The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 26 February 2005

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, attempted to rush through Parliament legislation to put people suspected of terrorism under house arrest without trial. Mr Michael McDowell, the Irish justice minister, said that leaders of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland were also members of the Irish Republican Army’s seven-man Army Council: ‘We’re talking about Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams, Martin Ferris and others,’ he said. All three men denied the accusation. Mr Adams had earlier nuanced his opinion that the IRA was not involved in December’s £26.5 million raid on the Northern Bank in Belfast, saying, ‘The IRA has said it was not and I believe them, but maybe I’m wrong.’ The IRA was also blamed for murdering Robert McCartney, a Catholic from Short Strand, in a Belfast pub. Mr Paul Murphy, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, asked the Commons to end the non-sitting Sinn Fein MPs’ allowances. Primates of the Anglican Communion met in Northern Ireland in an attempt to avoid schism over the appointment of practising homosexuals as bishops, but conservatives at the meeting did not want to take Communion with liberals. The Queen said she would not go to the civil wedding of the Prince of Wales and Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles on 8 April, which was switched from Windsor Castle to the register office at Windsor Guildhall on legal grounds, while some lawyers said it would not be lawful in any case. The Conservative party said it would reduce the council tax paid by pensioner couples by an average of £340. On the first Saturday after hunting foxes with dogs was made illegal, more than 250 hunts met and 100 foxes were killed, legally, by being shot. The Food Standards Agency suddenly realised that more than 400 products, including some kinds of Worcester sauce, contained a dye called Sudan 1, often used in floor polish, which might cause cancer. Children denied meat in their diet tended to be smaller, weaker and less intelligent, according to a study by Professor Lindsay Allen of the University of California at Davis; Sir Paul McCartney said he had raised his children as vegetarians and they had been ‘no shorter than other children’.

President George Bush of the United States visited Europe for five days. He said Europe could join America in encouraging democratic reforms in the Middle East; he rebuked President Vladimir Putin of Russia, saying, ‘We must always remind Russia that our alliance stands for a free press, a vital opposition, the sharing of power and the rule of law’; and he declared that Iran was ‘different from Iraq. We’re in the early stages of diplomacy.’ An earthquake killed hundreds around the town of Zarand in central Iran, 100 miles from Bam, where 26,000 died in 2003. Mr Ibrahim al-Jaafari was chosen as Prime Minister of Iraq. The Spanish voted in a referendum to approve the treaty ratifying the European constitution, with 76 per cent of voters in favour, but a turnout of only 42 per cent. Victoria Beckham, the wife of the football player, gave birth in Madrid to a 7lb 2oz son whom they will call Cruz, a name given to girls in Spain. In the Portuguese elections, the Socialist party gained 45 per cent of the vote and 120 seats out of 230; Mr Jose Socrates became Prime Minister. Israel freed 500 Palestinian prisoners as part of its ceasefire agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr Ruud Lubbers resigned as the UN high commissioner for refugees, though he denied having sexually harassed a woman. Hunter S. Thompson, the author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the inventor of ‘Gonzo journalism’, shot himself dead; he was 67. Children’s brains are damaged by watching television, according to Professor Manfred Spitzer, a neuroscientist at the University of Ulm; their brains ‘fail to develop properly’, he said, and ‘later they smell and taste things differently because their senses are warped’.