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Cricket brings English-speaking world together (without U.S.)

England Rules
Hamish Blair/Getty Images

As March Madness begins to sap the productivity of U.S. workers, the rest of the English-speaking world has its sights set firmly on the Caribbean. There, England and many of the rest of her erstwhile colonies are squaring off in cricket's World Cup. ESPN doesn't even mention the event.

As in soccer football, cricket's World Cup is an opportunity for desperately poor states like Bangladesh to compete on equal terms with the rich and powerful. This goes a long way towards explaining its popularity. England has lost whatever advantages may have stemmed from inventing the game; its best hope is to make the final eight. The West Indies and Sri Lanka, meanwhile, could conceivably upset the favored Australians.

Despite Cup games being very abbreviated affairs—a blistering eight to ten hours, as against the five days required for the real deal—the game is unlikely to appeal to Americans anytime soon. Given the fanatical devotion the game inspires in countries that are home to a fifth of the world's population, that's a shame. Many have credited a 2004 series of test matches between cricket-mad India and Pakistan with easing a rivalry that, only two years earlier, had threatened to spill into nuclear war. Perhaps, in addition to funding language courses and study abroad, the U.S. government should turn its attention to the cricket grounds. There, the United States can build better relationships with allies and lessen tensions with enemies. After all, sports have been a boon for diplomacy before.

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Her Majesty's rusty tridents

Remember when debates about nuclear deterrence, mutually assured destruction, and ICBMs dominated Western politics? British politicians are enjoying a brief fit of nostalgia as Tony Blair pushes the government to update its old Trident missile system. Labour Party diehards are livid, and another government official just resigned on principle. Meanwhile, Greenpeace protesters are ratcheting up the rhetoric.

The Greenpeace campaigners clambered up the crane next to Big Ben and unfurled a 50ft banner suggesting the prime minister "loved" weapons of mass destruction. Armed with telephones to lobby MPs, the campaigners plan to occupy the spot until the parliamentary debate takes place tomorrow. One of the activists on the crane, Cat Dorey, said: "Trident is a cold war relic designed to destroy Russian cities. If MPs buckle under pressure from Tony Blair and vote to renew it, the repercussions will be felt around the world. We can't oppose proliferation of WMD if we're building them at home."

Parliament will vote on the measure tomorrow, and it is widely expected to pass, but expect some fireworks—and perhaps a few more resignations—in the House of Commons.