Monday, March 27, 2006

Injured Bagwell fears for career

Houston Astros legend Jeff Bagwell admits he may never play again because of his long-running shoulder problem.

The 37-year-old first baseman missed large parts of last season with the injury, which hampers his throwing.

He has spent spring training trying to prove he can still play - but will start the new season, which begins on 2 April, on the disabled list.

"With the condition of my shoulder, I'm not going to be able to start the season with the Astros," he said.

"I came down to spring training to see if I could still make it as a first baseman.

"But I may never play again, although I'm not ruling it out. It's been 15 years with the Astros, but I have to do what's best for me, for the Astros and for baseball."

Bagwell has hit a club record 449 home runs for Houston after spending his entire career with them.

He has had the arthritic shoulder problem since 2001 - and has now said that he will consult a doctor to see if it will be beneficial to remove bone spurs from the shoulder.

In January, the Astros filed an insurance claim to recoup about $15.6m (£8.96m) of his $17m (£9.76m) salary - but he must remain on the injured list all season for them to collect their money.

Aussies ponder Minichiello move

Anthony Minichiello may be moved to the wing for Australia's Test against New Zealand next month to accommodate captain Darren Lockyer at full-back.

Minichiello won last year's Golden Boot, but Lockyer could be poised for a return to his original position.

Chairman of selectors Bob McCarthy suggested Lockyer's attacking talents were being blunted by the defensive requirements of the stand-off role.

And coach Ricky Stuart said he thought Lockyer's best position was full-back.

"I think Darren's best at full-back but we've got the world's best player there at the moment," said Stuart, who coaches Minichiello at club level with the Sydney Roosters.

"But it's not my position to pick the team, it's the selectors' - I will coach whatever team they give me.

"I have the ear of the selectors and the team that we pick will be the best team for Australia."

We don't want Darren Lockyer having to make a hundred tackles
Australia chairman of selectors Bob McCarthy

Speculation has suggested either Trent Barrett or Braith Anasta would slot in at stand-off.

McCarthy voiced concerns about Lockyer's defensive workload.

"We don't want him having to make a hundred tackles," said McCarthy.

"Because of his great attacking prowess you don't want to see him saddled with doing 40-odd tackles a game.

"New Zealand have those big boppers in the back row and they'll be running at him the whole game."

Australia's long domination of the international scene ended last year when New Zealand swept to victory in the Tri-Nations final, a game Lockyer missed with a foot injury.

Wasps 28-0 Leeds

Wasps: (14) 28
Tries: Voyce 2, Sackey, Van Gisbergen
Cons: Van Gisbergen 4
Leeds: (0) 0
Leeds' fears of relegation deepened on Sunday after they fell to a heavy defeat at the hands of champions Wasps.

Tom Voyce scored after four minutes to put his side ahead, and Paul Sackey's 20th-minute try extended Wasps' lead.

The Tykes' appeals for a penalty try were rejected when Tom Biggs was fouled, and Simon Shaw's sin-binning and a penalty failed to yield points.

Voyce and Mark van Gisbergen added to Wasps' tally before an injury-time sending-off for Leeds' Richard Parks.

The Tykes are now 11 points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership table.

Wasps set the tone early on with a powerful rolling maul disrupting Leeds' defence allowing a simple handling move to put Voyce in at the corner.

Sackey's try midway through the half was also a simple affair, England centre Stuart Abbott provided the scoring pass.

Shaw's cynical foul on Biggs - when the winger was sprinting through to regather his own kick - earned the second row a yellow card, but Leeds' efforts came to nothing when they made a mess of the subsequent catch and drive.

When Wasps were restored to 15 players, Voyce put the result beyond doubt with an interception effort from 40m out after a shocking pass from Tykes full-back Roland de Marigny.

Leeds went close through De Marigny and centre Chris Bell, but Wasps secured the bonus point through Van Gisbergen's late score in the corner.

Frustrations boiled over late on, with Parks' sin-binning for a defensive infringement turning into a red for dissent.

