The NewsFuror

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Grant says he is in full control

New Chelsea manager Avram Grant insists he will be his own man after taking over from Jose Mourinho.

Grant, 52, said Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich would not interfere in the football side of the club, despite his breakdown in relations with Mourinho.

Grant, who was the club's director of football, said his goal was to win titles with attractive football.

"I'm a person of my own. I've taken all my decisions in football on my own. If we lose, it's down to me," he said.

"I have full respect for what Jose Mourinho did in the past and I want to follow this success and make things of my own.

"But football is also entertainment. We need to win games and win trophies but we need to play positive football."

Mourinho stepped down by mutual consent and was quickly replaced by Grant, who will continue to work with Steve Clarke as assistant manager.

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck denied that Israeli Grant was appointed because he was a personal friend of Abramovich.

"Roman Abramovich doesn't make important appointments on a whim or because someone is a friend," said Buck.

"He's a very successful businessman and in conjunction with the board this was a thoughtful decision and was based on merit.

"When we offered this job to Avram on Wednesday he wanted assurances that he was his own man and he was in charge of the team.

"Myself, Peter [Kenyon], Eugene [Tenenbaum, Chelsea director] and Roman Abramovich were all in the room and we all agreed 100% that he is in charge."

Chief executive Kenyon said the last six months had been difficult as the relationship between owner and manager deteriorated, but denied that interference from Abramovich had led to Mourinho leaving.

He said: "I've been involved in every transaction since Roman and Jose came together and there has never been a point where we have bought a player without the (manager's) full approval and knowledge.

"There has never been a point where we instructed our first-team coach to play a player or play a player in a particular formation. It is so far fetched that that concept would work with any coach I would know."

The players came out before training this morning and made it clear they are supportive of moving forwards

Peter Kenyon

Abramovich and Mourinho are said to have fallen out over the purchase of Andriy Shevchenko and the manager's subsequent handling of the £31m forward.

But Kenyon added: "Shevchenko was purchased on the back of a decision by the owner, the board and the manager."

Buck admitted that Grant's record did not compare with Mourinho's, but said: "It is very important in a relationship between a manager and an owner that there is mutual confidence over the vision, strategy and approach of a club.

"Avram's vision is in tune with ours and we think he can take the club forward."

Grant has yet to be offered a formal contract but Kenyon insisted the appointment is on a permanent basis.

Chelsea's first test under Grant comes on Sunday when his side travel to Old Trafford to meet reigning Premier League champions Manchester United.

Bonds to part company with Giants

Home run record holder Barry Bonds will leave the San Francisco Giants at the end of the season after the club decided not to renew his contract.

"Although I am disappointed, I've always said baseball is a business and I respect their decision," the 43-year-old told his personal website.

Bonds, who beat Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755 home runs in August, added he had no intention of retiring.

"There is more baseball in me and I plan on continuing my career," he said.

"My quest for a World Series ring continues."

Unfortunately for Bonds, his record-breaking feat has been overshadowed by claims he has used steroids.

The left-hander has never tested positive for drug use and denies knowingly taking performance-enhancing substances.

Nevertheless, he has been dogged by rumours since his home run tally took off after he turned 35, moving past the legendary Babe Ruth into second place in May last year with his 715th career home run.

Bonds added that he regretted not knowing he would be leaving the Giants sooner so he could say a proper goodbye to club's fans.

"I don't have nor do I want any ill feelings towards the organisation," he said.

"I just wish I had known sooner so we had more time to say our goodbyes and celebrate the best 15 years of my life."

Bonds hit his 756th homer in the game against the Washington Nationals on 7 August.

Broadband speeds under scrutiny

Broadband speeds in the UK are much slower than advertised by internet service providers, a study by Computeractive magazine has found.

Some 3,000 readers took part in speed tests and 62% found they routinely got less than half of the top speed advertised by their provider.

It is the latest in a series of questions over the way net firms advertise broadband services.

Regulator Ofcom said it was aware of the issue and was "investigating".

Testing times

The figures were gathered from more than 100,000 speed tests that the 3,000 respondents carried out to build up a picture of their average net-browsing speed on ADSL lines.

Statistics about net users in the UK show that half of current broadband users receive ADSL services that should run at speeds between one and four megabits per second (mbps).

The other 50% are on deals offering up to eight mbps but the tests revealed that, in reality, very few achieve the top speeds.

"This problem has been building for a while with a growing gulf between what is advertised and what is delivered," said Paul Allen, editor of Computeractive.

"The adverts often have super-fast broadband in huge lettering with the "up to" clause in very small print," he said.

"Users who have taken the test were surprised at the size of the gulf," he added.

Some 28% of the 3,000 respondents who took the ADSL speed test found that they received less than a quarter of their maximum advertised bandwidth.

While consumers may currently not notice their sluggish connections, this could change thinks Mr Allen.

"Previously it has not been a massive issue but in the coming year we are entering the net TV age and video content is bandwidth-hungry," he said.

Mr Allen called on regulator Ofcom to provide an independent speed test to anyone who has signed up to receive broadband.

Speaking for the telecommunications watchdog, a spokesman said: "We are looking at this issue.
It is not a huge driver of complaints but it has come on to our radar screen."

"It's about the difference between the headline rate and the rate received," he said.

The spokesman said Ofcom was working with the net industry and other organisations such as Which to investigate the extent of the problem and what can be done about it.

"Once we have carried out this work we will assess what options might be available to tackle it," he said.
The results of the investigation would be made available in the "near future", said the spokesman.

Fast chance

Research by market analysts Point Topic sugggests that, in many areas of the UK, few people will be able to get the fastest broadband speeds.

Only 5% of the population will be able to enjoy speeds of 18Mbps. More than half will only be able to get 8Mbps.

