The NewsFuror

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Festival unveils new Cruise movie

Actor Tom Cruise hit the red carpet in London for the world premiere of his film Lions for Lambs.

Set in Afghanistan, the political movie features an all-star cast including Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.

Cruise and Redford attended the 51st London Film Festival event at the Odeon Leicester Square.

The film, about the suffering of soldiers in Afghanistan, is being tipped as an Oscar contender because of its controversial subject matter.

Good-natured walkabout

Cruise spent more than two hours meeting fans before the premiere opened.

He told BBC News 24 that he particularly enjoyed meeting his British fans.

"They love movies, and it's just an experience that I look forward to when I come here," he said.

"It's really nice. I actually was surprised that there were this many people here. I thought it's raining, it's cold."

Cruise signed autographs and had photographs taken with fans who had waited for him in the cold and wet weather.

But despite the good-natured atmosphere of the walkabout, due to a previous incident in which Cruise was squirted with a water pistol, people's bags were searched by organisers concerned something similar might happen again.

Redford, who also directed the movie, plays an idealistic US professor who inspires two of his students to join the battle in Afghanistan.

Cruise takes the role of a US senator while Streep plays a TV journalist who receives some explosive information.

Lions for Lambs is one of a dozen Hollywood films being made or set for release which touch on the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the "war on terror", or on the subject of a politically-divided US.

Due for release in the US and UK next month - a year before the next presidential election, it has been branded anti-war propaganda by some conservatives in the country.

Hamilton keen to win 'fair' title

Lewis Hamilton has told that he does not want to win an F1 title through disqualifications for other drivers.

Kimi Raikkonen's win in Brazil secured the world title for the Finn by one point from Hamilton but McLaren are to launch an appeal into the placings.

"To have the world title taken away is a bit cruel and probably not good for the sport," Hamilton told 5live Sport.

"It would feel weird after Kimi did such a fantastic job in the last two races and won on Sunday."

He added: "I want to win it on the track. You want to do it in style, you want to win the race or battling it out for the lead.

"Being promoted after other people have been thrown out is not the way I want to do it."

McLaren are to challenge Sunday's result after fuel irregularities by Williams and BMW Sauber went unpunished by race stewards but Hamilton, who finished seventh, believes he will have more chances to win a world title.

"I'm only 22 and there's going to be plenty more opportunities for me to win the world championship. I have no doubt that we can do that in the future," he added.

"It has been a phenomenal year and it has just been a real pleasure to be part of the team.

"I'm extremely proud of them and of my family and everyone that's supported me to get me where I am."

Earlier, McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso said he would be "embarrassed" if Hamilton won the world title on appeal.

"If he wins the title because of this it wouldn't be fair. I'd be embarrassed for this sport," said the Spaniard.

Alonso gave his backing to Raikkonen as a worthy winner, saying: "Raikkonen is the deserved champion.

"If you have more points, you are the deserved champion, just like in football. Kimi has won six races and Hamilton, like me, has won four."

Californians flee as fires rage

Thousands more homes are threatened across the region

California has evacuated a quarter of a million people as fierce winds fan wildfires in the Los Angeles region, stretching south to the Mexican border.

At least one person has died and thousands of homes are at risk in seven counties where fires have scorched some 200,000 acres (81,000 hectares).

Firefighters warn that the fires, which are being fanned by hot winds, will get worse in the days ahead.

Hotter temperatures and high winds are forecast for Tuesday.

It was like Armageddon - it looked like the end of the world
Mitch Mendler
San Diego firefighter
At least 655 homes have been destroyed, including at least 133 homes in one mountain resort community. Thousands more homes are threatened across the region.

About 1,500 National Guardsmen have been brought in to help firefighters.

After visiting charred homes in Malibu, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said it was a "tragic time" for the US state.

"We have... the weather conditions that are perfect for huge fires all over the state," he told reporters.

"That's what we are having right now. We have a lot of wind and we have dry weather, and that's the perfect storm."

LA county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said emergency workers had been "stressed almost beyond the point of reason".

"The winds are erratic and unpredictable," he was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

"There is no telling where the fires will move and when."

Malibu resident Robin Morgan told AP news agency: "It was just like one big inferno.

"We're just waiting for that knock on the door. We knew it was coming, so we were more or less prepared, but you're never really quite prepared for when you're coming down the hill. So, it was scary."

The ground is tinder-dry after a record summer heat wave.

In San Diego county, ambulances and school buses were used to move hundreds of people from hospitals, nursing homes and prisons threatened by advancing flames.

San Diego Fire Captain Lisa Blake said local firefighters lacked the resources to save all the homes at risk.

More than 1,500 firefighters have been battling the blazes, including one in the town of Potrero, near San Diego.

That fire killed one person and injured four firefighters and at least 10 other people, said Matt Streck, a spokesman for California's Department of Forestry.

It burned more than 14,000 acres (5,700 hectares) just north of the Mexican border town of Tecate, Mr Streck said.

Landmark lost

All 36,000 residents of Ramona, north-east of San Diego, were ordered to leave their homes as another blaze razed more than 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares), said San Diego sheriff's office spokesman Phillip Brust.

One San Diego firefighter, Mitch Mendler, said: "It was like Armageddon. It looked like the end of the world."

