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Chatter: Praying for Nelson Mandela

South Africa's beloved former president remains in critical condition, Edward Snowden plays cat-and-mouse with the US government, Silvio Berlusconi prepares to be judged, and a brave but crazy man crosses part of the Grand Canyon on a high wire.
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Graphic. (Antler Agency/GlobalPost)
           

                      

   

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NEED TO KNOW

'Pray for Mandela.' That was the best advice South African President Jacob Zuma could give this morning, as the world waits for any change in the condition of his most famous predecessor.

Nelson Mandela's health has been critical since Sunday, according to doctors at the Pretoria hospital where South Africa's first black president is being treated for a recurrent lung infection. Zuma says staff are doing everything they can for a man who, however well cared for, is very frail. "This is the man we all love," Zuma told the press today. "We should accept he is old."

Hawaii to Hong Kong to Russia to...? Edward Snowden has been racking up the air miles since blowing the whistle on the US government's secret surveillance programs last month. The former National Security Agency contractor yesterday flew from Hong Kong to Moscow on the latest leg of what promises to be a long and roundabout journey to his ultimate destination — which, we think, is Ecuador.

We know only that Snowden has applied for asylum from the Ecuadorean government, and that the US is determined he won't get it. His American passport has been revoked, so it's unclear where he can go in the meantime. The latest rumor was that he would board a flight to Havana; as far as we know, the plane is currently on its way to Cuba, packed with journalists — but no Snowden.

WANT TO KNOW

Rubygate ruling. Did Silvio Berlusconi pay for sex with an underage prostitute and abuse his position as prime minister of Italy? That's the unsavory question an Italian court will have to decide today.

A long-awaited ruling is due in the former PM's trial for allegedly hiring a 17-year-old — they call her "Ruby the Heartstealer" — to, er, perform at one of his infamous bunga bunga parties. He denies the charges. But doesn't he always?

Chen goes to Taiwan. If Edward Snowden is a thorn in Washington's side, Chen Guangcheng is a thorn in Beijing's.

The blind activist, who triggered a diplomatic spat when he sought shelter at the US embassy in China last year, has arrived in Taiwan for an 18-day trip that will see him meet with other government critics and fire some high-profile broadsides at China over its record on human rights. Chen says that the island's democracy could teach mainland China a thing or two.

At war, and out of sight. The ongoing conflict in Sudan's Nuba Mountains is taking place almost entirely out of sight. Aid agencies are banned from the area and a humanitarian crisis is escalating: some 200,000 refugees have fled for neighboring countries, malnutrition remains a serious threat, and schooling and health care are interrupted. 

In an in-depth series, GlobalPost visits the front lines of Africa's hidden war.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

High anxiety. Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda has become the first person to cross part of the Grand Canyon on a high wire, inching his way across the Little Colorado River Gorge in just over 22 nerve-wracking minutes.

Wallenda, who completed the stunt sans safety net, has done his family proud. A seventh-generation member of the famous "Flying Wallendas," the daredevil even outperformed his great-grandfather, uncle, cousin and several other relatives who perished while attempting lesser wire-walking feats. What's wrong with accountancy as a family business, we ask you.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-praying-nelson-mandela