Archives for the Month of July 2006 on Through the Magnifying Glass

LG Chocolate Arrives in the US

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Finally, the US has caught up with the LG Chocolate phone! As such, the model version is always different so instead of the KG800 that is known in both Asia and Europe, it is referred to as the VX8500 in the US. Verizon now has it available off their web site. I haven't seen it on T-Mobile or Cingular yet. Of course, I bought my Chocolate phone while living in London.

I am not quite sure if the VX8500 is SIM-capable. This would mean that the phone would have its phone number programmed so you cannot just remove your SIM card and buy a new phone to replace it. I doubt the phone will fall under Verizon's global phone category, so you are out of luck.

Anyways, it's a slide-up phone and has a cool touchpad for you to navigate through the menus. It has a built-in 1.3 megapixel camera, can record videos and audio memos, and has bluetooth, which is quite cool if your car has the ability to pair your phone with the telephone system onboard. The mp3 player component is quite loud but you cannot rewind or fast forward. In the UK/Asia version, you are limited to just 128MB of memory so that would only give you 20-30 songs (depending on quality). The US version comes with a microSD port so you can add more capacity, but I doubt it would replace your iPod player.

Standby time is decent, about 200-250 hours, though I usually charge whenever I get home. It is quite light, less than 100 grams, and is at least a tri-band so you can use it pretty much anywhere.

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With that glowing, touch-sensitive red keypad, it is guarantee to attract attention, especially the females. =) The phone is really not about the technical features, but the overall design. It is just cool to have it. With that touchpad, the slide-up mechanism, and minimalist look, it is just like a lightsaber!

It is not a revolutionary phone, but one of the most beautiful phones ever released by LG.

Besides, LG is already releasing the second LG Chocolate version into their local market.

Also, if you are looking for a rival to the VX8500 (KG800), look at Samsung's E900 slide-up phone. It is more technically savvy than the LG, but you would give the design thumbs-up to the LG.

LG KG800 - URL

Samsung E900 - URL

Getting rid of the magnetic strip card

So how many credit cards do you have in your wallet? Not to mention your insurance card, that drivers license with the new magnetic strip, frequent flyer card, and so on. On average, each person probably has 10-15 cards with that magnetic strip on the back.

Why can't we associate certain cards to just only one smart card? Or how about link your digital drivers license with your gas credit card so all you have to do is insert your drivers license into that gas pump console, and it will get deducted from the credit card that is associated with it.

But is it also possible to get rid of that magnetic strip and move on to a new next-generation transaction device? Smart cards (or touch cards) are being used as a test case in NYC so all you have to do is "touch" the sensor and your fare is deducted from your card. It is being used as the ideal way to travel on the London Underground. This can well be used for credit transactions since we are getting tired of the swipe feature and what if your card gets bended so the magnetic strip loses its cohesion and it becomes useless, and so on. I kinda despise the paper magnetic card that I use on the PATH and on the NYC trains. Over time, it becomes frayed from staying in your pant pocket, and if you accidently bend it, it's gone.

It is not that hard. At my apartment complex in Hoboken, they replaced the card access with a sensor, so with your "key," you can just touch the sensor, and you are let in. Same thing goes for entering the residence halls, just wave your "key" at the sensor. This can be applied to our transaction cards. The one safe bet is that people with card readers would be unable to read your magnetic strip because you do not have one. Yes, thieves and other unsavory characters will make up new things to steal your private information, but at least, initially, they will be stopped by the new transaction smart cards.

So forget about "swiping" and embrace "touch." =)

Serendipity 3 - Good chocolate and celeb sightings too!

So a few of us from Case, two from Jersey including me, and two others from North Dakota, stopped by Serendipity 3 for dessert. It is located on 60th street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue in NYC.

The food is not overly expensive, but it has quite a reputation where the average wait could go at least 2-2 1/2 hours. It is New York's first coffee boutique. I believe you can only make reservations at least a day in advance after a certain time. The best way is to stop by, put your name on the list, then go shopping at Bloomingdale's nearby.

We only had the dessert, and the frrrozen hot chocolate or the peanut butter version are strongly recommended. But the rest of the food is not bad so it's worth the wait.

Saturday was definitely the day where you can find a celeb. Perhaps the biggest hint was a rolls royce parked (with the driver waiting) outside of the restaurant. Who could be the owners of such a car??? It was Jay-Z and Beyonce! They were sitting two tables from us, and it took us a few minutes before we realised who they were. They left before we got our desserts, but two couples managed to get pictures of Beyonce. Unfortunately, Jay-Z did not get any.

If you ever visiting NYC, stop by Serendipity 3!

Update: Confirmed by Page Six of the New York Post. Sweet!

A Waste of the President's Time

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Was it some PR guy's idea in the White House to actually consider inviting the American Idol finalists? Was it the whole point of the gathering so President Bush can get a harmonica engraved with "American Idol 2006?"

I would have bet that British Prime Minister Tony Blair was glad not to have taken a photo-op with these reality wannabe stars. I wonder if those top high school students, waiting for their photo-op with the President, actually think that having a cool voice is the way to earn the top bucks. Probably not.

Of course it was unclear if Bush had ever seen the show. The White House responded that he was "aware" of it. That's good enough for me. Clearly, a waste of the government's time. Could these wannabe stars please go back to their holes and let the rest of humanity move on?

Article: Bush Gives the "Idol" Finalists a Tour

Time to raise the Minimum Wage?

University students got it easy with the hourly salary they make. When the minimum wage was last increased to $5.15 per hour in 1996, there were college jobs going for $7, 8, or even $10 per hour. Today, it's probably several dollars more.

Ten years later, workers out there are still earning the basic $5.15 per hour. If a person working 40 hours per week for 52 weeks, he or she will make approximately $10,700. This is slightly above the poverty threshold of $9,800 as set by the Department of Health and Human Services for 2006 (in the 48 states and DC, Alaska has theirs at $12,250 and Hawaii at $11,270). But this is before taxes. A person earning $10,700 would then be on the federal tax rate of 15% for a single individual, plus minus the person's state tax. Assume that person have to pay almost $2,000 in taxes, so that leaves this person with less than $9,000 to spend.

Now, I do hope my friend down the aisle would agree that the time to raise the minimum wage is at hand. Current legislation in Congress would raise the wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, over a 2-year period. At minimum, a person would earn about $15,000 on a 40 hour work week before taxes.

