Thursday, June 28, 2007

Coming up in Canada... FIFA U20

This weekend will be a very interesting one in Canada not only because of the celebration of Canada Day, but also because of the opening of the Fifa U20 World Cup.

Yes, the World Cup is back again. This time, probably with much less international attention than the World Cup last year in Germany. But still, the games look promising. And it's back in a country where people basically don't care about soccer. But still, the event is expected to be a real success.

The teams are divided in 6 groups, distributed as follows: Group A (Canada, Austria, Chile, Congo), Group B (Spain, Uruguay, Zambia, Jordan), Group C (Mexico, Portugal, Gambia, New Zealand), Group D (Brazil, South Korea, Poland, USA), Group E (Argentina, Czech Republic, North Korea, Panama), and Group F (Costa Rica, Japan, Nigeria, Scotland).

If the results are not arranged beforehand, we can expect to have very good matches. Those boys come after a dream that will someday take them to the most important soccer leagues worldwide. Who will be successful on taking the trophy home? We'll see. Much more is still to come...!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A curious way to honor a country

Would you feel very honored if you saw a bunch of people on TV throwing balloons full of paint to your country's National Flag?

Well, that's the kind of "honor" that the contestants of Big Brother Australia decided to pay to Mexico and its culture! As a gesture of respect and sympathy for the country, the contestant of Big Brother (perhaps the most decadent reality show ever) Australia decided to recreate a Mexican Party, in which they decorated their place in a Mexican fashion and wore big sombreros. But the big thing came when they decided to throw paint-filled balloons to a Mexican flag (with inverted colors) .

This curious celebration didn't get the sympathy of the Mexican Embassy in Australia, nor from the entire country. A representative of the Mexican Emabassy in Australia sent a letter to Endemol complaining about the incident. Endemol, in turn, replied to the complaint, apologizing for the "celebration", arguing that the idea was to honor Mexico and its culture, rather than shaming it.

I think that the celebration was excessively original in this occasion, wasn't it?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cybercafe refugees

Living in an internet café cubicle must not be the most comfortable way of living. The cubicle is fully equipped: a chair, which can be used as a bed to sleep too, a desk, a computer with a bright screen that lights the cubicle at night, and the privacy provided by the walls that surround the cubicle.

Although it sounds like an odd, bizarre option, it's the way of living for many homeless Japanese youngsters with not enough money to pay for another type of accomodation. Most of them get temporary (and underpaid) jobs , which require them to move frequently from one area to another. But 24-hour cybercafés are common all across Japan, and are the spots used by those people to get some shelter during nights. People who have this routine as a way of living are nicknamed "cybercafé refugees".

The reason for which they choose such places is simple: they are easy to afford, way cheaper than, for example, renting a studio. The cost of a cybercafé cubicle is of about 100 yens ($0.82 USD) per hour... or some 900 yens ($7.38 USD) 'per night', plus the pops and snacks that they purchase from the café. Way cheaper than paying about $850 USD per month for renting a place, or even $20 per night in a youth hostel.

Sleeping in cybercafés for homeless Japaese, sought from that point of view, is 'reasonable' (for the lack of a better word). But the problem in Japan doesn't reside exclusively in cybercafés. It is reported that other 24-hour service establishments have a similar situation. For example, it is allegedly possible to find people passing the whole night inside McDonald's restaurants or in public facilities. The problem, say some people in Japan, does not seem to be getting any better.

This kind of phenomenon is perhaps a contemporary blend that we couldn't foresee some years ago: Technology, progress, poverty, and loneliness. The flip side of the highly developed future we expect to have. Now the question would be: Will the disease spread out to other places in the world?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Handcuffs for seniors

Victoria, BC. A city known for its numerous gardens, benevolent weather conditions, salmon... and its great amount of elderly people. Victoria is the preferred city for retirement in Canada.

The Police Department of this city has developed a system of handcuffs that is more "friendly" to be used on senior citizens. But, they say, it is not that senior citizens are becoming aggressive or are engaging themselves in criminal activities.

