The NewsFuror

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Carphone misleading over iPhone

People using the iPhone
Staff at the UK's biggest mobile phone retailer, Carphone Warehouse, have been caught misleading customers about Apple's popular iPhone handset.

Undercover researchers from BBC One's Watchdog found staff made false claims about what would happen if a phone was stolen and hadn't been insured.

This was in the hope customers would take out the store's own insurance.

The firm said there could be "some element of confusion among an isolated number of sales consultants".

But Carphone Warehouse added it did not believe that the "small number of complaints" were "a fair reflection of the experience of thousands of iPhone customers who have received insurance advice in our stores".

The findings come just a year after Carphone Warehouse was fined £245,000 by the Financial Services Authority for breaking the rules on selling insurance.


Viewers complained to Watchdog that they'd been told if they lost their iPhone, they'd have to buy an entirely new 18 month contract - at a minimum cost of £630.

But that is not true. Customers would have to buy a new handset but the contract itself would continue.

In three out of five stores visited by Watchdog, researchers were told the same.

And at one store, they were also told insurance offered by O2 - the only other UK mobile retailer authorised to sell the iPhone - would not offer as much cover as much, which again was untrue.

Staff at the stores receive commission on all insurance and phones they sell.

Amy Winehouse scraps all concerts

Amy Winehouse
Winehouse's current album Back to Black contains hits such as Rehab
Singer Amy Winehouse has called off all gigs and other public appearances for the remainder of 2007, after her doctor advised her to take complete rest.

The troubled performer was reportedly treated in rehab this year and UK fans booed her during one shambolic concert.

She had been due to play at the BIC in Bournemouth later and the Cardiff International Arena on Wednesday.

Gigs were also planned in December in Dublin, Belfast, Manchester and London, and all tickets will now be refunded.

A statement issued by concert promoter Live Nation blamed "the rigours involved in touring and the intense emotional strain that Amy has been under in recent weeks" for the decision.

Blake Fielder-Civil and Amy Winehouse
My husband is everything to me and without him it's just not the same
Amy Winehouse

"In the interests of her health and wellbeing, Amy has been ordered to take complete rest and deal with her health issues," the statement added.

A spokeswoman for the company said there were no plans to reschedule the concerts and fans should return their tickets to the outlet where they purchased them.

Winehouse, 24, was quoted as saying: "I can't give it my all on stage without my Blake. I'm so sorry but I don't want to do the shows half-heartedly; I love singing.

"My husband is everything to me and without him it's just not the same."

This was a reference to Blake Fielder-Civil, who has been remanded in custody until 18 January, accused of assaulting a pub landlord last June.

He also faces a charge of perverting the course of justice.

Critical acclaim

Winehouse's behaviour has been in the headlines throughout this year.

Last month she was fined after being found with cannabis in a hotel in the Norwegian city of Bergen.

Amy Winehouse in 2004
The singer shot to fame after the release of her debut, Frank, in 2003
She called off a series of concerts and appearances after reportedly being treated for drug addiction.

The US leg of her tour in September was shelved while she continued to address problems with her health, and there had been hopes that this would be rearranged for 2008.

But the singer has also received critical acclaim for her current album Back to Black, containing hits such as Rehab and You Know I'm No Good.

This year she was named best female singer at the Brit Awards, and she received two prizes at the Music of Black Origin (Mobo) Awards in London.

Stars at Golden Compass premiere

Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman plays the evil Mrs Coulter in the film
Hundreds of film fans greeted Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig at the premiere of fantasy film The Golden Compass in London's Leicester Square.

The movie is based on the first book in Philip Pullman's best-selling His Dark Materials trilogy.

Speaking on the red carpet, Daniel Craig said that as a fan of the novels he was keen to be in the film version.

"When the opportunity came along I grabbed it," he said. "I think Philip Pullman is a genius writer."

Kidman, who attended the premiere with her husband, country music star Keith Urban, said co-starring in the film as the villainous Mrs Coulter was "a great opportunity".

"It's rare that I bring such a dark, dramatic character to the screen," she added.

