Women’s World Cup–A Kick In L’herbe

Love might be what’s in the air in Paris in the springtime, but soccer is what’s on Parisians’ minds this summer. France is hosting the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup now through July 7th. Even if you aren’t a soccer fan, there’s plenty to keep you entertained with this tournament. The event’s a real kick in the grass–or l’herbe if you speak French.

More into economic news than sports scores? Keep an eye on a big match ahead. The defending champions, the U.S. team, plays the host team, France, on Friday in a quarterfinal match at Parc des Princes in Paris. The face value for tickets to this match runs a reasonable $17 to $65 for world class action on the grass–er, l’herbe. But demand is high for these tickets. What happens when demand exceeds supply? You guessed it. The price for the supply skyrockets. Tickets are now being hawked on Stubhub.com for between $425 and $5,100. Forget grass. You’ll need loads of bread to afford those tickets.

Maybe you are more of a science fan than a soccer fan. The Women’s World Cup is being played under fascinating meteorological conditions. Earlier this week an intense heat wave built across portions of France. More than half of the country (including around Paris) is under an orange alert, the second highest intensity for potentially dangerous weather conditions. Forecasters are predicting France could set a new national heat record of around 113 degrees. The old record, set in 2003, was 111. This record-setting heat wave will provide high temperatures and humidity for the players to endure on the field as well as for the fans in the stands to stand. With a capacity crowd of 47,929 expected at Parc des Princes, thousands of fans will be longing for some fans blowing cool air on them.

Those who enjoy U.S. political news will not be disappointed with the Women’s World Cup. Although he is neither playing in it nor attending it, President Donald Trump is still grabbing headlines related to the tournament. He and the U.S. women’s team co-captain, Megan Rapinoe, are engaging in a war of words. Who? If you aren’t a sports fan, you may not be familiar with Megan Rapinoe’s name. But she sure is easy to spot on the field. She’s the player in the U.S. team uniform with light pink hair. Along with athletic workouts, Rapinoe prepared for the big even by dyeing her blond hair. Maybe she was feeling in the pink about the U.S. team’s chances of winning and wanted to look in the pink as well.

Although news reports haven’t focused on Rapinoe’s hair color, they have brought to President Trump’s attention that the U.S. team’s co-captain has for several years remained silent during the national anthem to protest inequality and injustice. Her silent protest continued when the “Star Spangled Banner” was played before the U.S. team’s opening match against Thailand. Trump did not feel this behavior was respectful and blasted Rapinoe on Twitter. Rapinoe shot back that she wouldn’t go to the “f***ing” White House if the team won the World Cup. Trump retorted Rapinoe should win first before worrying about celebrating at the White House. Anyone else feel like they are following a tennis match here? Don’t both Trump and Rapinoe have something better to do than tweet? Like run the country and prepare for the most anticipated match of the World Cup to date respectively?

Fans of reality TV shows, which always seem to involve squabbling and controversy, haven’t been disappointed with the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The match between England and Cameroon didn’t have “Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Boys,” but the losing team’s women exhibited some bad behavior. FIFA will be investigating the match as a result.

In case you missed it, England won the round of 16 match against Cameroon by a score of 3-0. But the real story of the game was the Cameroon players’ actions towards the referee and opposing players. They didn’t want to kick the ball on the grass; they pretty much made clear that they’d like to kick the poor official and their opponents. One Cameroon player was caught on video spitting toward an English player. Really? These are ADULTS playing? The players also showed their disenchantment with some officiating calls by deliberately fouling several players, refusing to kick off for several minutes, and arguing with the ref while huddled around the official. I don’t know if they forgot about trying to hold their breath until they turned blue….

The Women’s World Cup also provides the opportunity to sharpen one’s geographical knowledge. Interestingly, the group from which the U.S. emerged from the knockout round was comprised of four teams, all from a different continent. These teams were the U.S. (North American), Chile (South America), Thailand (Asia), and Sweden (Europe). Of the eight quarterfinalists left from the original field of 24, seven teams are from Europe–England, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. The lone non-European team remaining is the U.S.

