The NewsFuror

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Oil markets focus on Opec meeting

Oil markets focus on Opec meeting
An oil pump
Oil prices have fallen about $10 in the past week
Oil prices are little changed ahead of Wednesday's summit of the oil producers' cartel, Opec in Abu Dhabi.

Delegates have been tight-lipped about whether there will be an increase in oil production to bring down prices.

But speculation remains that there could be an increase in production of 500,000 barrels per day.

US Light sweet crude fell 55 cents, or 0.6%, to $88.76 a barrel in New York, while a barrel of Brent crude dropped 30 cents, or 0.3%, to $88.95 in London.

Oil prices have dropped by about $10 in the past week on the widespread belief that there will be an increase in Opec production.

This is despite the fact that the official line from Opec remains that oil supplies are adequate to meet demand and that high prices are the fault of speculators.

But ironically, analysts said, the falling price may persuade Opec delegates that the increase in output is now unnecessary.

The price has also been depressed by a US intelligence report saying Iran halted its nuclear weapons programme four years ago, easing tensions.

"The fear of a unilateral strike on Iran has been an important component of the risk premium in crude oil," said Olivier Jakob from Petromatrix in Switzerland.

Crowe 'steps in' on State of Play

Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe will play a journalist investigating a researcher's death
Actor Russell Crowe is to replace Brad Pitt in the Hollywood remake of BBC political thriller State of Play, according to reports.

Pitt pulled out of the project last month, when it was claimed that he had concerns about the script.

Oscar-winner Crowe, 43, is to star as an investigative journalist alongside Dame Helen Mirren and Ed Norton, US trade publication Variety said.

It is anticipated production will begin before the end of the year.

The film will be directed by Kevin Macdonald, who also oversaw The Last King of Scotland.

State of Play is about a team of journalists investigating the mysterious death of a political researcher.

The original BBC TV series earned a best-actor Bafta for Bill Nighy - who played newspaper editor Cameron Foster - plus further honours for editing and sound.

Crowe will play Cal McCaffrey, portrayed by John Simm in the TV version.

Variety reported it was unclear whether Universal would take legal action against Pitt over his departure from the production.

Tiger attack at star's sanctuary

Tippi Hedren
Tippi Hedren set up the sanctuary, at Acton in California, in 1972
A man has been critically injured in an attack by a tiger at a US animal sanctuary run by actress Tippi Hedren.

Caretaker Chris Orr was cleaning an enclosure at the Shambala Preserve, north-east of Los Angeles, when the Bengal tiger jumped and bit his neck.

"This is a terrible shock to us," Hedren told the Associated Press.

The sanctuary was founded in 1972 by The Birds star as a haven for exotic big cats, many of which were unwanted by circuses, zoos and private owners.

"Chris was bitten in the neck, and he had some scratch marks," Hedren's publicist, Harlan Boll, said.

"He's in stable condition, and we're waiting to see how he reacts to the antibiotics."

It isn't the tiger's fault. It is the fault of the people breeding these animals in the first place that leads them to be here
Tippi Hedren

Hedren said she did not know what may have set off the four-year-old tiger, called Alexander.

She said she rescued him in 2003 after state regulators shut down a centre that was illegally breeding tigers.

The actress told the Los Angeles Times the tiger was one of the youngest at the sanctuary and did not have a history of violence.

"Who knows what happened to this tiger? It isn't the tiger's fault. It is the fault of the people breeding these animals in the first place that leads them to be here," Hedren said.

Hedren - who is the mother of actress Melanie Griffith - became famous after starring in the Alfred Hitchcock horror classic The Birds, about a town that comes under attack by thousands of birds.

She now lives on the Shambala Preserve, which is home to more than 60 endangered big cats, including lions, tigers leopards and servals.

Pitt unveils Orleans homes plan

Brad Pitt
The pink areas represent each of the proposed new homes
Actor Brad Pitt has said he expected 150 homes to be built in an area of New Orleans destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, as part of a project he is backing.

