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Real Madrid boss has no time for honeymoon

Carlo Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti: Real Madrid boss has no time for honeymoon

So far, so good.

It’s very early days, but Carlo Ancelotti’s debut appearance as Real Madrid’s new manager on Wednesday certainly provided plenty of encouragement that he will be able to quickly dispel the dark, divisive days of Jose Mourinho‘s conflict-driven final few months in charge at the Bernabeu.

Although he was very clear in expressing his utmost respect and admiration for his predecessor, Ancelotti might as well have walked into his introductory news conference bearing an enormous neon sign that flashed the words: “I am not Jose Mourinho,” because he portrayed himself – perhaps perfectly consciously – as everything that Mourinho is not.

Whereas the outgoing Portuguese boss spent his final season in Spain barely speaking to the media – growling, snarling and sneering at them on the few occasions that he did appear – here was former Chelsea boss Ancelotti smiling, laughing, providing gentle comedy and fully answering questions with something bordering on mutual respect.

Most interestingly from a football perspective, the former Paris St-Germain boss also suggested that his arrival will herald a significant change to the team’s style of play.

Mourinho’s counter-attacking strategy, based on the twin precepts of pace and power, was at times scintillatingly effective, especially during the record-breaking title-winning campaign of 2011-12.

But it was rarely pretty to watch, and one of Ancelotti’s first comments as Madrid boss was a pledge to instil an adventurous style more in keeping with a club whose legacy includes sparkling creative talents such as Alfredo Di Stefano, Hugo Sanchez and Zinedine Zidane.

“This club’s history and tradition is to play in an attacking and spectacular style,” he said. “We’re going to work hard to play a brand of football that makes the supporters happy.”

Exciting words. However, as he acknowledged, Ancelotti’s task at Madrid will be anything but easy.

Not only does he have to overcome the domestic challenge of a Barcelona team which has just been augmented by the explosive talent of Neymar, he knows that Madrid fans and president Florentino Perez will only be satisfied if he also leads Los Blancos to their much-coveted 10th European crown.

The work will start immediately. There’s certainly no time for the Italian to enjoy a honeymoon period in his new job, and any summer holiday plans he might have harboured will now be placed on hold.

Firstly, a number of player personnel decisions need to be taken. Outstanding young midfielder Isco has already arrived from Malaga, while Gonzalo Higuain is likely to leave for Arsenal in the next few days.

Madrid’s transfer market priority is a new striker to replace departing Argentine Higuain, with Napoli’s Edinson Cavani and, more probably, Liverpool star Luis Suarez the leading candidates.

Zinedine Zidane
Zidane was one of the greats on the pitch for Real – but where does he fit in to Ancelotti’s staff?

Ancelotti does not need to make many more signings – although he may be tempted to add defensive midfield cover by returning to PSG with a bid for compatriot Marco Verratti – because the Madrid squad is already exceptionally strong and a promising batch of young players are coming through.

But there may be some departures, as last season concluded with considerable doubt over the futures of Kaka, Pepe, Jose Callejon, Fabio Coentrao and Diego Lopez, while Isco’s arrival may signal the end of Angel Di Maria’s time in Madrid.

Intriguingly, another urgent task for Ancelotti is to determine exactly how he will work with club legend Zidane, who has been firmly encouraged by admiring president Perez to step forward from his current vague ‘club ambassador’ position and adopt a far more senior role.

At first, it was thought that Zidane might become director of football with responsibility for negotiating transfers and contracts, but Ancelotti stated on Wednesday that the former France midfielder – who played under him for two seasons at Juventus – will be alongside him in the dugout as an assistant coach.

Exactly how that will work when another assistant, Englishman Paul Clement, is already in place, has not yet been clarified, and it is important for Ancelotti, Zidane and Perez to quickly agree exactly what the Frenchman will be responsible for. An active day-to-day coaching role? Strategic advisor? Liaison between manager and president? It remains to be seen.

Looming larger than any other issue, though, is the future of Cristiano Ronaldo, with the question of whether Ancelotti can work with Perez (and perhaps Zidane) to persuade the Portuguese star to sign a new contract set to dominate the headlines over the next few weeks.

If they cannot agree a new deal – and negotiations have so far been frustratingly slow – it could even make sense to sell the forward this summer while he still holds significant value in the market. Selling Cristano Ronaldo would not be among Ancelotti’s preferred first tasks with his new club, but it may become necessary.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Could Ancelotti decide to sell Cristiano Ronaldo this summer?

