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International Briefs
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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

The title of the popular song by Bobby McFerrin could become Dubai’s national anthem, judging by the UAE agenda to become the happiest city on Earth. The UAE is probably the only country to have a minister of state for happiness whose main responsibility is to harmonise all government plans, programmes and policies to achieve a happier society. Bhutan already boasts a Gross National Happiness Index but Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, is leading the ambitious charge to change culture and tradition and use technology to make his citizens happier.

The basic idea is to improve the quality of life by making city services like transport, infrastructure, public events and spaces more efficient and enjoyable. In corporate speak, it means customer satisfaction.

The Happiness Agenda will produce public events and interventions in the form of “Happiness Labs” together with digital “Happiness Channels” to increase public understanding of happiness factors. A thought leadership programme to invite and grow a global leader network of “Happiness Gurus” is intended to bolster the network of happiness influencers in Dubai, elevate it as a global case study, and make Dubai a destination for happiness scholars. Happiness, says the Sheikh, will be a national policy goal and involve government as well as the public and private sectors. Dubai is a major attraction for Indians and many billionaires and Bollywood stars have second homes in the UAE. If the Happiness agenda is successful, it could be a role model for other countries, including India, which probably needs it the most.

The Bermuda Mystery

The Bermuda Triangle is a loosely defined region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean where a number of aircraft and ships are said to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Books have been written on the phenomenon, with many ascribing its dangerous status to the supernatural, even aliens.

Now, after an exhaustive investigation, Sony BBC Earth has come out with the first episode of the Secrets of the Bermuda Triangle which premiered recently. The two hosts dissect the possible reasons behind the most prominent sinking of ships, ranging from structural design to environmental factors, and a rare phenomenon called the “rogue wave”. Advancement in technology and communication has increased the ease of navigating through seas, but even then, the Bermuda Triangle is avoided by cruise ships and private yachts.

The first episode looks at the history and interviews survivors like an adventurer who set off on a day’s trip to the Triangle, but ended up stranded in the vast ocean without food and water for 16 days. The second episode, to be telecast shortly, recreates flights which disappeared and plays cockpit voice recorders which show how baffled the captain was prior to his aircraft plunging into the sea. The effort and research that have gone into the show make it a must-watch, if only to add to all the theories and speculation about one of the great enduring mysteries of our times.

Net Earnings

Tennis remains the most surefire way for female athletes to make millions of dollars. A look at Forbes magazine’s latest Highest-Paid Female Athletes list released last week shows the richest female sportsperson is 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, with a total earning of $29.2 million, followed by Naomi Osaka—who won the 2018 US Open, defeating Williams—with a total earning of $24.3 million. The third highest paid female athlete in the world is also a tennis player, Angelique Kerber, who pulled in $11.8 million between June 2018 and June 2019.

The only Indian to feature on the list is badminton star PV Sindhu who tied for the 13th place with a total earning of $5.5 million. According to Forbes, “Sindhu remains India’s most marketable female athlete.”

The earnings come not just from prize money but also from endorsements, appearance fees and business dealings, which are often higher. Williams is now 37 and may quit the sport but already has a clothing line, “S by Serena”, and plans to launch jewellery and beauty products. She also has built a venture portfolio worth more than $10 million.

The top 15 female athletes earned a cumulative $146 million, compared to $130 million last year. Despite the playing salary gap in team sports, marketing opportunities have opened up in recent years for female athletes thanks to the growth of social media platforms. That change alone has helped women become much more powerful in the sports marketing world.