The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 6 November 2004

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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The people of the north-east of England voted in a referendum on whether they wanted a regional assembly; they didn’t. Forty-seven Labour rebels voted for a complete ban on parents’ smacking when the Commons passed a Bill limiting chastisement of children. Mrs Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, told the Commons during the debate on the gambling Bill, ‘There will be no new casinos if local people don’t want new casinos.’ About 160 Crown post offices in high-street sites could be closed or sold off because the Royal Mail lost £70 million on them last year. The borough of Macclesfield was found to have the lowest concentration of cinemas, theatres and libraries in Britain. A 580ft transmitter mast at Morborne, Cambridgeshire, caught fire and collapsed. Residents of Corby, Northamptonshire, population 53,000, were disappointed to learn that there was no prospect of its railway station, closed in 1966, being reopened by 2021. Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, the widow of Prince Harry, Duke of Gloucester, the third son of George V, died, aged 102. Lord Hanson, the industrialist who specialised in takeovers, sale of assets and cost-cutting, died, aged 82. More than 100 armed police in London threw down their arms in response to the suspension of two colleagues who had unlawfully shot dead a man carrying a table leg. A man who had survived the nail-bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, when he was working as a barman there in 1999, was killed by a group of two black boys, two white boys and two white girls who attacked several people on the South Bank in London in the early hours of Saturday. The Times ceased publication as a broadsheet newspaper after 216 years, in favour of a tabloid format.

The people of the United States voted by 51 per cent to 48 per cent in favour of Mr George W. Bush to serve another term as President, rather than Mr John Kerry, the Democrat candidate; the turnout was higher than for decades. But, because of the electoral college system, the outcome in the state of Ohio became the deciding factor. The Republicans increased their majority in the House of Representatives. American forces waited until after the poll to launch an attack against Fallujah in Iraq, which had fallen under the control of Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists. Hatim Kamil, the deputy governor of Baghdad, was shot dead in his car. A car bomb in Baghdad, outside the satellite station al-Arabiyah, killed seven. Eight US marines were killed earlier by a suicide bomber near Fallujah. At least 1,121 members of the US military have been killed since March 2003, according to a tally by the Associated Press news agency. Reinforcements brought the number of American troops in Iraq to 142,000, the highest level since the summer of 2003. A teenaged suicide bomber killed three in Carmel market, Tel Aviv. President Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority underwent examinations for a serious blood disorder at the Percy military teaching hospital at Clamart, south-west of Paris. Mr Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, said that Mr Arafat would certainly not be allowed burial in Jerusalem. Uruguay lurched to the Left by electing as president Dr Tabare Vazquez. In the Botswana general election, the Botswana Democratic party, which has won every election since independence in 1966, won 44 of 57 seats; although the United Nations says that Botswana has the highest incidence of HIV/Aids, it was not an issue in the election. Mr Rocco Buttiglione withdrew his nomination as a European commissioner after Mr José Manuel Barroso decided not to present the new Commission for approval by the European Parliament lest they reject the whole lot because of their hatred of Mr Buttiglione, who had said that he thought homosexuality sinful. A state of emergency was declared in the central Chinese province of Henan after thousands of people rioted and some were killed in confrontations between the majority Han and Muslim minority Hui people, sparked off by a traffic obstruction.