The NewsFuror

Friday, September 28, 2007

Shetty questioned over Gere kiss

Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty has been questioned in India over her public kiss with Hollywood actor Richard Gere.

The 32-year-old was stopped at Mumbai Airport by officials who had no record of a court ruling that overturned a ban on her leaving the country.

Her spokesman Dale Bhagwagar said: "She called me in the middle of the night and was in tears." Officials let her continue after prolonged questioning.

Gere caused outrage in India when he embraced and kissed the star in April.

Obscenity charges

An arrest warrant had been issued for Gere soon after the incident, while Shetty also faced obscenity charges.

Legal action against the actors has been suspended by India's Supreme Court, which stops police and courts taking action until the court decides on the case's proper jurisdiction.

The Celebrity Big Brother winner had been on her way to the opening of the Miss Bollywood musical in Berlin.

"I can understand something like this if I'd committed a criminal offence," she said. "But what was my offence, when I'm just an actor going to perform a musical on foreign land?"

Gere, who is best known for appearing in the 1990 film Pretty Woman, initially dismissed the row as "nothing" but later apologised for causing any offence.

Shetty also defended the incident, saying "so much has been blown out of proportion".

BMW sets sales and profit targets

German car maker BMW has said it plans to sell more than 2 million vehicles by 2020, up from 1.4 million today.

The company will be pushing through cost savings worth 6bn euros ($8.4bn; £4.2bn) by 2012 without using job cuts, partly through better currency hedging.

Profit margins from BMW's automotive operations should exceed 8% by 2012, up from 6.3% in 2006, chief executive Norbert Reithofer said.

Motorcycle sales should also soar from 100,000 to 150,000 by 2012.

It became obvious that our competitive position was at stake
Norbert Reithofer, BMW chief

"We will continue to expand the range of products in the BMW Motorrad and the Husqvarna range," said Mr Reithofer, referring to the group's two motorcycle marques.

Action required

The announcements came as part of BMW's first strategy review since 2001.

"Yesterday's formula for success will not work in the future," said Mr Reithofer during a press conference.

"From today till 2020, we will keep our headcount stable while taking on more tasks.

"There will be more output for less input. We will focus the entire organisation on the return on capital."

BMW will aim to raise productivity by at least 5% per year, in part by producing more cars and acquire more parts in the US, its main market, where it will gear up the capacity of its Spartanburg plant to 240,000 units per year.

This should reduce the group's exposure to the weak US dollar relative to the euro.

Further acquisitions

Ahead of the announcement there had been rumours that BMW would add a fourth marque.

Such an option had been considered, but has been discounted as there were suitable takeover candidates, Mr Reithofer explained.

However, "acquisitions in principle remain on our agenda," Reithofer said.

McCartney to play culture concert

Beatles legend Sir Paul McCartney will top the bill for Liverpool's Capital of Culture celebrations.

The 65-year-old Liverpudlian has been unveiled to perform at a huge concert at Liverpool FC's Anfield stadium for the city's festivities in June.

Fellow Beatle Ringo Starr will lead the opening ceremony for the 2008 event in January at the new King's Dock Arena.

The 67-year-old drummer will appear with the Eurythmics' Dave Stewart and Ian Broudie from the Lightning Seeds.

Other famous Liverpudlians taking part in the culture events include comedian Ken Dodd and conductor Sir Simon Rattle.

Events which have already been confirmed are an exhibition of Gustav Klimt's work at Tate Liverpool and an opera based around the city's famous Adelphi Hotel.

Opening the launch event via a video message to the audience at Tate Liverpool on Thursday, Sir Paul said: "I'm very excited about Liverpool being the European Capital of Culture in 2008.

"We have a fantastic series of events which are sure to get you excited too. I'm very proud of the city and I look forward to welcoming you all and showing you a good time.

"It's going to be a great year."

Liverpool Culture Company chief executive Jason Harborow said: "We want to do Liverpool proud, we want to do Britain and Europe proud.

"We hope to leave a model for other cities as to how culture can make a difference to the way we live."

A revamped Capital of Culture board was announced earlier this month.

The board was reorganised following the cancellation of much of the Mathew Street Festival in August.

