Greece teeters amid 11th-hour debt proposals

Amid anti-austerity protests in Athens and continuing withdrawals from Greek banks, the EU said it welcomed new proposals from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as a “good basis for progress” ahead of the crucial emergency summit on Monday to address the nation’s debt crisis. Reuters reports:

Tsipras will meet European Commission President Juncker, ECB President Mario Draghi, IMF head Christine Lagarde and euro zone finance ministers chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem at 11 a.m. (5:00 a.m. ET), an EU spokeswoman said. Euro zone finance ministers are due to meet 90 minutes later and a summit of euro zone prime ministers and presidents is scheduled at 7 p.m. (1:00 p.m. ET).

Nevertheless, global markets remain “extremely nervous” ahead of whatever happens next. Meanwhile, there is plenty of pessimism that, even if a deal is agreed on Monday, the longer-term damage has already been done.

Maria Margaronis writes at The Nation that the crisis “isn’t quite as dire as the media often portray it, but is still a dangerous moment for Greek democracy and for Europe.”

As it becomes clear that the two halves of Syriza’s mandate—to stay in the eurozone and end austerity—are incompatible, the cleavages in Greek society open wider. The pressure to choose between the two things most Greeks want is splitting the country more or less along class lines: those who have suffered most from the crisis and who want an end to austerity above all, against those who want to stay with the euro at any price. The split is easily exploited by the old political elites who’ve lost their foothold on power, who hate Syriza with a vengeance and who (like the creditors) will stop at almost nothing to destroy it.


* WORLD * The US Supreme Court is preparing for major rulings on same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act – known as Obamacare – which could come on Monday.

* Follow the court’s decisions live at SCOTUSblog here.


The mourning continued and the healing process began in Charleston, South Carolina as Mother Emanuel church opened its doors for the first time since Wednesday night’s deadly shooting.

And here’s the beautiful front page of Sunday’s Post and Courier



* POLITICS * The political issues raised in Charleston’s aftermath have reverberated among candidates and former candidates. Mitt Romney called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from above the South Carolina statehouse.


After Romney’s intervention, former Florida Gov Jeb Bush posted on his Facebook page:

“My position on how to address the Confederate flag is clear.  In Florida, we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged.”

..“Following a period of mourning, there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward and I’m confident they will do the right thing.”

The New York Times reported that Florida Sen Ted Cruz had also weighed in:

“I understand the passions that this debate evokes on both sides. Both those who see a history of racial oppression and a history of slavery, which is the original sin of our nation. And we fought a bloody civil war to expunge that sin. But I also understand those who want to remember the sacrifices of their ancestors and the traditions of their states — not the racial oppression, but the historical traditions. And I think often this issue is used as a wedge to try to divide people.”

Former Arkansas Gov Mike Huckabee said the flag was “not a presidential issue.”

The Fix at the Washington Post looks at the GOP’s “uneasy” relationship with the flag issue, particularly since South Carolina is one of the early primary states, and writes:

“If you touch it, you usually die politically,” Scott Buchanan, a political science professor at The Citadel in South Carolina, told The State newspaper in 2014.

Meanwhile, Politico writes that only Ben Carson of the GOP field is “speaking forcefully about the role of race” in the shooting and that the ‘Faith and Freedom’ meeting at the weekend demonstrated the party’s “overall discomfort with talking about race and guns.”

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton appears to have no such problems, calling on Saturday for action on gun control and saying America needs to face up to “hard truths” on guns and race.

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is due to be released on Monday, the latest snapshot of an evolving GOP primary race. It will be interesting to see if the next major poll – which will reflect the post-Charleston political landscape – shows a distinct impact.



* MEDIA * NBC‘s Meet The Press and host Chuck Todd came in for criticism following a segment on gun violence which featured exclusively black shooters.

Todd’s response is here.



* SPORTS * Reuters’ Mark Hosenball has a scoop that banks and financial institutions “did not do enough” to police suspicious activity by officials at FIFA, according to the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force.

FATF, whose members include the U.S., China, Brazil, Switzerland and many other European countries, said that an “ongoing public debate about the integrity of an entity should raise flags to financial institutions. As a result they should treat customers that are related to that entity as high risk customers.”

Scotland’s Andy Murray won the Queens Club tournament – the traditional warmup event for Wimbledon, which starts on June 29.


In a dramatic conclusion to Golf’s US Open, 21-year-old Jordan Spieth followed up his victory at the Masters in April with a win at the Chambers Bay course in Washington state. Speith is youngest US Open winner since Bobby Jones in 1923, and the first player to win two majors before his 22nd birthday since Gene Sarazen in 1922.



