First Thing: North Korean politics kills; SAA to release fraud investigation

Last night: North Korea (possibly) executes minister, Brazil finds dead penguins, gay rights at the UN, Conrad Black gets bail, Motorola flogs infrastructure business, IBM profits up while revenue flat, 18 monkeys in a girdle. Coming up today: sport in Parliament, SAA forensic report, Rwanda presidential campaigning, Kabul conference, special relationship meeting.

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Discovery Summit
The Daily Maverick
Tuesday, 20 July 2010

While you were sleeping

North Korea apparently executed former cabinet member and leader of talks with South Korea, Kwon Ho Ung, by firing squad, for failing in his job. His death has not yet been confirmed, but he would not be the first high-ranking official to be executed in such a manner.

Brazil‘s Institute of Environment and Natural Resources counted at least 530 penguins among dead animals that washed up on the shores of Sao Paulo and nearby towns. Scientists have preliminarily ruled out pollution as AFP

After previously being blocked in efforts led by Egypt, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (which has offices in South Africa) was finally accredited to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, usually the main UN discussion forum around human rights. The vote to do so came after heavy lobbying from the United States, led by US President Barack Obama in fulfilment of election promises.
Reuters, Pink News

Conrad Black, one-time Canadian media mogul and Peer of the Realm, was granted bail while appealing his conviction for fraud, which should see him leaving prison after 28 months behind bars.
CBC, Globe and Mail

Motorola announced that Nokia Siemens Networks had agreed to pay $1.2 billion for the cellphone infrastructure business it has been trying to flog for a while. Motorola was one of the few companies to still make both cellphone handsets and the core network equipment for operators, and the last major one standing.
LA Times, IDG

IBM reported a net profit of $3.4 billion for its second quarter, a 9% increase, even though revenues were up only 2% compared to last year.
MarketWatch, Register

Mexican border police conducted a random check on a nervous-looking man who had just arrived on a flight from Lima, and discovered 18 monkeys hidden in a girdle around his waist, two of them dead.

Discovery Summit

It’s all happening at the portfolio committee for sport and recreation in Parliament today. The National Lottery Board has been called to tell the committee just how much lotto money is going into sport development, and why none of it is particularly visible. But the best game will be watching the SA Football Association dodge accusations that it’ll pocket more of the nearly R1 billion it is getting from Fifa for administrative expenses and bonuses than it will spend on football development.

SAA chairwoman Cheryl Carolus is due to release details of a forensic investigation into mismanagement during the (not-that-recent) days when Khaya Ngqula was boss. Carolus has previously dropped dark hints about Very Bad Things that went down, and the probe apparently cost somewhere in the region of R20 million. Yet rumour has it that the plan is to gloss everything over and avoid laying criminal charges against any of the players.

Campaigning officially starts today for Rwanda‘s presidential elections early next month; the main event of the day is a large rally by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, party of incumbent Paul Kagame, in Kigali tonight. Now it’s just a matter of when the real trouble breaks out, because given the number of deaths in the buildup it is inconceivable that there won’t be trouble.

Afghanistan holds its biggest ever international conference in Kabul today, where it must convince a gaggle of foreign ministers and diplomats that the country has a future. Keeping the conference safe will be a good start; the Taliban have recently proven their ability to launch attacks on targets close to if not in Kabul. With juicy targets like Ban Ki-moon and Hillary Clinton in attendance, you can bet things are pretty edgy in the security command centre right now.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama are due to have their first real meeting, to talk about deep sea drilling, Afghanistan and the fact that their special relationship seems to be petering out now that Tony and George aren’t in charge anymore.

Discovery Summit


OECD: SA rocks, just hamstring those darned unions
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development isn’t actually calling for the Tripartite Alliance to be shot, execution-style, in the back of the head. But its survey of the South African economy strongly suggests that the rate of future economic growth will depend on how well the government implements some of Cosatu’s policies – while dismantling the structures that are seeing union members earn more while young people earn nothing at all.

Analysis: Media tribunal, the way it should be
As the season of calls to curb the media’s power in South Africa is upon us again, maybe there is a way to bring warring parties together in an institution that would be trusted and respected by everyone – and have some real teeth.

Obama, Cameron meeting: swan song of the special relationship?
It may have been the closest and most trust-laden friendship between two states in history, but the reality of the new world and the differing natures of their respective problems may convince the UK and US that, from now on, the world could be a much lonelier place for each.

Mark Twain’s memoirs: Still scathing after all these years
This year marks a century since Mark Twain’s death, and in November, according to his wishes, the first volume of his autobiography will finally be published. Seems the author of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a book many have called the greatest American novel ever, hasn’t lost any of his relevance. 

Review: Le Grand Cirque Fantazie – How do they do it?
How do they tumble through hoops with perfect precision, leap from pole to pole, strike a ballet pose on their partner’s head, and do it all in skin-tight costumes – without even breaking a sweat?

Mandy de Waal: Thank God for science!
I am ashamed to admit it, but despite the fact that I was raised by an Arthur C. Clarke-reading agnostic, I’ve dipped into the self-help section. You know that burgeoning book category populated by writers such as the Duchess of York, otherwise known as “The Royal Disappointment”.

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Main photo courtesy of Elbfoto