Special effects

Thirteen-year-old Dakota Blue Richards, who beat 10,000 girls to play heroine Lyra Belacqua, was also at the premiere, and explained how much she picked up from her famous co-stars on set.

"Daniel jumped up and down to get energised before his lines while Nicole told me to not stop if I messed up a line because it might turn out to be brilliant," she said.

Daniel Craig
Bond actor Daniel Craig plays adventurer Lord Asriel

The Golden Compass sees Lyra travel through an alternative universe as she tries to rescue her kidnapped friend.

Asked about the film's fantasy appeal, Craig said: "It's a bit of escapism... and the special effects have come such a long way that it's now possible to go to places that you wouldn't have been able to even five years ago."

And quizzed about what it was like to have Pullam on the film set, Craig, who plays adventurer Lord Asriel in the film, added: "It was great but I preferred to go out with him for a glass of red wine."

Richards said getting the role was a dream come true for her.

"I really, really wanted to play the role. My mum had read the books to me and I had seen the play at the National Theatre. I loved the character so much I wanted to be just like her," she explained.

The movie has already come under attack for toning down Pullman's rejection of organised religion, in particular the Roman Catholic Church.

The Golden Compass
Dakota Blue Richards (left) beat 10,000 girls to the role of Lyra

The UK's National Secular Society has condemned a decision to remove anti-religious references, but the Catholic League in the US has urged parents to ban their children from watching the movie.

At the premiere, Craig said the controversy had been "a bit blown out of proportion".

"That's the joke isn't it? Over here we're diluting it and in the States we're going too far. I think if you see the film there's nothing to worry about," he said.

The His Dark Materials trilogy of books became best-sellers around the world, attracting fans of all ages.

The film, which also stars Eva Green, Sam Elliott, Jack Shepherd and Freddie Highmore, will be released in the UK on 5 December.

Kanye and Knievel settle wrangle

Kanye West at Grammy Awards
Kanye West has won six Grammy Awards in two years
Rapper Kanye West and stuntman Evel Knievel have settled a copyright dispute following a private meeting at the motorbike legend's Florida home.

Both sides said they had resolved the disagreement over West's use of the name "Evel Kanyevel" in a music video.

The 69-year-old daredevil had claimed his image was tarnished by the clip's "vulgar, sexual nature", but said the settlement satisfied both parties.

A spokesman for West confirmed that the two sides had reached an agreement.

The video, for the 2006 single Touch The Sky, showed the rap star cavorting with Pamela Anderson and trying to jump a rocket-powered motorcycle over a canyon.

It appeared to be a parody of Knievel's attempt to jump Snake River Canyon in Idaho in 1974 - which failed after a parachute on his rocket-powered "Skycycle" opened too early.


Evel Knievel
The video had similarities to Knievel's 1974 rocket stunt
The stuntman sued West and his record label last December, claiming the rapper had damaged his reputation by using the Knievel image to "promote his filth to the world."

But Knievel, whose real name is Robert Craig Knievel Jr, changed his mind about the West after meeting him in person.

"I thought he was a wonderful guy and quite a gentleman," he said.

"We settled the lawsuit amicably. I was very satisfied and so was he."

The pair agreed not to discuss the terms of the settlement in public, he added.

Knievel also expressed concern for West, who is grieving the sudden death of his mother on 10 November.

"I know he's had some tough times the past few weeks, and I hope things work out," he said.

Mel B loses out in US dance show

Mel B and dance partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Mel B and her dance partner received a perfect score
Spice Girl Mel B has come second in US TV show Dancing with the Stars.

She earned top marks from judges with her final performance of the mambo, but lost the viewer's vote to Brazilian racing driver Helio Castroneves.

Mel B had said winning the US version of Strictly Come Dancing would have meant "everything", but she "enjoyed all of it" anyway.

She and professional partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy narrowly won on judges' points, but lost out on audience votes.

'Complete dancer'

No details of the viewer's votes, which counted for 50%, were revealed.