‘I forgive you..’

In an highly emotional and – for anyone watching – completely humbling encounter in a Charleston courtroom, families of some of the victims of Wednesday’s shooting at the Mother Emanuel church in the city somehow summoned the strength to tell the suspected gunman that they found it in their hearts to forgive him.

This was, truly, what Christianity in practice looks like.

The alleged gunman stood stone-faced as grieving relatives addressed him during his arraignment hearing – the beginning of a lengthy legal process – where he was formally charged with nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a firearm, on which he was held on a $1million bond. ABC News reports:

Felecia Sanders survived the Wednesday night attack by pretending to be dead, but lost her son Tywanza. She also spoke from the judge’s courtroom, where [the suspect’s] image appeared on a television screen.

“We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts … and I’ll never be the same,” Sanders told [him].

President Obama, meanwhile, in San Francisco on Friday, re-stated what he had said in the aftermath of the shooting about the need for a national conversation on gun control.

“I refuse to act as if this is the new normal. Or to pretend that it is just sufficient to grieve and that any mention of doing anything about it is somehow politicizing the problem.”

As the President pointed out on Thursday, this was the fourteenth time he had addressed a community devastated by a mass shooting incident. Politico reports:

Obama said he knew his comments about the lack of hope for gun control in the current Congress when making his initial comments about shooting at the White House on Thursday were interpreted as resignation. They weren’t, he insisted.

“I am not resigned. I have faith we will eventually do the right thing. I was simply making the point that we have to move public opinion. We have to feel a sense of urgency,” he said.

America, Obama said, is “awash with easily accessible guns.”

Many GOP Presidential hopefuls, meanwhile, were appearing at a ‘Faith and Freedom coalition’ conference in Washington DC. The event comes after several had criticized the Pope earlier in the week for “politicizing faith.”

They offered, according to Real Clear Politics’ Rebecca Berg, “prayers but no action.”

“There’s a sickness in our country. There’s something terribly wrong,” Sen. Rand Paul said Thursday at a conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition. “But it isn’t going to be fixed by your government.”

That thinking reflects not only his party’s steadfast support for the Second Amendment and its opposition to restrictive gun laws, but also the small-government theme that anchors many of the Republican presidential campaigns and the party at large.

Lauren Kelley at Rolling Stone reviews the gun control stances of candidates on both sides.

One candidate even, breathtakingly, described the shooting as an “accident”.

And of course, there’s this..

Jon Stewart, meanwhile, in a widely-shared segment from Thursday night’s show, spoke for many people left bewildered by the nation’s inability to learn from its past.

(Comedy Central)

Finally, here’s how you can help the families who lost loved ones.


* WORLD * European negotiators are set to work through the weekend after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there “must be a deal” between Greece and its creditors ahead of Monday’s emergency EU summit. Meanwhile, investors withdrew 1.2billion Euros from Greek banks on Friday alone.

As the first case of MERS was revealed in Thailand – the first outside the South Korean outbreak which has killed 24 people (but where no new cases have been reported for 16 days) – there is concern over risks to the aviation sector, Reuters reports.


(The Nation)

North Korea, meanwhile, announced that it has developed a drug which can cure MERS, Ebola, SARS and Aids. The AP reports

The secretive state did not provide proof, and the claim is likely to provoke widespread skepticism.

The official Korean Central News Agency said scientists developed Kumdang-2 from ginseng grown from fertilizer mixed with rare-earth elements. According to the pro-North Korea website Minjok Tongshin, the drug was originally produced in 1996.


In what the San Jose Mercury News calls “the most sobering study of extinction yet”, scientists say animal species are disappearing at an accelerating rate – “portending the sixth mass extinction in the 4.5-billion-year history of the Earth.”


* POLITICS * Here’s how the House Republicans – probably – saved President Obama’s trade bill, as labor leaders and progressives gear up for next week’s Senate vote.

and here’s what Hillary Clinton thinks of it


* BUSINESS * Authorities in Brazil arrested the heads of the country’s two largest engineering and construction companies over a scandal involving Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras.

There was good news and – possibly – bad news for companies in Ireland on Friday. Banking giant Citigroup is planning to shift the headquarters of its retail banking operation from London to Dublin, according to Reuters.

In another scoop, Reuters also reports that IAG, the parent company of British Airways may face EU regulatory hurdles in its attempt to take 25 per cent of Irish airline Aer Lingus. Reuters says:

The second source said IAG was considering whether to offer concessions. It has until next week to do so. The company is likely to use the time until the deadline to convince regulators that the deal does not pose competition issues and there is no need to offer concessions.