The 43-year-old Hollywood star, who has pledged $5m (£2.4m) of his own money to the initiative, made an appeal for further donations to the fund.

Each house in the city's Lower Ninth Ward, which was deluged by flooding in 2005, will be built on stilts.

Pitt and partner Angelina Jolie own a mansion in New Orleans' French Quarter.

Their home in the fashionable district is said to be valued at some $3.5m (£1.7m).


Jolie and the couple's son Maddox accompanied Pitt as he campaigned for further funds on The Today Show on US network NBC.

Angelina Jolie and son Maddox
Pitt's partner Angelina Jolie and son Maddox lent their support

"This is really an adopt-a-house campaign," said Pitt, who hoped that wealthy individuals, church groups and businesses would make pledges of $150,000 (£72,750), the sum needed to give a family a new home.

The actor admitted that he was "not much of a salesman" in his appeal for people to become involved in the Make It Right initiative.

But he added that he hoped to see the foundations for the houses in place by the summer.

"There is no reason why we can't do 1,000 homes, why we can't do 10,000 homes," said Pitt, against a backdrop of pink shapes, representing locations where the houses will stand.

The buildings, which have been designed by a team of 13 architects, have been planned to environmentally-friendly specifications.

Pakistan dig deep for India draw

Second Test, Calcutta (day five, stumps): India 616-5 & 184-4 v Pakistan 456 & 214-4

Anil Kumble celebrates
Anil Kumble celebrates the wicket of Pakistan's Kamran Akmal
The three-match series between India and Pakistan remains alive after the tourists held out for a draw on day five of the second Test in Calcutta.

Captains Anil Kumble and Younus Khan agreed to end the match early with Pakistan on 214-4, 131 short of their victory target amid fading light.

India declared their second innings on 184-4, a lead of 344, but Younus (107) and Mohammad Yousuf (42) held firm.

India lead 1-0 with the final Test starting in Bangalore on Saturday.

But the hosts will bitterly disappointed not to have wrapped up the series having posted a mammoth total of 616-5 in their first innings and then reduced Pakistan to 150-5 on day three.

"We were in a good position on the third day and had there been more pace and bounce in this pitch, it'd have helped us more," said Kumble, India's captain.

The tourists will travel to Bangalore in high spirits after battling back from the jaws of defeat.

I am happy that I scored runs when the side needed them most
Pakistan's Younus Khan

There were even murmurings that they may press ahead for a shock win.

Misbah-ul-Haq's magnificent 161 in the first innings set the platform, but it was the 136-run partnership between Younus and Yousuf that so frustrated Kumble's side.

Pakistan's most experienced pair came together with their side struggling on 78-4 midway through the afternoon session and saw them through to the close of play.

The morning saw India add just 43 to their overnight total of 141-2 before their second declaration of the match.

Mahendra Dhoni (37) and Sourav Ganguly (46) were the men to go, both bowled by Shoaib Akhtar, leaving Rahul Dravid unbeaten on eight when Kumble called his men in.

Ganguly brought up 6,000 Test runs but missed out on a half-century following his first innings ton in front of his home crowd at Eden Gardens.

Pakistan began their response confidently, Kamran Akmal and Yasir Hameed taking the fight to Kumble and Zaheer Khan from the outset.

Younus Kahn reaches 100 against Pakistan
Younus Kahn's 15th Test century was perfectly timed for Pakistan

But in the seventh over Hameed drove a slower ball from Khan straight back to the paceman to fall for 14.

It was a terrific catch from Khan for his first wicket of the match.

Akmal and Salman Butt eased through to lunch but the run rate was becoming desperately slow - Butt made 11 runs off 91 balls.

India knew they needed quick wickets and with the second ball after the re-start, Kumble turned one in from outside leg stump to clean bowl Akmal.

The India captain then trapped Butt leg before wicket with a ball that turned quickly from outside off stump in the 34th over.

India could have made further inroads one ball later when new batsman Misbah was dropped by Dinesh Karthik at short leg.

