The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 30 October 2004

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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An order laid before Parliament by Mr David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, will enable juries to be told of defendants’ previous convictions if they touch on ‘an important matter in issue’, such as ‘a propensity to commit offences of the kind’ alleged. The Lords voted 322 to 72 to reinstate the government’s original Bill on hunting, which the Commons had amended. The government acquiesced in the removal of Britain’s veto on European legislation about immigration and asylum, as adumbrated in the Amsterdam Treaty of 1999. Mr Denis MacShane, the European affairs minister, visited Kosovo to take Serbs to task for turning a deaf ear to his instructions not to boycott elections for the province’s assembly. The Cabinet was divided over the government Bill to allow the building of casinos and one-armed bandit palaces in Britain at the behest of American companies. The London stock exchange braced itself to resist a merger attempt by the Deutsche Börse. Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, held a ‘gender and productivity summit’. A paparazzo complained that his lip was cut after coming into contact with Prince Harry at 3 a.m. outside a nightclub in Piccadilly. Sir Alex Ferguson had to wipe soup from his hair after heated scenes in the tunnel when Manchester United ended Arsenal’s run of 49 games without defeat. Coal mines at Selby, North Yorkshire, closed after producing 120 million tons in 21 years. Train drivers are to be prohibited from sounding their new, loud horns each time they approach the Bathwick tunnel at Bath unless they see someone on the track. John Peel, the radio disc jockey, died of a heart attack in Cusco, Peru, aged 65. A civil servant at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority was jailed for five months for passing on to animal-rights terrorists the names and addresses of vehicle owners who visited a guinea pig farm. Pine martens, thought extinct in England, were reported in North Yorkshire.

Abu Musab al-Zarkawi’s terrorist group claimed that it had been behind the massacre of 49 Iraqi soldiers 100 miles from Baghdad on their return from an American-sponsored training course at the Kirkush military camp; 37 had been shot in the head as they lay on the ground. Seventeen Palestinians were killed in a two-day operation by Israeli troops in the Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza. Mr Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, gained the endorsement of parliament for his plan to disband Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. President Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority underwent endoscopic inspection of his bowels. In southern Thailand 80 Muslims, arrested in a drive against terrorism, died of suffocation. Mr Hamid Karzai’s victory in Afghanistan’s presidential elections was conceded by his chief opponent. Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Coalition for Democratic Change, left Zimbabwe for the first time in two years to visit South Africa, after being acquitted of planning to assassinate President Robert Mugabe. Five men on Pitcairn were found guilty of a series of rapes and sexual assaults against girls on the island over a period of 40 years; the men will remain free until the judicial committee of the Privy Council hears a case arguing that Britain has no jurisdiction over Pitcairn. Mr Lakshmi Mittal announced the merger of his assets and the takeover of the International Steel Group, of the United States, to form the biggest steel company in the world. Turkey is to lop six zeros off its currency, so that from 1 January a million old liras equal one New Turkish Lira (Yeni T