Tiago locked Juve chief in toilet!

Juventus President Giovanni Cobolli Gigli has confirmed that disgruntled player Tiago Mendes locked him in the loo!

In quite the strangest story to emerge from Serie A in many a year, the
tension between the club and Tiago seems to have gone overboard.

“The story of me being locked in the toilet by Tiago is true,”
confessed Cobolli Gigli live on Sky Italia television.

“It’s a shame it got out, as this was something I told a friend in
confidence. In any case, Alessandro Del Piero responded to the noise of
me punching the door and offered to break it down.

“I told him it was better if someone else did it, as he needed to keep
his shoulders in good shape for the Fiorentina game.”

Tiago has repeatedly refused transfers to Everton and Monaco because he
wants to play in the Champions League, but Juve cannot sign a new
player until they have disposed of the Portuguese flop.

“Claudio Ranieri considers Tiago to be part of our squad, but anything
could happen tomorrow in Italian football,” continued the patron.

“Hopefully by midnight Tiago will have found another club.”

The story had emerged over the last couple of days, but the report only
stated that Del Piero had rescued Cobolli Gigli when he was
accidentally locked in the bathroom at the club’s training ground.

Rumours later suggested the ‘accident’ was in fact a spiteful gesture
from Tiago, who was furious at Juventus pushing him to sign for Everton
or Monaco.

It is reported Cobolli Gigli was locked in for an hour before Del Piero
happened to walk past and heard the pleas for help.

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Former Juventus Midfielder Attacked By Lecce Fans

Bari Manager, Antonio Conte, was attacked by several Lecce fans
while seated on a bench watching a game of five against five football.
Italian police are currently investigating the incident and hope to
make arrests soon.

Conte had been punched in the face several times, after which a
number of bystanders came to his aid causing the assailants to flee.

What is your opinion, do fanatical fans especially Ultras have to be reined in by Italian police?

Bay enjoying comeback season

PITTSBURGH — The Jason Bay of 2008 is looking a lot like the Jason Bay of 2005 and 2006, which bares little resemblance to the Jason Bay of 2007. Bay, who posted a two-season run as one of the most productive offensive players in Major League Baseball two and three years ago, regressed last season. But buoyed by a scorching fortnight and a strong May overall, Bay is reminding people how good he can be.

“Is it Old Jason? Whatever, it’s [the real] Jason Bay,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “He’s swinging the bat very well. He’s a threat at the plate and comes up with big hits for us.”

Bay hit .306 with a.559 slugging percentage, 32 home runs and 101 RBIs in 2005, and batted .286 with a .532 slugging percentage, 35 home runs and 109 RBIs in 2006. But last season (.247/.418/21/84) was the worst of his young career.

This season, the 2004 National League Rookie of the Year is back to his old ways, batting .287 with a .517 slugging percentage, 12 home runs and 25 RBIs in 171 at-bats.

“He’s been coming through a lot lately, and that’s what he’s capable of doing,” Russell said. “It’s nice to see him feeling really comfortable. He really likes the way he’s feeling physically and that’s really helping him mentally.”

Bay has been red-hot in recent weeks after a .253 average through April. He was hitting .329 with a .440 on-base percentage, .658 slugging percentage and six home runs in May heading into Sunday’s game against the Chicago Cubs.

In particular, Bay had homered in five of his past nine games before Sunday, and had reached base safely in nine consecutive contests, and in 11 of 12.

“I am very streaky, and this is one of the times where, even when I haven’t been hitting the ball, I still have been seeing it, which is a positive,” Bay said.

Bay has been scorching at PNC Park this season. He’s hitting only .215 with three home runs on the road but was batting .348 with nine home runs in his 25 games at home.

Those totals are counter-intuitive for a right-handed batter because PNC Park’s power alley in left-center is the deepest part of the park, and the right-field porch is conducive to home runs.

Indeed, entering this season, Bay had hit 72 of his 117 home runs as a Pirate away from PNC.