And then there’s the actual football. Assuming Ronaldo stays and Suarez or Cavani are snapped up, how will Ancelotti line up his galaxy of stars?

Throughout his coaching career, the Italian has shown a great deal of tactical flexibility, and consequently there’s no ‘default’ mode of play that he will look to transpose onto his new team.

But there’s little doubt that a front four of Ronaldo, Isco, Mesut Ozil and Suarez, Cavani or Karim Benzema, supported by a midfield of two from Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and Luka Modric, is a mouth-watering prospect indeed.

If Ancelotti can find a successful formula which allows his richly talented squad to gel, he could end up winning everything.

What do you think?

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Science survives latest UK spending round

Setting out a spending plan for 2015-16, the UK’s Chancellor George Osborne described investment in science as ‘an investment for the future.’ Osborne announced that the science budget will remain frozen at £4.6 billion in cash terms (a real terms cut) while the capital budget for science will be increased in real terms to £1.1 billion, and then maintained at that level ‘until the end of the decade.’

In total, the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) which funds scientific research and higher education in the UK, received a 6% cut in resource funding but a 15% increase in capital funding. As well as maintaining resource funding for science BIS will also increase resource funding for the technology strategy board by £185 million. The savings to allow for this increase in funding will come from cuts in further and higher education funding, student maintenance and further departmental efficiencies. For example, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, will be asked to save at least £45 million by ‘reprioritising’ teaching grants.

As other departments were subject to larger cuts, the news was greeted with mixed feelings by the scientific community. ‘The Chancellor was right when he said investment in science is investment in our future,’ says the Royal Society of Chemistry’s President, Professor Lesley Yellowlees. ‘Britain’s world-leading science is central to creating growth and jobs… but we need to see more comprehensive forward-thinking if we really want Britain to stay ahead in the global economic race. Over past decades our government’s investment in research and development has slid towards the bottom of the international rankings – out of our G8 competitors, only Italy spends less as a proportion of GDP.’

‘This is a real terms cut, make no mistake about that,’ says Jenny Rohn, chair of campaign group Science is Vital. While Rohn admits that compared to the cuts other government departments have suffered, BIS has fared less badly, she says the group is disappointed. Earlier this month, Science is Vital, presented a report on the legacy of the 2010 comprehensive spending review, which showed how the ring-fence had affected researchers and called for a reversal in the current decline in funding to avoid seriously damaging the UK’s research base. As inflation further reduces the research budget of researchers, she adds ‘who’s going to run the machines the capital injection buys?’

As this is an interim funding plan up to and beyond the next general election, scheduled for the 7 May 2015, Rohn says her focus now is on continuing to pressure all three main parties to commit to science rather than perpetuating a budget she views harmful. ‘There is a theoretical limit beyond which we won’t be able to recover,’ she concludes. ‘I don’t know how close to that line we are now.’

 

 

 

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Chinese supercomputer declared world’s fastest

The Tianhe-2 supercomputer, which is used for complex work such as modeling weather systems and designing jetliners.The Tianhe-2 supercomputer, which is used for complex work such as modeling weather systems and designing jetliners. (TOP500)

China has built the world’s fastest supercomputer, almost twice as fast as the previous U.S. holder and underlining the country’s rise as a science and technology powerhouse.

The semiannual TOP500 official listing of the world’s fastest supercomputers released Monday says the Tianhe-2 developed by the National University of Defense Technology in central China’s Changsha city is capable of sustained computing of 33.86 petaflops per second. That’s the equivalent of 33,860 trillion calculations per second.

The Tianhe-2, which means Milky Way-2, knocks the U.S. Department of Energy’s Titan machine off the no. 1 spot. It achieved 17.59 petaflops per second.

Supercomputers are used for complex work such as modeling weather systems, simulating nuclear explosions and designing jetliners.

It’s the second time China has been named as having built the world’s fastest supercomputer. In November 2010, the Tianhe-2’s predecessor, Tianhe-1A, had that honor before Japan’s K computer overtook it a few months later.

The Tianhe-2’s achievement shows how China is leveraging rapid economic growth and sharp increases in research spending to join the United States, Europe and Japan in the global technology elite.

“Most of the features of the system were developed in China, and they are only using Intel for the main compute part,” said TOP500 editor Jack Dongarra.

