Crisis for Eurozone as Greece misses $1.7bn payment to IMF

Despite a last-minute appeal to its creditors for a two-year package of financial aid, Greece at midnight on Tuesday became the “the first developed economy to default on a loan with the International Monetary Fund,” Reuters reports.

* Follow developments on The Guardian’s live-blog here.

The other nations currently in IMF default are Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Greece on Tuesday set a record for the size of a missed payment ($1.7billion).

What happens now? And what are the prospects for the Eurozone and for Greece itself?

Kathy Gilsinan writes at The Atlantic’s live-blog that 

In the “slow exit” option, Greece’s creditors don’t demand their deposits back immediately, but if Greece fails to secure outside sources of financing as public bills such as pensions and state salaries come due, “Greece could substitute ‘IOU’s’ for euros in some of its payments,” per CNBC. In the short term, these would in effect become a parallel currency. As the Wall Street Journal explained, “Over time, euros would disappear from circulation because people would hoard them as a store of value—and people would spend the government IOUs. De facto, the drachma, whether or not it would so be called, would become the main means of exchange.”

But there’s also the “no exit” option, where the country just keeps the euro. Polls have indicated that this is what Greeks want to do, and it’s what Prime Minister Alex Tsipras promised to do. If, say, he manages to secure a post-default bailout deal in negotiations set for tomorrow—allowing it to pay its debts to the IMF a few hours, or a few days late—Greece stays in the Eurozone that much longer. But the course of negotiations so far doesn’t give much reason for hope.

Ahead of Sunday’s referendum, a Royal Bank of Scotland infographic runs through the options for the immediate future.

But, predictably, there are always those predicting jam tomorrow…

Meanwhile, an IndieGoGo fundraiser for the country went offline after being swamped with curious visitors. Gizmodo reports that before crashing it had raised “a shocking €407,715.”


* WORLD * The US and Cuba have agreed a deal to reopen embassies and re-establish diplomatic relations. Details of the move are set to be announced on Wednesday morning. Both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are expected to make statements. The Washington Post reports:

The White House must notify Congress 15 days before opening the embassy. After relations were severed in 1961, U.S. officials mothballed the six-story modernist embassy. U.S. officials returned to Havana in 1977 when the two countries opened “Interests Sections” under the auspices of the Swiss government. The American compound currently has about 50 U.S. staffers…

Even after the embassy is reopened, it would take congressional action to end the decades-long economic embargo of the island nation. Republicans controlling Congress have vowed to keep the embargo in place.

As the Twitter hashtag #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches gained traction, there were reports of a fire on Tuesday evening at a church in Greeleyville, South Carolina, the seventh at a black church in the south since the Charleston shooting.

The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that

Investigators have concluded that while the fire in Charlotte, and one two days earlier in Knoxville, Tenn., were certainly arson, they were probably acts of vandalism. Of the four structures at Briar Creek Baptist, only a youth activities building in the back of the complex burned, while the sanctuary was untouched.


* POLITICS * The State Department said on Tuesday night that a 9pm ET release of 3,000 pages of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails is “not an effort to minimize media coverage of the documents but the result of the complexity of preparing the records for public release,” according to Josh Gerstein at Politico.

* Follow live updates from The Guardian here:

A sample..

But mostly so far the only revelation seems to be that she can’t work a fax machine.



* BUSINESS * Apple Music launched, with a three-month free trial. Here’s ten things you need to know, via EW before downloading the app.

In slightly less good news for the tech giant, a US court ruled that Apple had conspired with publishers to fix the prices of electronic books. 

Nike co-founder Phil Knight said on Tuesday that he would step away from the sportswear company and that he had recommended chief executive Mark Parker replace him as chairman next year.


* MEDIA * More tough times ahead for the Beeb, it seems..


(Tomorrow’s Papers Today/The Guardian)


* CULTURE *  Misty Copeland became the first black principal dancer in the 75-year history of the American Ballet Theater. At a news conference, she said

“From the day that I met my manager, Gilda Squire, she asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ ” she recalled. “And I said, besides continue dancing at A.B.T., I want to bring more people to ballet, I want to see more people that look like me on the stage, in the school, and in the audience — on the board. It’s just been one of my goals, and it’s been exciting to see some change happen.”


* SPORTS * The US Womens’ National Team will play in the World Cup final on Sunday after beating Germany 2-0.

The US will play either England or Japan, who meet in the other semi-final on Wednesday night.

Whoever Sunday’s teams are, Sepp Blatter won’t be there. So there’s that.

‘Telling it like it is,’ Christie expands GOP field


“It’s My Life – It’s Now Or Never..” 

To the strains of Jon Bon Jovi’s 2000 AOR anthem, the singer’s fellow New Jerseyan Chris Christie opened a press conference at his old high school in Livingston, NJ, where he became the 14th announced candidate in the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary. The New York Times reports:

Relying on his biggest, and perhaps his last, remaining advantage in a field of better-financed and better-liked rivals – his personality – Mr. Christie portrayed himself as the only candidate in the Republican field who is forthright and forceful enough to run the country.