House Representative Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio asked, "How can you defend $5.15 an hour in today's economy?"

Quite right. Over the last ten years, the minimum wage rate's buying power has been eroded, so that $5.15 in 1996 doesn't buy $5.15 in 2006.

Update:

Should the minimum wage be tied to the annual inflation rate of the previous year?

From GPEC - Data on the US Inflation Rate:

Values for PPI (Producer Price Index) & CPI (Consumer Price Index) respectively:

1996 2.4% 3.0%
1997 -0.1% 2.3%
1998 -2.5% 1.6%
1999 0.9% 2.2%
2000 5.7% 3.4%
2001 1.1% 2.8%
2002 -2.3% 1.6%
2003 5.3% 2.3%
2004 6.2% 2.7%
2005 7.3% 3.4%

Now it would be best suited that whoever makes minimum wage should earn enough to stay above the poverty line. Does the HHS state the current poverty line based on taxes before or after?

Of course, could we reason that if we give a bit more buying power to these earners, would they make a more positive impact on our economy?

Assumption: $1.05 increase for 2006-2007 ($5.15 to $6.20), then another $1.05 for 2007-2008 ($6.20 to $7.25).

Inflation Rate: From January 1996 to January 2006: prices have increased on average of 28.43%.

Americans Expatriates Are Getting the Tax Shaft

I guess I should be pleased to be back in the states after my UK contract ended. I don't know how it will affect two people that I know that have moved to London to begin their stint for a few years. A new tax law will increase costs for many Americans working overseas and will likely cause changes in company hiring practicies in certain countries.

The increased taxes will hit Americans that are working in countries that have high housing costs and low local taxes. Even though companies guarantee that their workers do not pay more in taxes than they would if there were living in the US, not all Americans have the luxury of tax equalisation. The law, part of a broader tax bill signed in May by President Bush, is retroactive to Jan 1 of this year. So that means I get screwed slightly for my stay in London from Jan 1 to July 3.

Under the old law, Americans working abroad could exclude as much as $80,000 of their foreign-earned compensation, plus certain foreign housing costs, when they filed their US taxes. The new law increases the $80,000 limit slightly to $82,400 this year, but income above that level now is subject to much higher tax rates.

One significant change is that the new law greatly reduces the maximum amount of housing costs that workers abroad may exclude or deduct. The cap will be $11,536 for 2006, though the Treasury Dept has the authority to change this for places with especially high costs. Before the change, there was no cap at all. To me, you have to wonder if they will do such a thing in light of the high budget deficits the government has been having. It really hurts American workers since rent in HK could run as high as $50,000 annually, or for me, at least $30,000 while living in London.

The misconception people have is that Americans working abroad are earning the big bucks, but that is not completely true. As of 2003, there were probably about 306,000 tax returns coming from overseas. The vast majority of them are middle-income wage earners. The new US tax law just makes it more difficult for American workers to compete effectively among their European and Asian counterparts.

$11,536 annually means about $961 per month. If I was living in London, that means I have to find a flat that has a monthly rent of at most 513 pound sterling. You can probably find those places in the outskirts of London or in the outlying areas. That does not help for expats living in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Moscow. It seems that our government representatives forgot to check the currency rates and housing costs of the countries that actually exist outside of the US.

South Carolina Republican, Senator Jim DeMint, has proposed a bill that would eliminate US taxes on income Americans earn while living and working abroad. I am sure he would get the vote of every overseas American, but I doubt it will get passed. At this point in time, our scheming representatives are just trying to find new revenue generating ways to rip off the taxpayer. Quote from Senator DeMint: "America is the only industrialized nation in the world that forces its citizens to pay double taxes while they compete in the global marketplace."

How can we compete abroad?

Note: You have to thank the Republicans for this since when they passed the $69 billion tax cut on May 17, it also passed a $2.1 billion tax hike over the coming decade for Americans living overseas.

Legislation - Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 (HR 4297), signed into Public Law, May 17

Yahoo Finance (Wall Street Journal) - Tax Hike Hits Home for Americans Abroad

Destruction of Lebanon is the price of 3 Israeli soldiers

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"The country has been torn to shreds," a desperate Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, said at a meeting he had called of foreign diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador.

"Is this the price we pay for aspiring to build our democratic institutions?" he said in a bitter and emotional speech. "Can the international community stand by while such callous retribution by the State of Israel is inflected on us?"

So what is our answer to this? This was supposed to be an anti-terrorist operation, but it looks like a full scale war.

Patrick J. Buchanan: Where are the Christians?

I let all of you decide if he is right or wrong.

Where are the Christians? by Patrick J. Buchanan

When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unleashed his navy and air force on Lebanon, accusing that tiny nation of an "act of war," the last pillar of Bush's Middle East policy collapsed.

First came capitulation on the Bush Doctrine, as Pyongyang and Tehran defied Bush's dictum: The world's worst regimes will not be allowed to acquire the world's worst weapons. Then came suspension of the democracy crusade as Islamic militants exploited free elections to advance to power and office in Egypt, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, Iraq and Iran.


Now, Israel's rampage against a defenseless Lebanon – smashing airport runways, fuel tanks, power plants, gas stations, lighthouses, bridges, roads and the occasional refugee convoy – has exposed Bush's folly in subcontracting U.S. policy out to Tel Aviv, thus making Israel the custodian of our reputation and interests in the Middle East.

The Lebanon that Israel, with Bush's blessing, is smashing up has a pro-American government, heretofore considered a shining example of his democracy crusade. Yet, asked in St. Petersburg if he would urge Israel to use restraint in its airstrikes, Bush sounded less like the leader of the Free World than some bellicose city councilman from Brooklyn Heights.

What Israel is up to was described by its army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, when he threatened to "turn back the clock in Lebanon 20 years."

Olmert seized upon Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers to unleash the IDF in a pre-planned attack to make the Lebanese people suffer until the Lebanese government disarms Hezbollah, a task the Israeli army could not accomplish in 18 years of occupation.

Israel is doing the same to the Palestinians. To punish these people for the crime of electing Hamas, Olmert imposed an economic blockade of Gaza and the West Bank and withheld the $50 million in monthly tax and customs receipts due the Palestinians.

Then, Israel instructed the United States to terminate all aid to the Palestinian Authority, though Bush himself had called for the elections and for the participation of Hamas. Our Crawford cowboy meekly complied.

