Hell freezes over at the White House, plus those Brexit backtracks in full

Planet Business: Black Friday gun sales, the ‘Pink Promise’ and the Koch brothers linked to ‘Time’

 Melania Trump tours the holiday decorations with reporters at the White House in Washington. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Melania Trump tours the holiday decorations with reporters at the White House in Washington. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters


In numbers: Gun rebound


Record number of requests to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System on Black Friday, up 9 per cent on last year, suggesting it was a bumper day for sales of firearms in the US.


Value of the gift card on offer at Cabela’s, an outdoors retailer that sells guns, if shoppers treated themselves to a Smith & Wesson semiautomatic rifle. The discounts came amid a slump for gun sales, which usually rise in response to the prospect of tighter regulation – at the moment, there is no such chance.


Buy one, get one 50 per cent off was the Black Friday discount on offer on boxes of ammunition at another retailer, Dick’s. But it’s okay because customers were limited to 10 boxes of ammunition each.

Image of the week: Fully frosted

Some people dream of a white Christmas, others are condemned to having nightmares about a White House one. Pictured is Melania Trump doing her best impression of a) the First Lady of Narnia and b) a future witness for the prosecution as she is photographed walking through the east wing, which has been transformed into what hell looks like when it has frozen over and subsequently suffered a styling by Vogue. Elsewhere, the decorations included the silhouettes of dead presidents nestling amid giant bronze pine cones, while fairytale temptation came in the guise of a 159kg model of the White House made of gingerbread.

The lexicon: The Pink Promise

The “Pink Promise” is a 14.93 carat pink diamond that went under the hammer – metaphorically speaking – this week, fetching $31.9 million. Dubbed the “Picasso of the Pink Diamond world” by auctioneer Christie’s, the rare “fancy vivid pink” diamond (that bit is, amazingly, official gemstone terminology) sold to an anonymous buyer (not Prince Harry) for about $2.1 million per carat, which fell just short of a world per-carat sale price record. Set in a ring surrounded by lesser diamonds, the stone was originally 16.21 carat, but its 2013 buyer, a jeweller who goes by the name Stephen Silver, had it re-cut in a risky bid to upgrade it from its status as a mere “fancy intense pink”.

Getting to know: The Koch brothers

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch (pronounced “coke”) are the owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the US, and they have just put $650 million of their loose change into Meredith Corporation’s purchase of Time, the magazine that made the “Endangered Earth” its Planet of the Year (in lieu of Person of the Year) in 1988. The Koch family are known for providing ample funding to such Republican causes as climate change denial, but the acquisition of Time marks the brothers’ first foray into publishing. The brothers inherited the company from their father Fred Koch who made his money in the 1930s building oil refineries in the Soviet Union under Stalin. It is now a multinational giant that makes, among other things, toilet paper. That’s one use for Time.

The list: Brexit backtracks

There have been so many Westminster reversals, backtracks and climbdowns on Brexit, no wonder the British public seem extra confused.

1. Post-referendum adjustment: In the wake of the Leave result, the majority of Conservatives and Labour MPs who had been pro-Remain swiftly banished any suggestion that they had once thought Brexit was a very bad idea indeed.

2. Negotiation timetable: The UK wanted to negotiate a trade deal with Brussels before addressing its outstanding “divorce bill”. Brussels said no and the UK capitulated to a “money on the table” first sequence to the talks.

3. Transition period: After flirting with the cliff edge, Theresa May then decided to seek a two-year transition period, which – supposing the EU agrees – means the UK will have to follow EU rules during that time.

4. Parliamentary vote: Brexit minister David Davis claimed the House of Commons would not be able to vote on any Brexit deal until after the date that the UK leaves the EU. He soon climbed down from this position.

5. Divorce bill: Reports this week indicate the UK has bowed to the inevitable and conceded to the EU’s polite insistence that it honours the financial commitments it made to Europe before the Brexit vote.