Given Donald Trump’s recent run-in with Neil Young over the soundtrack for Trump’s announcement, Bon Jovi later said that he had “absolutely” given permission to use his music, and that his “friendships were apolitical.”

At least Christie didn’t choose “Going Down in a Blaze of Glory.”



An already bloated Republican Presidential field is set to grow still further on Tuesday, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – “dogged by scandals and a plummeting popularity in his own state” – officially launches his campaign, media coverage of which may likely exceed his showing in any meaningful voter poll.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger‘s Tom Moran writes in a column headed “After 14 years of watching Christie, a warning: he lies,” that “He is a remarkable talent with a silver tongue. But if you look closely, you can see that it is forked like a serpent’s.”

Jack Shafer writes at Politico:

Will Christie appeal to his angels or his devils? In an interview today with the Washington Post’s James Hohmann, Christie biographer Matt Katz says he never doubted that Christie would run—”Barring a criminal indictment”—because he believes too much in himself and his communications skills not to run. Such confidence, so rare outside of politics and the casino, is the manna that keeps the political system running. Such confidence is also the stuff that causes otherwise sensible politicians to pick unnecessary fights with the press. Christie doesn’t like the press and the press doesn’t like Christie’s imperious ways much, either. Only one combatant in this face-off can change the equation, and only one combatant has everything to lose by not changing it.


* WORLD * Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urged the nation to vote against international creditors’ austerity demands in Sunday’s national referendum.

The Guardian reports that 

At the end of a day that saw sharp falls in share prices around the globe, Tsipras used a TV address to ask a public still stunned by the imposition of a €60 daily limit on bank withdrawals to back his resistance to a new round of tough tax increases and spending cuts demanded by the troika of the commission, the ECB and the International Monetary Fund.

Tsipras urged Greeks to vote no in the forthcoming referendum, saying the plebiscite would be a strong “negotiating tool” in talks with lenders.


* POLITICS * NBC said it was severing ties with GOP Presidential candidate and TV personality Donald Trump after his “recent derogatory comments” regarding immigrants. The Hill reports that the move follows reports that Univision, the country’s largest Spanish-language network, said it would not air the beauty pageants produced by Trump.

A big deal commercially, maybe, but perhaps no matter in the grand political scheme of things…

In South Carolina, Karen Tumulty at the Washington Post has a profile of  Paul Thurmond, Republican legislator and son of Strom, and his efforts to have the confederate battle flag removed from the state capitol.

“I am aware of my heritage, but my appreciation for the things my forebears accomplished to make my life better does not mean that I must believe that they always made the right decisions,” Thurmond said. “And for the life of me, I will never understand how anyone could fight a civil war based in part on the desire to continue the practice of slavery.”


* BUSINESS * As the second quarter draws to a close on Tuesday, Reuters reports that worldwide M&A deals “almost matched the record set in the second quarter of 2007.”

The second quarter of 2015, however, stands out for the number of mega deals that were clinched or attempted.

These include Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s (RDSa.L) $70 billion acquisition of British rival BG Group Plc (BG.L), cable operator Charter Communications Inc’s (CHTR.O) $78.7 billion merger with Time Warner Cable Inc (TWC.N), and chip maker Avago Technologies Ltd’s (AVGO.O) $37 billion acquisition of peer Broadcom Corporation (BRCM.O).

Such large deals drove M&A volumes globally in the second quarter of 2015 up by 34.6 percent year-on-year to $1.33 trillion as of June 26, shy of the record $1.41 trillion seen in the second quarter of 2007.


* MEDIA* Roy Greenslade finds that The Daily Telegraph‘s redesign, on the occasion of its 160th birthday, is “easy on the eye for modern readers.”

It’s an old-and-new combination that looks rather good, at first – and second – look. But the headline change is less striking than the introduction of a larger text size, which marks a truly radical change in the paper’s appearance.

Meanwhile, The Guardian flashes back to 29 June 1970 and a report by an academic, one James Curran of Trinity College, Cambridge, that prognostications of newspaper ‘doom’ may be unfounded.

“There is nothing to justify the pessimism among journalists induced by the economic insecurity of the press industry and steadily falling newspaper sales. Nor is there a shred of evidence to support Professor [Marshall] McLuhan’s sweeping assertion that television viewing, by changing our sensory equipment, has eroded the need for the printed word.”

(Disclaimer – Goldsmith College’s Prof James Curran was one of the doctoral supervisors for my own (unfinished) PhD work on user-generated content.)


* CULTURE * E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, held a Twitter Q&A on Monday, and as The Independent reports, it didn’t go “exactly as planned.”

Finally, the end of June will come one second later than expected at midnight on Tuesday, with a “leap second” added to the official global clock for the first time in three years.