Kumble's disappointment receded five overs later, however, when Munaf Patel bowled Misbah with an off-cutter that nipped back sharply, sneaking between bat and pad to leave Pakistan reeling.

But that wicket brought Yousuf to the crease to join Younus and the tourists' most experienced pair were quick to steady the ship.

Stand-in captain Younus looked in good for his first innings 43 and the 30-year-old built on that by bringing up a 15th Test century with a reverse sweep through backward point.

The knock could not have come at a better time and it makes for a nail-biting third Test.

"The team needed someone to stay at the crease for a long period and I am happy that I scored runs when the side needed them most," said Younus.

Kumble was keen to praise his bowling attack, saying: "It was a pretty flat pitch and tough for bowlers.

"I think they did a fantastic job to help us dominate in this match."

Sangakkara makes England suffer

First Test, Kandy: Sri Lanka 188 & 442-8d v England 281 & 9-1 (day four, stumps)

England will face a tough final day in the first Test after Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara struck a majestic 152.

Dropped by Ian Bell on 98, Sangakkara became the first man in Tests to hit four 150s in as many matches before Sri Lanka finally declared on 422-8.

England lost Alastair Cook early on as they reached stumps on 9-1, needing 350 for an unlikely victory in Kandy.

Monty Panesar took 3-132, but Muttiah Muralitharan could prove a huge danger for England's batsmen on Wednesday.

In reality, their target will be to bat out the final day to keep the series all-square heading into the second Test in Colombo starting on Sunday.

But they may have to field a team without leading bowler Matthew Hoggard for that match.

The Yorkshire seamer limped out of the attack with back trouble after sending down two overs after lunch and did not re-appear.

Worryingly, Hoggard missed most of last summer's Tests with similar problems.

The day began with Sri Lanka already holding the advantage on 167-2, with Sangakkara on 30 and Mahela Jayawardene yet to score.

Kumar Sangakkara collated Test scores since July 2006
287 v South Africa, Colombo
14 & 39 v SA, Colombo
4 & 100* v NZ, Christchurch
156* & 8 v NZ, Wellington
6 v Bangladesh, Colombo
200* v B'desh, Colombo
222* v B'desh, Kandy
57 & 192 v Australia, Hobart
93 & 152 v England, Kandy

With the ball already 52 overs old and the pitch playing well, England's seamers knew they needed some luck to dislodge two of the finest batsmen to wear Sri Lankan whites.

But though James Anderson in particular bowled intelligently, fortune favoured the home team in the early exchanges as a handful of edges just evaded either the stumps or the slips.

Once Sangakkara had raised his own half-century and Jayawardene had hit the single to bring up the fifty partnership, Sri Lanka were already looking ominously strong with a lead fast approaching 150 and eight wickets still in hand.

Michael Vaughan eventually turned to Monty Panesar, but initially the pitch provided little in the way of assistance for the spinner.

Both batsmen used the crease well to increase their options and Sangakkara was soon confident enough to skip down the wicket to drive Panesar through the covers for the best shot of the day.

Vaughan initially declined the option of taking the new ball, opting for a few overs of his own spin before lunch.

Jayawardene hit him over the top for four, but there were no other signs of aggression and both batsmen looked hungry for big scores.

Finally, Hoggard returned for one over just before the interval and immediately struck with a loosener angled down the leg-side.

Jayawardene, on 65, got a faint edge and Matt Prior, standing up to the timbers, did well to cling on.

After lunch, the new ball was taken and Sangakkara moved to 95 with a wonderful drive through the covers off Anderson.

But he was suddenly afflicted by nerves and offered Bell the simplest of slip catches off Ryan Sidebottom three runs later.

The unfortunate bowler kicked the crease in anger when the chance was floored.

In the two hours between lunch and tea, 100 runs were added while Panesar took two wickets.

The Northamptonshire left-armer finally struck for the first time in the innings when umpire Asad Rauf upheld an appeal for lbw against Chamara Silva (37).

And an out-of-sorts Jehan Mubarak, who Prior should have stumped on nought, holed out to long-on for nine.

