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First Thing: US goes on lockdown in Mexico; ANCYL start...



First Thing: US goes on lockdown in Mexico; ANCYL starts provincial congresses

Last night: US closes Mexico consulate, Sri Lanka media attack, new Toyota recall, Samsung profits leap, Oracle fraud case, X Prize for oil leaks. Coming up today: ANCYL Eastern Cape showdown, Swiss energy money, farm workers summit, Nafhold resolution, petrol price, Cape Town Book Fair.

First Thing is an e-mail we make sure lands in your inbox well before 7am every weekday morning. Signing up is quick, free, and easy, and you can do it right now.


Trouble with formatting? Click here to read it online. 
Discovery Summit
The Daily Maverick
TGIF, 30 July 2010

We’ve managed to lay our hands on two tickets to the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit, the same one advertised above and below. We thought you may like to win them. We, in turn, would like you to help us spread the word about First Thing. So here’s the deal: use our handy form letter to send some friends an unashamed exhortation to check it out, and we’ll enter you into the draw. Entries close at 17:00 on Tuesday, and we’ll announce the winner of the random draw here on Wednesday. The only finicky rule is that you have to let us use your name in that regard, and remember, you have to be subscribed to First Thing to win.

Or you can just pay R6,555 – each – for those tickets. If they’re not sold out by the time you get around to it. Your call.

While you were sleeping

The United States closed its consulate in the recently violent Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso in Texas, saying it would only reopen once a security review had been concluded. The consulate is the only place where Mexicans can apply for US residency.

15 men wearing masks entered a building in the city of Colombo in Sri Lanka that houses an independent television channel and several independent radio stations, assaulted employees and set studios alight, possibly using petrol bombs. The stations are run by a businessman who was formerly closely associated with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, but who has recently fallen out with the government.
Daily Mirror (SL), ColomboPage

Toyota announced a recall of around 430,000 cars, most of them in the US and most of those Avalon sedans built between 2000 and 2004, for problems that can cause the steering wheel to lock up while driving.
LA Times, CS Monitor

Samsung Electronics reported a record second quarter net profit of just under 4.3 trillion won, or about $3.6 billion, up 83% from the year before. More than half its operating profit came from semiconductors, with LCDs making up the bulk of the remainder.
Reuters, Yonhap

The US government is suing software giant Oracle for fraud relating to contracts that ran from 1998 to 2006, saying it didn’t offer government the same discounts that commercial buyers received, as is required. The suit was originally filed in 2007 by a former Oracle executive under a rule that allows whistleblowers to initiate such action, then share in any damages that are collected.
Bloomberg, New York Times

The company charged with sealing a new leaking oil well in southeastern Louisiana now says it will take at least ten days to bring the well under control. The abandoned well, located in shallow water, was struck by a barge on Tuesday, and has been spewing oil and gas ever since. The spill is relatively small compared to its big brother in the Gulf of Mexico, and is mostly being contained using booms.
Nola.com, CNN

The X Prize Foundation announced a $1.4 million purse, funded by Wendy Schmidt, wife of Google’s chairman, for a contest to find new ways to clean up oil spills. Teams will submit their ideas online, where they will be evaluated for feasibility in large scale deployment and other factors, before shortlisted candidates will go head-to-head in test spill cleanups mid-2011. The winning team will bag $1 million.
BBC, Gizmodo

Discovery Summit

The ANC Youth League plans to start registration for three provincial  conferences this morning. Including one in the Eastern Cape, which may very well be in defiance of a court injunction as well as “advice” from the ANC proper. A new court order blocking the conference could be forthcoming this morning.

With the stroke of a pen, energy minister Dipuo Peters will bag her department R120 million from the Swiss over the next four years. The money is for energy efficiency monitoring and improvement (and part of a climate change project by the Swiss), and at least some of it is supposed to find its way down to NGOs and research institutions.

Both President Jacob Zuma and Cosatu chief Zwelinzima Vavi are on the bill for a national farm workers summit taking place in the somewhat non-agricultural setting of the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West today and tomorrow. The usual issues will come up (protection of migrant workers, tenure for permanent employees), but this time there is more pressure on the government to start making promises rather than just listen.

The National African Federated Chamber of Commerce will finally announce what has been common knowledge for a while: that it is winding up investment arm Nafhold by selling out the quarter of casino company Tsogo ­Investment Holdings it owns, so that its national leadership can get their hands on the cash. The only thing we don’t know is whether that cash, around R1.8 billion at last count, will be paid out to members or used in development projects. Such as developing everyone’s appreciation of fine French campaign and Russian caviar at future meetings.

It’s the start of the biggest book show on the continent, the Cape Town Book Fair, though today is all about publishers and professional buyers and the like and closed to the public. If you’re going over the weekend, remember to take along your Fanatics club card, or other bookstore loyalty card, to claim a 50% discount at the door.

The Central Energy Fund will announce fuel prices for August at around noon. Petrol will be around 10 cents a litre cheaper, the decrease for diesel will be slightly more.

It’s National Cheescake Day. But only in the US. And, anyway, the whole thing is a dastardly, cynical marketing ploy by US chain The Cheesecake Factory. On which we’d have called a boycott for making us lust after cheesecake so early in the morning, if it had a presence in SA. Bloody cheesecake.

Economic data: the June trade balance from the tax man, and central government operations and debt numbers from the Reserve Bank.

Discovery Summit


Zuma deposes two kings, names six more illegitimate
Two men who consider themselves kings will have to hand over the throne to rival claimants, and five more will be allowed to live out their reigns but not leave their titles to their children, President Jacob Zuma announced on Thursday. Guess how popular that is going to make him in certain quarters?

Arizona’s draconian immigration law gets the cotton-wool wrap
It is a problem the world over – illegal immigration and the problems that come with it. Just as the US state of Arizona was preparing to enact its version of the law that was called draconian by many, a federal judge intervened. Still, the future of immigration looks rather hazy.

Analysis: Youth League leadership continues its march to mayhem
As the “best and brightest” political leadership in the country prepares to ignore a court order and take over affairs in another province, many questions remain, chief among them: Where is the ANC in all this chaos?

To potential SA police whistleblowers: look how well it turned out for the Russian guy
In November 2009, a Russian policeman by the name of Aleksei Aleksandrovich Dymovsky uploaded a video to Youtube in which he blew the whistle on the endemic corruption surrounding him. Seems his life is better for it, which may get some local cops thinking…

Could a Norwegian author’s libel loss change literature as we know it?
Defamation laws exist, justifiably, to protect the rights of individuals to privacy and dignity. But Asne Seierstad, author of The Bookseller of Kabul, may have been on the wrong side of a European libel judgment that goes too far – the worst-case scenario is that all of Western literature ends up paying.

Wikileaks undermines Obama and Democrats, changes the face of espionage forever
Online publication of some 92,000 classified documents and digital images from US military activities in Afghanistan is building into a crisis for President Barack Obama. But it may not be the crisis people think of first.

Motoring – New Audi A8: Laying down the luxury car gauntlet
One could ask whether large, luxury cars still have a role in a society increasingly concerned about environmental issues. And one could query their relevance at a time when a display of ostentatious wealth isn’t exactly PC. But then, what would we give our ministers to drive? Fortunately, the new Audi A8 can count more than opulence among its many talents – and as flagship cars go, it’s pretty eco-aware too.

Brendah Nyakudya: I’m a Zimbabwean, hear me now
In the face of palpable indifference among young South Africans to being active in shaping their political futures, I wish I’d awoken earlier to how easilsy bad things could happen.

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