OK, sure, these are all large countries that (hopefully) most people might be able to pick out on a map. But what about the venues for the soccer matches in France?  Nine different stadiums are to be utilized during the tournament. Raise your hand if you can pick THESE locations out on a map of France: Grenoble, Le Havre, Lyon, Montpellier, Nice, Paris, Reims, Rennes, Valenciennes. I may not be able to pick it out exactly on a map, but I do recall from taking four years of French in high school that Nice is on the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera. Sign me up to go there whether there’s a soccer game or not!

For all you material girls (or boys) out there, the World Cup provides a sparkly (and expensive) prize for the winner. To the victor goes a trophy. No, not just any trophy. A big, heavy, costly trophy. Whatever teams is left standing after the final match will be awarded a 19″ tall trophy weighing 10 pounds. Sterling silver and 23-karat yellow and white gold were utilized to make this shiny award. Yes, the Americans can truthfully say that they are going for the gold in this World Cup. Not a medal, but a magnificent trophy.

Only time will tell who will hoist that heavy trophy in the air come July 7th. In the meantime, let’s wring all we can out of the Women’s World Cup. We’ve got economics, weather, politics, geography, boorish behavior, and last but not least, some kick in l’herbe exciting sports play. I’ll be chanting “USA! USA!” as I peruse a map of France from my very affordable seat in front of my television with the AC running come Friday’s match against France. How about you?


Have you watched any of the 2019 Women’s World Cup or at least read about it? If you aren’t a sports fan, do you think you could still enjoy reading about or watching such a big world event? How important is good sportsmanship? Is the playing field the appropriate venue for political protests? Why or why not?











Counting On Census Controversy

How high can you count? If you are an enumerator (fancy schmanzy way of saying census taker) you better be able to count into the multi-millions since the current U.S. population is estimated to be around 329,000,000. What enumerators may or may not be able to find out in the upcoming 2020 census is how many citizens and non-citizens dwell in the U.S. Yes, sir;  count on census controversy on that question.

A census is nothing new. Why the Romans took one back in Biblical times when Joseph and his pregnant fiancée, Mary, had to go to Bethlehem for a head count. Unfortunately, the gospels provide no information about what questions the Roman enumerators asked. Perhaps it was a hot-button topic  whether the occupying Romans could ask if someone was a Roman citizen.

Flash forward to more modern times. Census taking was conducted in this country prior to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution itself recognized the need for a population count because the legislative framework called for was congressional districts based on the number of people in an area. Article 1, Section 2 called for an “Enumeration” (read “census”) every ten years; therefore, a decennial census is constitutionally mandated.

Of key importance is that the word “citizen” is not used when the Constitution refers to the enumeration of people for determining congressional districts. The U.S. Census is a population census aiming to get a bottom line tally of the actual number of people living in this country. But while all residents are people, not all residents are citizens. This distinction is where the controversy arises.

The Census Bureau, which falls under the Commerce Department, is gearing up for the 2020 census. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has proposed adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census: “Is this person a citizen of the U.S.?”. This question, the last one to be asked on the census form, will ask all those living in the United States if they are citizens.

While the question may appear to be simple, the possible answers are not simply “yes” or “no.” One of five possible answers can be selected. One is negative, i.e., not a citizen. The four “yes” answers determine if the citizen was:

  1. born in the USA (a great song title, don’t you think?);
  2. born in a U.S. territory such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, etc.;
  3. born abroad to a U.S. parent or parents; or
  4. naturalized to become a citizen.

Is anyone shocked that a government form would not have merely a “yes” or “no” response? I’m not.

A firestorm of controversy has erupted over this eight word question. And when I say firestorm, I mean lawsuits, (more) political bickering, and congressional inquiries. Court cases seeking to block the asking of .this citizenship question allege Commerce Secretary Ross intended to discriminate against minorities by adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Is asking if a person is a citizen such a radical question? Well, not historically. A citizenship question was included in each U.S. census from 1890 to 1950. The question initially began to be asked during a time of high immigration to the U.S.. Moreover, the question has appeared on every American Community Survey since 2005. In addition, other countries such as Canada, Spain, and Germany ask a citizenship question on their version of a census.

