information, entrusted to America by a third-party ally, during a meeting last week with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. Mr Trump then got ready for his diplomatic trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican. Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed to cut oil production to push up prices. Mr Trump said that he wanted to appoint a replacement for James Comey as head of the FBI soon, tweeting: ‘James Comey better hope there are no ‘tapes’. North Korea said it had tested a rocket capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead. Portugal won the Eurovision Song Contest against strong competition from Azerbaijan’s entry, which had the refrain: ‘Now I’m stuck in daydreams / Surrounded by thorn jeans.’

Emmanuel Macron was inaugurated as President of France, and he named as prime minister Édouard Philippe, a centrist member of the Republicans (formerly the UMP). Mr Macron, under a new party name, La République en Marche, was busy recruiting candidates for the National Assembly. Manuel Valls, the former Socialist prime minister, was rejected as unsuitable. Mr Macron met Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, whose Christian Democrat party (facing national elections in September) beat the Social Democrats to win elections in North Rhine-Westphalia. A slightly spotty 16-year-old from Nevada, Carter Wilkinson, saw his appeal for a year’s supply of chicken nuggets become the most retweeted tweet ever tweeted.

Ebola fever broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Brazil announced the end of its zika virus emergency after two years. Soldiers mutinied in Ivory Coast when they did not receive pay promised when they mutinied in January. Chrysler said it was recalling more than 1.25 million pickup trucks to fix a problem with their air-bag control software. In Turkey, 23 died when a coach fell off a cliff.

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