“I think playing here for a few years, he knows the park,” Russell said. “He’s comfortable here. He knows if he hits the ball well, it’s going to go out no matter what park he’s at. He’s played here long enough now to know that balls he hits here are going to go out. He goes to right-center very well, which is nice in this ballpark. I think it’s just a comfort level he’s at because he knows the park well and has played here a lot.”

Bay homered Saturday and had the winning RBI single in the 14th inning later in the night. It was his first RBI single of the season and the first walk-off RBI of his career.

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FACTBOX-Reforms by Raul Castro in Cuba

April 10 (Reuters) – In the six weeks since he succeeded his ailing brother Fidel Castro, Cuba’s new leader Raul Castro has introduced a series of reforms to improve life in the communist Caribbean island state.

Following are some steps taken so far, as Castro moves to lift what he calls “excessive prohibitions:”

* Lifted ban on Cubans buying consumer goods such as computers, DVD players, microwave ovens and other electronic appliances previously prohibited due to an energy crisis.

* Cubans can now stay at hotels and beach resorts previously reserved for foreigners only, ending a “tourism apartheid” that was a source of resentment.

* As of April 14, Cubans will be allowed to freely buy and use cellular telephones, something that had been available only to government officials and foreign companies.

* Decentralized agriculture to allow private farmers more leeway to decide how to use their land, what crops to plant and what supplies to buy. Farmers granted leases to unused land.

* Reduced bureaucracy for filling medical prescriptions and began revamping the family doctor program in response to complaints it was understaffed.

* Removed ceiling on wages to create incentives for workers and improve Cuba’s economic performance.

* Additional reforms are expected to include allowing Cubans to buy and sell their cars and easing restrictions on travel abroad.

Link

To save communism, Raul experiments with consumerism

Minor economic reforms by Castro’s brother risk exposing inequality and encouraging the desire for change

From the ample girths and gold jewellery you could tell the Fuentes family was doing well, and from the determined way in which its five members strode into the shop you could tell they were about to do even better.

They had come for a Wanjiu pressure cooker and Daewoo washing machine, counting out the money with a certain panache. Why not? To be fleshy and flashy is to be part of Cuba’s new revolutionary vanguard: Havana bling.

This was Dita, an electronics store in Galerías de Paseo, Cuba’s dowdy answer to Harrods, and it was an incongruous scene. While Fidel Castro exhorted revolutionary solidarity from a banner outside the shop, the family members could hardly see the leader’s words over the cardboard boxes they were hauling.

Out on the street they packed their trophies into a 10-year-old Ford – a modern showcase by local vehicle standards – and with a screech of the tyres sped home. En route was the Karl Marx Theatre, but you doubted they would stop to see what was on.

Cuba is changing. In the past five weeks the government has announced and enacted a series of reforms unimaginable under Castro. It is now legal to buy mobile phones, computers and DVD players. Cubans may now rent cars and stay at hotels previously reserved for foreigners. More significantly, farmers can now cultivate idle state land and buy equipment without special permission.

Havana is buzzing with rumours of further announcements. Lifting restrictions on foreign travel, perhaps, or strengthening the near-worthless peso so more people can afford the goods that are priced in a separate currency created for foreigners.

“Finally the government is listening to us. This is stuff we’ve been asking for for years,” said Andrea, a 44-year-old technician. It is fitting that a popular new import is an electronic pedal-bike. “Not a new era, a new cycle,” she added.

Optimism is cautious. So far the changes do not add up to perestroika-style economic reforms, much less a glasnost-style cultural opening. The one-party state is tinkering with its half-century-old system to ease material hardship. The idea is to save communism in the Caribbean, not abandon it.

Havana remains a sea of decrepitude. Traffic remains a time-warp blend of 1950s American cars, three-wheel yellow cabs, Soviet-era Ladas and new Chinese-made buses. Stallholders still offer meagre wares in an illegal type of mouse capitalism. Most people are lean – if less gaunt than before thanks to easing food shortages.

