The NewsFuror

Friday, October 26, 2007

Russell Watson 'recovering well'

Singer Russell Watson is "recovering well" from emergency surgery on a brain tumour and is in a stable condition, a hospital official has said.

"He is talking for brief periods and has been eating small amounts of food," added Michael Stroud of the private Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle.

But medical staff had warned the star, who is 40, that the recovery process "may be a long haul", Mr Stroud said.

Watson fell ill during a recording session on Wednesday.

He had become suddenly incapacitated and had a number of symptoms, including a "dramatic deterioration of vision".

It is only 36 hours since his life was in danger so it is important for him and those around him to take things slowly
Michael Stroud
Alexandra Hospital, Cheadle

An MRI scan revealed a re-growth of a previous benign tumour, which was removed a year ago, accompanied by bleeding.

"Family members are with him," Mr Stroud said. "It is only 36 hours since his life was in danger so it is important for him and those around him to take things slowly."

He added that Watson's managers were "overwhelmed by the amount of support and messages from friends and fans".

"Russell will not have seen much of the enormous evidence of that caring from the public, yet he clearly feels the same," Mr Stroud said.

All of Watson's engagements have been put off until further notice.

The singer was due to perform before the American football match between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday.

Next week he was set to fly to Los Angeles to appear at a Bafta ceremony honouring British artists in the US.

Watson, who used to be a factory worker before he turned to singing, has sold more than four million albums worldwide. The tenor has two daughters, aged seven and 12.

His latest album, Outside In, is due for release on 26 November.

Final Potter book reaches France

The last Harry Potter book has finally been released in France, with publishers still trying to keep the plot under wraps.

Special lead seals were put on trucks as one million copies of The Deathly Hallows were delivered across the country, the AFP news agency reported.

About 500 people queued outside a book shop in Paris, but many admitted they had already read the English version.

The teenage wizard's seventh adventure was published in English on 21 July.

More than 25 million copies of the English version have already been sold around the world.

French publisher Gallimard has ordered a total of 2.3 million copies of Harry Potter et les Reliques de la Mort.

Fancy dress

Jean-Francois Menard spent 12 to 15 hours a day from 21 July until 15 September producing the official translation.

He has worked on all seven Potter books, changing Hogwarts school to "Poudlard" because the English version was hard to say and thinking up other French-friendly magic expressions.

The Virgin store on the Champs Elysee, in Paris, stayed open until 0130 for the launch, encouraging fans to dress up as characters from the Harry Potter books.

In Switzerland, the first French copies were delivered by post because authorities refused to ease restrictions on shop opening hours so that stores could stage a midnight launch.

The book's German language version, Harry Potter und die Heiligtuemer des Todes, will go on sale just after midnight on Saturday.

Publishers Carlsen have printed three million copies - one million more than for the launch of the previous book.

The Potter books have been translated into 64 languages in all with more than 350 million copies sold.

Dion confirms British tour dates

Singer Celine Dion is to play two UK concerts following the end of her five-year residency in Las Vegas.

The Canadian star will perform at the Manchester Evening News Arena on 2 May, and London's O2 arena on 6 May.

Dion's shows form part of a world tour which will begin in Johannesburg on 14 February, with a benefit concert for the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.

Her Caesars Palace residency, which has seen her play to three million people, ends on 15 December.

The shows also follow next month's release of her first English-language album in more than three years, Taking Chances.

"These past five years of performing at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas has been an incredibly rewarding experience for myself and my family, but I'm ready to hit the road again, with my husband and son by my side," the 39-year-old said.

"We released a new French album several months ago, and a new English one on the way, so it's going to be exciting to perform these new songs with a brand new show, especially in front of the big audiences in stadiums and arenas."

Dion went on: "We always enjoyed touring Europe - the fans are so passionate. I'm looking forward to visiting cities that we've toured in before, as well as performing in places that we've never been to."

Tickets for the London and Manchester shows go on sale on 16 November.

Harrelson signs up to Stone movie

Actor Woody Harrelson is to star in Oliver Stone's latest Vietnam war movie, Pinkville.

Harrelson will star alongside Bruce Willis in the film based on the infamous My Lai massacre, according to trade paper the Hollywood Reporter.

He will play a colonel in charge of the taskforce who committed the 1968 massacre, when US soldiers killed over 500 men, women and children.

Harrelson previously worked with Stone on the 1994 film Natural Born Killers.

Pinkville will be Stone's fourth film set in Vietnam. His others include the 1987 Oscar-winner Platoon.

Filming is likely to start next year with a budget of about $40m (£19.9m).

