Monday, July 31, 2006

Finally I get to watch Liverpool in the EPL

This, my friends, is the ticket for the very first English Premier League match for the coming season – Liverpool away to Sheffield United. Match starts at 12.45pm at Bramall Lane on Aug 19.

Finally, after waiting for years and after umpteenth attempts, I get to watch Liverpool play in a competitive game. I was quite apprehensive until I got my hands on the ticket this morning. Tickets for the match were only available from today and I was at Bramall Lane just in time for the ticketing office to open.

I know that this is my best chance of watching Liverpool as they visit Sheffield (and the stadium is just 20 minutes away for me) before I head back to Malaysia for good. And after standing in the queue for about 30 minutes, I walked out with the ticket in my pocket. What a relief!

I have seen Liverpool play before, but that’s only during their Asian Tour in 2001. Apart from that, it has only been action in the telly, the internet and VCDs.

I have been to Anfield a few times. The last was in end April for Liverpool’s last home game in the last season – against Aston Villa. Didn’t get any ticket and more embarrassingly, got cheated by a tout and ended up watching the game in a pub. Still, was fortunate enough to soak in the entire match day atmosphere.

I have however watched a match in Anfield – when England played Uruguay in a friendly just last March. I was at the Kop stand, surrounded by more Liverpool supporters than England fans. They were singing Liverpool songs and cheering loudest when the Liverpool boys got the ball.

In 1999, in my very first visit to Anfield, we were offered match day tickets for the next home game against Southampton, which was two days away. The ticket was priced £20 but we declined as it meant we had to travel all the way to Liverpool from Stoke once again. That was one decision which I still regret as Liverpool went on to thrash Southampton 7-0 that day.

After that, in all my subsequent visits to Anfield, I had failed to get any tickets. So after years of waiting, you would understand my joy and relief in getting one today.

This almost completes a cycle – an almost maddening passion – to see Liverpool live in action. I said almost because now my next aim is to get that ticket at Anfield and watch them play at home.

Wanna be happy? Go to Denmark

It’s official then. Nothing is rotten is Denmark. As a Reuters report says, Denmark is the happiest country in the world. If you're looking for happiness, then go and live in Denmark.

A study by a don from Leicester University found Switzerland, Austria, Iceland and the Bahamas just behind Denmark as the land of happiness.

And the dubious honour of being the most unhappy country in the world goes to Burundi, followed closely by Zimbabwe and Congo.

Health, wealth and education apparently were the main factors that affected happiness.

What do you know? I thought one would be happy where home is, but that is only for romantics. In reality, I do think political stability is also a major factor.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Video: No seatbelt, No excuse

“They say the guy without the seatbelt did the damage.”

This is a cool video clip of an advertisement asking people to wear seatbelts. It drives home the message about the importance of seatbelts.

Enjoy the clip.

(Click the play button and wait for the video to download, buffer and start playing).

Friday, July 28, 2006

It could be anyone, Mahathir has many enemies

This is something I never thought will happen in Malaysia – someone had the cheeks and guts to attack former premier Dr Mahathir with a pepper spray.

Okay, the closest before this was when he was attacked with bottles the night he dismissed Anwar at the Umno meeting in KL in 1998.

Mahathir has made many enemies – both during and after his tenure as the prime minister. More recently he had irked the government by constantly criticizing it. He had been very vocal in criticizing PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s policies and the manner in which the government has been influenced by outsiders (especially by Abdullah’s circle of advisors).

Whatever the assailant(s) wanted to achieve, Mahathir is not taking this sitting down. He immediately launched another attack on Abdullah. This is what he told Bernama:

“But today, the leadership is what is wrong. There are evidence in the newspapers (that the prime minister gave contracts to his family members)…for example Scomi (owned by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s son Kamaluddin) gets contracts. ECM-Libra (linked to Abdullah’s son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin). The finance minister (Abdullah) should not give things to his son-in-law. I was the prime minister for the country not for my family.”

It was to take this campaign of opposition that saw Mahathir flying to Kelantan today and as soon as he landed to a waiting crowd of about 2,000 people, he was attacked.

Who did it, no one knows. No one has claimed responsibility for now. The police say they know the identity of the assailant and is expecting an imminent arrest. Abdullah says he is very angry and promises stern action.

As I mentioned earlier, Mahathir has many enemies – old and new. In Kelantan itself, the possibilities are aplenty – PAS fanatics, supporters of Tengku Razaleigh, young and fiery Umno members, human rights activists, ISA detainees, and so on. The list is endless.

The irony of it all is that during Mahathir’s rule, the police had used this mace indiscriminately to disperse protesting crowds. Many had complained of being directly hit by the chemical-laced mace, complaining of itchy eyes, sore throats and burning skin.

Today, Mahathir felt the same pain these protesters had felt. He has been claiming that he wants answers from Abdullah’s government because the public must know how the government is being run.

After today, Mahathir has just made a step closer to be a member of the disfranchised public.

What do you make of these signs?

Now, now, don’t get dirty thoughts okay. These are genuine signs, from a tube in Japan. Let me decipher these signs for those ignorant souls out there.

From left to right:

1. Person with injured arm
2. Person holding a child
3. Pregnant woman
4. Person with injured leg

There you see. Nothing bad about them. It’s all in the mind, huh?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Let them learn the hard way

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said:

“I don't intend on announcing an end to the operation. They (Hizbullah) will figure it out on their own, the hard way.”

He is also reported to have said:

“We want to stop the operation as fast as possible, but we will not conclude it until we achieve the results which would justify the price we have paid and which would prevent us paying a price which we cannot pay.”

Of course he would continue the war. After all he has the backing of the world. His Justice Minister Haim Ramon said:

"We received yesterday at the Rome conference permission from the world... to continue the operation."

But the good news is that Israel won’t expand its military offensive in Lebanon, although it will send in additional troops to bolster its fight against Hizbullah.

So far, this war which started on July 12, has killed hundreds and displaced thousands, especially in Lebanon where at least 401 people - mostly civilians - have been killed in Israeli strikes.

As for the Israeli casualties, the death toll from Hizbullah rockets striking Israel and the fighting in southern Lebanon stands at 50, 19 of them civilians, and this includes the loss of nine soldiers yesterday – their single largest loss of life in this conflict.

And now we have al-Qaeda's No 2 Ayman al-Zawahri saying:

“How can we remain silent while watching bombs raining on our people. Oh Muslims everywhere, I call on you to fight and become martyrs in the war against the Zionists and the Crusaders… The war with Israel does not depend on ceasefires ... It is a Jihad for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails ... From Spain to Iraq.”

Now it all gets interesting. All the potent mixtures are in it now. The question now is:
“WHO is going to learn the hard way?”