The predictable result: Fatah and Hamas fell to fratricidal fighting, and Hamas militants began launching Qassam rockets over the fence from Gaza into Israel. Hamas then tunneled into Israel, killed two soldiers, captured one, took him back into Gaza and demanded a prisoner exchange.

Israel's response was to abduct half of the Palestinian cabinet and parliament and blow up a $50 million U.S.-insured power plant. That cut off electricity for half a million Palestinians. Their food spoiled, their water could not be purified, and their families sweltered in the summer heat of the Gaza desert. One family of seven was wiped out on a beach by what the IDF assures us was an errant artillery shell.

Let it be said: Israel has a right to defend herself, a right to counter-attack against Hezbollah and Hamas, a right to clean out bases from which Katyusha or Qassam rockets are being fired and a right to occupy land from which attacks are mounted on her people.

But what Israel is doing is imposing deliberate suffering on civilians, collective punishment on innocent people, to force them to do something they are powerless to do: disarm the gunmen among them. Such a policy violates international law and comports neither with our values nor our interests. It is un-American and un-Christian.

But where are the Christians? Why is Pope Benedict virtually alone among Christian leaders to have spoken out against what is being done to Lebanese Christians and Muslims?

When al-Qaida captured two U.S. soldiers and barbarically butchered them, the U.S. Army did not smash power plants across the Sunni Triangle. Why then is Bush not only silent but openly supportive when Israelis do this?

Democrats attack Bush for crimes of which he is not guilty, including Haditha and Abu Ghraib. Why are they, too, silent when Israel pursues a conscious policy of collective punishment of innocent peoples?

Britain's diplomatic goal in two world wars was to bring the naive cousins in, to "pull their chestnuts out of the fire." Israel and her paid and pro-bono agents here appear determined to expand the Iraq war into Syria and Iran, and have America fight and finish all of Israel's enemies.

That Tel Aviv is maneuvering us to fight its wars is understandable. That Americans are ignorant of, or complicit in this, is deplorable.

Already, Bush is ranting about Syria being behind the Hezbollah capture of the Israeli soldiers. But where is the proof?

Who is whispering in his ear? The same people who told him Iraq was maybe months away from an atom bomb, that an invasion would be a "cakewalk," that he would be Churchill, that U.S. troops would be greeted with candy and flowers, that democracy would break out across the region, that Palestinians and Israelis would then sit down and make peace?

How much must America pay for the education of this man?

* * * * * * * * * * *

Pat Buchanan was twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the Reform Party’s candidate in 2000. He is also a founder and editor of The American Conservative. Now a political analyst for MSNBC and a syndicated columnist, he served three presidents in the White House, was a founding panelist of three national TV shows, and is the author of seven books.

Link to Article

The Status of our Navy Carriers

as of 19-JUL-06

Active force of 281 ships, of which 51% (143 ships) are currently underway. 99 ships on active deployment. Almost half of our submarines are underway.

Carriers, our striking power across the globe

USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) - South China Sea
USS Enterprise (CVN 65) - Pusan, South Korea
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) - Atlantic Ocean
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) - Underway
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) - Pacific Ocean
USS George Washington (CVN 73) - Atlantic Ocean
USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) - Pacific Ocean

At Homeport:
USS John F. Kennedy (CV 66) - Florida
USS Nimitz (CVN 68) - California
USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) - Virginia (overhaul)
USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) - Virginia (maintenance)
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) - California

Under Construction:
USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)

So in case of war, the following carriers can be reactivated:
USS Saratoga (CVA 60) - Rhode Island
USS Ranger (CVA 61) - Washington
USS Independence (CV 62) - Washington
USS Constellation (CV 64) - Washington

DJ calls Scientology a "religion"

I overheard this on the radio while driving to work. I think it was either Z100 or KTU 103.5 and they had the entertainment report. They were talking about Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise and their wedding plans.

It seems that the wedding will be done in the Scientology style. Katie Holmes' parents are not too thrilled with it since they preferred it to be a Catholic wedding. Katie wanted to compromise and have two weddings to please her parents, but Tom refused to go along with it. Now, it seems that Katie's parents won't attend the wedding and probably most of her family won't go either.

But the interesting part of it was the DJ calling the wedding based on the Scientology religion. I did not know it was a religion. It sounded more of a cult or a pseudoreligion but not a full fledged religion like Christianity or Islam. Perhaps the DJ did not want the Scientology army start picketing the radio station if he/she called it a cult wedding.

Now the whole world is trying to figure out if Suri Cruise/Holmes will make an appearance, but it looks like the child is being kept under lock and key. Who knows if the baby is the second coming of L. Ron Hubbard given the exaggerated security.

I'm telling ya. They're probably organising a way to censor all of Katie Holmes' movies especially the movie, "The Gift," which shows her nude.

I also found a Free Katie web site.

You need to pay a fee to get evacuated

Imagine stranded in a city under seige, waiting for that evacuation chopper to take you to safety, then being told that they have to pay to get out of there.

Yep, that's right, it seems there is a 1956 law requiring the State Department to be reimbursed for getting you out of harm's way. First, on Monday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the government would charge evacuees commercial rates to take them out by plane or boat.

The idea that Americans would have to pay to board one of the ships for safety is drawing the ire of stranded citizens and their politicians and families back home. For example, Atlanta resident Maya Nessouli, whose mother, brother and sisters are in Beirut stated that the government wanted $3,000 per person for the helicopter to Cyprus and they could not even bring their luggage with them.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said "A nation that can provide more than $300 billion for a war in Iraq can provide the money to get its people out of Lebanon."

While I usually refrain from quoting Representative Pelosi, I find it hard to believe that we have to pay our government to rescue us from something that we are not responsible for. It is the responsibility of the federal government to ensure the safety of its citizens in the event of a crisis happening in another country, not to bill them for saving them.

Honestly, some bean counter in a bureaucratic office in the State Dept probably discovered the clause and started preparing bills to citizens that were being evacuated.

Fortunately, the fees will be waived by the government outright because of the bad PR it's been creating.

CNN.com - Americans irked by fee to flee Lebanon

NASA Shuttle Flights to Resume

So a bit of good news from all the politics.

NASA has set its eyes on next month's scheduled launch that should mark the resumption of regular shuttle flights. It hopes that this will enable crews to complete construction of the partly-finished International Space Station.

Now of course we have to worry about its budget and whether Bush's vision of a replacement orbiter and sending a manned mission to the Moon and Mars will happen.

