The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 7 August 2004

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Thirteen men of Asian appearance in their twenties and thirties were arrested by police investigating terrorism; the arrests were in north-west London; Bushey, Hertfordshire; Luton, Bedfordshire and Blackburn, Lancashire. Separate plans by al-Qa’eda terrorists to attack buildings in Britain were discovered after arrests in Pakistan, but the Home Office said no more than: ‘We are maintaining a state of heightened readiness.’ Mr David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, came up with the idea of a new law to force paedophiles to take lie-detector tests when asked if they had been in contact with children after being released from prison. Mr Mark Palios resigned as chief executive of the Football Association over the handling of reports that he had had an affair with a secretary employed by the association with whom Mr Sven-Goran Eriksson was also said to have had an affair. The Most Revd David Hope, the Archbishop of York, announced his resignation, and plans to become the incumbent of a parish at Ilkley, West Yorkshire. The owners of the Alton Towers entertainment park in Staffordshire were ordered by a judge to reduce the noise of screaming from passengers on a ride called Oblivion that sends them plunging 195ft at 68 mph; local residents had complained. A 33-year-old woman was evicted from her council flat in Birmingham and given an antisocial behaviour order banning her from possessing a hi-fi, radio or television after playing Eminem and Dido very loudly. Experiments in Morayshire showed that acid rain had the beneficial effect of suppressing methane production by bacteria in peat bogs. Francis Crick, one of the men who discovered the double helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, died, aged 88. Eastern England was swamped with millions of hoverflies, the larvae of which feed on aphids. The consumption of potatoes fell by 4.5 per cent in Britain last year, a government survey showed, as eating fads took against carbohydrates. The fearsome disease ring rot was found in some potatoes grown in Herefordshire. Thirty thousand chickens were burnt in a fire at a farm near Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire.

Al-Qa’eda singled out for attack the New York Stock Exchange, the Citigroup building in New York, the Prudential Financial Building in Newark, New Jersey, and in Washington the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, according to Mr Tom Ridge, the United States homeland security secretary. Surveillance material was found after the arrest in Lahore in July of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a communications handler for al-Qa’eda, and then of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the man wanted for masterminding the bombing of two American embassies in East Africa in 1998, in which 224 people died; some of the information seized dated from before the attacks of 2001. The United Nations passed a resolution calling on Sudan to disarm the Janjaweed — who have been attacking black villagers in the Darfur region — within 30 days; Khartoum said it would take 90 days to complete the task, and an army spokesman described the UN resolution as a ‘declaration of war’. Bombs outside four Chaldean, Assyrian and Armenian churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul, at the time of Sunday evening Mass, killed at least 10; Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country’s leading Shiite authority, condemned the attacks. Two jailed Palestinians who had collaborated with Israel were injured in a grenade attack on their cell, and then shot dead in the hospital ward where they were taken. The United States cancelled a visit to Gibraltar by its warship the USS McFaul for the 300th anniversary of the rock’s capture by the English. About 460 people died in a fire at a supermarket in Asuncion, Paraguay.

CSH