First Thing: Japan gets a new chief; Motlanthe gets the World Cup

First Thing: Japan gets a new chief; Motlanthe gets the World Cup

Last night: Kan rules Japan, BP tops (but doesn't cap) well, Bangladesh fire, Jupiter explosion, Proteas make a clean sweep. Coming up today: SA gets trophy, Fifa gets SA, minister play soccer, Madiba bridge makeover, Gautrain launch, Pope in Cyprus.

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The Daily Maverick
TGIF, 4 June 2010

As expected, Japan’s ruling Democratic Party elected former finance minister Naoto Kan its new chief, which should now allow him to become prime minister and choose a new cabinet over the next couple of day.
Kyodo, CNN

BP managed to cut off a riser pipe at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, using a pair of giant shears after saws failed, and positioned a funnel over the pipe, as planned. However, it was not immediately clear whether the cap could be sealed effectively to the pipe, and how much oil is still escaping. That will be known only during the course of the weekend.

A fire in an apartment building district of the capital of Bangladesh left 108 people dead, with several more in critical condition. A wedding party on the roof of one of the seven buildings engulfed contributed to the high death toll.
BDNews24, Reuters

Two amateur astronomers independently recorded a flash of bright light on Jupiter, thought to be an asteroid strike, and made video of the event available online. That triggered intense, professional observation of the planet in the hopes of gathering more data.
Anthony Wesley’s website,

The Proteas made a clean sweep of a third test series against the West Indies in a row, though not with any great margin for error. The Proteas won the fifth match by one wicket, in the last over.
Sky, Cricket365

Vladimir Arnold, arguably the most important Russian mathematician of the 20th century, died on the operating table in France. He was 73.



In a hugely symbolic action, Fifa President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter will today hand acting South African President Kgalema Motlanthe the solid gold World Cup trophy. While Motlanthe will, implicitly, hand Blatter control of the country in return. Though it’s not like either of them get to keep what they get for very long, so it’s less of a big deal than it may seem at first glance.

With that out of the way, those cabinet ministers who are around (and not, say, in India) will play a game of six-a-side soccer on the lawns of the Union Buildings. We suspect this too will be purely symbolic, because there is not a man or woman among them we rate able to go two minutes in a real soccer game.

You can already drive across the Nelson Mandela bridge between Newtown and Braamfontein in Johannesburg, and as of recently you drive across Mandela’s face doing so. Today Joburg mayor Amos Masondo will unveil some more posters of Madiba on the bridge, absolutely guaranteeing that it will be unusable for being thronged by foreigners taking pictures of one another over the next six weeks.

There’s a big media launch for the Gautrain this morning, or the Airport-to-Sandton train, as it is more accurately known, so if you go anywhere near the tracks you should see it zipping up and down. But mere mortals only get to ride it from Tuesday.

And just in case you don’t yet get the sense that this is a Gauteng World Cup rather than a South African one, the ANC is closing down the streets around its downtown Joburg headquarters for a street party this afternoon. It has promised diski dancers and, if you can stand the excitement, speeches by various leaders.

The Pope starts a visit to Cyprus today, where he promises to do some exciting stuff. He’ll be staying in a monastery right in the middle of the buffer zone that separates the two parts of the island. He also has a meeting scheduled with the the Orthodox Archbishop, His Beatitude Chrysostomos the Second, which, if his life were a graphic novel scripted by the Vatican, would have been his evil arch-nemesis.



The wife, the bodyguard and the cuckolded president. President Jacob Zuma, that is
It would have been funny, the fact that polygamist Jacob Zuma apparently got cheated on by wife number two, and that his next child may actually have been fathered by one of his bodyguards. But with at least one death apparently involved, and the spectre of the president being more than a little distracted by his personal troubles, it really doesn’t seem all that amusing.

WikiLeaks, scourge of governments and banks, goes mainstream
The latest issue of the New Yorker magazine contains an in-depth and first-of-a-kind feature on the inner working of WikiLeaks, the Website that publishes the most confidential documents of your friendly government or bank. But is this stamp of approval from mainstream society necessarily a good thing?

Analysis: Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama falls on his own sword
As if Japan didn’t have enough on its plate trying to re-energise its stagnant economy, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has resigned. Like politicians the world over, he’s found out the hard way that voters really do listen to those campaign promises – and punish their popularity ratings once they don’t keep them. In this case, the voters’ sense of betrayal revolved around the little matter of a US military base in Okinawa.

Liquid mountaineering – extreme sport & undercover marketing
All the cool kids in Europe are taking up liquid mountaineering (that’s walking on water if you’re unfamiliar with the craze). There’s only one snag to attaining prophet-like superpowers: it seems you’ll need a pair of Hi-Tec shoes first.

Larry King’s ratings are dead, long live the King
CNN, which turns 30-years-old this year, appears to have an identity crisis – and Larry King is at the heart of it. How does the news network regain its place atop the ratings when it doesn’t sell sex or opinion?

It’s not rocket science, just Coke and Mentos
Shopping list: 108 2-litre bottles of Coke Zero, 638 Mentos. Just add two mad scientists and you have (most of) the ingredients you need to propel a rocket car.

Motoring – New BMW 5-Series: Does Five count for more than Seven?
It was inevitable. The new BMW 5-Series was always going to be bigger, better engineered and more advanced than its predecessor. But does that make it a superior product? And to what extent is it encroaching on the territory occupied by the flagship 7-Series?

Andy Rice: Anyone for shares in Zimbabwe (Pty) Ltd?
Nothing much seems to be working for Zimbabwe on the political front. So what’s wrong with applying a bit of brand logic instead?

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