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Senegalese, an England jersey and a French passport

We all know about the long history of enmity between the French and the English. Their antagonism transcends all areas – politics, culture, economy, social and sports.

As such, it is common for the Brits to thrash the French haughtiness, just as the retorts from the other side on the British food.

And when it comes to sports, especially football, there is no higher insult in one fan to be seen in the jersey of the other nation. This is the unwritten rule agreed and adhered by fans in both countries.

Everyone knows this…well almost everyone until now!

On Monday, a Senegalese man attempted to enter Cyprus on a forged French passport but was caught at the checkpoint. What gave him away? Simple, he was wearing an England jersey and had a French passport.

A football-wary immigration official found this to be a highly unlikely combination, became very suspicious and had a closer look on the passport, which turned out to be a fake.

Reuters quoted a police official as saying:

"Being a football fan, the officer found it highly unlikely that a Frenchman would want to wear an England football jersey."

There is a lesson in here for all potential illegal immigrants – learn everything about the country you wish to end up in.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The biggest disaster to have hit us all

I came across this video grab from Sky News and found the text quite amusing. Was someone at the TV station trying to be cheeky with the wordings?

However, after seeing what the president has done and said all this while, it is no wonder that many would feel he IS the worst disaster to have hit not just America, but the world as well.

And he continues his disastrous leadership by totally underplaying the Israeli shelling of Palestine and Lebanon in the past two weeks.

No doubt he finally sends his Secretary of State to talk truce but who is going to listen to her now? Not the Palestinians or the Hizbullah. By the way the Israelis have been acting with impunity in indiscriminate rocket attacks, one just wonder how much of tacit support they have already garnered from White House prior to this.

More disappointingly, Bush had not helped to ease the situation at all. As a leader of a super power, he should not have waited two weeks before trying to propose a ceasefire plan now.

As I see it, Condoleezza Rice’s truce plans will not work. Why? Because her president has prejudiced it by openly proclaiming the guilt of Hizbullah even when the rest of the world know that both Israel and Hizbullah are jointly to be blamed for the human tragedy that is happening in the Middle East now.

On July 17, while attending the G8 summit in Russia, Bush was caught on the mike telling Blair: "See, the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbullah to stop doing this shit, and it's over". (Watch the video clip here)

Getting Hizbullah to stop this s**t? Hello? How about getting Israel to stop their s**t too Mr President. Look at the latest civilian body count – more people have been killed, displaced and terrorized in Lebanon than in Israel.

After days of continued bombing, apparently Lebanon has been pushed back 20 years in terms of development.

And now he sends his Secretary of State to talk peace. Maybe after all the damage that has been done, perhaps Israel will be ready to talk ceasefire. Who knows, that could be the master plan all along.

New Miss Universe came, conquered and collapsed

It took just 40 minutes for 18-year-old Zuleyka Rivera Mendoza to make her impact as the new Miss Universe – she collapsed and fainted during a post-pageant news conference!

So instead of her crowning glory being beamed across the world, it was the Puerto Ricon’s moment of embarrassment that went around the globe.

She will not like it at all – all the news articles, photographs, broadcasts and blog entries. From now until her reign comes to an end next year, all her interviews will be spiced with a question about ‘that’ moment. All articles will have a mention of her defining winning night.

So what caused her to collapse then? According to the pageant officials, these are the reasons –
  • It’s very hot up here
  • Her dress is tight
  • She had plenty to eat today

My first thought – was her dress tight as a reason of her eating a lot that night? And then this struck my mind - a Miss Universe contestant gorging herself with food? Both seem implausible.

Maybe she was just too tired and the ecstasy of winning took a toll on her. This is what I will advise her if I were her PR team. Anyway, let’s wait and see which of these reasons will be Ms Mendoza official excuse.

Reuters reported the precise moment our beauty queen hit the deck. It said:

“Having lingered on stage, Mendoza was leaning on some assistants when her face fell to her chest, her new tiara atop her head. Tottering on high, spiky heels, she appeared to lean in this fashion for about 10 seconds and, at 8:38 p.m., collapsed in the arms of pageant assistants.”

With my limited knowledge of photoshop, I have compiled some photos of our fainting damsel - from the moment she gets her crown right up to the collapsing. Enjoy it! (Or click on the image for more photos).

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The brothers of Taliban are back

The photo above is something from the past in Afghanistan. It shows the Taliban giving a public beating to a group of women to enforce Islamic restrictions. During their ruthless rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban’s Ministry of Vice was in charge of ensuring that women and men strictly adhered to Taliban’s religious edicts.

As such, it was common to see public beatings and imprisonment for women who wore white shoes or heels that clicked; using lipstick; or going outside unaccompanied by a close male relative. Women were also forced to wear burqa, banned from educating their daughters in home-based schools as well as working or begging. In essence, women were treated as a second-hand property that could be moved about, not as an equal fellow human being.

When America waged a war against Afghanistan in 2001, the repression of women was one of the main planks of the war justification. Western leaders (and their spouses) spoke about the need to liberate Afghan women, allowing them to be educated, independent and unoppressed.

For awhile, after the easy war victory and the establishment of a US-backed liberal government, everyone thought times will be different for the women of Afghanistan. However six years after the US invasion, we still hear about Taliban exerting some form of influence in parts of Afghanistan, waging battles with government and international troops.

The government led by Hamid Karzai still looks as though it is yet to be the sole political power in that country. And this is evident in what appears to be a move by the government to portray itself as a fundamental Islamist – perhaps to allay the increasing influence of the Taliban.

As such, the government now proposes to set up a Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice – ala the Taliban Ministry of Vice. The government says this new department will “work on promoting morality in society as exists in any other Islamic country”.

Women and human rights activists however beg to differ. For them, this new department brings dark memories of the past and they fear the return of the much dreaded religious police who patrol the streets, dishing out punishments on women who don’t comply with the pre-determined morality as envisaged by the government.

The Times of London today said:

“Nematullah Shahrani, the religious affairs minister who will oversee the department, claims it will focus on alcohol, drugs, crime and corruption. But critics point out that Afghanistan’s criminal laws already address these issues and say that once the department has been re-established, it will be easy to misuse.”

One outspoken critic is MP Malalai Joya, one of 68 women MPs in Afghanistan. She feels nothing has changed for the betterment of women in her country.

“The situation for women in Afghanistan has not improved…people in the outside world say Afghan women don’t have to wear burqas any more and yes, it’s true that in some provinces like Kabul, Jalalabad and Herat, women can go outside without a burqa. But more and more women are wearing burqas because of the lack of security. Look at the high rate of suicide among our women — Afghan women prefer to die than live because there is no security.”

