Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: US shootings, a dam emergency and a rubbish straw policy at McDonald’s

10 August 2019

9:00 AM

10 August 2019

9:00 AM


If the government lost a confidence motion when parliament sits again in September, it could call an election for after 31 October, by which time Britain would have left the European Union, according to a briefing attributed to Dominic Cummings, the special adviser to Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister. Opposition MPs plotted to prevent this. Diplomats from the other 27 EU member states were told by EU officials that the United Kingdom wanted to avoid a no-deal Brexit by their agreeing to substantial changes to the draft withdrawal agreement; the officials told them that there was no basis for ‘meaningful discussions’ with Britain. Michael Gove said he was ‘deeply saddened’ by the EU stance. A strike at Heathrow was called off, but British Airways passengers encountered a computer failure instead.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said that Labour would ‘not block’ another Scottish independence referendum. Harland and Wolff, the Belfast shipyard, went into administration. Average retail sales in the year to July rose by only 0.5 per cent. McDonald’s told staff to put paper straws (1.8 million of which it uses daily) in with general rubbish instead of recycling them; the paper straws replaced plastic straws which were recyclable, and the makers of the paper straws said they were recyclable too. A 17-year-old boy was charged with attempted murder after a six-year-old French boy fell from the 10th-floor viewing platform at Tate Modern on to a fifth-floor roof, surviving with a broken spine and bleeding on the brain.

The government said it was putting an extra £1.8 billion or so into capital projects in the National Health Service, some of the 20 projects being in predominantly pro-Leave areas of Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Cornwall and Stoke-on-Trent. More than 1,500 people were evacuated from Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, when water overtopping the Toddbrook reservoir displaced concrete cladding. Australia beat England by 251 runs in the first Ashes Test, at Edgbaston. A man who was mistakenly circumcised at Leicester Royal Infirmary was awarded £20,000 compensation.


A 21-year-old man was charged with capital murder after 22 people were shot dead and 26 wounded at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas; he was believed to be the author of a message on the internet saying: ‘This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.’ Later that day, in Dayton, Ohio, nine were shot dead by 24-year-old Connor Betts, himself shot dead by police at the door of Ned Peppers nightclub; he had used an assault rifle with high-capacity magazines ordered legally from Texas. President Donald Trump said: ‘In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.’ The novelist Toni Morrison, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, died aged 88. The US Federal Reserve, under its chairman Jerome Powell, cut interest rates for the first time since the end of 2008, by a quarter of a percentage point, to a range of between 2 and 2.25 per cent. President Trump tweeted: ‘As usual, Powell let us down, but at least he is ending quantitative tightening.’

Chinese authorities said that they would fight Mr Trump’s decision to impose 10 per cent tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese imports. In a new turn in the economic war with America, China allowed the yuan to fall below the value of seven to a dollar for the first time since 2008. Police in Hong Kong fought running battles with protesters during a ninth week of demonstrations against Chinese oppression. Shamans from as far away as Poland beat drums to quell fires that have destroyed an area of Siberia the size of Belgium. A woman who lost control of her car and drove into a ditch near Liège, Belgium, spent six days in the wreckage before being rescued.

The Indian government said that it was changing the constitution to remove the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, which has a largely Muslim population and disputed areas controlled by Pakistan. At least 42 people were killed in Murzuq in south-western Libya in a drone strike by the forces of the rebel General Khalifa Haftar, based in eastern Libya. Robert Mugabe, aged 95, the former president of Zimbabwe, has been in hospital in Singapore since April, according to his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Astronomers from Warsaw University found that the spiral disc of our galaxy, the Milky Way, was not flat but bent. CSH

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