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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Rings director backs organ donation
Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson is backing a campaign in New Zealand urging people to donate their organs.

He told a women's magazine in his home country that he was appalled to discover New Zealand had one of the lowest rates of donation in the developed world.

His comments were sparked by the plight of 11-month-old Katie Tookey, who suffers from a rare kidney disease and will need a transplant within the next five years.

"We have the skills here, the hospitals and the surgeons. What we lack is a population willing to give," he said.


Author Pullman supports UK book centre

Award-winning author Philip Pullman is to donate many of his manuscripts to the Centre for the Children's Book in Newcastle as he believes they should stay in the UK.

Many authors' works end up in US universities and libraries, but Pullman, who wrote the best-selling His Dark Materials trilogy, said he was keen to ensure this did not happen to him.

However he added that he understood the necessity for many writers to sell their manuscripts.

Pullman, known for his outspoken views, also recently said at the Edinburgh book festival that novels must discuss morality or they will slip into the "trivial and worthless".


Cher bids farewell to touring

Pop diva Cher has laid down a challenge to the young pretenders to her crown during what she said is her last ever tour.

The star performed two nights in Las Vegas, sporting 10 different costume changes and backed by Cirque du Soleil-style acrobats.

She whipped through her back catalogue from Gipsies, Tramps and Thieves to Believe.

In a remark aimed at other pop princesses, she signed off saying: "I think this is a great show. So follow this."


French flight for Travolta

Film star John Travolta has flown into France on the latest leg of his round-the-world Spirit of Friendship air tour.

The Pulp Fiction actor is piloting his own luxury 707 passenger jet to 10 countries with his family, acting as an ambassador-at-large for Qantas Airways.

Having had a keen interest in flying since the age of 16, Travolta undertook a training course with Qantas, allowing him to pilot a jet.

The actor has already travelled to the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Japan on his three-month jaunt with his actress wife Kelly Preston and their two children.


Hong Kong star speaks about drug perils

William So, a pop star from Hong Kong, has issued a warning to his fans about watching out for spiked drinks, after spending 10 days in a rehabilitation centre.

The singer was ordered to attend the unit after being arrested during a drugs raid at a nightclub and a urine test showed he had taken ecstasy.

He said he had gone to a bar with people he did not know and denied any knowledge of where the drugs had come from.

In a message to his fans, he said: "I advise people to be careful about the drinks they take at discos."


Opera star's killer sentenced to death

A man who stabbed Beijing opera singer Wang Yinqui to death has been handed the death penalty.

Zhan Qinghua, 32, was convicted of breaking into the home of the 75-year-old opera star and stabbing him with a kitchen knife.

The migrant worker then stole cash, jewellery and a CD player but was later captured.

Wang was an artist with the Beijing Opera Theatre and was a pupil of Cheng Yanqiu, the founder of the Cheng style of singing.


Violence halts LL Cool J gig

A hip-hop concert featuring LL Cool J and Nelly had to be abandoned after rival gangs stormed the stage brandishing iron bars.

Police brought the Beat Summer Jam 2002 gig in Irvine, California, to a premature halt after deciding security had lost control of the 15,000-strong crowd.

The authorities cleared the venue but fighting spilled out into a car park.

Police said about 30 people had been arrested and three others had suffered minor injuries from being crushed by the crowd.


Late-night opening for Italian treasures

Italy is to leave its museum doors open until much later to allow tourists time to visit as many attractions as possible.

Rome's Colosseum and Florence's Uffizi Gallery are among those that will stay open until 11pm local time from Wednesday to Saturday, instead of the usual closing time of 8pm.

Culture minister Giuliano Urbani described the initiative as an act of respect for "the public cultural patrimony".

The Santa Maria delle Grazie church, which houses Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper, will also become a late-night visitors' spot.

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