And her damning verdict indicates that the Amercian venture to liberalise Afghanistan is in the process of collapsing, big time. She added:

“In my opinion what we have in power under the mask of democracy are the brothers of Taliban — fundamentalists, warlords and drug lords. Our country is under the shadow of their black hands. They are against women and re-creating the [department] is proof of this.”

Given to how things are shaping in that country at the moment, it is easy to understand why there are worries that scenes like the photo above will once again come back to haunt them.

  1. Read the Times of London article here.
  2. To find out more about the plight of Afghan women, visit Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA).

A protest that looked more like a carnival

Finally it rained today in Sheffield. What a welcome relief after days of sweltering heat. Went to the city centre in the morning and stumbled across an anti-war protest. Organised by the socialist groups along with the British Muslim associations, the protest was against Israeli incursions and bombings in Palestine and Lebanon.

It was an orderly protest – with about 250 people of all faiths gathering in front of the old town hall in the city square. There were many placards, mostly calling Israel all sorts of names. There were also the customary speeches by the organizers and the normal anti- Bush/Blair chants.

Then the crowd of gathered protesters went for a small march around the city centre, making much racket, accompanied by a small band of drummers. It was an exciting procession, to say the least.

I stood in one corner, getting wet in the drizzle, observing it all and noticing that the small presence of police was almost unnoticeable. They were there – about four to five coppers, all uniformed and unarmed, but they too were just standing quietly in one corner, observing everything. Some were even chatting with the protesters.

I was immediately taken back to the situation back in Malaysia where in any form of protests, we tend to get more cops than protesters. They will all be armed to teeth, some mingling along the crowd, acting as agent provocateurs. And of course, there will be the omni-presence of water canons and helicopters.

I suppose the tolerance comes as the society progresses. Either that or it just depends on how democratic a country is in allowing a free exchange of opinions.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

India waging a wrong war over internet

China does it often. So does Belarus, Uzbekistan, Iran, Pakistan, Burma and a host of other authoritarian nations. Now we have a new member to this club – India.

We are talking about governments that censor the internet – in this case, banning the blogs and websites.

Following the aftermath of the recent Mumbai bomb blasts, the Indian government has instructed its Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block a handful of sites which host blogs, including the popular Blogspot, Typepad and Yahoo Geocities. However overzealous officials have hit a blanket ban on over millions of blogs in India.

There is confusion here. ZDNet India said that Indian government officials have reportedly admitted to ordering three or four sites that host blogs to be blocked. However bloggers believe as many as 22 sites are being blocked.

As a result of this, a massive debate on internet censorship in India has arisen. Some bloggers have threatened to sue the government while other resourceful ones have quickly found ways to beat the ban.

After days of uncertainty, the government – through its Ministry of Communications and Information Technology – finally clarified the ban. On Thursday, all ISPs were ordered to lift the blanket ban and “provide unhindered access to internet except for the websites/webpages which have been specifically mentioned in its orders issued from time to time”.

Perhaps the government should also consider some form of action against these incompetent ISPs who were just supposed to block 20 blogs, and not the entire domain.

Anyway, the government clarification is good. Now Indian bloggers are once again free to express their thoughts in the cyberspace without fear or favour, except for a handful of miscreants who use their blogs to communicate messages of destruction.

But hang on. For me this is where the real issue starts. India, being a model democratic nation, is surely not worried about a bunch of yahoos trying to pass their terror aspirations online.

As an Indian journalist had mentioned, how can these 20 ‘offending’ blogs affect the sovereignty and integrity of India? I would have thought that any government would have loved to monitor such blogs (or websites) to keep track the minds of these people rather than closing down these channels and fumble in the dark for intelligence.

The list of the banned blogs and websites are mentioned here, along with an authorization letter from the Indian government.

The list includes a Hindu unity site, a human rights site and what appears to be a Japanese site! Even more mystifying is that one banned blog is actually a site where people can go for information after the blasts. Now this banned site – Mumbai Help – has moved to another server and is functioning as usual. I just wonder how effective the ban is in the first place.

This episode just goes to show that knee jerk reactions by any government are bad. The Americans did it by waging war against terrorism (and Afghanistan and Iraq). The Indians haven’t been that bad, but still they are, for the moment, waging a war against freedom of expression.

Blogger Ravish summed up the situation neatly. He said:

"Governments of other countries are offering free municipal wi-fi Internet access, our great nation is still struggling to provide basic facilities like power and water... bloggers are already affected by massive power cuts... now [the] government is trying to kick them with the ban?"

Friday, July 21, 2006

French agenda illuminate in FIFA decision

Sometimes I get the feeling that the world football organization FIFA is too caught up being politically correct in everything they do. The examples are endless – third class referees in first class matches is just one glaring example.

But I think their handling of the Zidane-Materazzi matter takes it to a new level. We all saw what happened at the finals on July 9. Zinadine Zidane butted onto Materazzi’s chest and was rightfully sent off for that offence.

At that time,and even now, Zidane’s behaviour was/is repulsive. You don’t except one of the best players of all time, playing his last international game, possibly on the verge of winning the World Cup, to just lose his temper and charge an opponent as he did. Anyway, this is Zidane, after all he had 14 red cards throughout his career and we should not hold this petulant behaviour against the master. That’s my feeling on this matter.

However to my surprise the matter did not end there. Zidane, despite winning the best player of the tournament award, wanted to take it further – perhaps with a hope that he can retire with his reputation unsoiled. So out went his PR department to work overtime. First came the excuses – that Materazzi had provoked and insulted Zidane’s mother and sister. Allegations of racism, religious hatred and stereotyping were bandied about.

Zidane went live on French TV that as a man he was duty bound to protect his honour, but he did not reveal what exactly Materrazi had said. He did not apologise for his rash reaction, but said he was sorry that millions of kids had to see him to it.

Poor Materazzi, A World Cup winner, scored a goal in the final, but people were talking about his provocation of Zidane. How things have changed. As a defender, he was doing what he is supposed to do. He did not assault Zidane but he was now being tried by the media. He tried defending himself by saying that he had not used any of the derogatory terms he is accused of using against Zidane.

What happened next? FIFA swings into action. It conducts a disciplinary hearing and finally does its part to put an end to this sad saga by banning Zidane for three games and Materazzi for two games. Both players were also fined.

Fine, it is their right to punish players who disrepute the game. But this punishment has some flaws in them:

One, Zidane is officially retired and will not miss anything from not playing the three games. As for Materazzi, Italy will lose his services in their opening two Euro 2008 qualifiers - against Lithuania on Sept. 2 and ironically against France on Sept. 6.