If it does not succeed and still declines to offer concessions, the deal could face a full-scale investigation lasting 90 working days.


* MEDIA* Twitter is poised to change users’ approach to live coverage of events, with Project Lightning, which The Guardian says will “allow users to follow live events through curated streams of tweets, photos and videos. Those events could be organised events such as the World Cup final or Eurovision, or breaking news events such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks.”

Finally, ahead of Fathers’ Day on Sunday, try this tribute by Brian Stelter to his journalistic mentor David Carr on his loss and the value of a digital record.

My wife doesn’t hoard email the way I do. But she’s glad she held onto the one David sent her when I was on the verge of two big life changes: Marrying her and joining CNN.

Looking back, I couldn’t help but notice this email had no typos or abbreviations. “this next unfolding will be a pleasure to watch, although from a greater distance,” he wrote. “and of all the choices brian has made, you are and will be the most important one.”

Nation reels from act of terror

The suspect is in custody. His face does not need to be seen any more than it already has, nor his name mentioned. Rather, these are the names and faces that should be remembered and blessed tonight.

There will be time for more talk tomorrow. For now, this is enough.



‘The heart and soul of South Carolina is broken..’


“There is something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.”

President Obama expressed his sympathy and anger following the “senseless” attack in Charleston, in which six women and three men were murdered during a meeting of their bible study group, saying he has “had to make statements like this too many times.”

Fourteen times, to be precise.

“Now is the time for mourning and healing, but let’s be clear: At some point as a country, we have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” the President said. “It is in our power to do something about it… I say this knowing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those opportunities.”

Meanwhile, a picture is beginning to emerge of the suspected gunman, his victims and the circumstances of last night’s tragic massacre.

Charlie Pierce writes in a powerful piece at Esquire magazine on why what happened should not be described as “unthinkable.”

Somebody thought long and hard about it. Somebody thought to load the weapon. Somebody thought to pick the church. Somebody thought to sit, quietly, through some of Wednesday night bible study. Somebody thought to stand up and open fire, killing nine people, including the pastor. Somebody reportedly thought to leave one woman alive so she could tell his story to the world. Somebody thought enough to flee. What happened in that church was a lot of things, but unthinkable is not one of them.



A 21-year-old white man is in custody, suspected in the murder of nine people at an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday night. Authorities said alleged gunman Dylann Roof had been arrested in Shelby, North Carolina, about 250 miles from Charleston following a traffic stop.

The suspect was described as being “cooperative” with law enforcement and the Charleston police chief said he did not believe the suspect was acting with others.

With prayer services underway in the state, Gov Nikki Haley said “we woke up this morning and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken.”



Nine churchgoers murdered in Charleston ‘hate crime’

A manhunt is underway in Charleston, South Carolina, after nine people were murdered in a shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Calhoun Street downtown, one of the city’s oldest black churches. Police and the FBI are searching for a white male suspect in his 20s. Reuters reports:

“To have an awful person come in and shoot them is inexplicable, obviously the most intolerable and unbelievable act possible,” Charleston Mayor Joe Riley told reporters. “The only reason someone could walk into a church to shoot people praying is out of hate.”

* The latest from the Charleston Post & Courier is here.

* The latest from The State is here.

* Watch a live feed from local ABC TV affiliate WCIV-TV here.

* Follow the Charleston Police Department on Twitter here.

The shooting happened at around 9PM on Wednesday night as a group was gathered inside the church for a bible study class. Police have not yet identified those who were killed, but church members, friends and political colleagues said that the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41, was among them.



As the Supreme Court works to clear its caseload for the current calendar, it is expected to issue one or more opinions on Thursday, in addition to its usual Monday decision days.

And some of the decisions which could come tomorrow are very important indeed. NPR writes:

Among the biggest issues hanging fire: the status of same-sex marriages, subsidies for health insurance under Obamacare and the drugs that states may use to administer the death penalty by lethal injection. But the court is also expected to weigh in on the drawing of lines for congressional elections, the right to put the Confederate flag on license plates and the right of a municipality to regulate outdoor signage.

* Follow live at SCOTUSblog here.

The Christian Science Monitor writes on Obamacare 101 – What happens if the Supreme Court rules against federal subsidies? While the Huffington Post reports that Congressional Republicans met on Wednesday to formulate a response if the Court wipes away subsidies for millions of consumers.

“.. totally repealing the law is the key feature, as it has been for more than five years.”

The National Journal, meanwhile, looks at another high-profile case, and asks ‘What happens if the Court rejects same-sex marriage?’  an outcome, the Journal says, which would leave millions of gay couples in legal limbo.

