First Thing: oil companies gang up on wells; Tutu is making a life change

Last night: North Caucasus power station attack, please welcome the Marine Well Containment Company (minus BP), Shirley Sherrod gets an apology, Argentine gay-marriage law becomes law, IFM forgives Haiti debt. Coming up today: an announcement from The Arch, interest rate decision, Kumba meets Arcelor, Zuma on lekgotla, New Age paper details.

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Discovery Summit
The Daily Maverick
Thursday, 22 July 2010

While you were sleeping

Presumed Islamist insurgents stormed a hydroelectric power station in Russia’s North Caucasus, killing two guards and detonating several bombs. It is the first such attack in the semi-autonomous Kabardino-Balkaria republic in nearly five years, and analysts worry that it may herald a new wave of violence in the region.
BBC, RIA Novosti

Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell announced their intention to pour $1 billion into a new non-profit organisation, the Marine Well Containment Company, which would exist for no other reason than to solve problems like the gushing BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. Except within hours instead of months. Which makes BP’s absence from the initiative all the more puzzling.
Bloomberg, CNBC

Under severe fire, US agriculture minister Tom Vilsack suddenly started apologising to Shirley Sherrod, repeatedly, and offering her a new government job. Sherrod, a minor state official, was forced out of her position under pressure from the Presidential office after the release of a video that she says intentionally distorts a speech on race issues she made in March. Her superiors apparently took the video at face value.
AP, Guardian

Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner signed into law a bill that legalises same-sex marriages for the first time in any Latin American country, and directly contrary to the wishes of the Catholic church.
Reuters, AFP

The International Monetary Fund forgave Haiti‘s $268 million debt to it and offered loans of $60 million over the next three years to help the country guard its currency against wild fluctuations.

Discovery Summit

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and over a hundred other major honours, has called a press conference to “make an important announcement”. And that’s all he’s saying, which is unusually mysterious for such an outspoken man. We are reliably informed that it has something to do with his personal future. Keep in mind that he turns 79 in October.

The Reserve Bank will announce the Monetary Policy Committee’s interest rate decision in a speech starting at 3pm, and carried live on the usual television stations. There is a great deal of political pressure for a 50 basis point cut, but we like to think the MPC has the backbone to keep rates steady, as it should.

Busy day for Kumba Iron Ore. It is releasing interim results this morning, which normally would be of little mainstream interest. Except for that little tiff that Kumba is having with Arcelor Mittal, which threatens to bring about a kind of limited economic armageddon. Kumba has to be in two places at once, though; at roughly the same time it is due to present those results to investors in Johannesburg, it is also due to be meeting with Arcelor in Pretoria, where trade and industry minister Rob Davies is supposed to personally mediate.

President Jacob Zuma will reveal at least some of what ministers, provincial premiers, department heads and a bunch of other officials were discussing behind closed doors over the two days of the mid-year cabinet lekgotla. Don’t expect a sudden policy shift or anything; the word “recommitted” is more likely to come up. Potential highlight: the question of an Olympic bid.

Later this evening the new national daily newspaper New Age, which just happens to be funded by a family close to the ANC and headed up by Essop Pahad, has promised to share some of its plans. Our number one burning questions, of course, is how much of the vast amount of money various levels of government spend on advertising every year is going to be diverted to the new player. And whether Pahad still thinks such money should not be spent with newspapers he considers overly critical of the government.

Coceko Pakade, CEO of the SA Social Security Agency, is scheduled to face the media late morning and talk about wasteful expenditure. That could end up as an all-day affair, given the sheer evil genius employees of his agency have shown when it comes to fraud, corruption, misspending, overspending, stupid spending and squandering of every kind.

Economic data: civil debt case numbers for May from Statistics SA.

Discovery Summit


Icasa kills key broadband spectrum auction at the last minute, but motives remain murky
Having been on the brink of being sold off, after a four-year process, an important section of radio spectrum was suddenly tossed back into limbo on Wednesday. Why? Cue vigorous hand-waving. Rather ask: what does it mean to consumers? Another roadblock to better and cheaper broadband for more people.

Dear world, meet Piers Morgan, the man who’ll (probably) be replacing Larry King
He’s famous for being Britain’s youngest national newspaper editor in over 50 years, getting punched in the face by Jeremy Clarkson, reducing dozens of contestants on America’s Got Talent to tears, and winning the US celebrity version of The Apprentice. Can Piers Morgan save CNN?

Analysis: SA still has shopping talent
In the hangover after the World Cup we may fail to notice some really good news on the economic front. Well-known for their shopping prowess, South Africans have been getting back into retail therapy in recent months and the soccer gathering may have helped them spend even more.

The Boks have a gigantic mountain to climb
Bereft. It’s a word so often used about the Springboks in match reports the last couple of weeks. Bereft of ideas, bereft of plans, bereft of passion. And here we are again…

Clay Shirky and humanity’s cognitive surplus
Ever since we stopped watching so much television, mankind has a trillion extra hours a year and the tools to change the world at its disposal. Now all we need is commensurate lashings of goodwill and technologies that motivate creative collaboration.

Jacques Rousseau: First, do no harm
The great 21st century intellectual war remains locked – as it has been for centuries – between scientific reason and irrational faith. But can secular society wash its hands of guilt if it allows faith that causes harm and death?

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