Bush should not veto the stem-cell bill

President Bush may cast his first ever veto in six years on a bill that would expand federal funding for human embryonic-stem-cell research. While some voters may appreciate Bush's strong position on certain issues and not bending to public opinion polls and what not, it may prove to be a mistake in this case.

Current polls show that 2 out of 3 Americans favor increased stem cell research. Due to the closeness of the November elections, a good number of Republicans are supporting the bill. Most people would view the veto as arguing against the treatment of disease, and a considerable number of GOP members feel that this could become a stinker issue when Election Day arrives.

Could Congress override Bush's veto? It could be possible. In the House, it was only 50 votes short of the two-thirds majority when it passed 238-194. House leaders are somewhat confident that there will be more Yes votes when they attempt to override the veto, but a few believe that they might be a little bit short. In the Senate, as much as 64 senators will vote yes on the legislation, and leaders in that chamber believe they can gather up the 67 votes necessary to override the veto. [Latest updates show that both houses will be unable to override Bush's veto, but the numbers will show overwhelming approval of the bill. This may prove useful in the future.]

It becomes a more awkward situation for the No members when former first lady Nancy Reagan is a supporter for increased stem cell research. She is expected to make calls this week to senators and representatives asking for their support.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) notes the politics of the timing. "I think politically it's stupid to have this debate now. He will cast his first veto over this, which people will interpret as that he doesn't care about the curing of chronic disease. Nothing could be further than the truth." Obviously. It is always politics. Supporters from both Democrats and Republicans know that with the closeness of the November elections, this vote will place heavy pressure on the politicians that want to get re-elected. Democrats and Republicans do this type of thing every election, so do not go and start whining about this and that.

This legislation offers more further good for the American people. When Bush said that there are currently 62 available stem lines for federal researchers. This is not true. Today, there are perhaps only 21 lines available, and they are old, and in some cases damaged and most likely contaminated with mouse feeder cells and calf serum used to grow them. Top US researchers are leaving the US to work for biotechnology labs in Europe or Singapore where the governments over there have placed higher priority on stem cell research. Even socially conservative suburban voters would support such research if they think that it will help cure their parents' Alzheimer's or their children's diabetes.

Yes, opponents would point to adult stem cell research and explain the new breakthroughs that have been made over the past few years. However, most adult organs just do not have enough stem cells to deploy as treatment, and adult stem cells are even harder to grow than embryonic ones. Of course, it has been helpful but we should not restrict ourselves to just that area of supply. If we can concentrate all both levels of stem cells, who knows if we find something in embryonic cells that can help us do more to the adult versions.

Bush should sign the legislation and help support a joint combative effort to rid these diseases from our grandparents, our parents, and our children.

CNN.com - Congress takes up stem cell bills in face of veto threat

A Third World War

"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." - Albert Einstein Quote

A world war is a military conflict affecting the majority of the world's major nations. World wars usually span multiple continents, and are very bloody and destructive. In most of these cases, a war is usually initiated by a formal declaration of war by the country's government. Not during this stage. It seems countries love to ignore their own constitution these days.

People suggest that the Israel-Lebanon conflict could spark a full military confrontation in the Middle East region. Would Israel escalate even further and start bombing military targets in Iran and Syria? Could these actions force Islamic radicals to topple the governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Oman, and Kuwait? Could it also force insurgents in Iraq to conduct a massive frontal assault on the democratic government centre in Baghdad (the so-called green zone)?

The military operations currently being conducted in Afghanistan and Iraq are to combat an insurrection against the elected central government. Some people would suggest these are wars on terror, but the terminology is inappropriate today. Before, the Taliban were in control of much of Afghanistan and were driven away by US and Afghan allies. NATO is currently doing a peacekeeping mission in that country in addition to US missions against Taliban pockets in southern Afghanistan. For Iraq, official combat operations were ended after the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today, the US and its remaining coalition partners are handling occupation duties, with a transitionary phase to let local Iraqi forces to take over each of their provinces' security.

Back to the Middle East, now it only becomes a wider problem if Israel launches an attack on Iran, would it suspend oil production? Oil prices could pass $100/barrel causing price shocks against the West. It could even be more hard felt if radical extremists started attacking Saudi refineries or destroy Kuwaiti oil wells. Again, this a factor that we should consider.

Could North Korea spark a disasterous crisis if it chose to resume its attack on its Southern democratic neighbor? As such, there is approx 34,000 US soldiers over there, and is pretty much the "trigger point" if a Korean conflict would re-occur. However, would the US retaliate severely keeping in mind the reaction of China if a military confrontation re-ignites on the Korean peninsula? What would be the reaction by Japan, Australia, Indonesia, and Vietnam? Could Taiwan be thrown into the violence? Who knows if China could take that chance to invade Taiwan and settle it once and for all? At this point, US naval forces would be stretched to their limits.

Could the events in Somalia spark a military conflict in Africa? The country has been going through fighting and anarchy for over 15 years. In May 1991, the northern clans broke away and declared an independent Republic of Somaliland. The current transitional government is currently weak and is unable to combat the Islamic factions that have taken control of Mogadishu and much of the southern half of the country. Fortunately, the UN plans to re-modify its arms embargo and allow the deployment of an African peacekeeping force. I doubt for the moment that we will see US forces in that country in the near future.

As for the response to Israeli attacks on Lebanon, it is certainly mixed. Most allies would agree that Israel has the right to defend itself, and it had to respond severely towards the capture of its soldiers, but there will be a line where the conflict should be limited to, and some countries believe that line has been crossed. The suggestion that anti-semitism is somehow involved in the way the EU and Russia are reacting to the conflict is complete bollux (aka bullsh*t). I am surprised people would still continue to use this reasoning every time a conflict or issue happens which involves Israel. Using the Iraq litmus test is ridculous given the fact tha some countries have long been a resource to the US all these years. Using one example such as Iraq to determine whether our allies are friends or liars is a cheap excuse. Don't use France because that's an easy answer, and they're also arrogant bastards. =)

Anyway, the main reasoning from the EU and Russia is the fear that the conflict could escalate to the level where there can be no turning back. Israel is planning on mounting a ground offensive into Lebanon. Which seems worse? An attack to take over the southern half of the country, or perhaps seeing Israeli tanks in Beirut? How far can the world be willing to tolerate all of this before all the red flags start waving?