Use it wisely.

Greece shuts banks as financial meltdown looms

Banks and the stock exchange in Greece will be closed on Monday and possibly for the next six days until a planned national referendum, as the government in Athens tries to “check the growing strains on its crippled financial system,” Reuters reports.

Asian markets slid early on Monday amid fears of broader harm to the Eurozone and the global financial system should the country fail to meet its due loan payment to the IMF on Tuesday.

The Washington Post reports:

Sunday’s decision to declare a bank holiday was a signal that Greece’s five-year battle to stay in the shared euro currency may swiftly be coming to an end. ATMs in Athens were running out of money, and tensions were running high as Greeks stood in line for hours to scrape together cash for basic supplies. Lines mounted at gas stations as worried residents topped off their tanks for what could be a period of time in a cashless nation.

The Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made a national televised address and sought to reassure audiences at home and abroad.

(Greek with English subtitles)


* WORLD *  Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s Governor said that the island was unable to pay its roughly $72bn in debts. The New York Times called the revelation “startling” and said

The governor, Alejandro García Padilla, and senior members of his staff said in an interview last week that they would probably seek significant concessions from as many as all of the island’s creditors, which could include deferring some debt payments for as long as five years or extending the timetable for repayment.

Tuesday’s deadline for a deal in the Iran nuclear negotiations look likely to pass without agreement, with diplomats saying the negotiators would most likely “stay a few days beyond the deadline.” Reuters reported some western officials had suggested that Iran was “backtracking” from the initial agreement.

“It feels like we haven’t advanced on the technical issues and even gone back on some,” a Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

The second escaped convict from the jailbreak three weeks ago in upstate New York was shot and recaptured on Sunday two miles from the Canadian border.


* POLITICS * New Jersey Gov Chris Christie released a campaign video and web site ahead of his expected announcement on Tuesday at his former high school that he is joining the GOP Presidential primary.

(“Telling it like it is” – Chris Christie)

Meanwhile, another day another Governor – Ohio’s John Kasich will apparently declare his candidacy on July 21.

Bree Newsome, the woman who scaled a flagpole at the South Carolina statehouse on Saturday and removed the confederate battle flag, raised over $100,000 in bail pledges and inspired some remarkable fan art over the past 24 hours. Here’s a few…


* BUSINESS * An unmanned SpaceX rocket exploded shortly after lifting-off from Cape Canaveral on a resupply mission for the International Space Station. Wired reports:

The multiple failed missions shouldn’t be a problem for the astronauts aboard the ISS; NASA confirmed that they have enough to live on for the next several months, and multiple launches will make it to the ISS before supplies run out. Another Progress craft is set to launch on July 3, a Japanese HTV flight is scheduled for August, and another commercial US outfit, Orbital ATK, has plans for a launch later this year.

But the loss of this cargo in particular is still a huge a blow to the ISS. On board the Dragon was a new docking station and a space suit that will take time to rebuild and replace.

(SpaceX – rocket launch is at 21:15 and anomaly occurs around 23:30)


* SPORTS * Apparently outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter was told to stop “flirting with power” after appearing to muddy the waters over his status in the past few days. But Blatter, who announced earlier this month that he would step down told a Swiss paper this weekend that he would leave, saying there had been “sponsor pressure” on him to go.

Wimbledon begins on Monday.


* MEDIA * So it seems the new final check on the veracity of a news story is whether something is real, or “just a bunch of dildos.”


* CULTURE * Chris Squire, bass player and one of the founding members of Yes, died aged 67 after a battle with leukemia. 


Finally… photoshopped? Yeah, probably, but so what…


Amazing Grace

In Charleston, South Carolina, President Obama delivered a remarkable, powerful, moving eulogy at the funeral of State Sen Clementa Pinckney, Pastor of the Mother Emanuel church, who was murdered alongside eight of his parishioners in last week’s shooting attack.

Addressing the need for change and the issues of racism and gun violence, the “Reverend President” said, in part:

Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual. That’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society.

To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change, that’s how we lose our way again. It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”

What is true in the south is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other; that my liberty depends on you being free, too.

That — that history can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress. It must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, how to break the cycle, a roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. But more importantly, an open heart.

A full transcript of the President’s address is here, via CQ RollCall.

post and courier

(Post and Courier)


* WORLD * 

(Friday was a remarkable news day. It was the first time I’d published three full Notes on the same day. Click on these subheads to see the separate posts from earlier on Friday)

Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states


In one of its most socially significant decisions in recent years, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of a national right to same-sex marriage. 


Dozens killed in series of global terror attacks

At least 39 people – including British and German tourists – were killed in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse when gunmen opened fire on the beach adjoining a luxury hotel, the Tunisian interior ministry said. A further 36 people were wounded. Islamic State said it was behind the attack.