“What the government is doing is a very small first step,” said a western diplomat. “They are doing the easy things and giving people more freedoms. We are still waiting for the big changes that will make a difference economically. And that will be much harder to do.”

The most important change so far is in agriculture, in which mismanagement has shrivelled cash crops such as sugar, tobacco and coffee and forced the lush island to import 80% of its food. Now decision-making has been decentralised and some restrictions lifted to give farmers more incentive to produce.

The other changes have merely legalised what has been common practice. The moneyed Cubans listening to reggaetón music by the pool bar in El Nacional hotel yesterday were the same ones who were there a month ago. Many had wangled computers, DVD players and mobile phones long before the bans were lifted. Those unable to afford such goods before still cannot afford them.

The announcements have signalled greater tolerance for displays of wealth and, by extension, displays of inequality. “Before if you had cash you would hide it but now people feel freer to show it,” said the diplomat.

It is not news to Cubans that a small minority of the 11-million population is well off thanks to remittances from relatives in the US and shady hard currency dealings. The offspring of Communist party officials are among the so-called “mickies” who flash their designer gear.

Free universal education and healthcare remain solid but sanctioning spending sprees on previously banned consumer goods has given ironic resonance to revolutionary slogans.

“We can construct the most just society in the world,” Castro’s brave words said in another banner, this time overlooking the Carlos Tercero shopping mall. Beneath it passed some families with boxes marked Yamaha, Samsung and Phillips, and many who did not.

José, a waiter at a state restaurant who earns £9 a month, was off-duty, sipping a soft drink along with his nine-year-old daughter. The neighbouring table’s family was clustered around a newly purchased £130 DVD player and sorting through a hawker’s pirated wares. “We’ve got a VHS player but you can’t get films for it anymore,” José said. “My daughter doesn’t have cartoons.”

It is no coincidence that José was black and the neighbouring family white. Racism is illegal on the island but paler-skinned Cubans dominate government and the economy and are more likely to have relatives in the US.

The authorities appear uncomfortably aware that lifting economic restrictions risks exposing and compounding that inequality, at least in the short term. Speakers at a state-sponsored Intellectuals’ Conference last week welcomed the reforms but hinted that social divisions could deepen. The comments were reported in the Communist party daily newspaper, Granma.

Raúl Castro knows reform is essential. Nobody starves but most Cubans struggle to put decent food on the table. Since taking over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2006, a transition confirmed with Raúl’s inauguration as president last month, the 76-year-old has repeatedly spoken of the need to improve an economy, 90% of which is controlled by the government.

Only so much ruin can be blamed on the US embargo and when the Castro brothers die, taking with them the revolution’s founding legitimacy, its fate will hinge on delivering better material conditions, said one Havana economist: “They know they have maybe five years to turn things around. It’s fix or perish.”

Sceptics say the effort is doomed. That no matter how much a moribund agriculture blossoms or how fast greater wealth trickles down, Cuba will remain an outpost of unworkable ideology until the day the place implodes.

Others paint a rosier scenario for a government with several advantages: a cowed opposition and submissive population; subsidised Venezuelan oil courtesy of President Hugo Chávez; strengthening ties with Asia and Latin America; and the example of China’s and Vietnam’s communists successfully riding economic liberalisation.

Raúl can already boast one remarkable feat: he has tamed the big brother who used to rail against the reforms now unfurling. Fidel’s published “reflections”, newspaper articles which are his only form of public communication, have largely avoided commenting on the changes. No one knows whether Raúl has persuaded the sickly 81-year-old to go along or simply overruled him.

The bigger unknown is how Cubans will react. Being given a little more economic opportunity could sate or whet the yearning for change, and shore up or undermine the regime. It is Pandora’s Box and opening the lid even a fraction is a gamble.

Cubans Line Up for DVD Players, Bikes

HAVANA (AP) — Cubans snapped up DVD players, motorbikes and pressure cookers Tuesday as a variety of consumer products went on sale to all of the island’s people for the first time. Many others lined up just to window shop, lamenting prices few can afford on government salaries.