Opponents of the citizenship question’s inclusion on the census argue that those who are in this country illegally would hesitate to participate in the census for fear the information given might be used against them. While this argument seems superficially appealing, it doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny. In the first place, the question asked is only if one is a citizen. It does not ask if a citizen is in the country legally. The “no” answer merely means that one is not a citizen. There are any number of individuals who are in this country as non-citizen legal residents (think green card) or long-term visitors.

In addition, who will use this information against the illegal immigrants? The information gathered in a census is confidential. It is illegal to share a census response with law enforcement or immigration agencies. Courts have upheld that no agency, including the FBI, has access to census data. (That’s legal access, of course.) Moreover, the so-called “72 Year Rule” (Public Law 95-416) provides that the government cannot release personally identifiable information about an individual to any other agency of individual for 72 years after it is collected for the census. Seventy-two years from now any illegal immigrant responding to the 2020 Census could be dead or perhaps have obtained citizenship by then..

Why is an accurate population count so crucial? The census figures are used for the distribution of federal funds and to draw state and congressional legislative districts. California’s attorney general opposed the proposed question noting that if the immigrant population is undercounted, then the census would be an incomplete count.  With an estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally, an undercount could have a significant impact on states with large immigrant populations. California would be one of those states, hence the Golden State’s interest in the issue.

To date three federal judges (in New York, California, and Maryland) have ruled to block the administration’s plans to include the citizenship question on the 2020 Census. The addition of the question was challenged not only as discriminating against minorities but also for being added in violation of administrative law procedures. I don’t know for sure, but I speculate that the administrative procedures are as clear and easy to understand as tax laws and procedures.

Enter the Supremes! The Commerce Department sought, and was granted, an expedited appeal by the highest court in the land. Oral arguments were presented to the U.S. Supreme Court in April, and a decision is expected to be rendered by late June. Time is a factor here as the Census Bureau is facing a June 30th deadline to finalize the census questionnaire for printing.

With a Supreme Court decision looming, it means those on both sides of the issue are counting right now, and it isn’t residents or even citizens who are being counted. Opponents and proponents of the citizenship question are counting the possible votes on the Court based on how the oral arguments went and the track records of the justices. They are also counting down the days until a decision is reached. No matter what decision is rendered by the Supreme Court, you can count on one thing. The issue will remain controversial to citizens and non-citizens alike regardless of how the Supremes rule.

Just WONDER-ing:

Should the government have the right to ask those living in the country whether or not they are citizens? Is the historical use of a citizenship question in past censuses and surveys relevant to the use of such a question in our country today? How accurate is any census no matter what is asked?









Wrapping Our Heads Around World Geography

We Americans like to think we are so smart. Why even tiny tots in this country know how to use a cell phone, change TV channels with  a remote, and play games on an iPad. Nevertheless, Americans are woefully deficient when it comes to knowledge of geography. We probably couldn’t figure out where Carmen Sandiego was on a map even if we were told the city and country where she was located.

My lack of geographical proficiency was brought to my attention back in April when I was in Washington, D.C. playing tourist. On my tourist bucket list was going down Embassy Row to check out all the foreign embassies. While I recognized the names of all the countries and could place them on the correct continent, I realized that I likely couldn’t point some of them out on a map or give pertinent information about them.

Let’s take Malawi, for example. Ding, ding, ding. Of course Malawi is in Africa. I knew that. OK, but what else do I know about Malawi–other than how to spell it? Um, nothing. Trying to rectify my ignorance, I pulled out a trusty geography textbook–not. I took a modern approach and did research about Malawi online. Perhaps one reason that I (and most likely you too) don’t know about Malawi is that it is among the world’s least developed countries; its economy is heavily based on agriculture. But surely you’re familiar with the country’s capital of Lilongwe. OK, OK. I didn’t know that either. Nor did I know off the top of my head that Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa. Hanging my head in shame.

At least if I am geographically ignorant, I am in good company. The younger generation has been documented to be appallingly lacking in general geographic knowledge. In fact, nearly 75% of 8th graders tested below proficient in geography on the 2014 National Assessment Of Education Progress exam. And why should they be proficient? A majority of states today do not require geography courses in middle school or high school. Who needs such classes? I mean we all have a GPS on our cell phone, right? Siri can tell us where a city or country is located if we must know.

