The Spectator

Potrait of the week | 28 July 2012

Potrait of the week | 28 July 2012
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The nation was divided between those who moaned about the Olympic Games and those who didn’t. Some immigration staff decided to hold a strike, then called it off an hour before the government was due to go to court to seek an injunction against it. Another 1,200 troops joined the 3,500 deployed to cover security deficiencies. Campanologists agreed to ring bells across the land at 8.12 a.m. on 27 July. Boris Johnson recited an ode composed in ancient Greek that in English ended: ‘Now welcome to this sea­-girt land,/ With London’s Mayor and Co at hand./ Good luck to all who strive to win:/ Applaud, and let the Games begin!’ Bradley Wiggins became the first Englishman to win the Tour de France bicycle race. Dairy farmers protested about the low prices they got for their milk; a draft agreement on a voluntary code of practice was signed by representatives of farmers and processors, but the NFU said it did not solve the crisis.

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David Gauke, a Treasury minister said that paying tradesmen cash in hand was ‘morally wrong’. The government proposed making finance companies disclose details of clients who took advantage of legal but aggressive tax avoidance schemes. Gross domestic product fell by 0.7 per cent in the second quarter. The Commons home affairs committee complained that the UK Border Agency had a backlog of more than 275,000 failed migrants to be removed from the country. Hundreds of tons of rock fell from a cliff on to a woman on Hive Beach, Burton Bradstock, Dorset.

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The British Foreign Office persuaded the European Union to lift sanctions against most top Zimbabwe officials if the country holds a referendum on a new constitution. Andy Coulson, the Prime Minister’s former head of communications, and Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, were among eight people whom the Crown Prosecution Service decided should face charges relating to phone hacking. The government subsidy on electricity produced by onshore wind farms was reduced for the future by 10 per cent, less than many Tory MPs hoped. Black/Caribbean Britons were the least happy ethnic group, according to a survey by the Office for National Statistics, but citizens of Indian origin were tremendously happy.

Abroad

Greece came under scrutiny from agents of the IMF, the European Central Bank and the EU amid noises suggesting that the country would not get more credit. The cost of ten-year borrowing for Spain rose above 7.5 per cent. Moody’s downgraded the prospects for Germany’s AAA credit rating to negative. Three former executives from Anglo Irish Bank were charged in relation to an alleged attempt to prop up its share price. The markets were disappointed by Apple’s quarterly profits of $8.8 billion. Peugeot, the French car makers, said it had lost €819 million in the first half of the year and would cut more jobs. Wildfires destroyed thousands of acres on the border of Catalonia and France.

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In Syria fighting continued. Government fighter jets bombed Aleppo, where there had been an attempt by prisoners to break out of jail, and thousands of troops moved in on the city. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 1,260 people had been killed in the ten days from 15 July, bringing the total of deaths since March to 19,106. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent said that 1.5 million people are homeless within the country; 115,000 were said to have fled abroad. Syria said that chemical and biological weapons ‘will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression’. A wave of bombings in Iraq killed at least 107 one day and wounded at least 216. In the western Afghan province of Farah, a police commander and 13 constables joined the Taleban. Hisham Qandil, Egypt’s minister for water, was appointed prime minister.

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A man burst into a midnight screening of the latest Batman film in the Denver suburb of Aurora and shot 70 people, of whom 12 died. A suicide bomber who killed six aboard an Israeli tourist bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, was found to have a United States passport. World prices for maize, wheat and soya beans rose in the face of drought in the United States. A mutiny in Madagascar failed after its leader was shot dead. The viral hand, foot and mouth disease killed 55 children in Cambodia and spread to thousands in Thailand. Texas used an injection of a single drug, pentobarbital, for the first time to execute a convicted murderer.