Does this mean that the FIFA decision has a favourable outcome for the French FA in the end? If the whole FIFA hearing was a result of the French media pressure, then, is FIFA complicit to the national French agenda?

It doesn’t matter if Zidane is allowed to substitute his ban with three days of community service with children as part of FIFA's humanitarian projects. If FIFA wants to play fair, then Materazzi too should have his ban suspended.

This, then brings us to the second point.

Is this a precedent now that all acts of provocation by players must be punished? If so, how will the process of punishment go? Will the referees in the field decide on the punishment, or will an after-match disciplinary panel decide upon it?

You see where this is heading right? By stepping into this matter, FIFA has just taken away the discretionary right inherent to the referees to decide on the spot. THAT was one aspect of the game which kept the game entertaining and beautiful. We do not want to see a regimented football match.

I do not condone provocations at all but it has become part of the game. It is the physiological advantage the players play for. Everyone does it, even Zidane.

For FIFA to suddenly start inquiring into this is worrying indeed. Did they do it just because Zidane was involved? If yes, FIFA should know no player is above the game. They have also punished Materazzi but it looks as though now the provoker faces a higher punishment than the actual offender.

If FIFA wants to be seen being fair, it should revoke Zidane’s Golden Ball award now, as after all it was his head which landed in Materazzi’s chest. This will also mean the award can be given to other deserving player who did not lose any temper and played football as it should be played. My vote goes for Fabio Cannavaro of Italy.

Google ad backfires in Daily Telegraph

Check out this insensitive advertisement in the London's Daily Telegraph - not one to have when the situation in Beirut is so bad that governments have to evacuate their citizens.

Click on the photo for a bigger image.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Is that English they speak in Bolton?

This is a funny tale really. Actually a funny tall tale. Why did Dietmar Hamann cancel his agreement with Bolton and moved to Manchester City?

Was it because:
A. his wife didn’t like Bolton
B. Manchester City offered him more money
C. he didn’t understand the English they speak at Bolton

All this while, I thought it was A and B. Today however The Sun tabloid gave us the real reason – C!

The tabloid said that Hamann was shocked to discover that he could hardly understand a word any of the locals were saying – and he discovered this while ordering takeaway burgers from a McDonalds in Bolton.

There we have it then – the real reason for Hamann ditching Bolton. If you believe this tale, then also believe that it has nothing to do with the fact that at Manchester City, Hamann will be getting a two-year deal. Bolton offered only one. No wonder Bolton is livid.

As for me, I find it hard to believe. As a Liverpool fan, I have seen and read countless interviews from other Liverpool players that Hamann speaks decent English but with a heavy Scouse accent.

And now he finds that Bolton, only 36 miles northeast from Liverpool, has a difficult accent? If that is the case, how will he cope with the Mancunians just 34 miles to the east? Mind you, Bolton and Manchester are just 15 miles apart.

A good player, no doubt, but looks likes he had a bad PR advice.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It’s so, so hot in the UK

It’s so, so hot here in Sheffield. We have been suffering this heatwave for sometime now. The temperatures are soaring and today, it is just unbearable. I haven’t felt this dehydrated even in the KL sun!

This will give you some sense of perspective of the dry heat we are suffering at the moment - the roads in the UK are melting under this burning sun!

So what do you do to overcome this hot summer day? Take in lots of liquid, bath regularly, be in your shorts, eat loads of ice cream and just chill out. But believe me, nothing works. It is just too hot. Today, Sheffield was boiling at 29 degree C.

For the Brits, the rising degree means they need not go overseas looking for sun during this summer. In fact, I have a bunch of girls next door enjoying their sun baths on daily basis. I just hope they don’t get over-burned, or more dangerously, they don’t get killed by the heat.

And if you thought today is bad, forecasters are predicting an even hotter day tomorrow. The BBC reported:

"BBC forecasters in Yorkshire said the county reached its highest July temperature ever with 32C (90F) at Linton-on-Ouse, while forecasters in the West of England said the region could have its hottest July day for more than 100 years on Wednesday."

How I wish I was back home, enjoying a cool beach holiday in one of the islands.

Monday, July 17, 2006

UK knife amnesty nets rocket launcher

With knife-crimes becoming rampant in the UK – we were hearing of someone, or more, being knifed on a daily basis – the police here decided to offer a knife amnesty as a measure to cut the number of these crimes.

Thus at the end of a 35-day amnesty, a total of 89,864 blades were collected in many of the amnesty blade boxes all across England and Wales. In Scotland, a further 12,645 were handed in.

Even as the amnesty was on offer, the police recorded 91 serious knife attacks including 19 fatal stabbings in the five weeks.

Out of the thousands of knives taken off the streets, one stood out. It was not a knife but still a dangerous weapon indeed. You see, one bloke had turned in an anti-armour rocket launcher!

What do you say this? As one British media commentator asked – did he think that was a knife? Or has it become so easy that anyone can now walk around Britain carrying a rocket launcher?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Israeli reprisals and Hizbullah instigations

The ongoing battle between Israel and Hizbullah has caused a severe concern around the world with many people wondering if the continuing bombardments on either side of the border will escalate into a full blown war.

And as Israel steps up the assaults, the death toll rises. The G8 meeting begun in Russia with its members divided over the issue – US and Britain standing firmly behind Israel while France and the rest of EU telling Israel to back off. In the middle east, nervy neighbours are condemning the Israeli attacks.

I just came across this MSNBC.Com website which has a list of world reaction to the crisis, looking at editorials from newspapers around the world.

A little sample here:

Gulf News (UAE) - "The bullying reaction of Israel in Lebanon in retaliation to a brazen operation by the Hezbollah fighters shows the Hebrew state still thinks in the same old way: flexing its mighty muscles to spread more destruction and casualties to squash resistance."

The Washington Post (US) - "Hezbollah and its backers have instigated the current fighting and should be held responsible for the consequences."

The Age (Australia) - "We argued earlier this year that Hamas must recognize the state of Israel and renounce terrorism, and that Israel must also recognize the Palestinian right to a viable state. Brutalizing each other and negotiating through sheer force of terror, on both sides, is not the way forward to that recognition."

The Financial Times (UK) - "Israel's reprisals this time are disproportionate, illegitimate under international rules that outlaw the collective punishment of entire populations and have already resulted in heavy loss of civilian life, especially of children."

Read more on the editorials here.

'This is not just an Israeli problem'

This is an excerpt of an interview by Newsweek with Uzi Arad, a former Mossad official and adviser to Israel’s right-wing former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Does Israel have the resources and public support to wage war on two fronts—or maybe more?