Hundreds of Vietnamese civilians were killed in cold blood at the hands of US troops during the massacre.

The soldiers had been on a "search and destroy" mission to root out communist fighters.

Yet there had been no firefight with the enemy - not a single shot was fired at the soldiers of Charlie Company, a unit of the American Division's 11th Infantry Brigade.

The 48th Viet Cong Battalion - the intended target of the mission - was nowhere to be seen.

It proved to be a watershed in the history of modern American combat, and a turning point in the public perception of the Vietnam War.

Watson 'critical' after surgery

Singer Russell Watson is in a critical condition in intensive care after undergoing brain surgery to remove an "aggressive" tumour.

The star is being treated at a private hospital in Greater Manchester.

The singer, who had a benign brain tumour removed last year, was recording on Wednesday when he was taken ill.

Michael Stroud from the Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle said it was a "difficult" time for Watson's family and thanked fans for their good wishes.

Tumour returned

Mr Stroud said Watson was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday evening from a recording studio after becoming suddenly incapacitated.

He had a number of symptoms, including a "dramatic deterioration of vision".

An MRI scan revealed a re-growth of the previous tumour, accompanied by bleeding.

Watson's agent Giles Baxendale said on Thursday evening that the Salford-born singer faced a crucial 48 hours.

"It's been a tough day. He looks pretty grim. He's alive, that's the main thing," said Mr Baxendale.

"He's out and in intensive care. He's in a critical condition still and going to stay in intensive care for at least 24-48 hours.

"He's in and out of consciousness. He's spoken. He was having waves of consciousness."

Mr Baxendale thanked Watson's fans for their "overwhelming support" for the singer.

Watson, who used to be a factory worker before he turned to singing, has sold more than four million albums worldwide. The tenor has two daughters, aged seven and 12.

A message on Watson's official website confirmed "with much sadness" that the star was "in a critical condition".

"All our hopes, prayers and wishes are with him," it added.

'Worried sick'

Watson's manager Richard Thompson said: "Our thoughts are with Russell and his family."

Fans on Russell Watson UK, an unofficial fan site, posted their good wishes.

"I'm worried sick, I was in tears when I found out. Please God, get him through this," wrote one fan called Johanna.

Another posted: "This is such a shock, I am totally devastated. Dear Russell, my heart is going out to you with all the prayers to ask God to help you through this."

Watson had an operation to remove a benign brain tumour, called a pituitary adenoma, in September 2006.

The surgery took place at St George's Hospital in south London.

He recovered but was forced to cancel television appearances and postpone a UK tour.

New album

All of Watson's engagements have been put off until further notice

The singer was due to perform before the American football match between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Next week he was set to fly to Los Angeles to appear at a Bafta ceremony honouring British artists in the US.

His latest album, Outside In, is due for release on 26 November.

Watson found fame after the chairman of Manchester United invited him to sing Nessun Dorma ahead of the football team's last match of the season in 1999.

He received a standing ovation and later landed a recording contract.

Spears hit-and-run charge dropped

Britney Spears is no longer facing hit-and-run charges after she compensated the other car's driver, a judge in Los Angeles has ruled.

But the 25-year-old singer is still facing a charge of driving without a valid licence.

Ms Spears' lawyer entered a not guilty plea on her behalf, and a further hearing was set for 26 November.

She allegedly crashed into the parked car in full view of photographers, before leaving the scene on 6 August.

The owner of the car filed an accident report on 9 August at a police station in North Hollywood.

Ms Spears' lawyer Michael Flanagan said that the owner of the car that was hit was satisfied with the resolution and did not want to go forward with the hit-and-run charge.


Speaking outside the court, Mr Flanagan said assistant city cttorney Michael Amerian had offered the singer a plea deal on the licence charge which would have resulted in her being placed on probation for a year.

But Mr Flanagan said he believed a plea was unnecessary because Ms Spears had rectified the situation by recently getting a California driving licence.

He added that the singer had a licence in Louisiana, but she had not been able to obtain one in California because a camera was not available when she applied for one.

Meanwhile, a court hearing in Ms Spears' custody fight with former husband Kevin Federline over their two young sons is scheduled for Friday.

Apple ready to set Leopard free

Leopard, the latest update of the Apple Mac operating system OS X, goes on sale worldwide from 1800 GMT.

The release ends months of waiting for Mac fans, after Apple pushed back the launch to finish development on its much-hyped iPhone.

Early reviews for Leopard have been positive with veteran technology writer Walt Mossberg calling it "evolutionary, not revolutionary".