In a nuclear war (god forbid), there can never be full protection with a missle shield. Let's be realistic here. During their tests, it was only about 50-60% effective. The developers and even the military are not too sure how it would perform in a real case scenario. Even if Russia or China decide to launch a missile strike against the US, we are talking about hundreds of missiles, not just a few or several. Both of those nuclear-missle countries basically shrug when the US announced their deployment of their missile shield. They do know that a massive attack would easily overwhelm such a defense. Isn't it true that the shield was only designed to stop a single missile being launched from North Korea or Iran for example? This is why I am not placing any faith in such a system. If it's there, fine. But I do not plan on staying put. Besides, there is the fallout to consider.

The one thing I am afraid is that Israel would continue to destroy Lebanon and perhaps Syria and Iran even if they do return the captured soldiers unharmed. If that's the case, go fill up your car gas tank, sell your stocks, start buying canned goods, then run for the hills.

Russia: A Practical Adversary

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My friend down the aisle wonders if Russia is a friend or foe of the United States. He cites the country's reaction to the crisis in North Korea and the Israel's attacks on Lebanon. He believes that Russia has a financial stake in North Korea and Iraq and does not want to let the US do what is right for the security and peace of the entire world.

We cannot look at Russia as a friend or foe, but as an adversary on the geopolitical stage. Clearly, our interests do not coincide with theirs, but does that make them our sworn enemy? Not so. On the issue of nuclear terrorism, both countries agree it is a serious issue and promised to help each other find nukes that can be sold on the black market. In combating terrorism, Russia and the US do not always see eye-to-eye. For example, when Russia was battling Checken militants who were trying to win independence, the US actually sided with the rebels calling for elections and a vote to determine if Chechnya should break away from Russia. Naturally, Putin was not pleased by this. After the events of 9/11, the US made an about face and agreed with Russia that the militants were fundamentalist Islamic radicals and the US actually congratulated Putin when Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev was killed.

Now for North Korea, Russia clearly prefers that all diplomatic efforts be made before it chooses to support economic sanctions or a military airstrike on its nuclear facilities. First, the Russian Federation is practically next door to North Korea, and it does share a small border with them. The rest of the border is shared with China. Now both countries do not want to push too quickly. In the event of an armed conflict, these two countries plus South Korea and Japan will suffer the consequences that could occur. For the US, the closest territory is Guam plus their military forces in South Korea and Japan. Now look at civilian populations, the US has the advantage since Guam is in the middle of the Pacific.

Now, I am sure my friend is delighted that the UNSC has unanimously passed a resolution sanctioning North Korea, but of course our communist neighbor has stated that it will reject the resolution and that the US and any other nation cannot prevent them from building a deterrent against any aggression. The resolution bans all UN member states from selling material or technology for missiles or weapons of mass destruction to North Korea, and from receiving missles, banned weapons or technology from Pyongyang. Note that in order to get the unanimous vote and no Chinese veto, the resolution was amended to drop the clause about using Chapter 7 of the UN Charter to levy sanctions and military force in case of noncompliance.

As for Iraq, President Putin took a jab at Bush during the press conference. Bush remarked that Russia should develop a free press and religion just like what they are doing in Iraq. Putin replied back, "We certainly would not want to have same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, quite honestly." People can analyse these statements as much as they want, but we can see flaws with both of the leaders' statements.

But in any case, these examples do show that Russia do not agree with us, but that's life in the diplomatic world. Realistically, the US cannot just take unilateral action and bomb North Korea's nuclear facilities. Most neo-cons would support such an action but can they easily predict the reaction from China and Russia? Maybe, maybe not. In this world, not everyone thinks the same, and Russia's perspective out of all of this is probably keep the US tied down and hope that their proposals would end the crisis, not the Americans.

Italy: Juventus, Lazio, Fiorentina Demoted to Serie B

(corrected) No leniency for these Italian teams after their players have won the World Cup.

The verdict has been announced over the BBC Wire.

Serie A champions Juventus have been stripped of their 2004-05 and 2005-06 titles, and were demoted to Serie B with a 30 pt penalty. It is also disqualified from the 2006-07 Champions League competition.

Fiorentina got demoted to Serie B with a 12 point penalty and is out of the 2006-07 Champions League competition.

Lazio fell to Serie B with a 7 point penalty and is out of the 2006-07 UEFA Cup competition.

AC Milan will stay in Serie A with a 15 point penalty and is disqualified from the 2006-07 Champions League competition.

One sad thing about the Congressional Elections

Regardless of the scandals, the indecision, the partisan bickering, and special interest influence, the politicians that we want out of office will get re-elected because:

1) They got the money because of special interests
2) Their district is gerrymanded to the tilt
3) The public is brainwashed by their false speeches, fake ads, and even "believing" that their elected leader knows best.

A Response to a Grrrr off the Fox News Site

I had to respond to this person's Grrrr.

Pat S. in Boston Mass., writes: Mike, I am so sick and tired of all my soccer-loving friends telling me I'm uncultured because I don't like soccer. I think it's boring. When I say that, they respond with the typical, "Baseball is boring, too." OK, but I enjoy baseball. Plus, I'm a Red Sox fan and any game that David Ortiz is playing in usually ends up being exciting. Just because I don't want to watch a bunch of whiney injury-fakers play kick-the-ball-back-and-forth for 2 hours doesn't mean I'm uncultured. Which brings me to my next Grrr. Is it me, or does it seem like the players in the World Cup have no dignity whatsoever? Some of the "injuries" and "collisions" that occurred during the tourney were laughable. Don't these guys realize they are making fools of themselves? Do they have so little faith in their own abilities that they have to fake their way through half the game? Maybe that's why the sport is not so popular in America. In America, we are taught to simply get up and dust ourselves off after a collision or fall during a sports game. If it's really bad, we walk it off and then get back in the game. My answer to these overly-dramatic soccer players is this: Curt Schilling/Game 2 of the 2004 World Series/bloody sock.

Granted, I think the only exception is if you are a BoSox or Yankee fan because of the huge rivalry in baseball but can you handle spending at least three hours watching a game that could be over in less than two? How can you deal with the advertisements and little games they try to do each half-inning? If you see a baseball fan bringing a book to read during the game, it has to mean that the game itself is boring.

I do not accept the reason that Americans do not like soccer because of the fake "injuries" and "collisions" during the match. If you are, then I think you are being quite pessimistic. If this was your first World Cup tournament, then I feel sorry that you did not have a chance to watch the hundreds of games that have been occuring in England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Portugal, etc. and the UEFA Champions League and European Championship to see why we call soccer "a beautiful game." Plus, you can also learn what it means to be a true die-hard fan of any such team.