"Israel has no choice. It has to do whatever it can. It does have the resources. But this is a larger struggle than Israel's alone. The threat that Syria poses, or the threat that Iran poses, to the region and the activation of these groups is a regional, global threat. To cope with that global threat, we have international efforts now under way—be it at the G8, when it comes to containing Iran's march to nuclear capabilities, or Syria, which defiantly acted in a catastrophic way both in Lebanon and with Saddam. These are regional and international problems."

Read the full interview here.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The cycle of match fixing in Italy

So there we have it now. Juventus relegated to Serie B and must start next season with a 30-point deficit. Not only that, they have also been stripped of their last two league titles.

The other clubs involved in the match fixing scandal – Fiorentina, Lazio and AC Milan also faced punishments. Fiorentina relegated to Serie B with a 12-point deficit while Lazio, similarly down to Serie B, with seven-point deficit.

AC Milan compared better than the rest – they get to stay in Serie A but begin next season with a 15-point deficit. They were also docked 44 points from last season's total.

In all it is an expensive and painful lesson for all the clubs involved. I suppose the hardest hit is Juventus. With the 30-point deduction, it is hard to see them back in the top league for another two years, and add a further year before the possibility of seeing them in the Champions League. Surely most of their big name players - many from the World Cup winning team - will be looking to ditch the sinking ship.

Similarly, I don’t see how AC Milan can be back in the Champions League next season, but at least they are still in Serie A, meaning they can still hold on to their big players

The Champions League will miss these two powerhouses but still I suppose their punishment is warranted. I don’t understand the need for Juventus to fix their matches, especially with the array of talents they have at their disposal. Now all their victories come into question, wonderful performances by their players become meaningless.

However my biggest concern is whether this latest round of punishment will banish the match fixing attitude once and for all in the Italian league.

Remember, the last match-fixing scandal involving the Italian football happened in 1980. Then, both Milan and Lazio were relegated and several players suspended. In recent years, we have had few other teams relegated for ‘financial irregularities’.

Going by this trend, there is nothing to be surprised if, say Juventus or even Milan, are relegated again for match fixing in about 20 years time.

In the meantime, another club will try to take the rein from Juventus to be the grandmaster of Italian football. Lets hope they do it by playing good football and without seeking any outside help.

Scooped Brit tabloids making the ‘right’ noise

The British media today slammed an Italian magazine for publishing a photo showing Princess Diana’s last moments.

The Italian magazine Chi printed a black-and-white shot of the princess receiving oxygen in the wreckage of the car crash that killed her.

One British tabloid – The Sun - responded by saying “Shame on you”, while another – The Mirror - vowed not to reprint the “grotesque” image.

Interestingly both these red tops had the same image reprinted in their editions today– The Sun had it in its front page – but with Diana’s face covered. What difference does that make?

Isn’t it as appalling and disgusting to Diana’s family members as what was done by the Italian magazine?

Anyway, this incident reminds me of what I had read in Piers Morgan’s The Insider, the autobiography by the former Mirror editor. He recounted an incident just after the Diana accident when some exclusive photos were printed in newspapers in mainland Europe. The British tabloids as usual made much noise about protecting Diana’s and her family’s privacy and condemned the publications.

But then, according to Morgan, these dailies were in actual fact angry because they had missed the chance to print the photographs in their dailies!

Coming back to today’s media anger, how much of it is caused by missing the chance of getting their hands first on that last photo?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Girls, put on your pants please

Wear nice pants of you are about to get drunk while out on a booze session with your friends. And yes, this only applies if you are a girl.

This is indeed a neat piece of advice from the police in England to all the party girls out there.

Why pants? Because, if you are too drunk and fall down, no one will then see your unexposed parts.

A Suffolk police safety campaign, as carried by a girly magazine, says:

"If you fall over or pass out, remember your skirt or dress may ride up. You could show off more than you intended - for all our sakes, please make sure you're wearing nice pants and that you've recently had a wax."

What logic is this? Are the police putting more attention to the modesty of these girls than their drunken behaviour? I live in a university city in England and I know how these drunken girls behave – they become loud, rude and start bullying people and totally don’t care what’s happening around them. Is that behaviour okay then?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

7 bombs, 10 minutes, 160 dead

7 bombs, 10 minutes, 160 dead – this was one of the headlines in the Times of London on the bomb blasts at commuter trains and stations yesterday.

It only took 10 minutes of carnage for the unknown perpetrators to get their wishes – however bloody they may be. But why must they continue to kill soft targets? These commuters had nothing to do with their (whoever the perpetrators are) cause, neither are they a hindrance. The victims are normal folks who were returning home after a long days work. Their aim in live is the same as everyone’s – to feed their families.

It is not just in Mumbai innocents are targeted. About a year ago, morning-hour commuters were also the mark of suicide bombers in London. Just before that in 2004 it was the same case in Madrid.

Inevitably blame will fall on – just as responsibility will be taken by – Muslim terrorists. I don’t know if Osama’s al-Qaeda is involved in the Mumbai blasts. After all India has it own share of local terrorism problems. said this:

“India is home to a Muslim insurgency in Kashmir…security sources told TIME they suspected a shadowy alliance of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) working with indigenous Indian Muslims from the banned Student Islamic Movemement of India (SIMI). SIMI detonated a total of nine bombs in Bombay during the course of 2003, killing close to 80 people and injuring hundreds more. The same loose grouping of Islamic radicals are also suspected of being behind a series of attacks in India in the last year that included three blasts in New Delhi last October that killed 60 and three more in the holy Hindu city of Varanasi in March this year, which killed 20, as well as smaller attacks in Bangalore and Hyderabad.”

For the perpetrators, the loss of innocent lives seems to be secondary. Their main aim looks like to instill fear into everyone. Will this work? Recent bombings everywhere in the world suggest that this is a counter-productive measure.

Even in Mumbai, just as everyone was trying to come to terms with the latest bombings, an angry defiance is also taking root.

The Times reported one survivor as saying:

“When they find those responsible, they shouldn’t have trials or anything. They should just shoot them on these tracks.”

From tortured illegal combatants to PoW with rights

Alleged terrorists in the US custody can now breathe a huge sigh of relief for they are no longer considered as illegal combatants but as prisoners of war. This new status would mean they will be entitled to the protections accorded by the Geneva conventions.

This massive change in the US policy would assure that these detainees are treated in compliance with the minimum standards spelled out in the Geneva conventions.

This would mean that these detainees – held either in US holding facility in Guantanamo Bay or in the unknown cells of allied countries – can now have a proper trial to determine their participation in acts of terrorism. More importantly, it would also mean that there should be no more tortures and renditions (read: flying detainees to friendly countries to be tortured for information).

In 2002, the US government termed all those detained in Afghanistan, and subsequently in Iraq and elsewhere in the world in the war against terrorism, as illegal combatants as they were carrying out an illegal act of war against the US.

