No deal for Greece; Delhi stinks, its politicians rotten; A shepherd’s life proves a hit

1 No deal for Greece (BBC) The latest round of talks between Greek and EU officials in Brussels has failed to reach an agreement. A European Commission spokesman said while progress was made on Sunday, “significant gaps” remained. Europe wants Greece to make spending cuts worth €2bn (£1.44bn), to secure a deal that will unlock bailout funds.

Greek deputy prime minister Yannis Dragasakis said that Athens was still ready to negotiate with its lenders. He said Greek government proposals submitted on Sunday had fully covered the fiscal deficit as demanded. However, Mr Dragasakis added that the EU and IMF still wanted Greece to cut pensions – something Athens has said it would never accept.

The cash-strapped nation is trying to agree a funding deal with the European Union and IMF before the end of June to avoid a default. Eurozone finance ministers will discuss Greece when they meet on Thursday. The gathering is regarded as Greece’s last chance to strike a deal.

Greece is seeking to avoid defaulting on a €1.5bn debt repayment to the IMF due by the end of the month. Creditors have demanded cuts in spending in return for another tranche of bailout funds. But Greece’s ruling left-wing Syriza party, led by Alexis Tsipras, was elected in January on promises to ease up on the highly unpopular austerity measures, increase the minimum monthly wage and create more jobs. However, Mr Tsipras has warned Greek people to prepare for a “difficult compromise”.

2 Delhi stinks, its politicians rotten (Khaleej Times) Over the weekend — before the strike got called off — TV anchors reporting from India’s capital, wore green surgical masks and earnestly reported about the 15,000 tones of waste, and 12,000 sanitation workers on strike to protest not being paid. The collective salary backlog of the workers was Rs 4.93 billion. Those funds have now been ‘released’.

Who could blame the poor workers — or soldiers, as Rahul Gandhi has called them? Why would anyone clean up putrefying semi-solid meats and rotting vegetables and God knows what other household waste for free? Compassion for the workers apart — with RG on his garbage tourism trip leading the charge — let’s spare a thought for the residents and commuters.

Imagine being stuck in traffic for 45 minutes, in summer. Puns about stinks can’t be avoided when you’re talking about 2,000 to 2,200 metric tonnes of garbage daily generated and not cleared. Worse! Imagine not having a kerchief in hand, to plug your nostrils.

Rotted cherries on the stink-pile in all this are the Sambit Patras of the BJP, and the cry-baby, Ashutosh of the AAP going at each other’s throats saying you pick it up, no ‘YOU’ pick it up. That Rahul Gandhi should emerge the saviour in the saga is the other thing that smells like 12-day-old fish.

3 A shepherd’s life proves a hit (San Francisco Chronicle) James Rebanks sits in his stone farmhouse, describing the hardscrabble mountain life his family has known for six centuries or more. Then his cell phone rings. It’s a big London ad agency, hoping to sign him up for a project. Rebanks is probably the world’s most famous shepherd, with a hit Twitter account, a best-selling book and TV crews rattling up the lane to his farm. He’s gratified by the attention, if a bit bemused.

“Somebody from Hollywood rang up yesterday, wanting to make a movie out of my book,” the 40-year-old said. “Which is completely bonkers.” Readers around the world have flocked to Rebanks’ dispatches from a way of life that has — against the odds — survived industrialization, globalization and mass tourism.

On Twitter, his descriptions of lambing and haymaking have attracted 65,000 followers. “The Shepherd’s Life,” his book recounting the rhythms of the rural year and the daily struggle to make ends meet, is a best-seller in Britain and Canada and is being translated into German and Swedish. The New York Times called it “captivating.” He belongs to one of the few hundred families who farm the rugged valleys and mountains, or fells, of the Lake District in northwest England.

Rebanks’ memoir describes that way of life, whose essence has changed little over the centuries. It’s also a primal story of fathers and sons, poverty and struggle. Rebanks left school at 15 to work on the farm, but clashed with his father and with the brutal economics of farming. He earned a degree in history from Oxford University in his 20s, came home and struggled to keep the family farm going. The last few decades have been hard for small farmers. Most have second jobs; Rebanks works as an adviser on sustainable tourism to UNESCO.

“We’ve been going to disappear for 200-odd years,” he said. “That’s always been the story. Nearly all books about shepherds are ‘The Last Shepherd.’ There’s always ‘last’ in it because it adds a touch of romance.” Rebanks is determined not to be the last of anything. He lives with wife Helen and three children aged between 3 and 9 in Matterdale, one of the Lake District’s many narrow valleys. The family owns 450 sheep, rising to 1,000 after lambing season.

He said the popularity reassures him that people do care about the land, even if they’re a very long way from it. “I think there’s a sort of Harvard Business School way of looking at the world which is to say, because it’s old-fashioned, because it doesn’t make very much money, people should rationally choose to go off and be IT consultants or bankers in the City of London,” he said. “I think in my early 20s I bought into that. I thought, we’re on the wrong side of history. It’ll all disappear. Twenty-something years later I’m looking at it, and we haven’t gone anywhere.”


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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