Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week

21 February 2015

9:00 AM

21 February 2015

9:00 AM

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The annual rate of inflation fell to 0.3 per cent as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (or to 1.1 per cent by the Retail Prices Index). The Bank of England predicted a touch of deflation in the spring. Unemployment fell by 97,000 to 1.86 million in the last quarter of 2014. The FTSE share index rose to 6,914.62, close to its record of 6,930.2 on 30 December 1999. In a lecture at King’s College London, Sir John Sawers, who was until November head of MI6, said: ‘The Ukraine crisis is no longer just about Ukraine. It’s now a much bigger, more dangerous crisis, between Russia and western countries.’ Sex-and-relationships education should be compulsory in all state primary and secondary schools in England, the Commons Education Committee said in a report. In England and Wales, 51 per cent of adults are single, according to the Office for National Statistics.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said that people who were too fat to work should not be able to claim benefits if they refused help to lose weight. Then he said that young people out of work, education or training for six months would have to do unpaid community work to get benefits. ‘It is the duty of every Christian adult to vote,’ the House of Bishops of the Church of England Synod said in a 52-page pastoral letter on the coming election. The letter also mentioned that ‘the traditional arguments for nuclear deterrence need re-examining’. The company that owns Birmingham City Football Club went into receivership.


Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, advised anyone paying a window cleaner in cash to get a receipt with his name and address. Political opponents pointed out that Mr Balls had in the past happily submitted expenses claims for things such as cleaning without receipts to support them. His remarks came as the Labour party continued its campaign to conflate tax evasion and tax avoidance and to blame both on the Tories. HSBC took out full-page advertisements relating to claims that its Swiss private bank helped clients evade tax in the first decade of the century. ‘The standards to which we operate today were not universally in place in our Swiss operations eight years ago,’ it said. ‘We therefore offer our sincerest apologies.’ Twitter was busy with tributes to the television artist Tony Hart, even though he had died in 2009.

Abroad

Heavy fighting continued in parts of eastern Ukraine, notably Debaltseve, despite a ceasefire agreed at a conference in Minsk of the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France. Observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe were denied access to Debaltseve by pro-Russian rebels. Colombia’s largest rebel group, the Farc, promised to discharge all its fighters younger than 15. Astronomers declared themselves unable to explain a large cloud seen over Mars. The year of the sheep began.

The Islamic State posted a video online purporting to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who had been captured in Sirte, Libya, in December and January. Egyptian jets bombed positions in Libya said to be held by the Islamic State. The Italian coastguard rescued more than 2,000 migrants off the Libyan coast a week after 300 drowned. The western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi fell to the Islamic State after months of siege, and 45 people were subsequently reported to have been burnt alive. Police in Copenhagen shot dead Omar El-Hussein, a Danish-born man of Palestinian descent, who had been freed two weeks earlier (after serving two years for stabbing a man on the underground railway) and had then shot dead a film director at a meeting about free speech, and, a few hours later, a man undertaking security duty outside the Copenhagen synagogue. ‘I condemn violence against any religion,’ Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India told a Christian audience in response to five attacks since December against churches.

Talks between EU finance ministers and Greece on the restructuring of its £178 billion bailout faltered. Nigerian elections, due on 14 February, were postponed until 28 March. Michele Ferrero, who became a billionaire by inventing Nutella and Ferrero Rocher chocolates, died aged 89. An Australian court upheld a conviction for unlawful driving of a man who accidentally gashed his hand with a chainsaw and then sewed it up with fishing line, drank gin to deaden the pain and drove himself to hospital. A power line fell on a Mardi Gras float in Port au Prince, Haiti, killing 18.             CSH

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