These detainees were held without trials, or put up on military tribunals without any rights of a defendant. All terrorism suspects arrested anywhere in the world were taken into US custody, where it has been alleged that these detainees were tortured and held under duress.

The US government’s change in policy is due to a Supreme Court ruling which said that the Geneva conventions applied to these terror suspects.

The New York Times reported that:

“The main thrust of the recent Supreme Court ruling, in a case known as Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, was that the administration had exceeded its authority by creating a system of tribunals without the approval of Congress. But the court also declared that the suspects fell under Article 3, which applies to all “armed combatants”, and that detainees were able to assert their rights under Article 3 in federal court.”

Although the US government has said that it will comply with the ruling, no details are given as to when it will do so.

I hope the change in the policy will see more detainees taking up the matter to the court to challenge their detention. In that case, the US authorities will have to show tangible evidence that these detainees are actually dangerous to us.

It will also be a lesson to all governments who hide under oppressive laws and turn a blind eye to the rules of law.

Monday, July 10, 2006

What did the voice in the head said to Zidane?

Zinadine Zidane came out of international football retirement to help France qualify to the World Cup. Until his reappearance, French were heading nowhere in their qualifying group. Suddenly the magic of Zidane embraced the team and they made it to the finals in Germany.

In Germany, they were unimpressive in the first round, even with Zidane in their first two opening matches. Two yellow cards meant the French will have to play their final match against Togo without Zidane, needing a win to proceed further. They did it by winning 2-0 and all players dedicated that victory to their talisman Zidane.

You see, Zidane is the heartbeat of this French team. Defender Thuram says that whenever the French players don’t know what to do with the ball, the pass it to Zidane.

He has done it all before. In 1998, he was instrumental in winning the World Cup for France for the first time. His contribution was massive and he became a national hero after that.

Once again, Zidane started to show his class and worth to the French side. In the second round match against the high flying Spain, which France won 3-1, Zidane was back at his best, scoring a wonderful individual goal in the final minutes.

More was to come from the magician in the quarterfinal match against Brazil. No one gave France a chance but Zidane apparently had other thoughts. He single-handedly destroyed Brazil and sent them packing home. He was an absolute joy to watch in the midfield. All French passing went through him and he was so magnificent in his game that night. He was a ballet performer on a football pitch. (Video below)

Against Portugal in the semifinal, again Zidane was the focal point of the French team. He played his socks off in ensuring a victory for his team, courtesy of a well-taken penalty from him.

The final against Italy was to be his swansong. He is sure to retire and what a way it will be if he helps France lift the trophy again. No one thought France will be at this stage, let alone winning the World Cup, but Zidane likes to write his own script.

He almost did it superbly until the 111th minute of the final. He scored a cheeky penalty to give France the lead. It takes ultimate composure to dink the ball as he did in the penalty. If he had missed, he would have been ridiculed. But then, this is Zidane we are talking about. (See video)

He pushed his teammates to keep attacking, and when that failed, he himself took the lead, feeding the ball to Ribery and then finding himself at the end of the cross. And what a superb header from him that brought out a world class reflex safe from Buffon.

With about 15 minutes remaining in the extra period of the World Cup, you would have thought Zidane’s script will see him score a winning goal, failing which, he will still lead his teammates to score a penalty kick each and lift the trophy. After that he could go into retirement with all accolades pouring in for his genius.

However, I think for the first time in this tournament, Zidane misread the script. No one knows what went on in his head which led him to head butt the Italian defender.

He could have been provoked, which is usual in football and he should be used to that, but still he should not have lost his marbles to commit that ugly foul. It was a straight red card, no doubt.

So in the end, our memory of Zidane might just be the ramming of his head onto Materazzi’s chest although he was declared as the player of the tournament.

Why did he do it? Only he can tell us. When he emerged from his retirement, Zidane said that a voice in his head told him to start playing international football again. Last night, the voice betrayed him.

Below is a video of Zidane’s moment of madness.

Italy – the new world champions

Who would have thought that the Italians will win the World Cup? They did tonight, and I think they thoroughly deserve it. They were the most consistent team in the tournament from the first match.

Unlike the Italian teams of the past, this team showed more flair than just relying on their defending strength. And tonight against France, when they needed it most, they showed us again, how to defend properly.

No doubt the attacking flair was missing today. In fact Italy’s skilful playmaker Totti was totally out of the game. And what we saw was the tenacious defending passed on from past masters to the current crop.

Fabio Cannavaro was everywhere. So was Gennaro Gattuso. And when they failed, their keeper Gianluigi Buffon was there. And he made one outstanding save to stop a Zidane header from going in.

There was nothing the Italian defence could do against the French goal. In fact, I thought it was not a penalty at all. Still Zidane was ultra composed to chip the ball in, giving Buffon no chance at all. It took the Italians 12 minutes to draw level and the remaining 101 minutes saw the ball being played in the midfield area, giving us a clear clue that this match was heading to penalties.

Once Zidane got sent off on the second period of extra period – for a stupid moment of madness – Italians did look to have an upper hand for a moment. Mind you, that was a period when France were without Zidane (red card), Thierry Henry (substituted), Ribery (substituted) and Vieira (injured).

Still nothing came about. So at the end of the World Cup this year, the script will read that Italy won it – for the fourth time - on penalties. Never masters of the penalty kick, the Italians tonight scored all five.

Now these triumphant players will have to return home to the daunting task of facing the match fixing scandal involving some of the big clubs in their country.

Read more from my World Cup blog.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Germany does well in the WC

It was not just the third spot which Germany took home today by defeating Portugal 3-1. They have also earned their reputation as a good host and have rekindled the love for the game in their country. With so many young players in the team, the future of German football looks good indeed.

On top of that, they have got the best young player in the tournament in Lukas Podolski and Mirosav Klose might just win the Golden Boots award. In all, it has been a good World Cup for the Germans.

Much has been said about their young, inexperienced defence but to their credit the green defenders have done well. In fact, I can’t find fault in any of the German players for their professionalism in this tournament. Many of them will now establish themselves as household names not only in their nation but in the international arena too.

They started the tournament as a bunch of no-hopers. Home fans thought a quarterfinals place will be good. But these players exceeded the expectations of all and came very close to the final prize itself.

Read a fuller version of this article in my World Cup blog.

Friday, July 07, 2006

July 7 London bombings – one year on

One year ago today I was at my office in KL, Malaysia. It was a rather slow news day and we were winding down when news started coming in through the wires about the bomb blasts in London.