Legal experts agree that the fallout from a ruling against same-sex marriage would amount to legal chaos. The right to marry would disappear in several states where it exists, deepening the divide between states and, in some cases, even creating uneven playing fields within the same state.

But it’s impossible to know where, exactly, same-sex marriage would remain legal, where it would disappear temporarily, and where it would disappear forever.


* POLITICS * The contentious fast-track trade bill, supported by Republicans and backed by the White House looks set to come up again in the House on Thursday. The Huffington Post reports:

The plan, according to Democratic and Republican sources, is that after the clean TPA bill is passed and sent to the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will then attach TAA to the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a separate trade bill involving African countries.

As Republicans revealed their strategy, House and Senate Democrats who had previously voted in favor of fast-track headed to the White House to meet with Obama about the path forward. The question will be whether Republican leaders and Obama can convince Senate Democrats to vote for fast-track on the promise that TAA will reach the president’s desk later.

A political action committee aligned with GOP candidate Carly Fiorina changed its title from Carly for America to CARLY for America, following the intervention of the FEC, enforcing a rule that says a PAC cannot include the name of the candidate. The new name is therefore Conservative, Authentic Responsive Leadership for You and for America.

Of course.


* WORLD * A meeting of Eurozone finance ministers in Luxembourg on Thursday will address the growing Greek debt crisis, but as the BBC reports, the Athens government thinks “an immediate solution unlikely.”

“Failure to reach an agreement would… mark the beginning of a painful course that would lead initially to a Greek default and ultimately to the country’s exit from the euro area and, most likely, from the European Union,” [the Bank of Greece] said in a report.

(The Guardian)

The widely-anticpated – and leaked – Papal encyclical on climate change and global poverty will be officially revealed on Thursday, amid predictable opposition from the fossil fuel industry and some Republican Presidential candidates. Rev John Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame, writes in the Chicago Tribune:

..if the pope’s encyclical becomes simply another salvo in the give-and-take of our political debates, we will have missed its point. If our analysis is only about which side is supported or undermined by the pope’s letter, or which policy is endorsed or dismissed, then we will not have really engaged. The pope is out not to declare a side but to challenge the consciences of all of us. We should all feel the sting.

The New York Times apologized following condemnation of its coverage of the tragic balcony collapse in Berkeley in which six young people, including five Irish citizens, died.


* BUSINESS * The US Treasury said a yet-to-be-selected woman would replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill in 2020.

Jimmy Lee, one of JPMorgan’s key dealmakers, died suddenly on Wednesday aged 62. “Jimmy was a master of his craft, but he was so much more – he was an incomparable force of nature,” Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Nelson Doubleday, publishing heir and former owner of the New York Mets, died aged 81. The New York Times writes:

Books and baseball defined Mr. Doubleday’s life. He was the grandson of Frank Nelson Doubleday, who founded the publishing company bearing his name in 1896, and the son of Nelson Doubleday, who built the business into a mass-market powerhouse.

Another Doubleday ancestor was Abner, a great-great-granduncle long credited (erroneously) with inventing the game of baseball.


* SPORTS * According to Reuters, top officials at Fifa, including President Sepp Blatter and Secretary General Jerome Valcke, have “lawyered up” as a US corruption probe intensifies.



‘Really rich’ Trump jumps into Presidential race

To the brilliantly ironic strains of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” Donald Trump descended a moving staircase at his perfectly air-conditioned Trump Tower in Manhattan on Tuesday morning and proceeded to tell us what was wrong with America and why, and – most importantly – whose fault it is.

He appeared to wrap up his “speech” (he had one prepared but didn’t look at it too often) with a flourishing declaration that he was running for President. Cue Neil’s capitalist-killing riff again.

But then he went on speaking.

It was, at times, jaw-dropping stuff. It was certainly must-see TV, as he set the democratic process up as a circus and the existing candidates its hapless performers.

Of course, despite the show he made today of releasing a “financial statement” his candidacy isn’t official until he files the paperwork with the FEC.

You can watch the speech on CSPAN at the link at the top. In the phone-in that followed, the calls were 80 or 90 per cent in support of Trump.

The DNC had a simple response.

(But within their own race, there was some tricky reading this morning for front-runner Hillary Clinton.)

Here’s just part of the Twitter reaction to Trump’s announcement.

ah – was wondering how long it would take..

but of course, you can’t beat the old oxygen of publicity…


* WORLD * The Hong Kong government is set to unveil a political reform package on Wednesday ahead of a vote later this week. But the BBC reports that “pro-democracy lawmakers look set to vote against the reforms despite warnings from the Chinese government not to do so. If that is the case, it is unlikely to get the two-thirds majority it needs to pass.”