The fire in Malibu is thought to have been caused by a power cable that ignited after being blown over in heavy wind.

Among the buildings destroyed in the town of 13,000 residents were the famous Castle Kashan home and a Presbyterian church.

Thousands of students at nearby Pepperdine University were also evacuated.

The coastal area is home to many celebrities, including Mel Gibson, Sting, Barbra Streisand, Richard Gere, Pierce Brosnan, Dick Van Dyke, Ted Danson, Olivia Newton-John, James Cameron and David Geffen.

During a long heat wave in July, wildfires scorched thousands of acres across California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, South Dakota, Washington, New Mexico, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

EU 'blue card' to tempt skilled

The European Commission is set to unveil a Blue Card for skilled immigrants, based on the US Green Card.

The card would allow suitably qualified people and their families to live and work within the EU.

The EU says it needs 20 million skilled immigrants over the next 20 years, and is very short of expertise in engineering and computer technology.

Correspondents say another aim of the proposal is to deter the best brains from emigrating to the US to find work.

The plan is controversial and some countries are sure to oppose it.

Critics also fear that Europe's attempt to take the best and leave the rest will only encourage a brain-drain from poorer nations.

Creating 'EU magnet'

The UK, Ireland and Denmark could opt out, but the other EU members will have to take part.

UK ministers say officially they are studying it, but our correspondent says they are not keen on the idea, preferring to develop a points system.

Under the proposals, due to be unveiled on Tuesday afternoon, a Blue Card would enable holders and their families to live, work and travel within the EU.

To be eligible for the card, new immigrants would need to show a recognised diploma, have at least three years professional experience and the offer of a job which could not be filled by an EU citizen.

"To maintain and improve economic growth in the EU, it is essential for Europe to become a magnet for the highly skilled," the European Commission said in a statement.

"...To do so, the EU must present a united front, rather than emphasise the different immigration policies of each member state."

The plan will need the approval of all member states to come into force.

Some politicians in the Netherlands and Germany are hostile and the Austrian government has condemned the plan as "a centralisation too far".

There is a real tension between politicians all over Europe, who know their voters are worried about immigration, and businesses which say they will not be able to function without the skills of graduates from India and China, our correspondent says.

Turkish diplomatic push over PKK

Turkey has said it will exhaust all diplomatic solutions before sending troops into Iraq to stop cross-border attacks by Kurdish PKK fighters.

Foreign Minister Ali Babacan made the announcement as he prepared to travel to Baghdad for talks with senior Iraqis, including PM Nouri Maliki.

The US has again urged Iraq to take swift action against the insurgents to forestall the threatened Turkish raids.

Turkey's UN envoy has warned that his country's patience has its limits.

The PKK has reportedly claimed to have captured several Turkish troops following an attack on Sunday that left 12 soldiers dead. The Turkish military has only confirmed that eight soldiers are still missing.

There has been expectation in Iraq that the PKK will shortly announce a ceasefire, but previous truces have not been acknowledged by Turkey.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is meeting his UK counterpart, Gordon Brown, in London on Tuesday for scheduled talks.

'What other option?'

Mr Babacan has been on a tour of the Middle East to set out Ankara's position.

Formed in late 1970s
Launched armed struggle in 1984
Dropped independence demands in 1990s
Wants greater autonomy for Turkey's Kurds
Leader Abdullah Ocalan arrested in 1999
Ended five-year ceasefire in 2004

"Our preference is diplomacy but the military option is no doubt a method in the struggle against terrorism," he said in Ankara on Monday night.

Turkey's envoy to the UN, Baki Ilkin, told the BBC that Turkish patience would not last for ever.

"Iraq has to do something," he said on the World Tonight programme on Radio Four.

"...We have incursions into Turkish territory. We cannot get our hands on them, because they immediately go back to northern Iraq...

"If we can't put our hands on these... terrorists while they are in Turkey, what option do we have?"

Speaking at an Oxford University debate on Monday night, Prime Minister Erdogan reportedly said cross-border military action might be taken "in the next few days" in the absence of "expected developments".

Co-operation pledge

Speaking via a secure video link between the White House and Baghdad on Monday, Mr Maliki agreed with Mr Bush to "work together, in co-operation with the Turkish government, to prevent the PKK from using any part of Iraqi territory to plan or carry out terrorist attacks", a White House statement said.

Turkey should join the coalition and handle the security in Northern Iraq
Jeff Fogltance, Ontario, United States

"We want the Iraqi government to take swift action to stop the activity of the PKK," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said afterwards.

"We do not want to see wider military action on the northern border."

Mr Bush also spoke to Turkish President Abdullah Gul, telling him of his "deep concern" at recent PKK attacks.

Earlier, the office of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, himself a Kurd, said the PKK would offer a truce shortly.

Sunday's deadly PKK ambush near the Iraqi border has inflamed public opinion in Turkey, with the media and opposition leaders calling for immediate strikes against the rebels.

Last week, the Turkish parliament approved raids into Iraq and up to 100,000 soldiers, backed by tanks, fighter jets and helicopters, have been deployed along the border.

PKK sources reported heavy Turkish shelling of rebel positions after Sunday's ambush but there were no reports of an incursion.