Sure we can rely on electronic devices to give us needed geographical information. But our understanding of the world around us and what is happening in it is much deeper if we know where current events are taking place. A truly informed person will have a basic understanding of not only WHAT is going on but WHERE it is occurring.

Let’s look at some news headlines from the past week to see what geographical locations we might need to know about. Anyone know where Fukuoka is and why it is in the news? More basic than that–WHAT is Fukuoka? Well, it’s a city which, before this week, I’d never heard of. I might have guessed it was in Japan, and I’d have been right. To my surprise I learned that Fukuoka is the sixth largest city in Japan. It’s located on the island of Kyushu, one of Japan’s largest islands.

Fukuoka was in the news because it was the setting for a meeting of the G-20 finance ministers. These economic bigwigs, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, needed to put their heads together to discuss revisions to trade rules and finances in light of technological change and protectionism. Given clashes between the U.S. and China (which countries we can ALL find on a map or globe) over trade and technology, the finance ministers are concerned about upsets to the global economy. Not sure why Fukuoka in particular was chosen for the meeting venue, although finance and Fukuoka both do begin with the letter “F.”

Not interested in world politics? How about sports? If so, you should know about Reims. Again, this is not a city about which I have ever heard. Reims is located about 85 miles northeast of Paris and is the unofficial capital of the Champagne wine-producing region. While I’m fairly sure we’ve all heard about that area, I doubt many of us could mark the spot where it’s located with an X on a map.

Some champagne was likely uncorked in Reims Tuesday when the U.S. opened its defense of the Women’s World Cup title with a win in a match against Thailand. Hurray for the red, white and blue! They blew away their opponent by a wide margin–13-0. This score is the most lopsided victory in World Cup history for either men or women. Shall we say the Thais got reamed? Or maybe Reimsed?

For those interested in planning a trip, recent news stories would give one pause when considering the Dominican Republic as a vacation destination. Perhaps you might want to know where that country is located so you can avoid it. Since last year several American tourists have suddenly fallen ill and died while at resorts in this Caribbean location. Furthermore, Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz was the victim of an attempted murder Sunday night outside a popular nightspot in his hometown of Santo Domingo, the country’s capital and largest city.

Looks like this island’s life involves death or brushes with it.Other than that, an informed person should know that the Dominican Republic is on the island of Hispaniola, an island it shares with Haiti. By area, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation after Cuba.

Let’s face it. The world may seem to be shrinking because we can probably call anyone anywhere in the world on a cell phone, connect with someone in a foreign country via the Internet, and see what’s happening on another continent in real time on CNN. But the seemingly smaller world contains people with large gaps in their geographical knowledge.

Sure, we can’t know everything about every place. But a good start to becoming geographically proficient is to take the time to determine where a place in the news is and some general information about it. And if we really want to go all out, we might consider having our kids taught some geography before they are sent out into the big wide world as adults.

JUST WONDER-ing: Did you take a geography class in high school? Do you think that geography should be a required subject? How geographically proficient do you think you are?






The Americans Are Coming!

My how times have changed. Back in 1775, the Brits decided to pay a visit to the Lexington and Concord area. This alarmed the colonists who were warned by Paul Revere “The British are coming!” Revere’s words were a call to arms. Fast forward to 2019. The U.S. President and First Lady traveled to Britain. They weren’t invading; they were invited. The Queen wasn’t alarmed the Americans were coming; she rolled out the red carpet for them.

The top story in the news the past few days has been President Trump’s state visit to England. A state visit means that the Queen extended an invitation for the president to travel across the pond to spend some quality social time with her. President Trump is only the third U.S. president to be honored by a state visit with the queen who, at 93, has seen a number of U.S. presidents enter and leave that high office. President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama are the only other U.S. presidents to have been treated to a state visit.

President Trump’s trip was timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of D-Day. However, the invitation for a state visit was extended to him quite awhile back. It was made just after he assumed the presidency back in 2017.

The president’s visit was mostly ceremonial. With no hard news to cover, the media had a field day with fluff. Even while on maternity leave, Meghan a/k/a the Duchess of Sussex took front and center. Would her husband give the Donald the cold shoulder for (GASP!) saying that Meghan was “nasty?”

