First Thing: UN okays Kosovo secession; SA-Swazi water agreement

By Andy Rice 23 July 2010

Last night: Kosovo secession wasn't illegal, Gulf of Mexico site evacuated, Venezuela severs ties with Colombia, Blair wasn't called before US Senate after all. Coming up today: SA-Swaziland water agreement, ANC NEC ends, Seacom switch-on, European bank stress test results, Burundi polls.

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The Daily Maverick

TGIF, 23 July 2010

While you were sleeping

In its first ever ruling on secession, the International Court of Justice found that Kosovo‘s declaration of independence in 2008 was not illegal in terms of international law. Serbia immediately started muttering darkly about never giving up its claim and how this would encourage separatists elsewhere in the world, while Kosovo celebrated.
BBC, Voice of America

The US government ordered the evacuation of ships and the rig drilling a relief well in the Gulf of Mexico, due to the approach of Tropical Storm Bonnie. Nearly 2,000 people are working at or near the site of BP’s blown well there.
USA Today, LA Times

Venezuela severed diplomatic ties with Colombia, just moments after Colombia presented the Organisation of American States with what it said was extensive evidence of rebel camps in Venezuelan territory. In one of his trademark diatribes, President Hugo Chavez said Colombia had forced his hand, but he seemed to leave open the door for diplomatic normalisation once President-elect Juan Manuel Santos takes over.

Leaks sprung on a report, due to be released today, by the authority created to look into executive pay at US banks, and it doesn’t bode well for the institutions. It looks like just under $1.6 billion in executive bonuses and other remuneration paid in late 2008 will be declared unmerited, nearly 80% of such payments under consideration.
New York Times, Wall Street Journal

Tony Blair had not been asked to testify before the US Senate on the release of the Lockerbie bomber, a spokesman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said. But it seems that former British justice secretary Jack Straw may indeed have been invited, as reported; he said such a request would be highly unusual, but that he would consider it. Scotland, on the other hand, told the Americans to go take a flying leap.
Reuters, AFP

Microsoft reported revenues of $62.5 billion for the fiscal year, thanks to a record fourth quarter driven by Windows 7 and Xbox console sales. Net income for the year was up 29% to $18.8 billion. More importantly, Microsoft is still pulling in bigger sales than Apple, even if Apple’s shares are worth more.
Forbes, Fortune

Discovery Summit

South Africa and Swaziland are to sign a cross-border water agreement in Mpumalanga this morning. The idea isn’t so much to solve a current problem as to put some parameters in place, and come up with a framework for future negotiations, so things don’t get really nasty at a later date.

The ANC ends  a regularly-scheduled national executive committee meeting, which means the leaks about what was discussed (and what was purportedly, but not really discussed) will begin in earnest.

After an outage of two and a half weeks, the Seacom undersea telecoms cable is supposed to be fully switched back on today. Customers of some internet service providers may see a sudden improvement in access speed to foreign servers, but the ISPs themselves will be the ones that notice most. It means they can stop paying huge premiums for backup connections to Europe and the US.

The Committee of European Banking Supervisors is due to publish the results of stress tests of 91 banks in European Union countries after the close of business, though some countries are agitating to get it over and done with. Officials firmly believe the results will restore investor confidence, but it wouldn’t be much of a test if some didn’t fail. The smart money says about 10 or so banks will be found severely wanting of capital.

Voters in Burundi will elect 100 legislators to a lower parliamentary house, with a comfortable majority of those seats going to the ruling CNDD-FDD party of President Pierre Nkurunziza. How can we be so sure? Because the main opposition parties are all boycotting the poll.

Discovery Summit


Tutu tries to retire, again, but this time he’s a little more serious
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is retiring – for the third time, by his own count. Though he won’t get away with it, he plans to at least take control of his own schedule from now on. Don’t expect him to stay away from the opening of SA’s 2020 Olympics, however.

Analysis: Xenophobia, a sign of our own deep failure
It’s easy to claim that xenophobia, that any attacks or attitudes against people who are foreign-born, is due to events beyond our control. The fact is, the attitudes and events we’re seeing now are caused very much by events we can control. In short, xenophobic attitudes only exist because we’re stuffing up.

RW Johnson shames himself, disgraces London Review of Books
If South African author RW Johnson has ever written two consecutive paragraphs more ill-considered than these, we’d like to read them. Because the Rhodes Scholar and former director of the Helen Suzman Foundation has just been labelled a racist by 73 prominent writers and academics, and he’s got no-one but himself to blame.

Clay Shirky on journalists, media dinosaurs and the public interest
As the manic debate about the future of newspapers continues and Hurricane Social Media continues to wreak havoc, Clay Shirky believes the survival of print news is irrelevant. What everybody should be in a stew about is sustaining the civic function of journalism and the future of hard-news reportage.

Motoring – BMW M3: One badge, four generations, 25 years
A quarter of a century is a long time to sustain the mystique and desirability of a nameplate. But the M3 has always counted among BMW’s adulated cars. And to celebrate its 25th, the Bavarians assembled pristine examples of all four M3 generations at the Ascari racing circuit in Spain – and announced a special, limited-edition M3 to mark the occasion.

Brendah Nyakudya: Thugs in blue
South Africa needs – no, it demands – much more than army ranks, shoot-to-kill imperatives and flamboyant top cops to ensure the police themselves don’t become the “thug blue line-up”.

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‘Pure insanity’, ‘madness’: Floyd Shivambu dismisses VBS claims

By Greg Nicolson

"Ah coffee. The sweet balm by which we shall accomplish today's tasks." ~ Holly Black