# Wasps flanker Tom Rees was sent to hospital for an X-ray on his left leg after being helped off in the first half.

# Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan:
"There's a lot to play for and I think it will go down to the wire.

"I don't expect anything will be resolved until the last match.

"The control we had for the whole match was pleasing and the defence was outstanding."

# Leeds director of rugby Phil Davies:
"It was a tough day for us. There were a few unforced errors and Wasps capitalised on them.

"We are talking about one of the best teams in England here. Not many teams are going to come here and get any return.

"But the effort was phenomenal and that's what we have to hold on to over the last four games."

Wasps: Van Gisbergen, Sackey, Lewsey, Abbott, Voyce, Staunton, Reddan, Payne, Ward, Bracken, Shaw, R. Birkett, Worsley, Rees, Dallaglio.
Replacements: Erinle for Sackey (22), Brooks for Staunton (62), M. Dawson for Reddan (56), Mackenzie for Bracken (65), Haskell for R. Birkett (40), Ibanez for Worsley (76), Leo for Rees (19).
Sin Bin: Shaw (39).

Leeds: De Marigny, Snyman, Bell, Jones, Biggs, Ross, Marshall, Kerr, Rawlinson, Gerber, Hooper, Palmer, Hyde, Parks, Thomas, Crane.
Replacements: Balshaw for Ross (40), McMillan for Marshall (79), Bulloch for Rawlinson (51), Crane for Hyde (40), Murphy for Crane (70).
Not Used: Shelley, Blackett.

Sin Bin: Parks (78).

Sent Off: Parks (78).

Att: 8,186

Ref: Ashley Rowden (RFU).

Scots in fear of coaching exodus

Scots in fear of coaching exodus
The euphoria surrounding Scotland's best Commonwealth Games display has been dampened by doubts over the future of several leading sports figures.

Swimming boss Chris Martin, track cycling manager Ivor Reid and boxing coach John McKay are all uncertain to stay on in their roles.

Scotland won 29 medals in Melbourne to finish sixth in the table.

Eighteen came in swimming and cycling, so the loss of Martin and Reid would be a significant blow to both sports.

Martin says he will take a decision once a multi-agency review of Scottish sport has been concluded.

Carrying on depends on the vision the people have for the future
Chris Martin

"There are sometimes differing visions of how things should run," he said.

"I need to speak to certain people and find out what they think the future structures should be and my decision will be based on that.

"Carrying on depends on the vision the people have for the future."

Cycling has already been hit by the loss of national coach Graeme Herd, who says he intends to leave his post.

Reid is reportedly set to follow suit because of what he perceives to be the "ill treatment" of his colleague.

"I don't think all the hard work he's done has been appreciated," Reid told The Scotsman newspaper.

Scottish boxing has to hold on to John McKay for as long as possible
Boxing gold-medallist Kenny Anderson

"They'll need to appoint two staff to take on his workload - he's put in a phenomenal amount of work.

"It also won't be easy to find someone else who has the respect of the riders the way Graeme has."

James McCallum, who won bronze in the 20km scratch race, added: "I would have given up after the last Commonwealth Games without his (Herd) and Ivor's encouragement.

"I'm really sorry they're leaving. They've both been behind me all the way and, to me, they're the two most important guys in Scottish cycling."

McKay's future is uncertain because the 62-year-old's contract expires next year.

And Kenny Anderson, who won gold at light heavyweight by beating Nigeria's Adura Olalehin, said he would consider his own position if McKay was not kept on.

Meanwhile, the relative failure of the Scottish athletics team - they won just two medals - will come under further scrutiny.

The Scottish Institute of Sport's executive director Anne-Marie Harrison has criticised athletics for being "arrogant and lacking in vision and ambition".

That view was endorsed by Dougie Donnelly, Scottish Institute of Sport chairman, who was in Melbourne for the Games.

"I back what Anne-Marie has said unequivocally, 100%," he told The Herald newspaper.