When the four suicide bombers struck in London that morning, it was early evening in Malaysia. We were looking for bits and pieces of information to upload into our website as soon as possible. As a journalist, you would always try to link events with something else and naturally my mind went to the Sept 11 attacks in the US, as well as the Bali and Spain bombings. Eerily the London attacks were similar to the Spanish bombing as their bombers targeted transport systems.

Only a day or two later we had a clearer picture about the London attacks Luckily it was no where as bad as the Sept 11 incident but still 52 people had died, millions others now living in fear of traveling in the mega city.

One year one, there will be low-key ceremonies and memorial services to remember the victims in London today. There is also a two-minute nationwide silence at noon.

I am now in England and for the past few months I have been reading the tales of the survivors from the attacks. I understand their fears. I have also been following closely the inquiry into the attacks and, like many others, am dumfounded by the fact that many questions remain unanswered. For instance, we don’t know if any others were involved in the plot. We still don’t know if other attacks are/were planned? And more importantly no one has been arrested to date.

But what we have had is some classic police bungling in spectacular media events in arresting alleged terrorists. All such arrests thus far have backfired and created bad press for the police.

And significantly, these arrests have driven a wedge between the Muslim community in England and the authorities. A recent survey showed that 13% of British Muslims regard the four July 7 suicide bombers as martyrs, 7% agree that suicide attacks on civilians can be justified and 16% say that while the attacks may be wrong, the cause was right.

Given these circumstances, the British government must start doing something in winning the minds and hearts of the 1.6 million Muslim population here. It should not just be a political move, but also involves the socio-economy aspect. Politicians should not open a community centre, come around during elections and then pretend that everything is fine.

Police statistics indicate that more blacks and Asians are stopped and searched in the UK than the whites. Institutional prejudice in action? I don’t know, but I think the minority communities too should make an effort to integrate properly with the British society.

This integration is sorely lacking here. We see divisions in the British communities everywhere – schools, neighbourhoods, local businesses, playing fields and work places.

As long as there is no assimilation between the communities, a sense of distrust will always prevail. And along with it, the danger of more suicide attacks – due to the political climate of the world today - will always be present.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Mindless creatures called the WAGS

One sideshow from the England contingent at the World Cup has to be the antics of the WAGS. Who you ask? Surely you have heard of the WAGS. They are as important as the players themselves, perhaps even more popular at times. Still don’t know? Okay, I am talking about the wives and girlfriends of the footballer (aka the WAGS).

I don’t think in the past they have been in the limelight as much as they have been this summer. British newspapers had a number of reporters to cover them – to see what they were doing when their partners/husbands were busy preparing for the matches.

And these WAGS didn’t disappoint anyone. At times, the UK dailies, especially the tabloids, gave them more coverage than the players. The Sun and The Mirror were trying to outsell each other by dedicating pages and pages with photos and snippets of what these WAGS were up to.

So we had stories of these girls boozing and shopping daily. In fact that was what they were up to throughout their stay in Baden-Baden, which was the HQ for the England team. Media reports spoke about daily long night drinking sessions costing some 4,000 pounds and shopping sprees involving amounts equivalent to the GDP of a small third world nation - designer dresses and sunglasses top the list.

They still made it to the frontpages even when they did not go out shopping. On July 3, these WAGS had other plans and the British papers screamed: “England WAGs give the shopping a rest!

And then you will also see them in the stadiums, cheering their men. You won’t miss them at all. These are the girls who wear big shades, tiny dresses, well made up and give that prompt cheers when they know the cameras are zooming on them.

Another common trait in them is that they are all dressed up to the nines. They’re all highly competitive - each one wants to out-glam the next.

The England WAGS are divided into at least two groups. In one corner, we have the first lady of WAGS Victoria Beckham. She was always seen with singer Cheryl Tweed (fiancée of Ashley Cole). (pix above)

And then we have the clique involving the others - Coleen McLoughlin (Wayne Rooney), Carly Zucker (Joe Cole), Alex Curran (Steven Gerrard), Elen Rives (Frank Lampard), Michaela Henderson-Thynne (Stuart Downing), Lisa Roughead (Michael Carrick) and Toni Poole (John Terry), and others.

In the beginning the novelty of these WAGS took pressure off the team, but after weeks of almost identical behaviour the thrill just faded away.

So much so, the Daily Mail said that “their charm has waned…They possess no curiosity about anything other than clothes, champagne and their reflections. Empty days, mindless nights”.

After the woeful performance of the England players, the British media is now slowly coming round to lay the blame on the WAGS – for being such a distraction to the players!

On the day after England’s defeat to Portugal, these WAGS were jeered and booed off by angry England fans.

For once, we didn’t not see them posing for the media photographers and doing things openly. These WAGS were now into hiding, waiting to get back to England!

With their reputations tattered, one of them, Cheryl, now further strains the image by trying to maintain a distance from the rest. She claimed that she was shocked by the vanity of the other WAGS. She further invited the wrath of the rest by labeling them materialistic.

This is surely not the end of this matter. I am waiting to see how the other WAGS will react.

(This article first appeared in my World Cup blog.)

It looked more like a diving event

Portugal and France tonight conspired to play one boring semifinal in the World Cup. You would have thought that with history being against Portugal in the match, they would do their best to win. You see, these two nations have never met in the World Cup but in the last six international meetings between them, France has won all.

So Portugal went into this semifinal today with the determination to break this cycle of losing and gain revenge over the French. Sadly for Portugal, this wretched record continues. France beat them yet again, this time through a Zidane penalty in the 33th minute.

Apart from that goal, France however did not contribute much in this dull match. It was Portugal who had all the possession and did all the attacking. They tried everything to get level in this match. They tried the long shots, putting the ball into the French penalty box, crossing from either sides and diving everywhere in the pitch.

As the final minutes drew closer, their dramatic divings and falls happened very often in the French penalty box – they were all at it, none guiltier than Cristiano Ronaldo, Pauleta, and Helder Postiga.

If only they had stood firm on their feet and tried to shoot the ball! They also had one splendid opportunity when French keeper Fabien Barthez fumbled a Ronaldo freekick, giving Figo an opportunity to head into the open net. Figo headed wide.

Thankfully the referee was never conned by the Portuguese theatrics but still the match was decided on a dive which resulted in the French penalty. I thought Thierry Henry fell in a dramatic manner when his leg was caught unintentionally by Carvalho. The referee thought it was a foul and Zidane made no mistake from the spot.

In one hand, I am disappointed that Portugal did not make it to the finals after the attacking flair they have shown, but then again, I don't want cheaters to be playing in the finals too.

Read my World Cup blog here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

German dream dashed by superb Italians

World Cup is almost at its end now. We have seen the first semi final between hosts Germany and Italy and later today France will take on Portugal.