“That is, the interconnect, operating system, front-end processors and software are mainly Chinese,” said Dongarra, who toured the Tianhe-2 development facility in May.

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Parade marks Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday

Soldiers, horses parade through London to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday

LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her birthday with traditional pomp and circumstance — but without her husband by her side.

Prince Philip remains in the hospital, recovering from exploratory abdominal surgery.

The queen invited her cousin, the Duke of Kent, to accompany her in a vintage carriage. Other royals — including Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge — joined in the celebration Saturday.

More than 1,000 soldiers, horses and musicians are taking part in the parade known as “Trooping the Color,” an annual ceremony marking the queen’s official birthday.

The monarch’s actual birthday was on April 21, when she turned 87.

The ceremony originates from traditional battle preparations, when “colors,” which refer to military flags, were carried down the rank to be seen by soldiers.

Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Lost medieval city found in Cambodia

A lost medieval city that thrived on a mist-shrouded Cambodian mountain 1,200 years ago has been discovered by archaeologists using revolutionary airborne laser technology, a report said.

In what it called a world exclusive, the Sydney Morning Herald said the city, Mahendraparvata, included temples hidden by jungle for centuries, many of which have not been looted.

A journalist and photographer from the newspaper accompanied the “Indiana Jones-style” expedition, led by a French-born archaeologist, through landmine-strewn jungle in the Siem Reap region where Angkor Wat, the largest Hindi temple complex in the world, is located.

The expedition used an instrument called Lidar — light detection and ranging data — which was strapped to a helicopter that criss-crossed a mountain north of Angkor Wat for seven days, providing data that matched years of ground research by archaeologists.

It effectively peeled away the jungle canopy using billions of laser pulses, allowing archaeologists to see structures that were in perfect squares, completing a map of the city which years of painstaking ground research had been unable to achieve, the report said.

It helped reveal the city that reportedly founded the Angkor Empire in 802 AD, uncovering more than two dozen previously unrecorded temples and evidence of ancient canals, dykes and roads using satellite navigation coordinates gathered from the instrument’s data.

Jean-Baptiste Chevance, director of the Archaeology and Development Foundation in London who led the expedition, told the newspaper it was known from ancient scriptures that a great warrior, Jayavarman II, had a mountain capital, “but we didn’t know how all the dots fitted, exactly how it all came together”.

“We now know from the new data the city was for sure connected by roads, canals and dykes,” he said.

The discovery is set to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States.

Damian Evans, director of the University of Sydney’s archaeological research centre in Cambodia, which played a key part in developing the Lidar technology, said there might be important implications for today’s society.

“We see from the imagery that the landscape was completely devoid of vegetation,” Evans, a co-expedition leader, said.

“One theory we are looking at is that the severe environmental impact of deforestation and the dependence on water management led to the demise of the civilisation … perhaps it became too successful to the point of becoming unmanageable.”

The Herald said the trek to the ruins involved traversing rutted goat tracks and knee-deep bogs after travelling high into the mountains on motorbikes.

Everyone involved was sworn to secrecy until the findings were peer-reviewed.

Evans said it was not known how large Mahendraparvata was because the search had so far only covered a limited area, with more funds needed to broaden it out.

“Maybe what we see was not the central part of the city, so there is a lot of work to be done to discover the extent of this civilisation,” he said.

“We need to preserve the area because it’s the origin of our culture,” secretary of state at Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture, Chuch Phoeun, told AFP.

Angkor Wat was at one time the largest pre-industrial city in the world, and is considered one of the ancient wonders of the world.

It was constructed from the early to mid 1100s by King Suryavarman II at the height of the Khmer Empire’s political and military power.

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Obama trade dilemma: Scant support from Democrats

Obama faces stiff resistance from Democrats on proposed free-trade pacts with Europe and Asia

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is aggressively pushing an ambitious agenda to liberalize global trading.

But already political trade wars are forming, and they’re with fellow Democrats rather than with Republicans, his usual antagonists.

Obama is promoting free-trade proposals with Europe and Asia that could affect up to two-thirds of all global trade.

The ambitious deals would reduce or eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers. But there’s trouble ahead for both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — at the negotiating table and from Congress.

The deal with Europe will be a top item this coming week in Northern Ireland at the Group of Eight summit of major industrial democracies. But French and other objections have recently surfaced which could delay the planned launch of the negotiations.

The Asia pact was brought up pointedly by the new Chinese president, Xi Jinping, in his California meetings with Obama last weekend.