For being taught to simply get up and dust ourselves off, it is not about that anymore. The "game" in America is more about sponsorship, advertisement, and players caring more about their salary than teamwork, and the fans losing out in the end. Also, player interference does happen in any American sport.

As for Curt Shilling, good for him, but there are also a good deal of soccer games that have played thru injury to get their team to win too without the use of "diving" so do not make your quick assumptions.

The one thing I would like to see in America is seeing a team get demoted for being the worst team in the league.

FCC on the road to excessive censorship

The FCC has requested numerous tapes from broadcasters that might include vulgar remarks from unruly spectators, coaches, and athletes at live sporting events, industry sources said.

Tapes requested by the commission include football games and NASCAR races where the participants or the crowds let loose with an expletive.

It seems that the new rules that went into effect in 2004 now virtually cover any use of certain expletives that are considered to be profane and indecent, even if it is a slip of the tongue.

Reuters.com - FCC combing air tapes for dirty words

Holy sh*t! Bollux, if these rules went into effect in the UK, every fan would be arrested. Many of the football chants and songs contain expletives up the creek, and it's all part of the game. When the referee makes a bad call, the whole home crowd would be yelling "The referee's a wanker! The referee's a wanker!"

There are many football (soccer) songs out there, but when I was in the UK, I am a passionate fan of West Ham United, a football club in East London. Some of our favorite songs:

Up your arse oh up your arse,
stick your blue flag up your arse!
From Stamford bridge to Upton Park
stick your blue flag up your arse!

I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high,
They nearly reach the sky
And like my dreams they fade and die!
Fortunes always hiding,
I've looked every where.
I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air!
United! United!

But in any English match, you're bound to hear, "F*ck off!" "You're sh*t!" "Wanker!" "C*nt!"

If Americans cannot handle the swearing, then we are wussies!

FCC should just sit down and shut up, sit down shut up (reprise). chant "la la la la la" . "If you hate FCC, stand up!, if you hate FCC, stand up!"


Cristal & Rappers

Certain rap singers and hip-hop stars are banning the Cristal champagne from their nightclubs or from regular use. It seems they are bit peeved that Frederic Rouzaud, the newly appointed manager director of Louis Roederer, the 230-year-old champagne house that makes Cristal, did not appreciate hip-hop's connection to the brand.

The Economist asked Rouzaud if its association with hip-hop's "bling" lifestyle could be detrimental to its image. He replied, "That is a good question but what can we do? We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Don Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have the business."

It seems some black singers did not like the response. Jay-Z whined that Cristal owed them millions of dollars for free publicity by linking their wine with the good life in hit songs. He says, "Anything else but a thank you is dismissive, insulting, and racist." Other stars doing the same include Beyonce, Lil Kim, and Jamie Foxx.

One exception is Malcolm X Abrams, a leading writer on black culture, said it was sad that, in the face of real problems such as poverty and disease, people were worked up about an "overpriced" drink and a "casual dis by a snooty Frenchmen."

Here! Here! Was Rouzaud being racist about it? Nope, he just felt that rappers waste the champagne by spraying it all around in their music videos instead of sipping it like actual gentlemen. In any case, the average person would not even consider buying a Cristal bottle since it costs several hundred of dollars.

Another way to get Jay-Z and his friends into the news.

Times Online - Bubbly bursts as bling crowd desert Cristal over ‘racism’

FIFA World Rankings: USA goes down

With Italy's victory in the World Cup Final, their placing soared to second place, behind five-time winners Brazil. France went up to 4th place.

The Top 10
1. Brazil
2. Italy
3. Argentina
4. France
5. England
6. Netherlands
7. Spain
8. Portugal
9. Germany
10. Czech Republic

For the USA where they were ranked 5th before the World Cup took place, are now ranked 16th in the world.

MLS Teams should consider name changes

MLS Soccer will go "international" when Toronto FC joins the league in 2007.

Other than that, I am quite amazed at the way we include sponsors in the name of the sports team. It completely dilutes the name of the team and especially the fans.

For example, the New York Red Bulls (or in some places NY/NJ Red Bulls). Essentially the name is part sponsor by Red Bull, the sports drink, but with the team in last place in the Eastern Conference, the name does not instill any type of confidence. Make it simple. It should be named New York United FC or New York United.

Other examples include:

New England Revolution should be New England United / FC

Kansas City Wizards - same thing

Colorado Rapids - same thing

Chicago Fire - just to remind us about that Great Fire?

Columbus Crew - nada

Houston Dynamo - please...help me

Los Angeles Galaxy - sheesh

Note: Real Salt Lake - is meant to be pronounced as Re-al Salt Lake.

Marco Materazzi admits insulting Zidane

Italian soccer player Marco Materazzi admits insulting Zinedine Zidane during the World Cup final match. Suggestions that Materazzi called Zidane a "terrorist" were denied by the Italian player.

Interesting statement by Materazzi:
(from the Gazzetta dello Sport)

"I did insult him, it's true. But I categorically did not call him a terrorist. I'm not cultured and I don't even know what an Islamic terrorist is."

Not cultured. Even though I think Zidane should not have snapped, it is despicable for Materazzi to use insults as a matter of screwing around with the player's mind during a soccer match.

Also from Rome:
Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni accused FIFA of double standards, noting that soccer's governing body named Zidane as the tournament's best player after his head-butt, while Italy forward Francesco Totti was kicked out of the 2004 European Championship for spitting in an opponent's face.

Shut up Veltroni. You got your trophy, and with the way Italy played during the whole tournament, none of them should get the Golden Ball individual award. Just enjoy your four years of being the best (arguably) football team in the world. We will wait until 2010 in South Africa.

CNNsi.com - Materazzi admits insulting Zidane

China Accuses Japan of "Overreacting"

I find China's reaction to be hypocritical. China goes ahead and describes Japan's efforts to pass a UN resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea for conducting missile tests an "overreaction" and they are opposed to the current draft revision. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said "If adopted, it will intensify contradictions and increase tension."

It seems China always want to adopt a "diplomatic" stance on foreign issues, but a more "belligerent" stance internally. It thinks that North Korea's missle tests was a misunderstanding. Strange enough, it knows how to treat internal problems. If a village goes and protests about a industrial spill or corruption of party officials, the government responds as usual... paramilitary force, no talks, and the suppression of any coverage that results in that.

