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Sunday, 8 April, 2001, 06:10 GMT 07:10 UK
Sophie row dominates papers

The row over what the Countess of Wessex actually said to the fake sheikh gets widespread coverage.

But, if that is not enough to embarrass Buckingham Palace, The Mail on Sunday claims to have unearthed a new controversy.

The paper alleges that the Countess has launched another company called the British Luxury Council which has already had to apologise over suggestions that it is officially endorsed by the Department of Trade and Industry.

The Observer, meanwhile, claims Palace officials are furious at what they see as a deliberate attempt to fan the flames of scandal by some Labour politicians.

And there may be some truth in the charge the paper says.

Quoting a senior Downing Street source it says many within the party are secretly delighted that the issue of reforming the role of the Royal Family is back on the agenda.

Farm virus linked to lab

The Sunday Express offers a remarkable theory about the origins of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

The paper claims a test tube containing the virus has disappeared from the government's top secret laboratory at Porton Down - raising the possibility that livestock were infected deliberately by a rogue worker.

The Sunday Telegraph also leads on foot and mouth - focusing on a new case at Whitby in North Yorkshire - 40 miles from the nearest previous case.

Ministry of Agriculture officials, it says, are dismayed that the disease has "jumped" such a distance, dashing hopes that the battle to contain the outbreak is finally turning in their favour.

Surgery for Best

The Sunday People is one of several papers to report that George Best is to have surgery in a last ditch effort to give up drinking.

The former footballer, it says, is to have drug pellets implanted in his stomach which will generate a feeling of nausea if he takes so much as a sip of alcohol.

Harrison to sell up

The knife attack on the former Beatle George Harrison has left him so insecure - according to the Mail on Sunday - that he plans to sell the mansion at Henley where the stabbing took place.

The paper says he is worried that that there could be a repeat of the incident - and he now spends much more time living abroad.

Chatty cabbies win holidays

It appears that the legendary gift of the gab possessed by British cab drivers has earned them international recognition - and for some, a trip to sunnier climes.

The Sunday Telegraph reveals that 40 taxi drivers are being whisked to South Africa for an exotic holiday, all paid for by the South African tourist board.

The theory is that when they return they will give lengthy accounts of their adventures to thousands of their long suffering passengers - making it an extremely cost-effective means of advertising.

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