The pop star added: "To be embraced by America would be... I would actually be speechless."

But she admitted that losing out "was a horrible feeling. I'm not going to deny it."

Mel B was lauded by judge Bruno Tonioli - who also appears on the UK's Strictly Come Dancing - who said: "You've proven that you're a complete dancer."

Helio Castroneves and his dance partner Julianne Hough
Winner Helio Castroneves said he was 'shocked' by his victory

Her professional dance partner called her "one of my prize students" who had "improved 100%" during their 10-week partnership.

On Monday night's penultimate show, in which she finished top, the singer was supported by her four fellow Spice Girls, who were in the audience in Los Angeles.

In the final, US singer Marie Osmond came third.

She was eliminated at the start of the show, leaving Mel B and Castrovenes to slug it out for the mirrorball trophy.

The series began with 12 pairings of celebrities and professional dancers.

The programme has proved a ratings hit, regularly capturing in excess of 20 million viewers.

Viewers in the UK can see the final dance-off on UKTV Gold this Friday.

Dylan biopic leads Spirit awards

Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There
Cate Blanchett won best actress at Venice for her portrayal of Dylan
Bob Dylan film I'm Not There has picked up four nominations for the Independent Spirit Awards, including a supporting actress nod for Cate Blanchett.

The movie, which charts the musician's life, is also in the running for best feature, director and supporting actor for child star Carl Franklin.

Angelina Jolie is also up for best actress as the wife of slain reporter Daniel Pearl in A Mighty Heart.

The awards will be presented on 23 February, a day before the Oscars.


British star Sienna Miller has also been recognised in the best actress category for her role in Interview, along with Ellen Page for Juno, Parker Posey for Broken English and Tang Wei for Lust, Caution.

Among the contenders for best actor are Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Truman Capote and Tony Leung, another star of Lust, Caution.

They are joined by Oscar nominee Don Cheadle for Talk To Me, Pedro Castaneda for August Evening, and Frank Langella for Starting Out in the Evening.

Other contenders for best film are Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park, which has also gained a best director nomination.

I'm Not There, which depicts Bob Dylan at various stages of his life with a series of actors, was also chosen to receive the first Robert Altman Award, given for films which break convention.

Actress Adrienne Shelly, who was found murdered in her New York home earlier this year, has earned a posthumous nomination for the screenplay of her indie hit, Waitress.

Mourinho 'invites England offer'

Jose Mourinho
Mourinho has been out of work since leaving Chelsea in September
Former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has reportedly expressed an interest in becoming the new England manager.

Mourinho, who left Chelsea in September, said he would be prepared to talk to the Football Association.

"You will have to speak to the FA to see if they are interested in offering me the job," he told the Sun newspaper.

"I cannot say what I think until they say they are interested. Tell the FA to come and get me. We will have to wait and see, but I rule nothing out."

Mourinho would be a popular choice to replace Steve McClaren at the helm with England because of his hugely impressive record with Chelsea and Porto.

He won two Portuguese championships, the Uefa Cup and the Champions League with Porto, before leaving to win two Premier League titles, two League Cups and the FA Cup with the Blues.

The 44-year-old had been tipped to stay in club management in Europe, having previously suggested that he would only be interested in coaching his native Portugal at international level.

FA chief executive Brian Barwick has said that nationality "would not be an issue" when it came to appointing the next England coach.

England, who have dropped down to the second pot of seeds in qualification for the major tournaments, avoided Portugal in Sunday's draw for the World Cup.

Barwick will lead the FA's search for a new coach after they missed out on a place at Euro 2008, alongside the organisation's development director Sir Trevor Brooking.

The FA has already had to listen to several potential candidates rule themselves out of contention for the position with Aston Villa's Martin O'Neill, West Ham's Alan Curbishley and Newcastle's Sam Allardyce all distancing themselves from speculation.

Sudan 'blocking' Darfur mission

Jean-Marie Guehenno, Head of UN Peacekeeping Operations speaking at the UN headquarters (01/10/2007)
Mr Guehenno said the UN has to ask whether a mission would work
Sudanese obstacles could mean the UN mission in Darfur is not viable, the head of UN peacekeeping has said.