China has lost face in saying that it can keep North Korea in check. It must show strength and determination to agree with the current UN draft resolution in imposing sanctions. This would show to North Korea that China has lost patience with its nearby friend, and this incident was the last straw.

CNN.com - Japan N-crisis draft under attack

Online Gambling to be made illegal

Another form of government regulation and placating the demands of the American Gaming Association. The House is debating a bill that would clairfy existing law by spelling out that Internet gambling is illegal. The legislation would forbid credit cards and other forms of payment from being used to settle online wagers and would allow authorities to work with Internet providers to block access to gambling web sites.

Essentially, it forces the wannabe gambler to fly to Las Vegas to place a legal bet on any sporting game in the world. However, it is more convenient to go online and place a bet from your own home.

Strange enough, professional sports leagues like the bill saying that web wagering hurts their integrity. So Las Vegas betting is ok? I rather think Las Vegas has some sort of "agreement" with the professional sports leagues.

Conservatives want a ban because of moral reasons. Obviously.

It is the digital age. Las Vegas does not want to lose their customers to Internet sites. Instead, it should embrace the Internet and compete. Government should not ban gambling. If a person wants to gamble their house away, that's fine. It is their choice and their responsiblity.

CNN.com - Online gambling faces full House

2010 World Cup Logo Unveiled!

We still have a big federal DEFICIT! Conservatives take note!

Good news from the conservative blogs about our economy having another good increase the last quarter, adding more jobs, unemployment is down, tax revenues are up.

Republicans are already arguing that increasing overall revenues show that their tax cuts and the 2003 tax cut on stock dividends are responsible.

Ok, let's focus on the truth behind these figures. Yes, of course I am happy government revenues are coming back up, and yes, tax cuts are helping consumers spend more of their money, companies are hiring more people, and so on. BUT...

Revenues have not climbed back to levels reached in 2000. Payroll increases can also be attributed to companies hiring more high school and college students as interns (they're cheaper), thus seasonal employment needs to be factored in. We may eventually see a decrease when the school terms resumes.

Also, the government fails to mention that they have already BORROWED TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS against our current Social Security surpluses. This is why their expected federal deficit of $300 billion is complete BULLSH*T. Both Democrats and Republicans refuse to include the social security figures in their annual budget. The problem herein is when the Social Security surplus starts diminishing when the baby boomers start to retire. All those IOUs for that surplus will need to be paid off, and this will result in a financial disaster of monumental proportions.

As of the 6th of July, our national debt stands at $8.4 TRILLION. We are now on track to hit $9.0 TRILLION in less than two years. Our government continues to say that rising tax revenues are good because of low taxes. That translates in reducing our federal deficit by another $100 billion, but that leaves it down to $300 billion. This is still not acceptable.

The Republican administration has no long-term plan for this. Even the idea of priviatization Social Security will not save it. Plus, tax revenues are too volatile to chart, so who knows if next year, revenues would drop substantially. Who knows if a financial crash will hit our stock markets.

The tax cuts are short-term solutions. It still does not solve our eventual debt problems. How can we reduce our national debt when there are some Republicans still believe in the use of deficit spending.

They also fail to mention, much to the chagrin of fiscal conservatives, that their administration have overseen a mushroom of government spending. When Mr. Bush took office, the federal debt was at $5.6 trillion. We are now talking about $8.4 trillion. Now, Republicans are trying to authorise another debt ceiling increase to $9.6 TRILLION! Hey, how can you answer this financial mockery?

We have spent over $300 billion on Iraq and Afghanistan combined. How much more is needed? Another $300 billion? $500 billion? $1 trillion? The answer, to help our armed forces, fly in the face of seeing this country going really, really, really bankrupt.

Honestly, the clock is ticking. People say we are in an economic boom. Yep, it gives the upper middle and rich folks time to liquidate everything and head for the hills when the collectors come.

People do not see the big picture. Sigh...

2006 World Cup Champions: Italy

italyworldcup.jpg

Italy have won the World Cup Final in penalties (5-3) after a 1-1 draw with France.

The Final Standings

1st Place - Italy
2nd Place - France
3rd Place - Germany

Congratulations to Italy for their 4th World Cup title. Strange enough France dominated most of the game starting in the second half, but could not create any scoring opportunities and lost Zidane (red-card) in extra time for headbutting a fellow Italian player, Viera (injured), and Henry (cramps). You would have thought by watching extra time, France could have scored the winner, but it was not to be.

As the national Italian team celebrates, we will wonder about the scandal back at home where four of the top Italian football teams may get relegated to either a second or third division, and where most of the Italian players are from.

Anyways, I am not completely happy with Italy winning given their "diving" style so they should not even deserve the "fair play" award. It is amusing that they saved up all their energy for their victory dance rather than doing a better job playing on the pitch against France.


Remember 7/7 - London Bombings

Today marks 1 year after the July 7 bombings where suicide bombers killed 52 people.

BBC News: Nation remembers 7 July victims

For me, it is the second time for me being in a city during a terrorist attack. I worked in the London office along Gresham Street, about 15 min walk from Liverpool Station. The first time was in Jersey City during 9/11.

In Memoriam...

US Freedom of Information Act Turns 40

The U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) turns 40 tomorrow, the day we celebrate our independence. This was stated by Jimmy Carter, who write in the opinion column for today's Washington Post issue.

Now I am sure some conservatives would like to see this piece of legislation abolished for the sake of national security, but the uninterrupted flow of information is integral to the survival of democracy. These days, governments are slowly re-classifying documents that were made open to the public several years ago, or even a decade ago. New policies have been issued to prevent many important documents and official actions from being seen by the public.

As stated by Carter -- war, civil rights violations, energy costs, campaign finance and lobbyist scandals -- dictate the need for citizens to have the right to access public documents.

Using the war on terror as an excuse to keep documents hidden from the public is unexcusable. Terrorist attacks have occurred throughout the years, why the urgency to keep everything secret now? Is it really protecting national security or keeping those "politicians" in power forever?

Washington Post - We Need Fewer Secrets

Americans Yawning at Football (Soccer)

Obvious enough, the nation of almost 300 million people yawned at the World Cup action that was occurring in Germany. Despite doubling its TV ratings in the first set of matches when the World Cup began, it still fell far below the rest of "American" sports.