Until Tuesday, most electronic goods previously were sold only to foreigners or companies — one of the many irksome rules that new President Raul Castro has vowed to lift to improve the lives of his citizens.

“They should have done this a long time ago,” one man said as he left a store with a red and silver electric motorbike that cost $814. The Chinese-made bikes can be charged with an electric cord and had been barred for general sale because officials feared a strain on the power grid.

Tuesday’s move came a day after the Tourism Ministry said any Cuban with enough money can stay in luxury hotels and rent cars, doing away with restrictions that made ordinary people feel like second-class citizens. And soon Cubans will be able to get cell phones legally in their own names, a luxury long reserved for the lucky few.

Even expert Cuba-watchers wonder how far the communist government will go in making economic changes. Until now, the impact has been largely psychological because few Cubans have the money to buy expensive products or stay in posh hotels.

There was no sign yet of promised computers and microwaves — highly anticipated items that clerks across Havana insisted would appear soon on store shelves, with desktop computers retailing for around $650.

People lined up waiting to get into the Galerias Paseos shopping center on Havana’s famed seaside Malecon boulevard, and they hurried inside when the doors opened.

Cuba’s communist system was founded on promoting social and economic equality, but that doesn’t mean Cubans can’t have DVD players, one of those who rushed to gawk at the new products, Mercedes Orta. “Socialism has nothing to do with living comfortably,” she said.

Lines outside electronics boutiques and specialty shops are common in Cuba because guards limit how many people can be inside at a time. But waits were longer and aisles more packed than usual at Havana’s best-known stores.

“DVDs are over there, down that aisle,” an employee in white short-sleeve shirt repeated over and over as shoppers wandered into La Copa, an electronics and grocery store across from the Copacabana Hotel.

“Very good! DVD players on sale for everybody,” exclaimed Clara, an elderly woman who was studying a black JVC console. “Of course nobody has the money to buy them,” she added.

Like many Cubans, Clara chatted freely, but wouldn’t give her full name to a foreign reporter.

Government stores priced all products in convertible pesos — hard currency worth 24 times the regular pesos that state employees are paid. The government controls well over 90 percent of the economy and the average monthly state salary is just 408 regular pesos, about $19.50.

Still, most Cubans have access to at least some convertible pesos thanks to jobs with foreign firms or in tourism, or cash sent by relatives living in the United States.

Some Cubans speculate the opening up of shops is a government ploy to control inflation by sopping up convertible pesos. Others say allowing those who have money to spend it freely will make class divisions evident and cause tensions.

“Those who have people who send them money from outside the country can buy more and more,” said Lazaro Martinez, a 67-year-old flower seller in Old Havana. “Everyone else, we can’t buy anything.”

At La Copa, the most expensive DVD player was a Samsung P243B without HD capability, at $288. Cheapest was a standard Phillips model at $124 — three times more expensive than what Americans pay for a similar Philips player in the United States.

Despite the steep prices, Cubans were buying. “You have to buy before they run out,” said a man named Jorge who paid $162 for a mid-range DVD player. He didn’t want his full name published because he doesn’t want Cubans to know he made such a large purchase in hard currency.

On streets throughout Havana’s suburban Miramar neighborhood, men and women walked home clutching new DVD boxes. Store employees diligently noted each consumer’s ID card number, but no other paperwork was required.

Graciela Jaime, a 68-year-old retired clothes factory employee, complained that widespread corruption and greed had created a class of rich Cubans. “Everyone wants to spend money and that is what’s happening,” she said.

Jaime said she recently took a job sweeping streets some mornings to supplement her monthly pension of about $10.

“Raul Castro has to get rid of the corruption,” she said. “And it will be hard work, because there is a lot of it.”

