The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 4 January 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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A third of families entitled to working family tax credits are not claiming them; 604,000 low-income families are missing out on £1.4 billion, an average of £42 a week each. The Tories are looking for ways to cut taxes, according to Mr Howard Flight, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury; 'It could be up to 20 per cent,' he said. Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and his family returned to Sharm el Sheikh, in Egypt, for an end-of-year holiday; they are paying for the holiday instead of letting the Egyptian government do so, as it did last year. There was an argument about who should decide if the England cricket team should play in Zimbabwe. Miss Nina Bawden, whose husband Austen Kark was killed in the rail crash at Potters Bar last May, called for the 'guilty men to be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter'. A passenger set fire to a train from Banbury to Paddington, destroying a carriage. A 17-seat aeroplane hit a flock of birds on take-off at Aberdeen, crashed and hit a passing car and burst into flames, but no one was killed. Police arrested a driver on a Lincolnshire dual-carriageway after a lorry driver noticed that his car was missing its front offside wheel. Joe Strummer of the Clash died, aged 50. Jake Thackray, who sang songs such as 'La Di Dah' to his own guitar accompaniment, died, aged 63. Part of the West Pier at Brighton fell into the sea. Mr Ian Sutherland, a Norfolk landscape gardener, has turned his old hip joint, removed during a replacement operation, into the handle of a walking stick; the shaft is privet. In the New Year honours there were three new Companions of Honour: Howard Hodgkin, the painter; James Lovelock, the scientist; and Sir Denis Mahon, the picture collector. Among new knights were Alan Bates, the actor; Peter Stothard, the former editor of the Times; Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, the leader of Kent County Council; Nicholas Winton who saved Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, 1938-39. CBEs included Peter Ackroyd, the writer; Jane Glover, the conductor; Bryn Terfel, the singer; Andreas Whittam Smith, the former film censor. Among OBEs were Henry Blofeld, the cricket commentator; Anthony Buckeridge, the school-story writer; Edward Fox, the actor; Neville Lawrence and Doreen Lawrence, co-founders of the Stephen Lawrence charitable trust; Sam Torrance, the golfer; Rick Stein, the restaurateur; and Jasper Carrott, the comedian.

North Korea defied an agreement made with the United States in 1994 by returning to operation a nuclear-power plant that also produces plutonium, for which there is no civilian use. Chechen militants detonated explosives in a lorry and a car outside the headquarters in Grozny of the Russian-backed government; more than 60 were killed and dozens wounded. A gunman shot dead three American doctors at the Jibla Baptist Hospital in southern Yemen. Venezuela began importing fuel and food when a strike intended to bring down the government of President Hugo Chavez entered its fifth week. Israel reoccupied Bethlehem and put it under curfew after allowing church services to be held on Christmas Day. An American woman has given birth to a 7lb cloned daughter called Eve, according to Miss Brigitte Boisselier, a French chemist who calls herself a bishop in the Raelian religion, which believes that aliens created mankind. The Turkish parliament voted to amend the constitution to allow Mr Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the AK party (which won a landslide victory in the general election), to stand in a by-election despite having served a jail sentence in 1999 for inciting religious hatred. In Kenya Mr Mwai Kibaki, the opposition leader, was elected President, beating Mr Uhura Kenyatta, the candidate favoured by Mr Daniel arap Moi, the sitting President; Mr Kibaki's party also won a majority in Parliament. The Convention on the Future of Europe set about drafting a constitution for the European Union which envisages EU embassies round the world, an EU military command centre and an EU justice department. Three countries signed an agreement to build a pipeline to carry gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan. The first five miles of Delhi's new Metro system, built to carry 200,000 passengers a day, attracted 1.2 million on its first day. Mr Dullah Omar, the South African transport minister, warned people against drinking and walking home over Christmas after 839 pedestrians had been killed by Boxing Day.