Now, to the first semis - Italy and Germany most probably played one of the best games in the World Cup. It was an end-to-end action with both teams showing their propensity to attack throughout the normal time and the extra period. I thought the Italians were a shade better and justified that by two glorious goals in the final minutes of extra time to step into the finals on Sunday.

However when the match started, most of us thought there had to be a winner at the end of the extra period. Otherwise the Germans, known for their penalty skills, would have walked through the shoot-outs with such ease.The first 15 minutes of the match indicated as much – that this was heading towards penalty kicks.

But to the credit of both teams, we had a steady supply of attacking football and clever defending. And again, when the extra period started, both teams came out firing on all cylinders, trying to score that single goal which would be enough.

Now to the goals by the Italians – and what beautiful goals they were. The first came in the 119th minute as a result of an excellent through pass from Andrea Pirlo, who after collecting the ball from a corner waited and waited at the edge of the Germany penalty box to find a free Fabio Grosso. The defender then lashed an unbelievable, curling left-footed shot beyond Jan Lehmann's outstretched finger-tips into the far corner.

And just under a minute later, following a barrage of German attack, the impressive Fabio Cannavaro ran outside of his D-box with the ball, and then leaving Alberto Gilardino to take the ball to the edge of the German penalty area.

Gilardino kept his composure, took his time and rolled the ball to Alessandro Del Piero who ran the entire length of the pitch to finish off the Germans with a clinical finish into the roof of the net.

And that broke the German hearts, but what a game! The Germans exceeded everyone’s expectations by coming thus far and they have had a good tournament. Full credit must go the their coach Jurgen Klinsmann for bringing a bunch of young players and motivating them to play such attacking football.

p/s: Read the full version of this entry in my World Cup blog.
And to read my World Cup blog, go here.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Crack not a threat for shuttle

A pencil-sized crack is not dangerous enough for NASA to stop the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery later today. NASA feels that the crack in Discovery's fuel tank insulating foam was not a big threat.

The crack was spotted yesterday and after several hours of inspections and meetings, officials decided to continue with the launch as planned, barring any bad weather.

The picture shows Discovery being fueled prior to sunrise at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida earlier today. The flame at right is excess hydrogen being burned off during the fueling process.

All the best for another step forward for mankind but then I do wonder how whatever benefits we derive from these space ventures are really helping us, the regular folks.

Whose customs are these?

(The joke below – a really funny one – was emailed to me recently. I am sure no offences were meant to anyone involved.)

An Englishman went next door to welcome his new Indian neighbour. He was shocked to see the man from India in his nice backyard chasing ten chickens around like mad. "Must be an Indian custom," he thought to himself. Deciding he could put off the welcome till a later date, he went home.

The next day, he decided he was going to welcome the Indian man again. When he looked through his window, he saw the Indian man urinate into a cup and drank it. "Must be an Indian custom," he thought to himself. Deciding he could put off the welcome till tomorrow, he went on with other stuff.

The third day, he was determined he had to welcome the Indian man. At his gate, he saw the Indian man with his ear pressed against a cow's big fat butt. He became real angry and went up to the Indian man. "I'm sorry sir, I want to wish you a welcome, but I cannot stand your crazy Indian customs!'', he yelled in the Indian man's face.

The Indian man looked confused and answered. "Sorry sir, I think you are mistaken. These are actually English customs. I was told, to be English, you have to chase chicks, get piss drunk, and listen to bullshit.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

All politicians are hypocrites

“The Official Secrets Act should not be used to hide untruths” – How true and I fully agree with this remark. But sadly I think former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad is in no position to say this.

After all, it was his administration which started the practice of hiding behind this Act to cover incompetence, cronyism or nepotism.

Who was the Prime Minister when the Attorney General relied on this Act to charge opposition leader Ezam Md Noor for revealing documents which showed Trade Minister Rafidah was corrupt? Ezam was found guilty for breaching the OSA in that case.

It got so worse that even the police started saying some of their investigations and investigative papers fell under the ISA, as such could not be revealed to the press. Didn’t Mahathir feel that it was wrong to abuse the OSA then?

And now Mahathir has the cheeks to say that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration should not hide under this Act.

What do they say? That all politicians are hypocrites? Mahathir just showed us the veracity of that accusation.

Sad day for Brazil, good for football

I don’t know if I am sad for the Brazil defeat or the England’s, or for both. Brazil has always been a team which I supported from young and over the years I have come to cheer the English too.

Coming into the World Cup, I didn’t rate England as a potential World Cup winner – even if they had had a fully fit Wayne Rooney from the start. I just thought that they were overrated and overhyped.

As for Brazil, it was the way they played the beautiful game but I said to myself at the beginning of the World Cup that it would be bad for world football if they were to retain their title.

I was determined to watch both the quarterfinals today as a neutral supporter, wishing that the better team will progress to the semis.

But still, there was a tinge of sadness when England first lost out on penalties to Portugal. Then came the second quarter final involving Brazil and France and even when the French scored first, I thought Brazil will conjure some magic to pull level.

As the time went off, I realized that my heartbeat was beating a little faster and at the end of the play Brazil was truly and fully beaten.

To think about it, I think both the results today were obtained on merit. Portugal did play better than England although their victory was a result of a penalty lottery. And as for France, they were simply magnificent and deserved to win.

As such, I guess, its only fair to be happy as a football fan for two better teams on the day are in the semis now and they can only improve the level of the game and its entertainment.

As for England and Brazil, it is back to the drawing board again and a fresh preparation for the future.

So now, I have my hopes high on Italy to win the trophy. They will play the much-improved Germany in the first semis on Tuesday and the following day, France will play Portugal.

I just hope we get to see some highly entertaining matches in the run up to the finals on July 9.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Group project makes it to prestigious award

I had to make a quickfire day-trip to London today to the Press Gazette’s prestigious Student Journalism Award. The function was held at Reuters’ swanking new HQ in Canary Wharf.

The reason for my being there? A group project which my web-team and I did at the University of Sheffield was shortlisted for the team category.

The project involved the web (my batch), print and broadcast students in a real time news operation for the May 4 local elections. The nomination was sweeter for me as it was based on the web-site which my team had created. We had put up not just stories about the elections, but also graphics, videos, audios and live results.

So the university paid for three student and two lecturers to go to the ceremony. We left Sheffield in the 8.27am train, arriving at Reuters office at about 11.30am.

The function was hosted by former Mirror editor Piers Morgan. He was as funny and erudite in person as he was in his autobiography.

Left London by the 5pm train, and as such missed the dramatic first quarter final between Germany and Argentina.

And yes, what about outcome of the award? Sadly we lost to some other university. Still, it was a proud moment just to be in the final shortlist.