After tea, Sangakkara duly passed 150 on his home ground before fatigue finally set in and he chipped a catch to midwicket off Paul Collingwood.

By then Collingwood had also bowled Prasanna Jayawardene and there was one further cheap wicket for Panesar before the declaration was called.

Cook had fallen in Chaminda Vaas's first over on day one, and history repeated itself when the left-hander played tentatively forward to edge a comfortable catch to first slip.

Vaughan and nightwatchman Anderson somehow survived the remaining four-and-a-half overs but the dismissal had completed a nightmare day for England.

Their batsmen will sleep uneasily knowing the wicket has deteriorated considerably since Muralitharan took a record 710th wicket on Monday.

But Tuesday had belonged to Sangakkara, who has enjoyed an extraordinary run of success since handing over the wicket-keeper's gloves to Jayawardene in July 2006.

In nine Tests since then he has hit 1,529 runs in 14 innings, with two unbeaten double centuries and four centuries, two of those also unbeaten.

Swap girls return to real parents

Jaroslava Trojanova and baby Nikola
The girls were brought up by the wrong mothers for almost a year
Two babies in the Czech Republic who were accidentally swapped at birth have been returned to their real parents.

The parents decided to swap the girls back after DNA tests showed they had taken the wrong babies home. They then had weeks of counselling.

They brought forward the date of the planned return after psychologists said it would harm the girls to delay.

The hospital where they were born has sacked two nurses and disciplined five other staff members over the mix-up.

Intense preparation

The two girls, Nikola and Veronika, were born in Trebic, some 165km (100 miles) south-east of the capital, Prague, on 9 December last year.

But the hospital staff's mistake did not come to light until nine months later, when one of the fathers - who had dark hair and dark eyes - thought his blonde and blue-eyed daughter did not look like him.

The interests of the adults have been cast aside, to the children's benefit
Milan Smejkal, relative

DNA tests showed she was not related to him - or to his partner.

After deciding to swap back, the two sets of parents underwent an intensive process of preparation. They had sessions with social workers and psychologists, and began paying frequent but short visits to each other.

The original plan was to do the exchange in the New Year, but the parents decided to bring it forward after psychologists warned that the girls were starting to become very aware of their surroundings, and were forming strong attachments to the parents.

"The interests of the adults have been cast aside, to the children's benefit," a relative of one of the couples, Milan Smejkal, was quoted as saying in the Prague Daily Monitor.

Now the girls will celebrate their first birthday on Sunday with their biological parents.

Somali leader rushed to hospital

Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed
President Yusuf has survived several assassination attempts
Somalia's interim President Abdullahi Yusuf has been taken to hospital in the Kenyan capital, the BBC has learnt.

His condition is said to be "serious" but there are no further details. He had a liver transplant in the 1990s.

He is to be flown to London for treatment and has cancelled a meeting on Wednesday with regional leaders.

The news comes as four ministers resigned from the cabinet named by Mr Yusuf's newly appointed Prime Minister Nur Hussein Hassan.

The ministers complained that their Rahanwein clan was under-represented in the government.

Mr Yusuf, 73, had been due to travel to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa for Wednesday's meeting between regional leaders and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

He was appointed by the transitional parliament in 2004 after years of talks in Kenya.

He is a northerner, from Puntland, and a member of the Darod clan who had been an army commander during Siad Barre's rule and subsequently a guerrilla leader.

President Yusuf controversially enlisted the help of the Ethiopian army to oust the Union of Islamic Courts from the capital, Mogadishu in December 2006.

The past year has seen increasing levels of violence as the Islamists battle the Ethiopian-backed government, rendering Mogadishu too unsafe for the government which has been forced to operate out of Baidoa.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991.

Press reviews: Spice Girls concert

The Spice Girls
Roberto Cavalli designed the girls' costumes for the show
Critics were largely won over by the Spice Girls when their reunion tour began in the Canadian city of Vancouver on Sunday.

It was the first full concert in nine years involving all five members of the group.