Jean-Marie Guehenno told the United Nations Security Council that excessive demands from Khartoum "would make it impossible for the mission to operate".

Among other demands, Sudan wants advance notice of troop movements and to be able to shut down communications.

Mr Guehenno said the UN would have to consider whether a deployment would be worthwhile under such conditions.

The 26,000-strong United Nations and African Union peacekeeping force, Unamid, is due to take over protecting the people of Darfur in a month's time.

But Sudan has raised a series of objections which Mr Guehenno said threaten the success of the mission.

Sudan has still not agreed to the presence of non-African personnel and has not yet given the UN the land it needs to operate nor authorised night flights.

'Hard choices'

Mr Guehenno said it would be impossible to operate in Darfur under such conditions.

Members of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) stand in front of an armoured personnel car in Darfur (8/11/2007)
The Unamid force is due to start its mission in a month

"Should the anticipated discussions fail to clear the path to the deployment of an effective force, the international community will be confronted with hard choices," Mr Guehenno said.

"Do we move ahead with the deployment of a force that will not make a difference, that will not have the capability to defend itself, and that carries the risk of humiliation of the Security Council and the United Nations, and tragic failure for the people of Darfur?"

Mr Guehenno added that Sudan's demands "create serious uncertainty with regard to the government's commitment to the deployment of Unamid."

The Sudanese ambassador responded by saying that the issues were only 'administrative problems' which should not be exaggerated.

The Unamid mission is aiming to bring security to the Darfur region after more than four years of conflict.

But it has been plagued by problems blamed on a shortfall in resources and lack of cooperation from Western and African states.

Mid-East leaders in fresh talks

An Israeli shopper at an electronics shop in Jerusalem on Tuesday
There has been scepticism over the drive in the region in question
Israeli and Palestinian leaders are set formally to begin a new round of peace talks at the White House.

US President George W Bush will meet with Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas alone before a rare three-way meeting.

It follows a conference on Tuesday when both sides agreed to engage in "vigorous" efforts to reach a peace deal by the end of 2008.

But the Palestinian group Hamas said the conference - from which it was excluded - had been a "failure".

Expectations had been low as representatives of more than 40 countries and international agencies gathered in Annapolis, Maryland, ahead of Tuesday's conference.

But in a joint statement concluded with only minutes to spare before the conference formally opened, the two sides agreed to launch negotiations for a treaty "resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception".

Both sides have said those "core issues" will include the thorny so-called "final-status issues" - the future of Jerusalem, borders, water, refugees and settlements - which have scuppered previous attempts at a peace deal.

'The beginning'

Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and the Palestinian President Abbas will formally inaugurate the new peace drive in meetings in the White House on Wednesday, said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a closing news conference on Tuesday.

According to the agreement, they will go on to meet every other week.

In addition, teams of negotiators will be led by a joint steering committee which will meet for the first time on 12 December.

In Tuesday's conference, Mr Bush committed himself to spending the rest of his presidency - until January 2009 - working towards "an independent democratic viable Palestinian state".

"Such a state will provide Palestinians with the chance to lead lives of freedom, purpose and dignity," Mr Bush said.

"And such a state will help provide Israelis with something they have been seeking for generations: to live in peace with their neighbours.

"This is the beginning of the process, not the end of it," he said.

Peace hopes

Mr Abbas repeated demands including that Israel stop building settlements, and release some of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

"Neither we nor you must beg for peace from the other," he said.

"It is a joint interest for you and us."

Mr Olmert said he had come to Annapolis despite the obstacles posed by continuing violence against the people of Israel.

"We want peace. We demand an end to terror, an end to hatred. We are prepared to make a painful compromise rife with risks, in order to realise these aspirations," he said.

In a closing news conference, Ms Rice said the event had demonstrated "unambiguously" that the new initiative had international support.

Nations will be asked to provide financial support for Palestinian aid programmes at a donors' conference in Paris in mid-December.