Brookside and Hollyoaks creator Phil Redmond is now the creative force behind next year's celebrations.

Mammoth hair produces DNA bounty

A rapid technique for isolating DNA in hair has yielded a mass of new information about woolly mammoths.

An international research team says the process should work on other extinct animals, allowing their genetics to be studied in detail for the first time.

The mammoth DNA was taken from the hair shaft which was long thought to be a poor source for the "life molecule".

But the group tells Science magazine that the shaft's keratin material slows degradation and limits contamination.

"The idea has been that all the DNA is in the root and that the shaft is DNA-void, or of much lower quality," explained co-worker Dr Tom Gilbert from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

"This is why when we screened a whole load of mammoths, we thought we might be lucky if we took enough hair from one of them. Basically, for every mammoth we tried, it worked. That blew us away," he told.

Hair and hooves

The traditional route to DNA in ancient samples is through bones and preserved muscle, but any genetic material usually falls apart very soon after death and is prone to contamination from bacteria.

Having a new route to large quantities of well-preserved DNA should be a real boon to scientific research, Gilbert and colleagues say.

The team read the DNA using an established technology known as "sequencing-by-synthesis" - but its application to hair in the context of ancient samples is novel.

"The reason we think hair is so great comes down to the fact that as a structure, hair is made out of this material called keratin," explained Dr Gilbert, who works out of Copenhagen's Center for Ancient Genetics.

"It's a kind of protein that in a very simplistic sense can be viewed as a plastic that the DNA gets embedded in and surrounded by and protected by."

The scientists think the approach will also work for other items built from the durable protein, such as horns, nails, antlers, hooves and even feathers.

They say museum collections must hold countless specimens of recently extinct creatures from which researchers would love to get genetic information but had never bothered because they believed their DNA to be corrupted and beyond analysis.

Ice mummies

Gilbert and colleagues targeted the mammoths' mitochondrial DNA, a special type of DNA frequently used to measure the genetic diversity of populations - how closely different groups of organisms are related to each other.

Where previously only two mitochondrial genomes had been published, the Science paper reports the production of 10 new genomes, including one from the very first mammoth that was studied - the so-called Adams mammoth, which was found in 1799 and has been stored at room temperature for the last 200 years.

"From our experience working with old samples, the colder a sample has been preserved the better the quality of DNA. So, we're looking at permafrost animals -woolly rhino, for example.
"There are also a lot of old bison and horse mummies turning up in the permafrost. It's not just animals, there are humans [too]; there are a lot of mummies around the world with hair, ranging from Egypt, South America to the more cold, better-preserved ones in Greenland."

Asked the classic question about whether it would be possible to clone any extinct creatures back into existence, Dr Gilbert said that even if the full genetic sequence of a mammoth could be retrieved, the technology did not currently exist to turn that biochemical information into a live animal.

Chelsea charged over Man Utd game

The Football Association has charged Chelsea for failing to control their players during the 2-0 defeat away at Manchester United on Sunday.

Assistant boss Steve Clarke has also been charged with using abusive and/or insulting words towards officials.

Chelsea were incensed by referee Mike Dean's decision to send off Nigerian midfielder Mikel Jon Obi in the first half for a challenge on Patrice Evra.

Chelsea and Clarke have until 12 October to respond to the charges.

The Blues contested Mikel's red card, but the FA rejected their appeal and his three-match ban was upheld.

England captain John Terry has not been sanctioned, after he appeared to grab Dean's red card as he was sending Mikel off.

Reports suggested Dean had included Terry's actions in his official report, but only Chelsea and Clarke have been charged by the FA.

The last 18 months have seen Chelsea embroiled in a series of run-ins with the English game's governing body.

In April 2006, they were fined £10,000 for the same charge of failing to control players after members of the team surrounded referee Mark Halsey during a match against West Brom.

They were given a further £10,000 fine and warned as to their future conduct by an FA disciplinary commission after again being found guilty of failing to control their players during a 1-0 Premiership defeat at Fulham, a charge which the club had denied.

Last season Chelsea were handed a £100,000 fine and reprimanded for their part in a brawl with Arsenal players during the Carling Cup final.