Greece deal lands in uncertain territory; Emirates space mission a new era for Middle East; A global market for Third-World comedy

1 Greece deal lands in uncertain territory (Khaleej Times) Hours before marathon talks on bailout modalities were to begin; a former Greek finance minister has forecast that they are doomed to fail. Yanis Varoufakis, whose resignation was seen as a conciliatory gesture towards the eurozone financial wizards, believes that his cash-strapped country will be back to square one and the so-called deal will go down in history as the greatest disaster of macroeconomic mismanagement.

Greece was hoping for an instant cash tranche of Euro 86 billion in exchange for introducing reforms that could have consoled the international donors, especially the European Commission, to a great extent. But now it seems Varoufakis’s assessment will go a long way in molding public opinion and might also impact the smooth implementation of the deal.

What it literally means is that Greece was left with a poor choice – either to become a political martyr or get away with whatever peanuts the donors were willing to dole out, and Athens made the worst choice of capitulation for reasons of exigency.

It is also very likely that Varoufakis could emerge as the alternative political voice for the debt-laden country, leading to more speculative theories in times to come as to how better Greece can manage its woes. Notwithstanding what Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has to say, one thing is for sure: the deal has landed in an uncertain territory and there are bound to be many a slip between the cup and the lip.

2 Emirates space mission a new era for Middle East (Kareem Shaheen in The Guardian) If all goes well, the United Arab Emirates will have a space probe orbiting Mars by 2021 – a first for an Arab world embroiled in endemic conflict. And, as the man leading the Emirates Mars Mission, 32-year-old Omran Sharaf has a lot on his plate. “It’s something we have to do if we want to progress and move forward. If we can reach Mars, all challenges for the nation should be doable.”

Announced in July 2014 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the UAE’s vice-president and Dubai’s ruler, the Emirates Mars Mission is expected to launch in July 2020 sending the probe hurtling on the 60 million km journey to the red planet. It is expected to arrive seven months later, half a century to the year since the founding of the country, a union of seven emirates on the Arabian gulf.

The mission is set to last for at least two years. The team hopes the round-the-clock data gathering will help provide a detailed insight into the planet’s evolution. Dubai’s name has become synonymous with grand, headline-grabbing projects – the country’s skyline now features the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa; passengers flying into Dubai airport, one of the largest in the world, can see manmade islands in the shape of palm trees from the air; and the city inaugurated a metro system in 2009.

Dubai at one point teetered on the edge of financial collapse after the global credit crunch at the end of the last decade, but has since recovered with the aid of a bailout from the UAE’s oil-rich capital, Abu Dhabi. At the time, the breakneck speed of growth had appeared almost hubristic.

“This mission is not about reaching Mars but about inspiring a whole new generation and transforming the way youth think within the region,” says Sharaf. “The goal here is hope, for humanity, for the region, for youth in countries with lots of conflict.”

3 A global market for Third-World comedy (Lenoie Wagner in Johannesburg Times) Comedians are becoming one of South Africa’s prime exports. Soon after it was announced that Trevor Noah would become the new host of The Daily Show, stand-up David Kibuuka said he would join Noah on the top American show as one of the writers.

Loyiso Gola recently joined the Australian satire The Weekly Show as a correspondent. And now Jason Goliath and ventriloquist Conrad Koch (the man behind Chester Missing) are heading to the world’s largest international comedy event – the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal, Canada. Top international funnymen like Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart, Mike Myers, Neil Patrick Harris, Rob Schneider and Jimmy Carr will be at the festival – as will Noah.

Goliath said: “The greatest comedians in the world will be performing. The guys that have already peaked are going to be engaging with younger comedians like myself. It’s my wedding day in stand-up comedy.”

Industry veteran Joe Parker said: “Comedy is growing in this country and comedians are getting better, which means the competition makes everyone work harder.” Parker warned that international fame was by no means certain. “I wouldn’t say our comedians are in demand but rather that they are working hard to make themselves in demand.”

Goliath said: “The world is tired of First-World stories, the world is hungry for Third-World stories because comedy is based on and comes from pain and nobody knows pain better than South Africans.” The challenge is finding a way of sharing this pain in a way that international audiences can relate to.


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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