Shades of Watergate as raid rocks al-Jazeera

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The Independent Online

* Here's a tale to launch a thousand conspiracy theories: al-Jazeera, the Islamic TV station George Bush wants to nuke, has been the victim of a Watergate-style burglary.

On Thursday, intruders broke into the firm's Knightsbridge offices and pinched several items of highly sensitive computer equipment.

The haul included a dozen laptops and several hard drives. They belong to the English-language al-Jazeera International, which launches this summer employing Sir David Frost and Rageh Omar, right.

According to insiders, the nature of the burglary, which occurred when staff were celebrating the Easter bank holiday at a nearby restaurant, caused police investigators to suspect foul play.

"Firstly, the items pinched were not what a normal burglar would take," I'm told. "Valuable stuff was left behind, and several brand-new laptops weren't even touched. They only took the most commercially sensitive kit."

"We lost several contacts books and hard drives containing email records and details of things like what people like Frost and Omar will be doing, and how much they're being paid."

As a result, there are dark rumours of industrial espionage, and police reckon the timing of the raid, when al-Jazeera's offices were unexpectedly empty, points to an "inside job".

Says the firm's official spokesman: "There was indeed a break-in, but we are unable to say anything more while police are investigating."

* The Glastonbury Festival is all about peace, man. Except, that is, if you're the Dire Straits frontman, Mark Knopfler.

Michael Eavis, who organises the music festival on his Somerset farm, has been forced to make a grovelling apology to Knopfler and his ex-bandmates.

At issue: a radio interview Eavis gave last week, claiming the "Straits" would reform for Glastonbury next year. "I'm talking to them at the moment," he told Xfm. "It's not for the main stage but for something else."

Now, a splendidly 'umble correction has popped up on Eavis's internet site. "To set the record straight, Dire Straits will not be playing next year's Glastonbury," it reads. "We apologise to anyone who had their hopes up, and of course, to the band and their management for the misunderstanding."

It's not the only time Eavis has been accused of jumping the gun, mind. Last week, after Kylie Minogue booked herself out of hospital, following cancer treatment, he announced that she'd been lined up to "headline" next year's event.

* David Hasselhoff has granted a rare interview to The Bookseller, revealing both his innate personal modesty, and magisterial grasp of world affairs.

First, the actor discloses a "spiritual" calling: to change people's lives through his Knight Rider alter ego, Michael Knight.

"I can go into any hospital in any country and make a kid smile and forget about their pain for a couple of seconds," he says.

"How fantastic is that? I just walk in. All the kids go 'Aah, Michael Knight!' and start coming at me with their IV's."

Next, The Hoff claims that his show Baywatch's appearance on satellite TV is helping the women's rights movement in Iran.

"They're sitting there oppressed. They can't vote, can't do anything!" he says. "Then they go: 'This is the world! Why can't I go out there?' They pull back their burkas and they've got blonde hair."

* On Sunday, one of Tony Blair's fundraisers, Nick Bowes, was fingered as the author of an internet diary claiming "the whole peerages thing is corrupt".

Sadly, the (supposedly) anonymous website was closed down as soon as Scotland Yard began taking an interest in its contents.

Today, however, you can once again read it in full, thanks to the bold efforts of Tory muckraker, Iain Dale.

He's got his hands on a hard copy of Bowes' original comments, and published them on his own internet site.

"David Cameron's been pathetically quiet on this issue," says a chum. "Iain, who was chief of staff to David Davis during the leadership campaign, isn't so craven."

* Gail Porter's public battle against alopecia has led many newspapers to bestow upon her the honorific "brave".

They are quite right, too. But the energetic TV presenter is anxious to point out that losing her hair wasn't all bad news.

In an interview with tomorrow's Star magazine, Porter discusses how her grooming routine was affected by losing large clumps of her hair.

"I keep growing it to see how much is there, and then shave it when it looks ridiculous," she says.

"The more I do it, the more it grows. But on the plus side, I do have a permanent Brazilian now. I hated having Brazilian waxes, so you could say that's one good thing about losing my hair."

For every cloud, a silver lining.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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