Elsewhere,  ISIS claimed responsibility for what is thought to be a suicide bombing at a Shiite muslim mosque in Kuwait City which killed 25 people. The BBC reports that a further 200 people were wounded. While in south-eastern France, one man was decapitated in an attack at an American-owned factory near Grenoble. A suspect is in custody and other arrests have been made, as the country’s security apparatus was put on high alert.

terror(Tomorrow’s Papers Today)


One of two escaped convicts from a correctional facility in upstate New York was reportedly shot and killed by a federal agent near the Canadian border, about 40 miles from the prison. Law enforcement and border patrol officers are still in search of the second man. The pair have been on the run for three weeks.


Greece appears set to hold a national referendum on July 5 after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras rejected bailout extension proposals, calling the plan a “humiliation” and condemning “unbearable” austerity measures demanded by creditors, the BBC reports.

But Bloomberg reports that if Athens misses its Tuesday deadline for payment to the IMF, “it might be worse for the lender than for Greece.”

There’s a difference between missing a payment to bond investors, and to an official institution such as the IMF. Under the fund’s policy, countries that miss payments are deemed to be in “arrears.” The Washington-based lender plans to stick to that language, rather than using the term “default,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said Thursday.

The three major credit-rating companies have also said failure to pay the IMF wouldn’t constitute a formal default.


Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states

In one of its most socially significant decisions in recent years, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of a national right to same-sex marriage. 

The full opinion is here.

Live updates from Reuters on reaction to the decision are here.

Live updates from the New York Times are here.

Here is the key paragraph from Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion.


According to SCOTUSblog, all four dissenters – including Chief Justice John Roberts – authored dissents.

But it was Justice Antonin Scalia, at once apparently both apoplectic and resigned, who provided the most quote-worthy material.


Political reaction among opponents of same-sex marriage was, well, as you might expect.



Zoe Carpenter writes at The Nation on how the right’s next tactic in their fight against gay marriage will likely be “religious liberty.”

Among the field of Republican presidential candidates the responses ranged from outrage to resignation; none embraced the ruling. Some were quick to throw red meat to the conservative base, ignoring yet another thing the GOP supposedly learned after getting crushed in 2012. But a few of the more serious candidates, who have read the polls and know aggressive opposition to gay marriage spells trouble in a general election, tried to shift the focus to one of the next issues in the marriage debate, which Nan Hunter explores in detail here—the attempt to frame discrimination as the exercise of “religious liberty.”

Andrew Sullivan, a longtime advocate of marriage equality wrote, simply, “It Is Accomplished”.

But some things you know deep in your heart: that all human beings are made in the image of God; that their loves and lives are equally precious; that the pursuit of happiness promised in the Declaration of Independence has no meaning if it does not include the right to marry the person you love; and has no force if it denies that fundamental human freedom to a portion of its citizens.

Dozens killed in series of global terror attacks

At least 37 people – including British and German tourists – were killed in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse when gunmen opened fire on the beach adjoining a luxury hotel, the Tunisian interior ministry said. A further 36 people were wounded.

* Live updates from The Guardian – including video from the scene – are here.

* Live updates from the BBC – including eyewitness Tweets – are here.

Al Jazeera reports on how the Tunisian town of Sousse, where todays attacks happened, is the “seaside home of ‘jihadist’ volunteers.’

The Sousse volunteers, a majority of whom are between 20 and 30 years of age, tend to come from the city’s working class districts, areas known not only for their poverty, but for their educational deprivation, social marginalisation but most importantly, lack of any religious education institutions.

In Kuwait, ISIS claimed responsibility for what is thought to be a suicide bombing at a Shiite muslim mosque in Kuwait City which killed 25 people. The BBC reports that a further 200 people were wounded.

In south-eastern France, one man was decapitated in an attack at an American-owned factory near Grenoble. A suspect is in custody and other arrests have been made, as the country’s security apparatus was put on high alert.

The New York Times writes:

There was no immediate indication that the attacks were coordinated. But the three strikes came at roughly the same time, and just days after the Islamic State, the militant group also known as ISIS or ISIL, called for such operations during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“It appears to be an effort to launch and inspire a wave of attacks across three continents, reminiscent of Al Qaeda’s simultaneous multiple attacks of the past,” said Bruce O Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer who is a counterterrorism expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Friday’s attacks follow an upsurge of violence in the Middle East on Thursday, including a string of attacks in Iraq attributed to ISIS.

And in Syria, Reuters reports that 

Islamic State fighters killed at least 145 civilians in an attack on the Syrian town of Kobani and a nearby village, in what a monitoring group described on Friday as one of the worst massacres carried out by the hardline group in Syria.



All eyes still on the Supreme Court

After Thursday’s 6-3 decision rejecting a legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act (see below) the Supreme Court could on Friday hand down another eagerly-awaited and politically significant decision, if it rules in Obergefell v Hodges et al, on same-sex marriage.

* As always, you can follow the SCOTUSblog live-blog here. And you really should follow @SCOTUSblog on Twitter.