Apple is hoping to build on recent strong sales of its Mac computers.

In the last three months, Apple sold 2.2 million Macs, up 400,000 on its previous best quarter.

The company is touting Leopard as a Vista-beater, pointing to new features not found in the new operating system (OS) from Microsoft that drives many PCs.

Time Machine - automatic file back-up
Stacks - related files and folders grouped automatically
Spaces -keep separate desktops for different uses
Quick Look - Examines the contents of a file without having to open the related program
Coverflow Finder - flick through files and folders like album art in iTunes
Boot Camp - run Windows on a Mac

Apple says there are 300 new features in Leopard, but some of them are minor tweaks to the previous OS, called Tiger, rather than fully-fledged tools or enhancements.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Mossberg said: "I believe it builds on Apple's quality advantage over Windows.

"In my view, Leopard is better and faster than Vista, with a set of new features that make Macs even easier to use."

'Few disappointments'

In the New York Times, technology columnist David Pogue wrote: "Happy surprises, and very few disappointments, lie around every corner."

At the MacLiveExpo, being held in London, there was a mixed response from attendees on whether they would be rushing out to buy Leopard on day one.

Many of the delegates said they would wait for the operating system to "bed down" before they bought it.

"I never buy any operating system when it first comes out. I normally wait until it has been out for six months or a year," said David Ramage, a Mac user from Luton.

Vista has been quite a disappointment for many people and Leopard could be the reason many people make the switch to Macs
Nik Rawlinson, editor of MacUser magazine

He added: "Tiger does what I need it to do right now. I've not seen anything in Leopard to make me want to buy it immediately."

For developers, a new operating system means having to work to ensure their programs run smoothly on the new platform.

Ben Rudolph, director of communications at SWSoft, makers of Parallels, said Leopard was a big step forward for Apple and "would continue to drive sales of Macs".

Parallels lets users run the Mac operating system alongside Windows and Linux on one machine.

Mr Rudolph said Parallels would run smoothly under Leopard, barring any last minute changes to the code released by Apple.

"If that happens, we'll release a free, automatic update to account for them very soon after Leopard's launch," he said.

Of the new features in Leopard, Mr Rudolph said he was looking forward to being able to take advantage of his Mac's 64-bit architecture.

The new OS takes full advantage of the latest generation of chips inside Apple machines, while running applications on older processors also.

"I'm also looking forward to new user-experience features like Stacks, which should help me organise my incredibly messy desktop, and Spaces, which lets me cycle between different desktops."

Nik Rawlinson, editor of MacUser magazine, said many users would get Leopard in its first few weeks on sale.

"When Tiger was launched it earned Apple $120m very quickly and all the expectations are that sales will be double that."

He added: "Vista has been quite a disappointment for many people and Leopard could be the reason many people make the switch to Macs."

He said he felt Leopard had enough new features to distinguish itself from Microsoft's Vista.

"A lot of things that were previously only add-ons in the Mac world, such as the Apple TV interface, are now integrated into the OS.

"That is competing directly with Media Center on Windows PCs. Apple has seen that Microsoft has moved forward in some areas and is responding."

Syria air strike target 'removed'

Syria air strike target 'removed'
Newly-released satellite images of the presumed site of an Israeli air raid on Syria last month suggest that a large building has been completely removed.

US research group, the Institute for Science and International Security, obtained and analysed the images.

The industrial-style building may have been a nuclear reactor under construction, says the ISIS.

A reporter says the images are not conclusive. Nor is it certain that they show the site hit by Israeli jets.

The Israeli strike has been shrouded in mystery and speculation.

Originally Israel did not even admit that the 6 September raid had been carried out, and its military censor ordered a complete blackout on information.

But Syria said Israeli warplanes violated its airspace in what it called a "hostile act", and Israel eventually acknowledged the mission some four weeks later.

Intelligence sources hinted at a possible link with North Korea's nuclear programme.


On Wednesday the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), an independent organisation, released satellite images pre-dating the attack, of a facility in northern Syria that it believes was the target.

They showed both a large industrial building and a pumping station near the Euphrates river.

6 Sept: Syria says air defences fired at Israeli jets, which "dropped some ammunition without causing any material damage"
Week one: Israel says nothing; US officials say Israel struck an unspecified target; one US source hints at links to North Korea
Week two: N Korea denies any link to Syria; Israeli opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu admits Israel made strike
Week three: Syrian president says a military construction site was hit and speaks of "retaliation"; Israel confirms strike on "military target"

The ISIS said the building bore a resemblance to the Yongbyon nuclear facility in North Korea.