Security is tight amid tensions ahead of Wednesday’s announcement.

After Russia moved to put more than 40 new ICBMs into service this year, as part of what Moscow called a military modernization program, Nato said such nuclear sabre-rattling “is unjustified, destabilising and dangerous.” Talking of which…

With the Wall Street consensus appearing to prepare for a Greek default – but not necessarily, for now, a Grexit – Bitcoin surged amid worries, posting its best run for 18 months.

Martin Wolf at the Financial Times writes that neither Greeks nor their partners should imagine a clean break if they were to leave the Euro.

Some argue that Greece at least would be far better off after a default and exit. It is indeed theoretically possible that a default to its public creditors, combined with introduction of a new currency, a big devaluation (accompanied by sound monetary and fiscal policies), maintenance of an open economy, structural reforms and institutional improvements would mark a turn for the better. Far more likely is a period of chaos and, at worst, emergence of a failed state. A Greece that could manage exit well would have also avoided today’s plight.


* BUSINESS * Fitbit, the maker of wearable health-trackers, is heading for an IPO on Wednesday which could see the company become the fifth-largest US offering this year, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Investor Kirk Kerkorian, who the LA Times reported, “shook up the car, movie and casino industries.” died aged 98.


* MEDIA * The 2015 Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute shows “a quickening of the pace towards social and mobile news, a decline in desktop internet, and significant growth in video news consumption online.”

On average people use a small number of trusted news sources on the mobile phone. The average across all countries is 1.52 per person, significantly fewer than on a tablet or computer. We also find that, even though 70% of smartphone users have a news app installed on their phone, only a third of respondents actually use them in a given week, reinforcing the difficulty many news brands have in cutting through on this crowded and very personal device.

In short…



* SPORTS * The St Louis Cardinals are under investigation by the FBI for allegedly hacking into an internal computer network owned by the Houston Astros, and attempting to steal information about players. The New York Times reported that the attack “would represent the first known case of corporate espionage in which a professional sports team hacked the network of another team.”

Law enforcement officials believe the hacking was executed by vengeful front-office employees for the Cardinals hoping to wreak havoc on the work of Jeff Luhnow, the Astros’ general manager, who had been a successful and polarizing executive with the Cardinals until 2011.

Both teams and Major League Baseball are co-operating with the investigation.

Finally, the Golden State Warriors won the NBA Championship by winning Game Six in Cleveland, beating the Cavs 105-97. It was the Warriors’ first title in forty years. Cleveland’s LeBron James became the 6th player in NBA history to score 5,000 points.

Pope’s grave warning on threat from climate change

A draft of a Papal encyclical, leaked by Italian magazine L’Espresso, says climate change is a threat largely caused by mankind and that there is an “urgent and compelling” need to reduce carbon emissions.

In the widely-anticipated letter – trailed at the weekend by The Guardian and whose leak was condemned by the Vatican – Pope Francis warns that the world is heading for “unprecedented destruction” unless mankind confronts climate change and alters how it treats the planet. The Independent calls the encyclical “the most eagerly anticipated papal document in living memory.”

The Pope paints an apocalyptic picture in which the world’s poorest are the biggest victims of a web of environmental, human, financial and ethical degradation that puts the entire planet at risk. In an extraordinarily frank document, the Pope lambasts rich countries for “looting” the world and takes aim at bankers and climate sceptics for accelerating its decline.


The Papal encyclical is certain to prompt debate ahead of the UN conference on climate change in Paris later this year, and comes on the heels of the G7 leaders’ pledge to move, as far as practical, towards phasing out fossil fuel use by the end of the century.

At the weekend, Jim Yardley at the New York Times wrote:

On Thursday, Francis will release his first major teaching letter, known as an encyclical, on the theme of the environment and the poor. Given the pope’s widespread popularity, and his penchant for speaking out on major global issues, the encyclical is being treated as a milestone that could place the Roman Catholic Church at the forefront of a new coalition of religion and science.


* POLITICS * A planned second vote on President Obama’s trade agenda, set for Tuesday, was cancelled, as the Washington Post reports, “Given the grim outcome for Obama of the first vote on Friday — 302 against and 126 in favor — they [House GOP leaders] stood no chance for turning nearly 100 votes in four days.”

Paul Ryan told USA Today’s Susan Page that another vote this week was still possible.