Supreme Court upholds key Obamacare provision

(The White House – President’s statement begins at 28.48)

The US Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a critical part of the Affordable Care Act, affirming that subsidies to around 6.4 million people, allowing them to purchase healthcare plans, can continue.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in the 6-3 decision in King v Burwell, writes – in what Slate said “will go down as a lasting statement about judicial humility”  –


* The complete text of the ruling is here, via The Hill.

Follow SCOTUSblog’s live-blog of today’s opinions here.

Not everyone was celebrating, of course.

In a closer decision (5-4) the Court also handed down an important civil rights decision on Thursday, upholding the law on housing discrimination, saying that it need not be intentional to be declared illegal.


* WORLD * South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney will be laid to rest in Charleston on Friday. His funeral will be attended by President Obama, who will deliver the eulogy. The First Lady, Vice-President Biden and Hillary Clinton are also set to attend the ceremony, at the College of Charleston.

* Follow the Charleston Post and Courier on Twitter here.

The first funerals for victims of last week’s shooting were held on Thursday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is in Vienna as the nuclear talks with Iran approach their crucial final stage, but it appears that Tehran’s top negotiator will not be at the table.

The formal deadline for an agreement is next Tuesday, but the sides have indicated they are prepared to extend if a deal is close.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama on Thursday to talk about the Iran deal and the ongoing war in Syria. The New York Times reports that it was the first direct contact between the two leaders for four months.

Mr. Putin’s decision to call Mr. Obama and focus on Syria and Iran may reflect a desire to assert his continuing importance on the world stage despite Russia’s isolation and failure to break the Western consensus on [Ukraine] sanctions.

Meanwhile, a senior Pentagon official told the House Armed Services Committee that Russia’s recent nuclear saber-rattling is “playing with fire”. Reuters reports:

The United States is about to embark on a costly long-term effort to modernize its aging nuclear force, including weapons, submarines, bombers and ballistic missiles. Estimates of the cost have ranged from $355 billion over a decade to about $1 trillion over 30 years.

The situation in Greece remains deadlocked with no deal between Athens and its creditors, and talks set to resume on Saturday, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel warning that it was currently not possible to find fresh funds beyond what is left in the bailout program.


* POLITICS * The Iran negotiations are the subject of the first significant “issue ad” of the campaign cycle by a group supporting Florida Sen Marco Rubio. Paul Blumenthal at Huffington Post reports:

The ad from the Conservative Solutions Project, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors, says the Obama administration is pursuing a “bad deal” with Iran. The video features clips of both Rubio and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denouncing the international negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. The group asks viewers to call their senators and to “join Rubio” in opposing the deal, which is supposed to be negotiated by June 30.

The potential deal was also a target for the GOP “front-runner”.

But the man who is currently running right behind Bush in the latest GOP poll apparently has a different focus, after Hispanic TV network Univision said it would drop the Miss USA pageant after his recent comments about Mexican immigrants.

Unsurprisingly, he barely broke stride.

And in case you might have forgotten who’s actually running (and who might be just thinking about it), here’s the complete listing from the CNN/WMUR New Hampshire poll, showing the little-known Senator Undecided clearly the people’s choice.


After launching his campaign by awkwardly putting his children on hidden camera, Louisiana Gov Bobby Jindal – he of the asterisk above – had an interesting first day as an official candidate, prompting a hashtag in India and being called out by Buckwheat Zydeco.


* BUSINESS/PHILANTHROPY * The Financial Times reports that Bill Gates is to “double his personal investment in green technologies” to $2bn over the next five years to “bend the curve” on climate change.


Gates’s move comes after Napster co-founder and Silicon Valley investor Sean Parker announced that his foundation was allocating $600million to “help solve the world’s biggest problems.” Huffington Post reports:

The foundation will focus on three core areas where Parker thinks real progress can be made: civic engagement, global public health and life sciences. When the foundation identifies a program that shows promise in one of these areas, rather than waiting for a grant application to roll in, it will dive right in and spend big on that program.

Finally, Courtney Love got caught up in a pretty nasty French taxi drivers’ protest over UberPOP. The French interior minister later declared the car-sharing service illegal. Thankfully she got out ok.

EU leaders confronted by migrant crisis and Greek debt spiral

European Union leaders are meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday for a summit to discuss the continent’s worsening migrant crisis, with Reuters reporting how domestic border concerns within the region are heightening tensions.

“Migration … is a transformative challenge,” one senior EU diplomat said, noting the strain it was putting on unity among neighbors where years of economic drift have bolstered anti-immigration parties, even as turmoil to the south has driven growing numbers to risk perilous crossings of the Mediterranean.

The summit will also focus on the economic situation in Greece, where – following an  emergency summit earlier in the week – talks between the Athens government and its creditors broke up without agreement in the early hours of Thursday.

European stocks opened lower as optimism over a deal faded.

