First Thing: train crash in India; OECD to pronounce on SA economy

By Andy Rice 19 July 2010

Last night: train crash in India, party massacre in Mexico, possible seepage in Gulf of Mexico, Bin Laden's seek new home, Tea Party expels racist. Coming up today: OECD survey on SA economy, Aids Conference continues, AU summit, ASEAN summit, car X-Prize finals.

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Monday, 19 July 2010

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While you were sleeping

Rescue workers recovered 49 bodies from the wreckage of a train accident in eastern India, and the death toll is expected to rise. An express train headed for Kolkata overshot a signal and crashed into a stationary train at a station.
Times of India, NDTV

A group of gunmen killed at least 17 young people at an outdoor party in Mexico and left several others severely wounded. Police would not immediately speculate on a motive for the massacre, but it happened in an area known to be a drug transit point.
BBC, LA Times

Oil and methane may have started to seep out of the seabed around the now-capped BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, which could complicate the decision on whether to simply leave it be. BP wants to leave things as they are and work on relief wells; the US government wants to open the well again, to fit new pumping equipment for oil recovery.
Reuters, Bloomberg

Omar bin Laden, fourth son of the Al-Qeada leader, said some 20 members of his family are looking for a country to accept them as part of a release deal with Iran. None of individuals stand accused of terrorism, but they have been held by Iran for some time nonetheless. Now the country apparently refuses to release them to Saudi Arabia, but will allow them to leave if they can find another host country.
Al-Arabiya, AFP

The US Tea Party movement expelled far-right demagogue Mark Williams and his Tea Party Express organisation, citing racism. Williams is well known for his racist remarks, with attacks against everyone from Muslims to Jews, but apparently a satirical letter in which he had African-Americans demand a return to the simpler life of slavery finally crossed the line.
MSNBC ,NY Daily News

Discovery Summit

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development will this afternoon release the results of a survey of South Africa’s economy, which many countries and institutions will use to judge the prospects for economic growth and employment, and SA’s fitness as an investment destination. OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría is in town to handle the release along with finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

The 18th International Aids Conference continues in Vienna; it started yesterday with some chaos as protesters rushed the stage to demand more money be spent on preventing, treating and curing Aids. Which is pretty much the entire point of the conference. At least this time around the SA delegation (deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and health minister Aaron Motsoaledi, among others) won’t be pariahs.

An African Union summit officially starts in Kampala today, where more than two dozen heads of state were supposed to talk about child and maternal mortality. Instead, thanks to the attacks in that city so recently, Somalia will be at the top of every mind. If nothing else, Al-Shabab has shown that the AU can not suffer failed states to linger as such.

Danny Jordaan, now presumably working his way towards heading an Olympic bid, is speechifying in Cape Town this evening, and he is scheduled to share a platform with home affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. They will probably spend most of their time coming up with new superlatives to describe the World Cup, but we’re hoping for some forward-looking statements too.

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations start annual talks in Vietnam. During the course of the week they’ll have visits from US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and high-powered delegations from Europe, Russia and others interested in stability in the region. Which, right now, means keeping a lid on the fight between North and South Korea over that sunken ship.

The finals of the Automotive X-Prize, a $10 million contest for cars capable of using less than 4 litres of petrol to drive 160 kilometres, start in Michigan. Sadly all the major manufacturers have fallen out of the mainstream category, but Tata Motors is still hanging on in the two-wheel alternative class.

Discovery Summit


Happy birthday Madiba, we hope no-one bothers you
On the official announcement of his retirement from public life in June 2004, an 85-year-old Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela explained to the world that his health had been failing and that he wanted to spend more time with his family. Since then, he’s been bothered more than a few times. On your 92nd birthday, Madiba, you deserve all the peace that’s been promised to you.

Apple tries to smooth over Antennagate with “don’t pick on us” attitude
For the first time in years, Apple got real grief from the public. Problems with the iPhone 4 antenna design has made it look incompetent and uncaring. So how does Steve Jobs respond? By giving out free accessories, as expected – and saying Apple’s phones are just like everybody else’s. Huh?

Richard Branson abandons worn-out Virgin brand for something a little better
Looks like entrepreneur and private island-owner Richard Branson is finally ready to admit it: Virgin isn’t the best possible brand name for a world-dominating empire. Because if his schnookums is going to get to launch her very own magazine with daddy’s money, guess what it’ll be called?

Analysis: As Obama wins big Finance Reform Bill, the Democrats’ future is still uncertain
On Thursday, the US Congress passed a major expansion of federal financial regulation, reflecting a return to governmental wariness of financial markets after years of dewy-eyed admiration of the wonders of Wall Street’s money-spinning.

World Cup happiness, our best chance of beating rabid extremism of all kinds
With new research showing that anxiety and uncertainty fuel rabid religiosity and that smarter people don’t believe in a God, it’s a good thing the World Cup has made us more secure and hopeful.

Analysis: Malema doesn’t feel bound by any settlement
By pushing ahead with disciplinary action against Masoga, even after the ANC leadership stepped in to placate him in exchange for dropping of court action, Malema is proving beyond reasonable doubt that he cannot be trusted. Not good for a fledgling politician’s career.

Simon Williamson: My unashamed victory dance
Wallow in a job superbly done. Swallow the rest of the celebratory champagne. South Africa defied the naysayers and can hardly wait a decade – a whole 10 years – for the Olympics so we can do it all again.

Marelise van der Merwe: Neither queer nor there
Homophobes aren’t the only people making gay (and bisexual) life difficult these days. There are also those people who think homosexuality is a biological absolute, that it’s okay to be gay because the poor dears can’t help it. Puh-leeze! Sexuality is fluid, it’s a choice, and no one has the right to tell others what to do – or to pigeonhole them for doing it.

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Zondo Commission will be long and thorough – will it outlast President Ramaphosa?

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Microwave popcorn is nothing special. You can have the same effect with normal popcorn kernels and a brown paper bag.