"I've already arranged a meeting with the Scottish Athletics chairman Mark Hollinshead soon after my return."

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Probe 'gathers asteroid material'

A Japanese probe has become the first craft to collect samples from the surface of an asteroid, scientists say.
The probe, called Hayabusa - Japanese for "falcon" - briefly touched down on the Itokawa asteroid and fired a projectile to loosen surface material.
Scientists believe it collected the debris, but will only be sure when Hayabusa returns to Earth in 2007.
Moon rocks have been analysed before, but asteroids could contain material from the birth of the Solar System.
Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) confirmed that Hayabusa touched down on Itokawa for a few seconds.
Touching down on the asteroid, which is 290 million km (180 million miles) from Earth, was as tough as landing a jumbo jet in the Grand Canyon, a Jaxa spokesman added.
The probe fired a small metal ball into the surface and apparently collected the resulting powdery debris.
"The process of sampling also seems to have gone very well," said Jaxa's Kiyotaka Yashiro.
Japan's Science and Technology Minister Iwao Matsuda praised the effort.
"I am delighted to hear that it has collected the samples. It is the world's first such feat and it will contribute greatly to mankind's exploration of space."
Celestial secrets
Saturday's announcement by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) came after a series of problems with the spacecraft.
Last Sunday, Hayabusa made a first touchdown on the rotating asteroid - but it failed to collect material after temporarily losing contact with Earth.
A separate attempt to land a miniature robot on the asteroid was also unsuccessful.
Hayabusa was launched in May 2003 and has until early December before it must leave orbit and begin its journey home. It is expected to return to Earth and land in the Australian outback in June 2007.
Examining asteroid samples is expected to help unlock secrets of how celestial bodies were formed because their surfaces are believed to have remained relatively unchanged over the ages, unlike those of larger bodies such the planets or moons.
Itokawa, named after the Japanese rocket scientist Hideo Itokawa, is 690m (2,300 ft) long and 300m (1,000 ft) wide and has a gravitational pull only 1/100,000th that of Earth's.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/26 10:07:10 GMT© BBC MMV

No US charges over Afghan bodies

US troops who burned the corpses of two suspected Taleban fighters killed in a gun battle in Afghanistan committed no crime, military investigators say.
The bodies were burned for reasons of hygiene, the investigation found.
Four soldiers still face disciplinary action - two for failing to show local understanding and two for using the cremation to taunt other fighters.
The inquiry began amid fears news of the act would antagonise Muslims, who regard cremation as sacrilege.
Video of the cremation shot by a journalist embedded with the US military was shown last month in Australia.
It shows the bodies being burnt on 1 October, in a location near the southern city of Kandahar, and also features insulting messages from soldiers which had been broadcast by loudspeaker to Taleban fighters in the area after the act.
However, the video has not been shown inside Afghanistan and there have been no reports of public protests.
Decomposing bodies
Speaking at a news conference in Kandahar, the US-led coalition's operational commander, Maj-Gen Jason Kamiya, said the soldiers involved had not been aware that what they were doing was wrong.
"Our investigation found there was no intent to desecrate the remains, but only to dispose of them for hygienic reasons," he was quoted by AP news agency as saying.
The temperature, he said, had been 33C and the bodies had begun to decompose.
However, two junior officers who had ordered the bodies to be burnt would be officially reprimanded for "poor judgement and lack of knowledge and respect of Afghan culture and customs".
Turning to the broadcasts, which had been directed at presumed survivors of the same gun battle thought to be sheltering in a village, Gen Kamiya said they had violated military policy.
Two non-commissioned officers would be reprimanded as a result.
Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid, also present at the news conference, said he had confidence in the US investigation.
'Lady boys'
The video was shot in the village of Gonbaz outside the southern city of Kandahar by Australian cameraman Stephen DuPont, who was embedded with a US unit, for SBS's Dateline programme.
It opens with what the programme describes as shots of an American PsyOps unit using loud pop music to try to flush out the Taleban - who banned music when they ruled the country.
Some footage shows two corpses laid out facing Mecca and then being burned in what the reporter, John Martinkus, describes as a "deliberate desecration of Muslim beliefs".
Islamic tradition states that bodies should be washed, prayed for, wrapped in white cloth and buried within 24 hours.
Later footage shows two US soldiers repeating messages broadcast by loudspeaker in which the Taleban are called "cowardly dogs" and "lady boys".
In May there were widespread demonstrations in Afghanistan resulting in the deaths of at least 15 people after Newsweek magazine reported that US forces had desecrated the Koran at the Guantanamo Bay military camp.
The magazine later printed a retraction, saying it could not prove the allegation.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/26 15:03:56 GMT© BBC MMV