After Jeb! Bush became the 11th candidate to officially seek the Republican Presidential nomination, it seems the 12th could, maybe, possibly follow on Tuesday morning or soon after. Despite a long history of not running, the Washington Post reports that Donald Trump is set to declare his self-assessed financial assets as a possible prelude to entering the race.

The Post writes:

Trump’s speech announcing his decision is likely to center on his career and fortune. He is expected to cast himself as an entrepreneur and outsider who is eager to tangle with the party establishment and U.S. economic rivals abroad, such as China…

One goal of Trump’s camp is to make the cut for the Republican primary debates this summer and fall, which will require him to rank within the top 10 in national polls, among other factors. By issuing a memo on his finances, Trump believes he will be going above and beyond what will be necessary to win a place onstage, according to people familiar with his thinking.

Miles Johnson at Mother Jones has some other possibilities for Tuesday’s event – from unveiling a Celebrity Apprentice spinoff to announcing that he’s finally found President Obama’s birth certificate.


* WORLD * The Greek government and its creditors appeared to harden their positions amid a further impasse over debt talks, and warnings of the aftermath of a default.

Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times looks at ‘Four games the Greeks may be playing.”

The uncertainty about what is driving Athens is only amplified because a parallel set of questions can be asked about the motivations of Brussels and Berlin. It could equally well be argued that the German government is bluffing, in the expectation of Greek capitulation; or that the team around Chancellor Angela Merkel has miscalculated in expecting the Greeks to “behave reasonably”; or that the German government, like its Greek counterpart, is trapped by domestic politics; or, finally, that there are many in Germany, particularly in the finance ministry, who now actively want to force Greece out of the euro.

Russia warned it would retaliate if Washington followed through with plans to put heavy weapons in Europe – something Moscow described as “the most aggressive U.S. act since the Cold War,” according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, Philip Ewing writes at Politico that “The West’s simmering standoff with Russia has prompted the Pentagon to reach for a new weapon: YouTube.”

EU ministers are to meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing Mediterranean migrant crisis and a plan to distribute asylum seekers more evenly across all 28 EU states.

Rachel Dolezal resigned as President of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, WA, as the furore continued over her racial identity. As the media roundabout inevitably spins, she’ll be appearing on the Today Show on Tuesday morning, then will be interviewed by Savannah Guthrie on NBC News and then Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC on Tuesday evening.

Here’s Larry Wilmore.



* BUSINESS * The New York Post reported a huge potential deal in the cosmetics industry, with Coty apparently set to buy three beauty businesses from Proctor & Gamble for up to $12billion.

Former AIG boss Maurice Greenberg won his 2011 case against the government for overstepping its legal authority when it bailed out his company. But the judge chose not to award any damages. Greenberg had been seeking up to $40billion. The New York Times writes that when Greenberg brought the case, “the reaction was mainly befuddlement and outright ridicule.”

When the case went to trial last fall, many legal experts predicted a lost cause, while both the government’s lawyers and elected officials were even more blunt: calling Mr. Greenberg an “ingrate” and the lawsuit, which demanded as much as $40 billion, an embarrassment.


* MEDIA * Apple is looking for human editors to curate its news app. Here’s the job spec.

9to5Mac says that 

So Apple won’t be relying on algorithms for News, admitting in the job posting that software alone won’t be able to “recognize original, compelling stories” beyond breaking news to curate stories and categories for readers. While Apple’s reasoning for human editors — to present compelling content to readers that its algorithms have a tough time detecting — is valid, it does bring up the question of how Apple could control what we see and how we see it if its News app becomes popular with readers and attracts a large number of users away from competing aggregation services like Flipboard, Reddit and Techmeme.

Meanwhile, the BuzzFeedNews app launches later this week.


* SPORTS * Details were released of the government’s plea agreement with former Fifa official Chuck Blazer. The Guardian reports that Blazer “agreed to become an informant for the FBI and US justice department – and collect evidence implicating other Fifa executives – in return for immunity from prosecution.”

After Game Five of the NBA finals scored the best TV rating for a championship game since 2004, The Golden State Warriors will attempt to clinch on Tuesday night in Cleveland.

Finally, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup for the third time in six years, after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 in Game Six in Chicago.

Jeb! launches campaign by attacking ‘pampered elites’


And in this country of ours, the most improbable things can happen. Take that from a guy who met his first president on the day he was born, and his second on the day he was brought home from the hospital.

Jeb Bush, son of one President and brother of another, officially launched his 2016 campaign for the Presidency on Monday afternoon, for some inexplicable reason choosing to portray himself as anti-elitist and running against the political establishment.

The full text of his speech is here, via Time magazine.