"The length of the outer walls of the structures are approximately the same," the institute said in its analysis.

"From the image, the Syrian building is similar in shape to the North Korean reactor building, but the Syrian building is not far enough along in its construction to make a definitive comparison," it said.

The ISIS has now produced a more recent image of the same site taken on 24 October, more than six weeks after the alleged air attack.

The image appears to show that the building has been completely removed and the ground scraped clean.


Syria has consistently denied any plans to build a nuclear reactor, and its ambassador to the UN rejected the ISIS's analysis, saying the building was "only a centre for research for the desert areas, arid and desert areas in Syria".

"The main point is that is that the Israeli fighter jet violated the airspace of a member state of the United Nations. This is the only fact that we should focus on," Bashar Jaafari said.

"The Israelis have undertaken a provocative action and they should assume the consequences."

North Korea has adamantly denied that it was involved in helping Syria build any kind of nuclear facility.

The images are far from conclusive.

But they suggest that, for whatever reason, the Syrian authorities have gone to great lengths to remove any trace of the building apparently targeted in the strike, our correspondent adds.

The ISIS argues that "dismantling and removing the building at such a rapid pace dramatically complicates any inspection of the facilities and suggests that Syria may be trying to hide what was there".

The report also raises the question of whether Syria might be in breach of its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, our correspondent says.

Under that, it would have an obligation to notify the UN's nuclear watchdog of any plans to construct a new nuclear facility.

Before and after satellite images appear to show that a large industrial building near the Euphrates river has been completely removed

Iran defiant at new US sanctions

Iran has responded defiantly to new sanctions imposed by the US targeting Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and three state-owned banks.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said the sanctions were doomed to failure.

The US move came as a senior American diplomat accused Russia and China of aiding and abetting Iran's military.

US Assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said Russia should stop selling weapons to Iran and China should stop investing in the country.

"They're now the number one trade partner with Iran. It's very difficult for countries to say we're striking out on our own when they've got their own policies on the military side, aiding and abetting the Iranian government in strengthening its own military," Mr Burns told the BBC.

Mr Burns said that despite differences with both Russia and China the US still hoped that the UN Security Council would approve a third resolution imposing new sanctions this November.

He said he hoped Iran would be persuaded to move away from confrontation and choose to negotiate.

"We want to be at the negotiating table, we want a peaceful resolution of this dispute. But to reinforce diplomacy, sometimes it has to have a tough side to it," he said.

'Hostile' Americans

The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jaafari, set the tone for Iran's response to the new sanctions, saying the Guards Corps was now ready to defend the ideals of the revolution more than ever before.

Iran's foreign ministry also condemned the move.

Officially the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), or Pasdaran
Formed after 1979 revolution
Loyal to clerics and counter to regular military
Estimated 125,000 troops
Includes ground forces, navy, air force, intelligence and special forces
Also has political influence: dozens of ex-guard sit as MPs
Iran President Ahmadinejad is a former member
Source: Globalsecurity.org

"The hostile American policies towards the respectable people of Iran and the country's legal institutions are contrary to international law, without value and, as in the past, doomed to failure," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.

The BBC correspondent in Tehran, Jon Leyne, says the sanctions could be very damaging for Iran economically.

The Revolutionary Guards are thought to control around a third of the country's economy, including car factories, newspapers and oil and gas fields.

Foreign companies will be deterred from dealing with them or anyone connected with them for fear of economic retaliation by the United States, our correspondent says.

'Destabilising' force

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described the new sanctions as part of "a comprehensive policy to confront the threatening behaviour of the Iranians".

The US declared the Revolutionary Guards a "proliferator of weapons of mass destruction", a reference to ballistic missiles they are allegedly developing, while their elite overseas operations arm, the Quds Force, was singled out as a "supporter of terrorism".

The US has repeatedly accused Iran of destabilising Iraq and Afghanistan, blaming the Revolutionary Guards for supplying and training insurgents.

Under Executive Order 13382, US authorities will be able to freeze the assets of, and prohibit any US citizen or organisation from doing business with the Revolutionary Guards.

Iran's ministry of defence, which controls the country's defence industry, three Iranian banks, and several companies owned by the Guards will also be designated.

Ms Rice has reiterated a commitment to finding a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and has offered to meet "my Iranian counterpart any time, anywhere" - words that would be unimaginable coming from the lips of Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Mr Cheney is widely believed to be pressing for a military strike on Iran before the Bush administration's term is over, our correspondent says.

If these sanctions have no effect, Ms Rice may well have to give way to those in and around the White House who believe the time for diplomacy is over, he says.