The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 30 July 2005

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Four bombers escaped in London when the detonators they used failed to set off explosives they were carrying. The attempts, 14 days after the public transport bombs in London, were made on the No. 26 bus and on Underground trains at Warren Street, Shepherd’s Bush and Oval. A fifth bomb was abandoned at Little Wormwood Scrubs, west London. The next day, police shot dead an innocent Brazilian electrician, Jean Charles de Menezes, at Stockwell Underground station; he received seven bullets in the head and one in the shoulder. Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said, ‘The important point here is there’s nothing gratuitous in what’s going on; there’s nothing, you know, cavalier here. There’s no conspiracy to shoot people.’ When police made an arrest in Birmingham, they decided not to kill the man but to stun him with a Taser stun gun. Two of the men sought for the bombing attempts had been legally resident in Britain for more than 10 years. Opposition parties supported government plans to pass more repressive laws, but drew the line at imprisoning suspects without charge for three months. Professor Sir Richard Doll, whose research in the 1950s established the link between smoking and lung cancer, died, aged 92. The Institute for Public Policy Research recommended that the state pension age should rise to 67. Every child aged between eight months and four years will receive a bag of books, at a total cost of £27 million, Miss Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Education, announced. Clergy of the Church of England may cohabit under the Civil Partnerships Act when it comes into effect on the eve of St Nicholas’s Day, but only if they refrain from homosexual acts, according to a ‘pastoral statement’ by the House of Bishops of the General Synod. Workers at an Asda supermarket distribution centre went out on a three-day strike. A postwoman was put on a round at Highbridge, Somerset, when it was found that seagulls left her alone, while postmen were repeatedly attacked by the birds.

Three bombs at the tourist resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, in Egypt, exploded at a taxi rank, in a shopping street and at a hotel, demolishing it. More than 64, mostly Egyptian but including British tourists, were killed, and several more bodies proved hard to identify. Gunmen fired on a bus carrying employees home from a factory in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, killing perhaps 17 people. Affiliates of al-Qa’eda in Iraq kidnapped two Algerian diplomats. Sunni Muslims ended their boycott of a committee drafting a constitution for Iraq; an early draft of the constitution shows that no law could be enacted that contradicts ‘the rules of Islam’. Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch-born Muslim, was sentenced to life imprisonment for shooting dead and stabbing the director Theo Van Gogh, who had made an offensive film about Islam. Five British Sikhs from Birmingham were taken from a tourist bus near Times Square in New York and made to kneel with their hands behind their heads by suspicious police; ‘It’s a shame, and I certainly apologise on behalf of the City of New York,’ said its mayor, Mr Michael Bloomberg. Mr Michael McDowell, the Irish justice minister, said that Sinn Fein leaders, including Mr Gerry Adams and Mr Martin McGuinness, had stepped down from their alleged membership of the seven-man command of the Irish Republican Army. American and North Korean diplomats held talks over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. China revalued the renminbi by 2.1 per cent and was expected to allow it to fluctuate against the US dollar by up to 0.3 per cent daily. Seven astronauts entered space aboard the shuttle Discovery, the first to be launched since the destruction of Columbia in 2003. Pirates off the coast of Somalia attacked two Italian ships in a week, the 24,000-ton tanker Cielo di Milano and the cargo ship the Jolly Marrone. In Sichuan, China, 24 people died out of 76 infected by an unknown pig-borne disease.