Fortunately for Meghan (but not the news media), she had a PC reason not to come face to face with President Trump; she has baby Archie to care for these days. Harry, however, had royal duties to attend to and was present at a function with the U.S. president. Per an interview with the British press, Trump revealed that he and Harry had not discussed the “nasty” business. What a shame! Imagine how fun a rumble at a royal event could have been. Personally, I think the whole thing should’ve been called a draw. Meghan said Trump was a “misogynist” during the 2016 presidential campaign, and he said that was “nasty” for her to do that. Moving on….

An uproar ensued when the media reported that President Trump had breached royal protocol by touching the Queen. As any protocol expert can attest, you don’t touch a monarch unless she initiates contact. Aha! Meghan can now say that Trump is a misogynist and ignorant about royal protocol. In any event, the Queen was not visibly annoyed by the contact. If she were annoyed, Trump might have found himself hauled off to the Tower of London for a possible beheading. But since the touchee, i.e., the Queen, wasn’t perturbed, what’s it to the media? Oh yeah, a news story.

At least President Trump is in good company as being deficient in knowledge of royal protocol. Michelle Obama laid a hand on the Queen way back in 2009 and lived to tell about it. Actually, she lived to write about it as the incident is discussed in the former first lady’s recently released book.

Good grief! Name calling. Inappropriate touching. What next? It was “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” The state dinner at Buckingham Palace was a white tie affair attended by 170 guests. Excluded from the guest list was London mayor Sadiq Kahn with whom President Trump has been openly feuding. The mayor thinks that the U.S. president is ill-informed about Islam, and President Trump has questioned the mayor’s IQ. Savvy planning to keep those two apart. Of course the mayor announced that he wouldn’t have come even if he’d been invited.

Although Prince Harry had attended a luncheon at the palace with the Trumps, he skipped the state dinner. Snub to President Trump or simply a gushing new dad who prefers to be home with his wife and newborn after a hard day’s work at being a royal? Prince William and Kate did show, the latter wearing her favorite Lover’s Knot tiara. Perhaps the future king and his spouse are aware that the job of a monarch entails dealing with heads of other countries regardless of your personal opinion of them.

The American guests also provided fodder for the news media. Four of President Trump’s children were in attendance with him–Ivanka (accompanied by husband Jared Kushner), Don, Jr., Eric, and Tiffany. While Ivanka and Jared are advisers to the president, what were the other kiddos doing there, the media wondered. Seriously? The Queen invites you to a fancy dinner with her kids in attendance, but you can’t bring yours? And who wouldn’t want to attend a state dinner at Buckingham Palace where you could meet the queen? If the Queen didn’t want the President’s family members there, I am sure she could’ve gotten the message across politely. I mean she had two years to plan the event.

Even the menu, approved by the Queen herself, provided the press with food for thought. (Pun intended.) The entree, new season Windsor lamb with herb stuffing, didn’t raise concerns, but the dessert did. Guests were served strawberry sable’ with lemon verbena cream. Aha! The media were quick to point out that President Trump was enamored of chocolate cake. Perhaps there was a message in that by the Queen not serving him some. Geez! Maybe the Queen just likes strawberries and, well, she’s the Queen so she gets what she wants.

Why couldn’t the media have used the dessert as a teaching moment? I confess. I had no idea what sable’ is. Just in case anyone else is  as clueless as I was, a sable’ is a sweet shortbread that’s buttery and noticeably salty. Yummy! Who knows? Donald may now have a new favorite dessert. At the very least, he wasn’t eating fast food–a notorious favorite of his..

The whole point of the state visit was to demonstrate the “special relationship” between our two countries. If the goal is to promote and celebrate that closeness, isn’t focusing on petty things like who said what about whom, who didn’t want to talk to whom, and who doesn’t want to socialize with whom counterproductive? Isn’t it more beneficial for both countries to accentuate the positive? Trump wanted his family members with him for this historic and special event. Harry wanted to spend time with the new addition to his family. The British eat things other than fish’n chips. Come on, mainstream media. Leave the “nasty” focus to the tabloids.

Just WONDER-ing: How closely have you been following President Trump’s state visit to England? Would you jump at the chance to attend a state dinner at Buckingham Palace? Why or why not?