France, Belgium win world cup quarter finals

It probably wasn’t a surprise to see France beat Uruguay in a Football World Cup quarter final this morning, but it would have shocked many, especially in South America, when Belgium edged out cup favourites Brazil. Belgium led 2-0 until late in the game, and Brazil could only close up with one goal.

France has eliminated both Argentina and Uruguay, and with Brazil out too now there are no South American teams left in the running.

Tomorrow morning (NZ time) the other two quarter finals will be played:

  • Russia versus Croatia
  • Sweden versus England

Despite Germany crashing out early, and also Italy, Spain and Portugal, Europe is dominating this world cup.

Rankings prior to the cup starting:

Top 20 rankings as of 7 June 2018[1]
Rank Change Team Points
1 Steady  Germany 1558
2 Steady  Brazil 1431
3 Steady  Belgium 1298
4 Steady  Portugal 1274
5 Steady  Argentina 1241
6 Steady   Switzerland 1199
7 Steady  France 1198
8 Increase 2  Poland 1183
9 Steady  Chile 1135
10 Decrease 2  Spain 1126
11 Steady  Peru 1125
12 Steady  Denmark 1051
12 Increase 1  England 1051
14 Increase 3  Uruguay 1018
15 Steady  Mexico 989
16 Steady  Colombia 986
17 Increase 2  Netherlands 981
18 Increase 3  Wales 953
19 Increase 1  Italy 951
20 Decrease 2  Croatia 945
*Change from 17 May 2018
Complete rankings at FIFA.com

 

Cannabis progress in North & South America

 

While the New Zealand government continues to do virtually nothing about addressing cannabis law (apart from allowing limited use of medicinal cannabis extracts) the rest of the world moves on with reforms.

CNBC: Canada to legalize Cannabis from next year: report

Canadians will be free to smoke and grow their own cannabis from next July under new laws which legalize the possession of marijuana for personal consumption, according to reports from Canadian national broadcaster CBC News.

The new freedoms, which were presented to the Liberal government over the weekend by MP Bill Blair, will be announced during the week of April 10 before being written into law in time for Canada Day on July 1, 2018, according to reports from Canadian national broadcaster CBC News.

Under the new law, the Federal government in Ottawa will set a minimum purchasing age of 18 and will be in charge of licensing producers, however, provincial government will have the authority to manage distribution and pricing. It will also be entitled to raise the minimum purchase age. Canadians will also be free to grow up to four marijuana plants per household.

And (ODT): Argentina approves medicinal cannabis

Argentina has given final legislative approval to a bill legalising cannabis oil for medicinal use and permitting the federal government to grow marijuana for research and therapeutic purposes.

The measure will become law once it is signed by President Mauricio Macri, whose Cambiemos party sponsored the bill.

“Thirty percent of epileptics do not respond to traditional medicine,” medical doctor Ana María García Nicora, who heads the Medical Cannabis Argentina group, told local television after the Senate’s final vote on the measure.

“My daughter has had epilepsy for 24 years and this is an option for her,” she said.

And not just in Argentina:

Chile and Colombia have adopted similar laws and neighboring Uruguay has gone as far as to legalize smoking marijuana, seeking to wrest the business from criminals in the small South American nation.

A bill approving the use of cannabis oil is pending in Peru’s Congress.

In January, healthcare regulators in Brazil issued the country’s first license for sale of an oral spray derived from marijuana used to treat multiple sclerosis.

There has also been a lot of changes to cannabis laws in many states in the US.

Meantime here in New Zealand we continue to suffer the consequences of outdated and ineffective drug laws.

Is anyone excited about the Olympics?

The Olympic Games must be due to start soon, there’s been quite a lot fuss made about them by some media. Is anyone excited yet?

I enjoy following some sports in the Olympics, at least I have in the past. But I have never been a fan of marathon build-ups. I don’t bother watching opening ceremonies – I’ve seen bits of them but have never made an effort to watch through one, they do nothing for me.

I’m sure I’ll keep an eye on things like athletics, rowing, yachting, sevens, golf and maybe a few more when they actually get under way.

But in many ways the Olympics seem to have become dominated by negatives:

  • Drugs
  • Too big
  • Too commercial
  • Too many sports
  • Abuse of the Olympic spirit by self interested officials and corruption
  • Drugs

RNZ asks: Have the Olympics lost their way?

Once a celebration of sporting values with a focus on national pride and personal achievement, critics suggest the Games have been captured by commercial imperatives and tainted by corruption – further underlined by the revelations of Russia’s state sponsored doping programme.

The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics have a lot to answer for in the mind of a leading Olympic academic, professor Ian Culpan, who is head of the Olympic Studies Academy at the University of Canterbury.