Ofcom was also working with the Advertising Standards Authority to keep an eye on how net service firms word their marketing materials.

"We make sure broadband advertising does not advertise speeds that cannot be guaranteed," he said. "They have to make it clear that there is a best possible speed rather than an average speed."

The ASA has investigated several cases of misleading promotions, most recently asking Bulldog to make it clear in its adverts that speed was dependent on how far away from the exchange people lived.

It ruled that broadband providers could use the words "up to" 8Mbps when describing services as long as customers were likely to get close to those speeds.

A survey last month by consumer group Which found that consumers with services promising speeds of up to 8Mbps were actually getting an average speed of 2.7Mbps.

There are many variables that determine the speed of a connection, including how far away from the telephone exchange the line is, how many others are using the line at the same time and the quality of the wiring within a home.

The tool used in the study is available for download from the Computeractive website. It was developed by advice service Broadband Choice.

Computeractive has also launched an e-petition on the Downing Street website, asking the government to force net service firms to provide clear information about the typical speed users will receive alongside the maximum speed.

Sex and the City film starts work

Filming on the eagerly-awaited Sex and the City movie has begun in New York.

It has been three years since the TV series, which followed the love lives of four professional women in New York, drew to a close.

BBC Radio 1's Heather Alexander spotted Kristin Davis, who plays Charlotte York, shooting a scene with Chris Noth, who plays Mr Big in the show.

Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall are also taking part. The film is due to be released next year.

Heather Alexander said Charlotte's character appeared to be heavily pregnant.

Fans may be surprised to learn she is expecting a baby as it was revealed in an earlier series that she would find it virtually impossible to conceive.

Speculation about supposed conflicts between the cast have previously been blamed for the delay in making the film.

Michael Patrick King, who executive produced the series, has written and is directing the film.

During its six-year run, Sex and the City won six Emmy awards and eight Golden Globes.

The conclusion of the show's plot showed Parker's character, Carrie Bradshaw, get back together with Mr Big.

Their on-off relationship became a recurring theme throughout the shows.

Rap star 'impersonated policeman'

US rapper The Game has appeared in court after being charged with impersonating a police officer.

Police said the star told a cab driver he was an undercover officer in 2006, ordering him to run several red lights.

The hip-hop artist, real name Jayceon Taylor, insisted he was innocent. He has been given a conditional discharge at Manhattan's Criminal Court.

That means if the star is not arrested again within six months, the charge will be dismissed and the case closed.

The Game rejected offers of a plea deal that would have kept him out of jail in exchange for a guilty plea.

The rapper, who has a large "LA" tattooed on the right side of his face and a teardrop under his left eye, claimed the cab driver noticed they were being followed and asked who was in the car.

I love New York, but I hate the system - but I hate every system

The Game

He said he told the driver they were the hip-hop police, and the driver decided on his own to run the red lights.

The rapper's lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman said it was unlikely a cab driver, seeing his client's tattoos, would have thought he was a policeman.

Speaking afterwards, The Game said: "I love New York, but I hate the system. But I hate every system."

Once a protege of rapper 50 Cent, he shot to stardom with his Grammy-nominated debut album The Documentary in 2005.

He currently still faces three felony charges in California for a February incident in which he is accused of pulling a gun during a basketball game in Los Angeles.

If convicted of those charges, he faces up to five years in jail.

Bill Gates leads Forbes rich list

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has been ranked as the wealthiest person in America for the 14th year in a row.

Forbes magazine put Gates' fortune at $59bn, with investment guru Warren Buffet in second place with a net worth of $52bn.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and software tycoon Larry Ellison remained at third and fourth place on Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans.

It took a net worth of at least $1.3bn to earn a spot in the rankings.

Google founders fifth

For the first time since 1989 there were no members of Walton family, which established Wal-Mart Stores, in the top 10.

They were displaced by Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who came in joint fifth place, with fortunes of $18.5bn apiece.

Investor Kirk Kerkorian was the biggest gainer on the list, his fortune rising by more than $9bn in the past year to $18bn, putting him in seventh place.

"Wall Street really led the charge this year," said Matthew Miller, editor of the Forbes list. "God only knows if they'll be on it next year. It really just depends on what the market does."

The collective net worth of the 400 billionaires totalled $1.54 trillion - more than Canada's GDP.

Merck abandons HIV vaccine trials

International drug company Merck has halted trials on an HIV vaccine that was regarded as one of the most promising in the fight against Aids.

Merck stopped testing the vaccine after it was judged to be ineffective.

In trials, the vaccine failed to prevent HIV infections among volunteers who were at risk of catching the virus, including gay men and sex workers.

Merck had previously expressed high hopes for the drug, which it spent 10 years developing.

'Headed for failure'

Merck's international trial, called Step, began in 2004 and involved 3,000 HIV-negative volunteers from diverse backgrounds, between the ages of 18 and 45.

Merck said that 24 of 741 volunteers who got the vaccine became infected with HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

Out of a group of 762 volunteers who were given a dummy version of the jab, 21 became infected with HIV.

An independent monitoring panel recommended discontinuing the vaccination of volunteers, saying the trail was headed for failure.

Most of the volunteers were at high risk of HIV infection.

They were repeatedly given advice about how to practise safe sex, according to Merck.

The vaccine contained a common cold virus loaded with copies of three HIV genes.

The hope was that exposure to the genes would prompt an immune response in the body so that cells containing HIV virus would be recognised and destroyed.

"Today is a very sad day for the industry because Merck's vaccine had shown an ability to turn on the immune system, which gave many people optimism it would work," said Sarah Alexander, from the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.
Doctors have said a preventative vaccine would be the best way to control the spread of HIV.