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First Thing: prison gates swing open in Russia, US, Cub...



First Thing: prison gates swing open in Russia, US, Cuba; anti-xenophobia plans

Last night: US-Russia spy exchange, Cuba to free political prisoners, the Italian on the (semifinal) field, Grim Sleeper suspect arrested, geriatric mob boss found guilty, Australia loses tomato crop. Coming up today: xenophobia plans, Lula is in town, Grasslands Declaration, Greek general strike, LeBron James settles on a team.

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Trouble with formatting? Click here to read it online. 
The Daily Maverick
Thursday, 8 July 2010
The World Cup day that was

7 July: Bob is coming to the final
Gordhan to probe government ticket spending; Amsterdam-Johannesburg flight could cost you €4,000; Spain see off Germany 1-0; Fifa bans Serbia’s Antic for a harsh four matches; Bob Mugabe set to attend Sunday’s final.


While you were sleeping

As-yet unconfirmed reports from Russia and the US suggest that the two countries are setting up a spy exchange, swapping the 10 deep-cover agents recently arrested in the US for American spies being held in Russia. Igor Sutyagin, a Russian scientist serving a 15-year term for passing information to the CIA, is among those thought to be part of the exchange, and said he could be on a plane to London as early as today.
LA Times, BBC

The Catholic Church in Cuba said that country is to release 52 political prisoners and allow them to leave the country under a deal brokered by the church and Spain. A small group could be released today, with the bulk following over coming months.
AP, Washington Post

Italian media reported that the man who ran onto the field shortly after the start of the semifinal between Germany and Spain is Mario Ferri, an old friend of stadium security staff. Ferri was wearing a T-shirt bemoaning the absence of Antonio Cassano from the Italian team, and apparently pulled a similar stunt during a game between Italy and the Netherlands in November.
World Cup Blog, AP

Los Angeles police arrested a man on suspicion of being the Grim Sleeper serial killer, so called because of the 13 year break between his killings. More details are expected today, including whether the $500,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case was claimed. The Grim Sleeper is believed to have killed eight people between 1985 and 1988, and another three between 2001 and 2007.

John “Sonny” Franzese, the 93-year-old head of the Colombo crime family, was convicted by a New York court of extortion and related conspiracy, and could now be sentenced to 20 years in prison. He famously fell asleep in the dock while his son testified against him, and yesterday told reporters he’s not worried about getting jail time, because “I gotta die someplace.”
NY Daily News, Village Voice

Australians are worrying that tomato prices could skyrocket after discovering that four million tomato seedlings had been poisoned in an act of sabotage. Herbicide was seemingly deliberately added to the water at a vast Queensland nursery, also killing two million capsicum seedlings and other plants.
The Age, Sydney Morning Herald



The executive committee that was set up to deal with the outbreak of xenophobia two years ago, and was recently re-activated in anticipation of more of the same, plans to talk to the media this afternoon. The plan is to avert the attacks on foreigners that, according to persistent rumour, are due to start next week, but the group will also discuss responses if there is an outbreak of violence.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazilian President and disappointed soccer fan, is in town from today. Even though his team is out of the tournament, he has to soldier on to launch the 2014 version. Brazil and Fifa will be unveiling the logo for that World Cup this evening, and he’s also hanging out with President Jacob Zuma both formally and informally; likewise for the gaggle of ministers in his delegation and their local counterparts.

The government, by hand of minister of water and environmental affairs Buyelwa Sonjica, will sign the Grasslands Declaration. That document set outs targets and objectives around biodiversity in grasslands; it flows from a global push, now a decade or so old, to recognise that though rain forests are way sexier, they aren’t the only important biomes.

Greece is throwing a one-day general strike to protest austerity plans introduced by its bankrupt government, and especially reforms to the pension system. The country has grown pretty used to these (this is the sixth such strike this year) but there will still be plenty of disruption as just about all transport shuts down for at least four hours.

The LeBron James saga will finally come to a close, though not without a one-hour special live broadcast on ESPN. James, rated one of the top basketball players in the world, is due to announce which team he’ll play for in the next season. The frenzy around his decision has kept Americans riveted for weeks.

Economic data: the June business confidence index from the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and May manufacturing data from Statistics SA. The release of May mining production and sales data, also originally due from Stats SA today, has been delayed due to technology trouble.



Editors demand zero tolerance on corruption among SA journalists
In the wake of the Cape Argus “embedded journalist” scandal, newspaper editors and media experts say credibility in journalism can only be assured if corrupt journalists are exorcised from the profession, now.

Julius Malema shows he isn’t dead yet, gains a couple of music fans
We’ve been eagerly awaiting the reappearance of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, to see how the rebellions in two provinces are affecting him. On Wednesday we got the answer: it has helped him shed years and once again become the orator that charmed his way into the job in the first place.

Analysis: RIP outcomes-based education and don’t come back
Even before the final death throes of the old regime, it was clear a new political dispensation was on the way. Among others – and perhaps most importantly– there would be a new educational system that would wipe away one of apartheid’s most shameful legacies, Bantu education. Enter outcomes-based education.

Michael Hastings, the next giant name in war reporting?
In the last few days, news has emerged that Michael Hastings, the young war correspondent who wrote the Rolling Stone piece that resulted in General Stanley McChrystal’s removal, has signed a major book deal with Little, Brown. If he doesn’t repeat his early mistakes, Hastings could become the next big thing.

Dalai Lama, 75 years of holiness
While the World Cup delays local festivities to mark the Dalai Lama’s 75th birthday, his envoy says South Africans should celebrate by studying His Holiness’ teachings on moral and ethical values to build a better and more peaceful world.

Simon Williamson: Coming out against strategic essentialism
If gays and lesbians continue to insist on portraying ourselves as separate, then it’s our (un)doing if heterosexuals treat us as different. These days, we’ve won the right to be loud and proud (at least in South Africa), so we should rather channel our energies towards fighting the evils that remain, like corrective rape.

World Cup match report

Spanish Armada sinks young German fleet, sails into the World Cup final
It was as one-sided a game as a game against Germany could possibly be. Spain dominated every blade of grass of the Moses Mabhida Stadium pitch on Wednesday night, and yet, their victory was by the smallest of margins. The match ended Spain 1, Germany 0, with Spain earning the right to play The Netherlands in the World Cup final.


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