In all, it is likely that these two issues will squeeze out plans by British Prime Minister David Cameron to begin to garner support for a “better deal” for Britain ahead of a referendum on membership promised for 2017. The Independent writes that 

EU diplomats predicted that France would prove a major stumbling block to the Prime Minister’s demands and would not join Germany in “going the extra mile” to keep Britain in the 28-member EU club.


* Follow Politico’s live summit Tweethub here.


* WORLD * At the US Supreme Court, six major decisions remain on the docket, with decisions set for Thursday and Friday,  as well as likely also next week. The most politically significant rulings still to be issued are those concerning same-sex marriage (Obergefell v Hodges et al) and the Affordable Care Act (King v Burwell).

* Follow SCOTUSblog’s live-blog of opinions here, beginning at 9AM ET (decisions expected from 10AM)

In a court in Boston on Wednesday, marathon bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev was formally sentenced to death. Following three hours of emotional statements by witnesses and victims, Tsarnaev spoke his first words in court.

Funerals for the victims of last week’s Charleston shooting begin on Thursday, with local officials preparing to take steps to prevent any potential protests. The Wall Street Journal writes:

The largest [service] will be for Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a state senator, at an arena Friday where more than 5,000 people are expected to attend and President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver a eulogy.

On Wednesday, Rev. Pinckney’s coffin lay in the statehouse in Columbia, a line of people waiting to pay their respects stretching for more than a block in sweltering heat.

The New York Times reported that federal hate crime charges are likely to be brought against the alleged shooter.



Louisiana Gov Bobby Jindal became the 13th candidate in an increasingly-crowded GOP field when he declared he was seeking the Presidency. In what NPR called an “awkward start” to his campaign, Mr Jindal made his announcement by “putting his kids on hidden camera.”

Jindal, who is Indian-American, is making his pitch in particular to the party’s evangelical wing. The New York Times reports:

In his speech, Mr Jindal, who was raised as a Hindu but converted to Roman Catholicism, made a forceful appeal to Christian conservatives, accusing liberals of putting Christianity “under assault.” Before he took the stage, a pastor led the audience in a prayer asking God to fill Mr. Jindal “with the purposes and the plans that you have.”

“I know that some believe I talk too much about my faith, but I will not be silenced,” Mr. Jindal told supporters. “I will not be silenced in order to meet their expectations of political correctness. They don’t seem to accept the idea that you can be both intellectual and Christian.”

The GOP field is expected to grow still further next week, with New Jersey Gov Chris Christie apparently poised to make an announcement. In the latest national poll, Jindal scored around just 1 per cent, but his score among “candidates you could not see yourself voting for” was just 28 per cent, far lower than Christie’s 55 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Director of the University of New Hampshire’s survey center says “everyone should just calm down” after Donald Trump’s second-place showing in the latest New Hampshire GOP primary poll.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton can likely expect plenty of questions – not least from Sen Bernie Sanders – in the wake of Wednesday’s passage of the trade deal facilitating the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

Talking of Sen Sanders, it appears that his campaign event in Denver at the weekend saw the biggest turn-out of any candidate so far in this cycle – bigger even than Hillary’s recent “relaunch” event in New York.

“Ten minutes after the email went out, we knew we had to change the venue,” said Sanders.

Take a look…



Congressional Democrats introduced a bill aimed at restoring the Voting Rights Act, gutted by the Supreme Court two years ago. The Act will mark its 50th anniversary this summer.

President Obama on Wednesday found himself being heckled at a White House event touting the administration’s progress in pressing for equal rights for the LGBT community. The heckler, protesting about immigration policy, was removed after the President tried a couple of attempts at civil interaction.

“As a general rule, I am just fine with a few hecklers,” Obama said. “But not when I am up in the house. My attitude is if you’re eating the hors d’oeuvres, you know what I’m saying? And drinking the booze? I know that’s right.”


* MEDIA * Fox News finally parted company with former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. 

The former Governor of Alaska will likely still be seen on TV in shows like her Sarah Palin’s Alaska, which debuted in 2010. The Hollywood Reporter says that the producer of that show, Mark Burnett, (also responsible for Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice) “has his eye on a series that would go inside the world of global government leaders. First on his wish list: Russia’s Vladimir Putin. If all goes as he hopes, others, including Cuba’s Fidel Castro, would follow.”

The startup mobile news application Circa is closing, after it ran out of money. Mathew Ingram writes at Fortune:

For me, one of the most innovative things about the service was that Circa knew how much of a story each of its users had seen—which updates were clicked on and which weren’t—and so it could send new information only to those who hadn’t already seen it.

From a purely technical point of view, this was a huge improvement over the way that many mainstream media outlets go about their business: In most cases, when there is a breaking news story, they pump out a huge amount of old information that many readers have already seen, because they have no idea who has seen it and who hasn’t. It’s a massive duplication of effort, and a waste of resources.