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yeah

Sooooo yeah. Random things going on:

Canucks traded Matt Cooke to the Capitals for Matt Pettinger, someone I know very little about but hopefully he fits in with the team and can contribute right away. With Burrows playing so well and Cooke being a UFA after this season – was somewhat expected. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t make a bigger splash to be honest. So here is my honest opinion on things (no sports radio or articles influencing my opinion)..we all know a Canuck fan who can pinpoint a time in Canuck history where they lost some of their enthusiasm due to a certain game or play that ended the Canucks playoff run. For me it was game 4 of the Anaheim series last year, I believe they were either up 2-1 or 3-1 going into the 3rd, Anaheim leading the series 2-1 so it was a huge game for us, losing means basically losing the series being down 3-1 with no real chance of coming back from that deficit. We let Anaheim win the game and went on to lose the series. So I was hoping the Canucks would end up making a bigger splash then they did, I have no problem letting go Bourdon, Schneider and even Kesler. Edler was the one player I was hoping we wouldn’t trade. I understand our GM’s reasoning for not pulling the trigger, but you wonder how much longer we’ll truly have at a shot to make a serious run for the cup. I guess with Naslunds and Mo’s contracts being up at seasons end, we can sign some players that are actually worth paying as much as we do for those two.

What else…today I’ve been vibing to some Bebel Gilberto, a Brazilian singer with a great voice. Oh No (madlibs bro) from Stones Throw Records, his “Dr.No’s Oxperiment” instrumental album is excellent.

I’ve got a lot of projects at work going on right now, too many it seems. Off to Dallas next week for 2 days of vehicle installtions. I got a ticket for a Stars game, they’re playing the Coyotes so it should be a decent game.

I watched Taxi to the Darkside the other day, it won best documentary at the Oscars. Another great documentary regarding all the screwed up shit with the current U.S. administration, in particular the way they authorized torture techniques in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I’ve got my first Tai-Chi class on Saturday morning, looking forward to it.

Anyways, I’m writing this while eating my lunch and I’m done, later.

this week

My cousin Amanda and I went out and visited my mom on the weekend, she lives out in Hope B.C., about 2hours from Vancouver. We took her two dogs for a walk along the bank of the Fraser river and went for dinner. It was a beautiful day for the drive and we didn’t have much traffic.  Sumeet was at her cousins Robyns for her sweet 16th birthday party so she didn’t make it.  They had a bunch of gourmet food at the party and Sumeet brought back a lot of butter chicken for me.  She’s away in Ottawa this week for work so I’ll be eating it ALL!

I plan on posting a follow-up about our last trip to Cuba, the first post was just a brief description without any real feeling but I think I have a few more things to share.

Afghanistan

It’s something that has been on my mind quite a bit these days. I’ve been meaning to post something on it for a couple of weeks now and I just came across the news that 140 Afghans have been killed in 2 days of bombing by insurgents targeting the Canadian army.

I’ve heard a lot of people say we should extend the mission their so we can ‘finish the job’ etc and I’m not quite sure what this means. I thought the job was to help rid the country of the Al Qaeda and train the Afghans on how to do this themselves at some point, not to occupy their country for years and years and leave them with no sense of sovereignty. I know the taliban are bad people but they should not be the reason why Canadians want to extend the mission there. I believe we should be training & supplying the Afghans so they can empower themselves to fight the war on terror in their own home land.

I truly believe by occupying the country with military troops in these “holy lands” with the “infidel”, it will do more harm then good, more suicide bombings, more deaths and it will give the Afghans a false sense of hope all at the same time.

I came across Stephane Dion’s open letter to Stephen Harper on Afghanistan and I couldn’t agree more with the 3 main points:

• The mission must change – NATO must ensure the rotation of new troops into Kandahar so that Canadian troops can shift in February 2009 to training of the Afghan National Army and police, and protection of reconstruction efforts;

• The mission must end – we must have a clear end date of February 2011, not a further review date that will lead us down the path of a never-ending mission; and

• The mission must be about more than the military – there is no exclusively military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan so our efforts must be balanced between defence, diplomacy and development.

Anyone else have any thoughts?