The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 27 September 2012

Portrait of the week | 27 September 2012
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The European Court of Human Rights approved the extradition of Abu Hamza al-Masri, Babar Ahmad, Syed Talha Ahsan, Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled al-Fawwaz to the United States, where they are wanted on suspicion of terrorism. The BBC then had to write to the Queen to apologise for Frank Gardner, its security correspondent, reporting what he said she had told him in a private conversation about her anxieties over Abu Hamza before his arrest. A 49-year-old man, transferred to a London hospital by air ambulance from Qatar, was found to be suffering from a viral disease similar to Sars; another man with the disease died in Saudi Arabia. Hundreds of houses were flooded, and England was cut off from Scotland by the east coast rail line. The streets of Aberdeen were filled with sea foam.

For a week the nation discussed what Andrew Mitchell, the Chief Whip, said when a police officer told him to wheel his bicycle through a pedestrian gate from Downing Street instead of having the vehicle gate opened for him. A police account said that he had repeatedly used an expletive beginning with F, and had called police ‘plebs’. Mr Mitchell would not say whether he used that word but said that the officer involved had accepted his apology. John Terry, the former England captain cleared in court of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand during a match, announced his retirement from international football the day before a Football Association disciplinary hearing over the matter.

The Liberal Democrats, at their party conference, heard members of the coalition government say that richer people would be more heavily taxed. Nick Clegg, the party leader, said that millionaire pensioners should not receive bus passes. A video made by Mr Clegg, apologising for having made a pledge on tuition fees and broken it, was remixed into a song called ‘I’m Sorry’, with the aid of an Auto-Tune processor, and entered the singles charts at 143. The RSPCA called for labels on milk declaring whether suppliers had killed badgers. The house in Edinburgh where J.K. Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter books went on sale for £2.25 million.


Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy to Syria, said the situation was ‘extremely bad and getting worse’. The UN said 20,000 people had been killed since March 2011, 260,000 had fled the country, and 2.5 million in Syria were in need of humanitarian assistance. Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, a minister in the Pakistan government, offered a $100,000 bounty for the killing of the man in America who made an internet video insulting Islam. In Libya, the Ansar al-Sharia militia, blamed for the murder of the US ambassador, was driven out of its headquarters in Benghazi in unrest that left 11 dead. The Libyan army then replaced the commanders of two other Benghazi militias. The Nigerian army said 35 had been killed in a sweep against Boko Haram, the armed Islamist group. Residents of Bulawayo were all ordered to flush their lavatories at 7.30p.m. on Monday to unblock the city’s sewers.

Fighting among 2,000 workers, and its suppression by 5,000 police, at a factory employing 79,000 in Taiyuan, northern China, disrupted production by Foxconn Technology, a major supplier for Apple. China put its first aircraft-carrier into service as friction with Japan continued over some uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, the former chairman of Olympus, pleaded guilty to charges of falsifying accounts to conceal losses of $1.7 billion. Two thirds of Japanese said they were losing the ability to write the kanji characters of their language by hand. The South Korean singer Psy, dancing to his single ‘Gangnam Style’, became the most ‘liked’ video ever on YouTube.

President Barack Obama of the United States said in a speech to the UN that America would ‘do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon’. Greece held a general strike against austerity measures. Artur Mas, the President of Catalonia, called elections in the autonomous region for 25 November, as a sort of referendum on independence. Under economic pressure, consumption of coffee in Italy fell to an annual 5.68 kilograms per head, a level last seen six years ago. Christine Lagarde, of the International Monetary Fund, told Argentina it could face sanctions unless it produced reliable data on inflation, thought to be nearer 24 per cent than the official estimate of 10 per cent. The house where Hitler was born, at Braunau-am-Inn, Austria, went on sale for £2 million. -CSH