The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 2 November 2002

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Miss Estelle Morris resigned as Secretary of State for Education, saying she was not up to running a big department. She was replaced by Mr Charles Clarke, who was replaced as Labour party chairman by Mr John Reid, who was replaced as Northern Ireland Secretary by Mr Paul Murphy, who was replaced as Welsh Secretary by Mr Peter Hain, who was replaced as Minister for Europe by Mr Denis MacShane. Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, had an argument at the end of the European Union summit in Brussels, which led President Jacques Chirac of France to say: 'You have been very rude and I have never been spoken to like this before.' Mr Blair himself might have had reason to be annoyed, since Mr Chirac and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany had agreed between them that spending under the Common Agricultural Policy should remain much at present levels until 2013. MPs voted to sit from 11.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday (Monday and Friday hours remaining unchanged). The BBC asked Angus Deayton to step down as host of Have I Got News For You following newspaper reports of his involvement with prostitutes and cocaine. Members of the Special Air Service, the Special Boat Service and the Royal Air Force squadrons which fly their aircraft were awarded four Conspicuous Gallantry Crosses, five Military Crosses and three Distinguished Flying Crosses for their part in operations against al-Qa'eda and Taleban fighters during the war in Afghanistan. Lord May of Oxford, the president of the Royal Society, and Lord Rothschild, the banker, were appointed to the Order of Merit by the Queen. While she was giving evidence at the trial for theft of the butler of Diana, Princess of Wales, her mother, Mrs Frances Shand Kydd, had her house in Scotland burgled and her uninsured jewellery stolen. Galantamine, a substance isolated from ordinarily poisonous daffodil bulbs, was reported to show promise in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, as the active ingredient in the drug Reminyl, which boosts the levels of the messenger chemical acetylcholine in the brain. Richard Harris, the actor, died, aged 72. The Duke of Bedford died, aged 85. Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Townend, the founder of Hill House school, died, aged 93. Hundreds of thousands suffered power cuts, and rail services were disrupted for three days, after high winds swept over southern England and Wales.

Special forces stormed the theatre in Moscow where Chechen terrorists had been holding more than 800 people hostage for three days, threatening to kill them. The hostage-takers had rigged up explosives inside the theatre, and some attached explosives to their own bodies. The raid to overpower the terrorists came in the early hours and was accompanied by incapacitating gas being pumped in. About 20 terrorists were killed immediately; 118 hostages died at the time, one from a gunshot, and 650 were taken to hospital, 150 of whom were left in a critical condition, poisoned by the gas. The Russian authorities would tell neither the press nor the doctors what the gas was; foreign scientists eventually identified it as halothane, a surgical anaesthetic. After ten people had been shot dead by a sniper around Washington DC, police arrested John Muhammad and John Malvo, a 17-year-old, both black, whose car had been adapted to allow shooting from the boot. The United States met resistance from France in its attempt to have the United Nations Security Council adopt a resolution sanctioning action against Iraq. Three Israeli soldiers who had overpowered a suicide bomber died when his explosives blew up. Israel said it had captured 175 would-be suicide bombers this year; since 2000, 83 Palestinian assailants had blown themselves up, killing 296 Israelis; nearly 1,900 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and more than 620 on the Israeli side in the past two years. Mr Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a Leftist, was elected president of Brazil. Lava streamed from Etna as the volcano erupted.