Basically, the Police needs to use handcuffs on them in case they suffer of any mental illnesses or other disorders that may greatly alter their public behavior, becoming a threat on the streets.

The new handcuffs feature many differences with conventional ones, which makes them more suitable to be used on elders. The materials used to manufacture them are much softer with the skin, so they don't tear the elders' skin off that easily. Also, they are designed to reduce the risk of harming the individual's bones or muscles.

Elders in Victoria are happy with the new invention, but it looks that some of them are wondering why doesn't the Police think of using them on all layers of society, regardless of the age. A valid concern? Who'll know. But at least, busted elders will have a softer time while getting arrested from now on.

With some information from the Times Colonist
Photo by Times Colonist

Sunday, June 03, 2007

JFK, the tragedy that did not happen

I would find it quite impossible to believe that anybody could have missed the news about the frustration of a plan to blow up some pipelines that feed New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport this week. But there are reasons to hear about it everywhere. Believe me, the frustration of such plan is indeed big news, maybe one of the most magnificent hits against terrorist cells lately.

The plan couldn't be more sanguinary: to set fire on pipelines that carry fuel to JFK, (and possibly also to La Guardia, and even Newark) international airport. The pipeline runs from New Jersey into New York, and it passes through many suburbs and residential areas. The fire would have caused the pipelines to explode, devastating entire neighborhoods and severely affecting the infrastructure of the city and its airports, and worst of all, causing probably thousands of deaths.

Who could ever think of such insane plan? Could that be Osama Bin Laden again?

There's no information available to know whether Bin Laden and his terrorist group Al Qaeda had any sort of influence in this plan (which, fortunately, never left the planning stage). But the US authorities have arrested three individuals in connection with this idea, and they're still seeking for a fourth individual who is allegedly hiding somewhere in Trinidad and Tobago, in the Caribbean.

One of the arrested suspects, and the only one currently held in the US, is Russell Defreitas, a former employee of the JFK international airport, and current member of an Islamic group based in Trinidad and Tobago called Jamaat Al Muslimeen. The other individuals arrested in connection with the plot are Abdul Kadir, a former member of the Guyanese Parliament, and Kareem Ibrahim, from Trinidad and Tobago. Both of them are in custody somewhere in Trinidad. The fourth suspect, and the only one who hasn't been located by the authorities yet, is Abdel Nur.

What could drive people to commit such kind of crimes? I don't know. I can't imagine that there could be a valid explanation for that. Is it that anybody could?

If the fourth suspect is hiding in Trinidad, as the authorities believe, then I don't think that it could take much time to bust him, because Trinidad is an tiny island. There's no escape, if the authorities manage to take care of the situation properly. And once the quartet is complete, long interrogation sessions will await them. But how long should we wait to get news about more scum of societies trying to achieve record highs of deaths and destruction?

To read the original report from BBC, click here.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

"High" soccer? Never again

Some people booed the measure, some other cheered it. The thing is that FIFA decided that 2,500 meters above the sea level is the maximum height in which an official international soccer match can be played. This measure was taken after, in some match recently, players of a visitor team needed to be treated with oxygen because they couldn't handle to play in such great heights.

People against the measure say that it is a racist regulation, aimed to affect South American countries like Bolivia (whose main home advantage in La Paz used to be, precisely, height) and Colombia, both of which have their capital cities (and main stadiums) located in altitudes higher than the standard specified by FIFA.

Moreover, the Bolivian president, Evo Morales (picture), condemned the resolution himself. Other personalities have expressed their disagreement with such resolution, but Mr. Joseph Blatter, head of the FIFA, seems less than worried about it. Actually, he should feel very well supported after people like Pele, the legendary Brazilian soccer player, cheered the measure, arguing that it will end the unfair advantage of some teams playing at home.

The controversy is far to come to an end... will FIFA change its mind thanks to the power of people like Evo Morales? Stay tuned, and find out...