The candidate delivered part of his speech in Spanish, indicating what is likely to be one of the recurring optical signals of the campaign:

Bush’s formal campaign launch was held at Miami Dade College. Located in a Cuban American neighborhood, the school boasts the largest Hispanic student body in the nation — a venue that speaks to Bush’s desire to aggressively seek the support of Latinos and other communities less prone to vote for Republicans.

Yet the speech itself contained no specific reference to immigration reform, a point magnified when Bush was interrupted by a group of protesters bearing the message “Legal Status Is Not Enough.”

The hashtag #NoMoreBushes was quickly trending, while some high-profile Conservative pundits weren’t impressed.

The candidate headed to New Hampshire on Monday evening, where he is concentrating his early campaign attention as he bids to compete for a front-runner status some earlier thought might have been his to lose. The New York Times writes that Bush

… still faces fundamental challenges in appealing to a Republican primary electorate that is much different from the one his father or even his brother faced — a party no longer willing to automatically anoint the pragmatic, well-financed, establishment-aligned candidate that the Bush name personifies.




After running without running for the past year, Jeb Bush is expected to launch his bid for the GOP Presidential nomination on Monday in Miami.

The campaign’s pre-launch video is here:

(Jeb Bush)

Karen Tumulty has a nice piece at the Washington Post on “how a devastating loss in Florida taught Jeb Bush what it takes to win.”

The question for Bush now is how much of his party wants him to take the horns off. Bush’s notion of getting to 50 percent of the vote indicates a focus on the general election, not the heated primary battle he’s engaged in. He has been received coolly by much of his party, in part because of a desire for a fresh face, but also because his moderate stances on issues such as immigration and education are out of stride with the views of many conservatives. It’s not soft tones they want but hard edges.

While he’ll have some work to do to seize the front-runner spot he was widely expected to occupy, his presence sets up the possibility of next year’s contest being a clash of political dynasties. Whether the voters have a taste for it remains to be seen.

Following up a “kickoff” rally on Saturday, Hillary Clinton’s campaign team swarmed the Sunday TV shows. The candidate herself was in Iowa, where she appeared to take a position on the controversial trade legislation currently stuck in the House. She said on Sunday:

“In order to get a deal that meets these high standards, the President should listen to and work with his allies in Congress, starting with Nancy Pelosi, who have expressed their concerns about the impact that a weak agreement would have on our workers, to make sure we get the best, strongest deal possible. And if we don’t get it, there should be no deal.”


* WORLD * The status of Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir remained unclear late on Sunday as the South African government has not commented on whether he might be handed over to officials from the International Criminal Court. A South African judge had ordered al-Bashir – who is in Johannesburg to attend an African Union summit – to be prevented from leaving, pending a decision on the ICC’s claim.

Al-Bashir is wanted on genocide charges, and, as the New York Times reports: “His fate over the next few days could determine the court’s own long-term relevance and influence the behavior of his fellow African leaders, many of whom have rallied around him against the court.”

But Bloomberg reported that Sudan’s information minister had said Al-Bashir was “coming back home.”

UPDATE: The BBC reported that al-Bashir had flown out of South Africa “with the blessing of the African Union” pre-empting a court ruling over his possible arrest.


There was widespread criticism and pushback from journalists and activists to a story in London’s Sunday Times alleging that Russia and China had “cracked the top-secret cache of files” stolen by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which the paper said had forced British spies to be “pulled out of live operations in hostile countries.”


But Glenn Greenwald, who initially helped Snowden break his story of widespread US government surveillance, attacked the Times’ story as “journalism at its worst” and “filled with falsehoods.”

Greenwald writes:

[The Sunday Times story] “offers zero evidence or confirmation for any of its claims. The “journalists” who wrote it neither questioned any of the official assertions nor even quoted anyone who denies them. It’s pure stenography of the worst kind: some government officials whispered these inflammatory claims in our ears and told us to print them, but not reveal who they are, and we’re obeying. Breaking!”


Ewen MacAskill at The Guardian poses five questions that the UK government “has an obligation to answer” over the article. He writes:

Anonymous sources are an unavoidable part of reporting, but neither Downing Street nor the Home Office should be allowed to hide behind anonymity in this case.


Monday sees events in England marking the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, often cited as a symbol for restraining the power of the monarchy, and the basis for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

UN peace talks on the situation in Yemen are set to begin in Geneva on Monday. Al Jazeera reports that the UN Security Council and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have both called for a renewed humanitarian halt in the fighting following May’s truce. The talks are aimed at securing a ceasefire, agreeing on a withdrawal plan for the Houthi rebels and stepping up deliveries of humanitarian aid.