Hondurans to elect new president

Voters in Honduras are preparing to elect a new president, with both leading candidates pledging to crack down on gang violence.
Porfirio Lobo of the governing National Party is facing Manuel Zelaya of the Liberals, with polls showing the two right-wingers are neck and neck.
Honduras suffers from crime, poverty, and unemployment of about 30%.
Sunday's vote is the seventh presidential election since 1981, when civilian rule was restored.
Mr Zelaya, 53, is a civil engineer and rancher who has previously served as investment minister.
Mr Lobo, 57, is a former communist who has pledged to introduce the death penalty for crimes such as sexual assault, kidnapping and murder.
Three other candidates are contesting the election, but are not expected to draw widespread support.
Gang-related crime is a key priority for both candidates.
Porfirio Lobo worked alongside current President Ricardo Madura to introduce penal code reform that has criminalised gang membership.
But there has been little let-up in the violence, with at least 45,000 gang members estimated to be operating inside Honduras.
The gangs grew out of Los Angeles and have become a fixture of life in Honduras. The most notorious group, the Mara Salvatrucha, is blamed for a bus massacre that killed 28 people in late 2004.
Election campaigning ended several days ago, but supporters of both candidates paraded through the capital, Tegucigalpa, on Saturday, in an effort to drum up support.
Cars decked out in the rival candidates' colours drove through the streets, Reuters news agency reported.
An estimated four million registered Honduran voters will also elect 298 mayors and 128 deputies to the single-chamber Congress.
Polls open at 0600 (1200 GMT) and close at 1700 (2300 GMT). Initial results are expected a few hours later.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/27 10:57:04 GMT© BBC MMV

Senegal re-arrests ex-Chad leader

The former President of Chad, Hissene Habre, has been detained again in Senegal, less than a day after being released from custody.
The interior ministry said he would be "placed at the disposition of the president of the African Union", Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo.
Mr Habre is wanted in Belgium for abuses committed under his rule.
He had been freed on Friday after a court said it did not have the power to decide whether to extradite him.
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has said he believed the case was a problem for Africans to address, and that he would raise it with the African Union.
Mr Habre - who ruled Chad between 1982 and 1990 - has lived in Senegal since he was ousted. He denies any knowledge of atrocities.
Human Rights Watch has called Mr Habre "Africa's Pinochet". His administration has been accused of murdering and torturing political opponents.
Alleged victims filed complaints under Belgium's universal jurisdiction law, which allows Brussels judges to prosecute human rights offences anywhere.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/26 13:15:01 GMT© BBC MMV

Gabon poll elects new president

him of using the nation's wealth to buy votes.
They point to the dozens of parties supporting the president. Opposition candidates also accused him of disrupting their campaigns.
Radical opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou is seen as the most serious threat to Mr Bongo.
But the BBC's Christophe Pons in Libreville says new rules introduced in 2003 could favour Mr Bongo, who is facing a fragmented opposition.
The changes removed the need for the winning candidate to get 50% of ballots cast. Whoever wins most votes on Sunday is elected.
The extensive use of high-tech advertising glorifying Mr Bongo and the absence of pro-opposition posters have illustrated the financial gap between the president and his rivals, our correspondent adds.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/27 08:34:23 GMT© BBC MMV