Thursday, September 20, 2007

Russian gangster brings strong arm tactics to the web; oh yea and Jose got sacked (w/ Euro power rankings)

I'm sure most everyone has heard about the sacking of the (former) Chelski boss, Jose Mourinho, and his two-headed replacement thats keeping the seat warm for Guus Hiddink (as Jose lines up for a potential job with his homelands national team) so I want to bring light to a story that might get lost in the media firestorm that has folllowed the shocking news.

Potential Arsenal suitor and convicted criminal, Alisher Usmanov, is resorting to astounding tactics on the day that Jose was sacked, thanks to his good friends at the Schillings law firm. David Warner can take it from here:
Yesterday, I suggested in this story that Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, is badmouthing Alisher Usmanov, the billionaire Russian steel magnate attempting to take over Premier League club Arsenal, because he wants to sell you a book he wrote about his experience in that former Soviet republic. It has become clear today, however, that whatever Murray is attempting to sell, Usmanov and his lawyers do not want anyone to buy it.

According to Tom Dunmore at, Craig Murray's web site was taken off line today after sustained pressure on Murray's web hosting provider from Schillings, the London law firm representing Usmanov. What's more, Schillings has also managed to put the kibosh on political site Bloggerheads three days after Tim Ireland wrote this piece on Schillings' cease & desist letters.

Web sites for English politicians Boris Johnson and Bob Piper were also taken down in part because they fell under Ireland's purview. In addition, Pitch Invasion and Arseblog have both received legal pressure from Schillings to remove any links and references to Murray and his accusations of Usmanov's criminal past.

The timing of this latest attack is quite interesting, as it all went down the same day that Chelsea sacked Jose Mourinho, all but guaranteeing that nobody in the mainstream media would be paying any attention to it. Unfortunately for Schillings, their success in taking down these web sites has resulted in this story being publicized all over the web.

Political blog Chicken Yoghurt has compiled a list of blogs that have publicized this story as a result of both Murray's site and Ireland's sites being taken down. Several dozen sites are now screaming censorship at Usmanov and Schillings for their actions, and it's hard to say they don't have a point.

It appears Schillings has fallen victim to something our pals at Techdirt like to call "The Streisand Effect." Back in 2003, Barbra Streisand sued a photographer in an attempt to remove an aerial photo of her California home from the Internet, despite the fact that the photo was part of a publicly funded coastline erosion study and wasn't even labeled as her home. As a result, photos of her house were published all over the web within days.

A similar situation happened last year to Diebold when internal memos discussing their easily hackable electronic voting machines were leaked to the web, and a group of students at Swarthmore College published the memos to the web. Diebold attempted to have the memos removed, claiming the students were committing copyright infringement. The company was successfully sued for issuing unlawful takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and forced to pay $125,000 in damages.

Interestingly enough, a blogger called Sepisticle published a takedown notice from Schillings and then removed it after Schillings claimed it was a "copyrighted letter."

Much most interesting, though, is that for all their claims that Murray is libeling their client, Schillings has not actually sued Murray for libel. They have told anyone who will listen that Murray's book, Murder at Samarkand, is defamatory against Usmanov, but it's been out for more than a year, and they have never taken any legal action against Murray. Instead, they seem more focused on getting any mention of Murray and his allegations against Usmanov removed from the web -- and as the Streisand Effect teaches us, that's pretty much impossible.

If Murray's goal was to make Usmanov look like a thug, then mission accomplished, and it may be why the remaining Arsenal board members are redoubling their efforts to prevent Usmanov from taking over the club. If Murray ever finds his way back to the Internet, this story could get even nastier. Let's just hope nobody finds any polonium-210 in their soup because of this.

Pretty amazing stuff but who can be surprised when a country has such strong libel laws that can even protect a convicted criminal.

Euro Power Rankings: (modified slightly)
1) AC Milan
2) Real Madrid
3) Arsenal
4) AS Roma
5) Liverpool
6) Bayern Munich
7) Sevilla
8) FC Barcelona
9) Manchester United
10) FC Porto

Quick Hits:


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Champions League is here! Best XI and weekend wrap up

First off -- a breakdown of Saturday and Sunday's premier league action -- and shame on the Toons for losing to cellar-dwellar's Derby - Michael Owen might have injured himself in the embarrassing result.

Here's the Best XI:
GK: Pepe Reina (Liverpool)

Stephen Kelly (Birmingham)
Kolo Toure (Arsenal)
Nemanja Vidic (Man United)

Sebastian Larsson (Birmingham)
Michael Johnson (Man City)
Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
Lee Bowyer (West Ham)

Dean Ashton (West Ham)
Kenwyne Jones (Sunderland)
Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal)

Manager: Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)

My star of the weekend was Cesc Fabregas, who was absolutley brilliant and is quickly making people forget about Thierry Henry. Here's what the Best XI article has to say about Cesc Fabregas:
Cesc Fabregas has struck an early claim for Player of the Year with his consistently superb performances for Arsenal this season. Five goals in eight games so far from midfield answers those doubts about his scoring abilities, and his thirty-yard screamer in the north London derby was as good as any of those. He also set up two for Adebayor and strolled away with another MOTM award.
Chelski is a broken egg says Jose.

A breakdown of today's beginning stage of the Champion's league:

The UEFA Champions League roars into action on Tuesday as the highly anticipated group stages begin.

Six of Tuesday's games are live on Sky Sports 2 and Sky Sports Xtra, whilst you can also now catch the action live on on your PC with our brilliant broadband service.

Liverpool, Chelsea and Celtic all get their Champions League campaigns underway on Tuesday with the three sides all dreaming of reaching this season's final in Moscow.

Holders Milan also begin the defence of their trophy with a home clash against Benfica.

Group A is Liverpool's domain and last season's finalists kick-off their assault on a sixth European crown with a tricky trip to Porto.

In the other game in the group under-performing Marseille play host to Besiktas at Stade Velodrome.

Group B sees Chelsea entertain Rosenborg at Stamford Bridge looking to finally go further than the semi-finals.

In the other game in the group Valencia travel to Germany to take on Schalke.

Nine-times winners Real Madrid go in search of a record tenth success in Group C and they get underway with a home clash with Werder Bremen, live on Sky Sports Xtra, while Olympiakos play host to Lazio in the game.

Group D sees champions Milan looking to become the first team to retain the Champions League in its current format and they get the defence of their trophy underway against Benfica.

In the other group game Celtic face a daunting trip to Ukraine to take on Shakhatr Donetsk, live on Sky Sports 2Click below for detailed previews on each game.

Group A:

Marseille v Besiktas: Marseille have never faced a Turkish team in the CL before.

Porto v Liverpool : Porto have never lost a CL home game against English sides.

Group B:

Chelsea v Rosenborg: Chelsea have kept eight clean sheets in the last 11 home CL matches.

Schalke v Valencia: Valencia have lost only once in the last seven CL away games.

Group C:

Real Madrid v Werder Bremen: Real have lost just one match at the Bernabeu in the last 21 in the competition (v Arsenal), drawing four and winning 16.

Olympiakos v Lazio: The Greek team have won just once in the last 13 CL games, against Real Madrid.

Group D:

Milan v Benfica: In the last 20 CL home games at the San Siro, Milan have won 16, drawn two and lost two.

Shakhtar v Celtic: In 13 CL away games, Celtic have lost 12 and shared the points once, against Barcelona.

I got my eyes on the Porto v. Liverpool match-up -- should be a tough challenge for Rafa's boys, while tomorrow features the intriguing match-up of Arsenal v. Sevilla.

Here are some Champions league predictions.