They were the first Olympic Games to operate under a commercial model and became the spectacle that people expect today.

Commercialism, Los Angeless, USA, no surprise.

Do people actually expect a commerce driven ‘spectacle’, or is it foisted on us?

Navigating the modern Olympic field you have to try and dodge a barrage of commercial javelins, discuses and hammers, surrounded by a swirl of sponsors.

However, Professor Culpan said that did not mean the Olympics remained true to the Olympic movement.

‘Where we lose the relevance is [in] the philosophy of the Games [and it is] probably the IOC’s best kept secret, you know, balanced development in your life, joy of effort, athletes being role models and observing universal ethics but in the last 20 years the IOC has hardly ever talked about that,” said Culpan.

“So what I am saying is that Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Christ. The Olympic Games are supposed to be a celebration of the philosophy of Olympism but both have lost their way.”

Both have lost their way in  a maze of commercialism. The main aim of both Christmas and the Olympics seems to be a world record in spending – much of it on unnecessary crap.

He believes the Olympics are now at a tipping point.

He said there were questions over the financial and social sustainability of the Games but also a disconnect existed between high performance sport and the public.

“The divide is really created by high performance sport being captured by the political economy. Athletes are now bought and sold as commodities. They’re traded on the open market and with that comes the notion of money and reward for good performances and with that comes the temptation to gain unfair advantage.”

Brazil seems to have struggled with the financial burden of hosting this year’s Olympics. In 2020 they will be held in Toky0 – back to the venue that I first remember following the Olympics in 1964.

The theory is that winning Olympic medals is good for national identity and inspires people to become active although the head of High Performance Sport New Zealand, Alex Bauman, concedes there is no evidence of that being the case.

The best we can hope for in New Zealand is to be a creditable small player, in some sports.

Rebuilding the Olympics’ tarnished image will be a major exercise for the IOC in Rio and while Rio will undoubtedly put on a spectacular show the true test for these Games will be whether the label of the greatest sporting show on Earth is still valid or whether they have simply become a five ring circus.

I remember the circus as down to earth, rough and ready exotic entertainment. The Olympics are nothing like that.

They are more like a giant promotion for a global shopping mall.

The athletes are little more than pawns in the play for power and market share.

Smith in custody in Brazil

It’s reported that Fugitive Phillip Smith taken into custody in Brazil…

Fugitive Phillip Smith has been taken into custody in Brazil.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush made the announcement just after 4.30am, saying Brazil Federal Police had Smith in their custody.

The New Zealand police liaison officer in Brazil visited Mr Smith and confirmed his identity.

In one way this is good news. He shouldn’t get away with breeching his temporary release and sentence.

In another way it’s not so good, there were many feelings of “good riddance”.

What now? How easy will it be to get Smith back to NZ?

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse said New Zealand did not have a formal extradition treaty with Brazil, which prompted concerns that returning Smith to this country could be a lengthy, complex process.

But he said Smith could be liable for deportation, which would be a simpler process than extradition.

Smith was not travelling on a valid travel document and he had failed to disclose his convictions when entering Chile and Brazil, meaning he was in the latter country illegally and could possibly be deported.

University of Auckland international law expert Bill Hodge believed if Smith was caught, he could be deported from Brazil based on problems with his visa.

“Then [they would] simply send him to the airport to deport to a place where an airline will carry him, and that will be in the first instance, Santiago, Chile – where they will deport him further out of transit back to New Zealand.”

So he could end up back in custody in New Zealand soon.

And then the issue of parole and release will come up again sometime.

Smith had committed many offences. Murder was the worst, and it was particularly nasty, as described on Campbell Live last night:

The victim was molested by Smith between the ages of 10 and 13 and was forced to watch as Smith stabbed his father to death, while out on parole in a violent home invasion in 1995.

When Smith was finally locked up, he continued to stalk and taunt the victim and his family from behind bars.

“He had a hit list to kill the whole family,” he says.

The victim described Smith’s predatory behaviour toward him and his family while on bail, saying Smith would stalk the family house for weeks before violently entering, despite conditions expressly prohibiting him from contact with the family. It was on bail that Smith stabbed the victim’s father to death in front of his eyes.

He says he has had trouble coping with the situation. Ever since Smith fled to South America, he has been sleeping with a knife under his bed, afraid the man who killed his father will come after him too.

“I’ve got mixed emotions – anger, fear. It’s not the first time they have let me down, and my family down.”

He is worried for the future and wants to see Smith put “back to where he belongs”.

While fleeing has brought this all up again Smith may have done some good, inadvertently, by fleeing.

He is obviously still high risk. Surely this justifies keeping him locked up, with no temporary release. This may not be indefinite but it should be for a long time at least.