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Three simple rule changes to make football more exciting

I have come to realize that my passion for watching sports has begun to wane over the last three or four years, to the point where it’s now been months since I last watched a televised game. I used to love watching football and basketball, but now I find it difficult to watch an entire match, and usually get bored before half-time.

I am guessing there are two main reasons for this: I am getting old; and most football games are, plain and simple, boring. There is nothing I can do about the fact that I am getting old, so I thought may be I should come up with ways to make football more interesting.

I am sure I am not the only one who gets irritated by the constant interruption of the game flow because of niggling fouls, mostly committed on creative players. And unless the fouls are egregious enough to warrant yellow or red cards, a team and a player can get away with committing dozens of fouls a game as there are no consequences to doing so. Addressing this issue alone would improve the game watching experience considerably and the first two proposals are aimed at that.

  1. Five team fouls per half limit, after which a special direct free kick is awarded to the aggrieved team every time the opposing team commits another foul. For the special direct free kick, the ball is placed anywhere inside the ‘D’ or semicircle just outside of the penalty box, with only the goalkeeper facing the free kick taker. This is more like a penalty taken not from the penalty spot, but from the ‘D’.
  2. If a player commits three fouls, s/he is taken out of the game for five minutes, where the team has to play with one less player until the five minute penalty period expires. If a player commits five fouls, then that player is dismissed from the game and the team has to wait ten minutes before introducing a substitute to replace the dismissed player. This is similar to a player fouling out in a basketball game, but with the added team penalty of playing with a player short until the penalty period expires.
  3. Abolish the offside rule. It is a stupid rule, and I have always hated it. Shouldn’t it be up to the defenders to know and keep track of the position of the opposing players? Why do they need a special protection?

I think these three simple rule changes would make football much more exciting to watch, and I imagine, play to.

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Land Grab in the 21st Century

This has to be one of the most dangerous developments of the past 18 months. If these companies and countries continue to grab land from poor nations at this alarming rate, it is only a matter of time before riots break out everywhere and governments in these poor nations will be unable to control the rage of the hungry masses.

We have already seen unrests in several African countries in the past year as food prices sky rocketed. Just imagine the level of unrest and violence when people realize that while they can’t afford to feed their families because of sky rocketing food prices, large companies and other governments are shipping food grown in their country to feed their own population.

The level of greed, short sightedness and arrogance shown by these companies and countries is just incredible. To think that they can just buy millions of acres of fertile farm land in developing countries, especially in African countries where there is still a lot of lingering resentment left over from the colonial era, and not expect any backlash is just wishful thinking.

What is most pazzling about this report is that countries such as Sudan and Ethiopia, which currently receive large amounts of food aid because they are unable to feed their own populations, are selling fertile farm land to other nations and corporations. Food pricess in Ethiopia have gone up so much in the past 18 months that people are unable to feed their families and are resorting to food aid. How will the Ethiopian government justify selling prime farm land to other nations so that food can be exported in order for those nations to protect their citizens from wild price fluctuations while Ethiopians go hungry?

And as for Sudan, hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions displaced from their homeland in Darfur primarily because the Janjaweed, backed by the government, wanted Darfur’s farmlands and water resources. If this doesn’t tell you how valuable and scarce land is in the Sudan then nothing will.

Who is being displaced from their land in the Sudan (or Ethiopia/Zambia/Cameroon,etc.) now, so China, India, Korea and a couple of Arab nations can feed their own populations; or companies such as Hyundai and Morgan Stanley can make millions or even billions of dollars? Does this also mean that the UN, USAid and other aid organizations will continue to feed the poor in Ethiopia and Sudan while those nations start exporting food? Where is the logic in that?

Are these nations and companies doing the land grab really this naive? Or has greed blinded them to such an extent that they are unable to see the obvious consequences of their actions? This practice has to end now, and the deals already finilized rescinded before violence breaks out in these poor nations and governments start falling. Otherwise we will see levels of violence unseen in Africa in decades, and the collapse of hard won peace, stability, democracy and development.

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Are Private Security Contractors the Answer?

It doesn’t look like the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is going to sign the peace treaty anytime soon, or ever. It also appears unlikely that the Ugandan army will be able to defeat the LRA. To make matters worse, now the LRA has setup bases in Central African Republic, and is attacking villages in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Also in the Democratic Republic of Congo, general Nkunda’s militia is at it again attacking villages and killing civilians in the eastern part of the country, and on the verge of taking the town of Goma. Similarly, the DRC army seems incapable of protecting its people, and the UN doesn’t have enough manpower to stop Nkunda or the other militias operating in eastern DRC.

So, are the people of northern Uganda and eastern DRC condemned to forever live in fear and terror because their governments or the UN can’t protect them? The answer should be an emphatic no, and it is time the world came up with new ideas and actions to end these atrocities.

It is clear that unless a powerful western nation intervenes and defeats these warlords and war criminals (similar to Britain’s intervention in Sierra Leone), which seems very unlikely at this moment, other more radical options need to be considered. One of those ideas has to be bringing in private security contractors; with a clear mandate of bringing those war criminals to justice.

It is clear that private security contractors are not going to be cheap, but the LRA has already inflicted a heavy human and material cost on the people of northern Uganda, and will continue to do so not only in Uganda but in South Sudan, DRC and CAR. The toll on the DRC is even higher, with some estimates of 4 million deaths in the last decade, not to mention the looting of the country’s resources.

So the question isn’t ‘can we afford private security contractors?’, but ‘can we afford to continue doing nothing?’.

There needs to be a clear rules of engagement for the private security contractors before they are deployed:

  1. Ideally this should be approved by the UN Security Council, and the countries where the private security contractors will be operating.
  2. Civilians have to be protected, where the security contractors must do everything they can to avoid civilian casualties.
  3. A clearly defined goal: capturing or eliminating specific war criminals.
  4. A clearly defined time line: e.g., capturing/eliminating LRA leadership in 24 months, etc.

This is a potentially controversial idea and likely to be criticized by some quarters, but something needs to be done now to end the atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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