Unfortunately, those aspects of Circa always seemed more like useful features of some other, larger service than a standalone business.


* SPORTS * The NBA draft takes place on Thursday evening, with apparently “a big year for big men” on the cards, according to USA Today.

Finally, congratulations to the Virginia Cavaliers, who beat defending champions Vanderbilt to win the deciding game in the College World Series.

Obama gets his way on trade legislation


President Obama – bolstered by Congressional Republicans – secured what has been described as a “legacy defining” victory over his trade agenda, when the Senate approved a measure granting him “fast-track” negotiating authority. Business Insider reports:

The 60-to-38 vote on Wednesday clears the way for Obama to seek final language on a trade agreement with Japan and 10 other Pacific-rim nations, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Congress can ratify or reject such agreements but not change them.

The measure now goes to the President of this signature, and speeds the process towards the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, despite vociferous opposition from many within his own party and labor unions.




President Obama’s trade agenda received a life-saving boost when the Senate voted to end debate on the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which would give the President “fast-track” negotiating authority.

The move sets up a final vote on Wednesday and likely hastens the completion of the controversial 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which would link 40 per cent of the global economy.

The Boston Herald writes in an editorial that the pact “would be a high point in a foreign policy that has otherwise been consumed by crisis management, and would give Obama a rare legislative achievement in the Republican-controlled Congress.”

It also means the President can also press ahead with a second deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, knowing Congress can vote for or against, but won’t be able to amend or filibuster. Jonathan Weisman at the New York Times writes:

The Atlantic agreement is not expected to be completed until the next administration is in office, but the trade negotiating powers would stretch for six years — well into the next presidency. Together those two accords would put much of the globe under the same trade rules, not only lowering tariffs and other import barriers but also creating new standards for Internet access, intellectual property and investor protections.

But there is still expected to be opposition.


* POLITICS * Opposition to the Confederate flag is snowballing in both the political and commercial arenas, as the South Carolina legislature moves closer to a debate on removing it from public display at the capitol building. Reuters reports:

“The change in opinion in the last day or two is like nothing I have ever seen. It’s been a tidal wave,” said College of Charleston political science professor Gibbs Knotts.

And pressure looks likely to continue to spread beyond the Palmetto state.

Even as far as this…

But not all stars and bars on cars are headed for the junkyard.  Politico reports that even as five governors called for the removal of Confederate flags from license plates in their states, South Carolina is taking things “one flag at a time.”

There are 1,020 South Carolina license plates emblazoned with the Confederate flags and generating almost $20,000 every two years for the state chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group founded in the 19th century to honor Confederate history that has been attacked in recent years for promoting works that celebrate the Ku Klux Klan and a book that called “Northern Jewish intellectuals/activists” the “deadliest enemies” of the South.

The White House is expected to announce on Wednesday that the US will no longer prosecute the families of US hostages who negotiate with their captors or attempt to pay a ransom. The move is expected to be criticized by some in congress who think it does not go far enough.


* WORLD * Documents released by Wikileaks apparently showed that the NSA had spied on the communications of French leaders for most of the past decade, including those of current President Francois Hollande, The Hill reports.

The Baltimore Sun reported on details of the autopsy of Freddie Gray, whose injury in police custody and subsequent death sparked protests and riots in the city in April. The trial for the six police officers charged in connection with Gray’s death will take place in October, after all entered not guilty pleas.





* MEDIA * Instagram announced an update featuring enhanced search and explore tools that will let users find photos by location and discover real-time trending topics. NPR reports:

More substantial than other recent makeovers touting new filters, this change will transform Instagram into a stream of real-time updates from around the country. Following in the footsteps of Twitter and Facebook, Instagram wants to be a source for your news.


Google – finally – officially introduced the “undo send” feature for Gmail.

The Daily Mail, Snapchat and ad agency WPP announced the formation of a marketing agency to create brand-sponsored video and print content. The new venture will go by the, er, lets say distinctive name of Truffle Pig.


* SPORTS * Formula 1 could be set for an $8bn ownership shakeup, which could see F1’s chief executive Bernie Ecclestone also sell his shareholding to a US-Qatar investor group, the Financial Times reports.


Tom Brady’s appeal against his suspension for “deflategate” wrapped up after 11 hours at the NFL’s headquarters in New York. USA Today reports:

There is no firm timetable for [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell to announce a decision on Brady’s status, just the latest development in a saga that has now dragged on more than five months. Lose, and Brady’s next step could be filing a federal lawsuit with a request for a temporary restraining order that would allow him to be on the field while the legal process plays out.


So, turns out that it’s Met’s fans what have the worst grammar in all of baseball?


And the catch of the day from the Cubs-Dodgers game at Wrigley:


* CULTURE * The most annoying restaurant trend happening today? There are plenty of contenders, but personally I agree with the Washington Post‘s Roberto Ferdman.