ABC recording an average rating of 2.5 for the first eight matches, representing barely 8 million viewers. Only 3.9 million Americans watched the 2002 World Cup final, which had an audience of 1.1 billion worldwide. Of course this has to be underestimated since you got immigrants and US citizens of foreign descent who are probably into the game and are not covered. I still feel that viewership is definitely higher, but not too much. For ESPN, they attracted fewer viewers, averaging around 1.75 million on channels that reach 91 million homes.

Global Market Insite (GMI) found that 11 percent of Americans surveyed were "definitely" interested in the World Cup. Worldwide averages 45 percent. Sadly enough, 56 percent of Americans did not even know that the 2006 World Cup was taking place in Germany. I guess it might be higher if they were asked where the 2010 World Cup is taking place. Also interesting, Americans do not do well with civics too since a good percentage do not know where the location of the nation's capitol or know all clauses of the Bill of Rights, or did not know that the red and white stripes on the flag represented the thirteen colonies when they declared independence.

Well, we are a country that loves sporting isolationism. The 1994 World Cup held in the US could have turned the tide, but despite the largest average crowds in World Cup history and the spawning of the Major League Soccer which now has 12 teams, it is still struggling to find a place in the crowded US sports market.

One sports commentator, Frank Deford, a Sports Illustrated columnist, said there was more interest in the professional basketball and hockey playoffs in America, "the only country where soccer is not important."

Jack Kemp, former Republican presidential candidate, once called soccer "socialistic and collectivist" during a speech in Congress.

USA Today columnist William Mattox Jr. wrote last week, "We love to play the game, or at least to have our children play it. But we hate to watch it."

* * * * *

It is such a shame really. Some may call it boring, but I also say that basketball, hockey, American football, and baseball are also of a boring character. Basketball utilises the same fancy footwork like football (soccer), but I guess we like to see how high the guys can jump to make that dunk shot, but we already seen every shot made. Of course, the stars that get the six or seven figure salary come to the game with their stretched out limos with loads of their entourage. It promotes that individualism and a "me first" attitude. Sadly, I have lost care in knowing if Kobe Bryant did 40+ points in more than X consecutive games. It is not that exciting anymore.

Hockey is only good when a fight breaks out. You're just passing the puck and with all that protective gear, there's no blood unless you starting using the stick or a body-slam would do. Now, if they play the game full contact but with no heavy gear, then that would be interesting.

American football is just commericals, and filled with so much stoppage plays, a game that should last 1 hour, goes at least 3 hours. The half-time show is only meant to get the audience to stay interested, and as for the rest of us, we stay at home seeing what new commerical has been concocted for us. It is much like rugby, but there is no need for helmets, shoulderpads, or knee gear. If you put the England rugby team against the New England Patriots, the rugby players will win outright.

Baseball is just messed up. I would not mind going to a Yankee game from time to time, but it is not the game that is driving me away, it is the prices. You are liable to spend almost $100 on the tickets, food, and drinks, and I bet the break in each half-inning is designed to get the average fan to go to the snack bar to buy a $4 or $5 hot dog, or a $7 dollar beer. While we may appreciate the great double or triple play, the game is just boring unless you have that TV transistor with the commentary going on at your ear.

Somehow I think football (soccer) players are more appreciate of the fans. When we talk about money, they are less demanding. They do get bonuses for getting into the championship or getting qualified for Europe, but compared with American players, they are not that picky. For some baseball and American football players, they have clauses in their contract stating what car they should get, what hotel room or floor, customised meals, a private jet, and whatever special privileges that are stated. That would just turn me off like any other fan.

How can you tell me that football (soccer) is boring, when I see fans at a baseball game reading a book or taking a nap? Perhaps there is something missing that would galvanise the American populace into loving football. Maybe it is the way we are brought up or perhaps the sports commentators and commericals are all geared up to be anti-football.

I would hope that a trip to Europe to see an England football match or a Italian or Spanish or Portuguese match will open your eyes to the "beautiful game." Besides, where else can you find a player that can kick the ball with the speed of almost 140-150 km/hr.

Yahoo News - Beautiful game fails to win over Americans


World Cup Heartbreak for England and Brasil

England lost to Portugal on penalties 3-1 after both teams ended the match 0-0 after extra time. It was heartbreak for the England boys since they battled bravely throughout the game, and even with 10 men after Wayne Rooney was unjustly sent off for the foul on Ricardo Carvalho. Even with one man down, England kept Portugal at bay and were even better than them and there were several chances that could put them ahead, but alas it did not happen.

I am somewhat frustrated with the way Portugal played the game. There was a bit of unsportsmanship when kicking the ball out of play when a player gets injured. Also, the theatrics in getting fouled hits a nerve which makes me feel that Portugal got a cheap win for this quarterfinal match. One example had Maniche covering his face in pain after one of the England players stepped near it. Video replays showed no contact, and the Portugal player failed to get booked for his dive.

For Wayne Rooney, he got tangled with Carvalho and Armando Petit and appeared to stamp the Chelsea player's groin. Carvalho made his theatrical face in pain and Cristiano Ronaldo comes running to the Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo, demanding a red card. Rooney, with disgust on his face, after seeing his Manchester United face trying to get the ref to send him off, pushed him away. The referee then went ahead and gave the straight red to Rooney, which even brought Beckham to his feet in anger (he was injured earlier in the game and was taken off). I truly believed that the ref was urged on by the Portuguese players to send Rooney off, and a few of the tv replays suggest that Ronaldo "winked" at the Portugal bench after the red card was issued.

I have to wonder how Rooney and Ronaldo will put up with each other when the English Premier League resumes in August.

Despite being a man down, the England team showed much passion and heart and kept it together until the end of the second half and extra time. It is only unfortunate that Gerrard, Lampard, and Carragher got their penalty shots saved by Portugal's goalkeeper Ricardo.

I am quite proud of their performance in this World Cup, and hope much better progress in Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 in South Africa. I hope that France will defeat Portugal in the semi-final.

* * * * *

As for Brasil, they lost 1-0 to France in this evening's other quarterfinal after England lost against Portugal. Thierry Henry's superb volley send the cup holders Brasil home. France combined defensive discipline and attacking play which rattled Brasil's usual dancing football.

It was quite a surprise win for France, and most of the fans in the bar in Vienna were rooting for the underdogs. It goes to show that Brasil are also vulnerable to the unexpected.

* * * * *

July 4 - Germany v Italy
July 5 - Portugal v France

July 8 - Loser (4th) v Loser (5th) for 3rd Place

July 9 - Winner (4th) v Winner (5th) for Final Victory