Victoria Beckham, Geri Halliwell, Melanie Chisholm, Melanie Brown and Emma Bunton performed 22 songs, which included tracks from their solo careers as well as some of the tunes which made them famous.

TORONTO GLOBE & MAIL - Marsha Lederman

The Spice Girls returned to the stage with the first concert of their reunion tour wowing fans with a tightly staged and ambitiously choreographed performance.

Victoria Beckham
The girls have spent the past three weeks rehearsing in Los Angeles

The show was about spectacle and proved that the Spice Girls know their audience.

Most of the Girls seem to have come into their own, displaying a maturity and comfort level that may not have been there during the height of their popularity.

The standout exception was Victoria Beckham, who did not seem comfortable in her own skin, despite showing a fair bit of it.

She looked awkward (if gorgeous) in her corseted outfits and carefully coiffed hair, which she spent a fair amount of time clearing from her face - her mouth, in particular.

Her dance moves were stiff and she appeared to be concentrating hard.

WINNIPEG SUN - Jane Stevenson

Girl Power has aged surprisingly well, judging from the Spice Girls' high-energy, fun and often racy kick-off to their reunion tour.

The hits-heavy set list was so cleverly choreographed and the Spice Girls' energy was so infectious that their lack of vocal chops was hardly noticeable.

As we've known all along, the two Mels possess the best voices and everyone else has passable vocals.


It appears the Spice Girls haven't lost their kitschy cool pop idol appeal. And the girls didn't disappoint when it came to living up to their individual caricatures.

Geri Halliwell and Melanie Chisholm
All five members have denied media reports of backstage arguing

As a group, the girls looked genuinely ecstatic to be performing together again. There were several group hugs and a few melodramatic looks of love shared between the members.

When the five were together on stage, though, their energy and enthusiasm was infectious.

Just like 10 years ago, the show wasn't about great singing or dancing - it was about great entertainment. And the girls delivered the spice.


There seems no diminution in the energy they are prepared to expend, or the lengths they will go to please the audience.

Watching these five tiny figures belting it out over two hours, and giving every impression of having a high old time in the process, one has to conclude that this is ebullient pop music of a very high standard, presented with panache, and highly unlikely to provoke any attendance at the refund window.


The Spice Girls launched their world tour with a nostalgia-coated shot of pure energy.

The energy sagged briefly when Emma began the group's new tune Headlines (Friendship Never Ends), which fell compared to the songs long-time fans came to hear.

Emma Bunton and Melanie Brown
The group sold 55 million albums and had nine UK number ones

But a host of costume, set and dance switch-ups quickly erased that lag.

The rest of the two-hour, 22-song set transformed nostalgia into an incredibly well choreographed show.

In short, the Girls' performance was a refurbished, toned-down version of their original incarnation.

It was a pleasantly manufactured composite of late-'90s pop culture: all glitz, kitsch, and the determination that comes from five 30-somethings who may have traded their platforms for high heels, but still managed to make a laser- lit stage that much brighter.

THE TIMES (UK) - David Sinclair

If this show - colourful, energetic and wildly ambitious - was intended to cash in on past triumphs, there was certainly no stinting on the time, dedication and money spent on it.

And, despite the debate, the Spice Girls didn't mime, from what I could tell sitting in the front row.

The Spice Girls have never been the world's greatest singers or dancers, but they remain consummate entertainers.

Whether shamelessly pulling the sentimental levers with Mama or arriving, at last, at a raucous, celebratory encore of Wannabe, they performed with every ounce of strength in their legs and passion in their hearts.

Iran welcomes US nuclear report

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits Natanz enrichment facility
Iran says it will continue uranium enrichment despite sanctions
Iran has welcomed a major US intelligence report which suggests its government is not currently trying to develop nuclear weapons.

The latest National Intelligence Estimate says it is now believed Iran stopped its weapons programme in 2003.

Tehran has always maintained its nuclear programme is being developed purely for peaceful purposes.

But the US and other Western powers say Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapons capability.