When a server clears a plate before everyone is finished, he or she leaves the table with a mess of subtle but important signals. Those who are still eating are made to feel as though they are holding others up; those who are not are made to feel as though they have rushed the meal. What was originally a group dining experience becomes a group exercise in guilt.


A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates a possible link between drugs for erectile dysfunction and the skin cancer melanoma.

On the other hand, though,

and, surprise surprise..


Finally, be careful about what you say to someone who may appear to be asleep. Their phone may not be, and it could cost you half a million dollars.


Furling the flag


After hundreds of demonstrators rallied against the Confederate flag at the South Carolina statehouse in Columbia, the state legislature moved to authorize a debate on whether the battle flag should be removed.

The House backed such a debate – which would happen after the state budget is finalized – by 103-10, before the Senate also considered the issue.

But the language among opponents to the flag’s removal was trenchant, while this ad appeared in the local newspaper.

Outside the political arena, there were significant commercial moves against the flag by Amazon – despite a surge in sales – Sears, eBay and even NASCAR, as well as by one of the country’s most prominent flag-makers, which said it would no longer manufacture Confederate flags, Reuters reported.



As debate and protest has intensified over the use and symbolism of the Confederate flag in the aftermath of the Charleston shooting, a number of Republican politicians are moving to distance themselves from what has been a longstanding regional base issue.

South Carolina Gov Nikki Haley on Monday called for the removal of the Civil War symbol from the state capitol, and some prominent Republicans followed suit.

“That flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” Haley said. “By removing a symbol that divides us, we can move forward in harmony.”

But the proposed move requires a vote in the statehouse and there is no indication how quickly the flag might actually be removed. Tonight it remains padlocked in place.

A rally in favor of removal is scheduled for outside the state capitol in Columbia, SC on Tuesday morning.

Among GOP Presidential hopefuls – already dealing with the fallout from political contributions by the leader of a white supremacist group linked to the alleged Charleston shooter – there remains far from a consensus on the flag issue, likely a reflection of South Carolina’s position in the early primary schedule.

Charleston’s local paper the Post and Courier – whose coverage of the events of the past week has been outstanding – published an editorial saying it was “time to furl” the flag.

Such an act would be in the spirit of the original compromise, which was approved by lawmakers of good will, black and white, to remove the flag from a position of sovereignty and place it at what was viewed as an appropriate place on the Statehouse grounds.

The paper is also doing a live survey of all SC legislators on their opinion on the issue,

On Monday night, it was announced that President Obama would travel to Charleston and deliver the eulogy for Rev Clementa Pinckney at the funeral on Friday of the pastor and state senator.

Meanwhile, Mississippi’s Republican House Speaker said the Confederate battle emblem should be removed from that state’s flag, while Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, said it was withdrawing Confederate-themed merchandise from sale.



* POLITICS * The US Supreme Court did not hand down much-anticipated decisions on same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act, rulings on which could now come on Thursday or Friday, as the Court moves to clear its workload of outstanding cases.

But they did rule on Monday on raisins and SpiderMan.

President Obama created something of a media kerfuffle after he appeared on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast for what turned out to be the longest interview of his Presidency.

You can download the podcast here.


* WORLD * While a definitive deal on Greek debt wasn’t agreed at Monday’s EU emergency summit, there does appear to be movement towards a resolution – possibly “within days” – a situation reflected in some modicum of optimism on the part of global markets.

Negotiators from Iran and the West indicated that they are prepared to go past the 30 June deadline in order to clear barriers to a final nuclear agreement, the Wall Street Journal reports.


* MEDIA *  Julia Carpenter at the Washington Post looks at Snapchat’s live story on Charleston and how it might mark a new era for the content platform.

Meanwhile the New Yorker magazine used Snapchat to bring its Charleston cover to life.

So what did we learn from Apple’s change of heart after being called out by Taylor Swift? Ian Crouch writes at The New Yorker:

It can’t be that Apple is simply a massively successful and wealthy consumer-products company, because, if that were the case, then how could we account for the way we venerate its executives, mark its product announcements like minor national holidays, and visit its stores like pilgrims? The fear of Apple is, in part, the fear that it will do things that make us question our “love, admiration and reverence” in the first place.

Meanwhile, Robert Cookson writes at the FT on how Apple’s “deep pockets pose a threat to Spotify.”


* SPORTS *  New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will on Tuesday appeal against the NFL-imposed suspension for his role in the “deflategate” nonsense.

Diego Maradona as head of FIFA? Why not…?

Pete Rose is “finally out of second chances,” writes Eric Malinowski at Rolling Stone.

Finally, there are two sad losses to report tonight.

Darryl Hamilton, who played for several major league teams and later worked as a broadcaster, passed away following a shooting incident.

How can you not love baseball? It’s beautiful. A form of art with the diamond as it’s stage. – Darryl Hamilton

James Horner, who among many movie scores, composed the remarkable soundtrack for Field of Dreams, died in a small plane crash near Santa Barbara.