Caution urged

Observers say the fact that the summit is being hosted by the US and has attracted the participation of Saudi Arabia and Syria, two Arab states that do not recognise Israel, is critical to its chances for success.

Anti-Annapolis rally in Ramallah, West Bank - 27/11/2007
In Ramallah, Palestinians protested against the conference

But following the main speeches, both countries cautioned that a "comprehensive peace" which saw relations normalised between Israel and Arab countries was dependent on Israel first meeting demands to withdraw from occupied land.

Expectations going into Annapolis have been low because every other attempt at negotiation between the Israelis and the Palestinians has failed, says the BBC's Jeremy Bowen at the conference.

However, there are grounds for optimism, says our correspondent: the Americans are behind the talks, there is no plan B and the consequences of failure could be bloody.

Hamas dismissal

The absence of the Palestinian faction Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organisation by the US, the EU and Israel, could also make negotiating a deal problematic.

Hamas controls the internal affairs of the Gaza Strip and says it will not be bound by anything decided in Annapolis.

Following the conference, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri said it had only achieved "a declaration of the beginning of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis and not a declaration of an agreement between them.

"This by itself is a sharp proof of the failure of the Annapolis meeting," he said.

In Gaza on Tuesday, tens of thousands of Hamas supporters demonstrated against the talks.

In the West Bank - a Fatah stronghold - police violently broke up some demonstrations, with one person killed in clashes in Hebron.

Musharraf gives up army uniform

Pervez Musharraf (right) hands over command to Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiani
Gen Musharraf said the army was the saviour of Pakistan
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has handed over the command of the military in a ceremony in Rawalpindi.

Gen Musharraf passed a ceremonial baton to Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiani at the army's headquarters.

In his farewell address, Gen Musharraf said the army was his "life" and he was proud to have been the commander of this "great force".

He had been under huge pressure to quit as army chief and is due to be sworn in as civilian president on Thursday.

The move will mean an end to nine years of military rule in Pakistan.

'Half a century'

Dressed in full military uniform, Gen Musharraf arrived at the ceremony with a baton under his left arm.

On his arrival, he was greeted by Gen Kiani and inspected a guard of honour.

A military band played Pakistan's national anthem and the ceremony began with a recitation from the Koran.

The colourful ceremony was shown live on PTV, Pakistan's national channel.

"I am bidding farewell to the army after having been in uniform for 46 years," Gen Musharraf said in his address.

Pakistani soldiers storm the Pakistan Television headquarters to stop transmission during the coup in October 1999
Gen Musharraf's army seized power in a 1999 coup

"This army is my life, my passion. I love this army, and this relationship will continue, although I will not be in uniform," he said.

Gen Musharraf said it was difficult to describe his emotions.

"When one has lived half a century with a family, a family like the army, united, and fully loyal... then leaving it is bound to bring on emotions. But such is the system of life. People come, and they have to go. Good things also come to an end. Everything is mortal," he said.

"I am fortunate to have commanded the best army in the world. This army is an integrating force, the saviour of Pakistan," Gen Musharraf said.

"Without this army, the entity of Pakistan cannot exist".

'Excellent soldier'

Gen Musharraf expressed full faith in the ability of his successor, Gen Kiani, to lead the force.

Anti-Musharraf rally
President Musharraf's unpopularity has caused Western concern

"He's an excellent soldier and I can say with full confidence that under his command, the armed forces will achieve great heights," Gen Musharraf said.

He had designated Gen Kiani, a former head of the intelligence services, as his successor in October.

The most serious pressure on the president to give up his uniform had come from the United States, his main international backer.

Washington has grown concerned in recent months at the army's inability to rein in pro-Taleban militants and by Gen Musharraf's growing unpopularity.

As a civilian leader, Gen Musharraf will still have considerable powers, including the ability to sack a civilian government.

He imposed emergency rule on 3 November in order, he said, to control an unruly judiciary and deal with the growing threat from Islamist militants.

General elections are to be held on 8 January, but Gen Musharraf has yet to say when the emergency will be lifted.