Republicans historically have supported free-trade agreements far more than have Democrats, and a politically weakened Obama may not have enough second-term clout to successfully twist the arms of enough Democratic lawmakers.

Some Republicans who usually vote for easing trade barriers may vote “no” just because the agreements will bear Obama’s signature.

Both deals generally have the support of U.S. businesses. But labor unions and human rights and environmental groups — core Democratic constituencies — have so far viewed them cynically.

These organizations, and Democrats in general, say that free-trade deals can cost American jobs and lead to environmental and workplace abuses that would not be tolerated in the U.S.

“We certainly have concerns,” said Celeste Drake, a trade and policy specialist at the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation. “I think Obama realizes this problem about Republicans always being the big supporters (on trade liberalization) and he would like to have our support. But overall we’re skeptical. We wish we’d see more.”

It’s not a new problem.

President Bill Clinton powered the U.S.-Mexico-Canada North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress in 1993 only by heavily courting Republicans and overcoming stiff Democratic opposition, including from House Democratic leaders and unions.

As he campaigned for president in 2008, Obama courted blue-collar votes by criticizing NAFTA. Since then, he’s changed his tune.

Obama worked to overcome Democratic resistance to win passage in 2011 of trade pacts with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, completing negotiations begun by his Republican predecessor, President George W. Bush.

The talks for a new Asia-Pacific free-trade zone came up in the Obama-Xi meetings last weekend.

At first, the deliberations involved the United States and 10 Pacific Rim nations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. More recently, Japan has sought to join the talks, drawing the keen interest of the Chinese leader. Until now, China hasn’t been included in the process.

“We have a half-a-trillion-dollar-a-year trade relationship with China,” said Tom Donilon, Obama’s national security adviser. “President Xi’s point … was that the Chinese would like to be kept informed and have some transparency into the process.”

But the possible inclusion of Japan, the third-largest economy, after the U.S. and China, generated heat from auto-state lawmakers, who criticized Japan’s efforts to restrict auto imports.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., pledged to fight ratification if Japan won’t “stop blocking American companies from its markets.”

Michael Froman, a White House international economics adviser nominated to be the next U.S. trade representative, said the auto industry concerns are “well-founded” and he suggested they would be addressed.

Backers of a sweeping U.S. trade deal with the 27 European Union countries hoped to get an enthusiastic sendoff from the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland on Monday and Tuesday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, the host, has made trade liberalization a priority, and many European nations are hoping the promise of expanded trade will help reverse Europe’s spreading recessions.

“An EU-US trade deal could add tens of billions to our economies,” Cameron told reporters. “Everything is on the table, with no exception.”

But there already are serious divisions in Europe.

Despite Cameron’s and Obama’s assertions that everything should be on the table, the European Union Parliament bowed to strong French concerns and recently voted to exclude TV, movies and other cultural “audiovisual services” from the trade talks even before formal negotiations begin next month.

France stuck to this “cultural exception” at a meeting of the EU members in Luxembourg on Friday.

Also, some members of the European Parliament are urging that data protection provisions be made a key part of the negotiations — in response to recent disclosures of widespread snooping by the U.S. intelligence community on telephone and Internet communications at home and abroad.

Other potential roadblocks include longstanding arguments over genetically engineered food and other agricultural issues, as well as “Buy American” provisions in recent U.S. legislation, climate change and a squabble over government subsidies involving plane makers Boeing in the U.S. and Airbus in Europe.

“Both sides know that they need to work very hard,” said Philipp Rosler, vice chancellor of Germany and minister of economics and technology.

“And only if the people understand that, and only if we don’t end up just having discussions on tiny details — like chickens — only then will we have the opportunity of not only negotiating, but also of concluding a good agreement,” Rosler told a conference at the Brookings Institution, a U.S. think tank.

Obama, with the backing of Michigan Rep. Dave Camp, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is also pushing for renewal of an expired law that allowed the White House to submit trade deals to Congress for a straight yes-or-no vote without amendments.

“This is a Congress that’s pro-trade. But it’s also highly polarized,” said James Thurber, a political science professor at American University. “Business has been pushing these trade deals for a long time. Labor has not. So that splits things in a difficult manner for Obama.”

“He’s got people who don’t want him to win on anything. And then he’s got some people from labor who are skeptical about expansionistic trade policies and their effect on the workforce here,” Thurber said. “So it will be tough.”

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Follow Tom Raum on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/tomraum

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