The European Space Agency said it had received the first signals in seven months from Philae, a space probe which landed successfully on a comet last November. Scientific American reports:

Philae’s batteries ran out on November 15, just three days after it bounced on to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, following a perilous descent. Stuck in the shade, it was unable to charge its solar-powered battery and entered hibernation.

Ever since, scientists have consoled themselves with the hope that the craft is not dead, just sleeping, and that it would regain power as comet 67P neared the sun.

Scientists are waiting for a follow-up contact from the spacecraft.


* SPORTS * Just when you thought Fifa couldn’t become any more of a pantomime, the villain is still behind you…

The Chicago Blackhawks could clinch NHL’s Stanley Cup in Game Six on Monday – but the Tampa Bay Lightning are 3-0 in elimination games this season.

Meanwhile the New York Yankees’ tarnished hero Alex Rodriguez heads to Florida in search of his 3,000th hit, which could come against Miami on Monday or Tuesday. A-Rod is five shy after going 0-for-4 on Sunday.


* MEDIA * Fusion’s Felix Salmon thinks the New York Times should buy Blooomberg.

He writes:

Once the acquisition closed, Mike Bloomberg would find it much easier to give away his wealth. His billions of Class A shares of the New York Times Company could be sold on the open market at any time he liked. He could even simply gift those shares to the Bloomberg Philanthropies, since they carry very limited voting rights: in no way would the Philanthropies own or control the company. Meanwhile, Mike Bloomberg’s Class B shares would end up being controlled, upon his death, by the people he trusted most to safeguard his legacy and his company.

Alibaba is preparing to launch a “Chinese Netflix”. The service will be known as TBO.

Former Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll died aged 73.


* CULTURE * Finally, amid an ongoing debate about the place of Shakespeare in the curriculum, there’s this…


Hillary’s big weekend


The full text of Hillary Clinton’s speech is here, via



Watch Hillary’s rally live on C-SPAN here:

Live coverage from The Guardian is here.

Tweets from The Washington Post’s Philip Bump are here, including dogs.

Here’s some other selected tweets and commentary – if you’d just like the campaign’s own tweets, those are here.




There’s a big weekend ahead in Presidential politics. On Saturday, Hillary Clinton stages a “launch” rally for her campaign at Roosevelt Island in Manhattan. The campaign insists that she’ll address the “why” for her running – telling her political story through a family-oriented narrative.

(Clinton campaign video)

The next day, the candidate will be in Des Moines for an Iowa “launch party”.

Meanwhile, GOP hopefuls are gathered at an exclusive spa in Park City Utah to attend an event hosted by 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who shared his thoughts via PowerPoint on President Obama’s – and by extension Hillary Clinton’s – record in foreign policy. 

As well as schmoozing with big potential donors, there’s a range of activities – the NYT reports: “flag football with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, skeet shooting with Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and speeches by no fewer than six 2016 hopefuls — about 250 members of Mr. Romney’s network took stock of the Republican field, hoping to find a candidate who not only excites them but who they believe can win a general election.”

And, for some reason, there’s Calisthenics with Commentators…

One high-profile figure isn’t there – Jeb Bush, who’s expected to launch his campaign on Monday in Florida, is in Germany where he is again attempting to distance himself from his brother. The New York Times reports: he prepares to declare his White House bid, Mr. Bush’s trip here has been a reminder that his attempt to escape the shadow of his older brother, as awkward and halting as it may be, is not just a political strategy. It reflects how dissimilar the two men really are, in temperament, interests and preparation.


* POLITICS * Talking of Iowa, the local GOP decided that its usual Straw Poll finally needed to be put out of its misery. 

What does the move mean for the state’s early Presidential caucus?

The White House tried to put a brave face on its stinging defeat over the trade bill, calling it a “temporary setback.” Politico reports:

It is a common tactic in Washington to downplay bad news, but the White House brought it to a new level on Friday after House Democrats soundly defeated a package of free trade legislation that the president had personally implored them to pass. The White House chose to highlight the fact that one part of the package passed, even though two approvals were necessary to give Obama the trade authority he needs to negotiate the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.


* WORLD * The US and Cuba are expected to announce next month a timetable for re-opening embassies and restoring diplomatic relations, Reuters reports.

The Associated Press reported that a second cyberbreach of federal data had been “dramatically worse than first acknowledged” and apparently exposed information on almost everyone with US intelligence clearance.

Regarding the hack of standard personnel records announced last week, two people briefed on the investigation disclosed Friday that as many as 14 million current and former civilian U.S. government employees have had their information exposed to hackers, a far higher figure than the 4 million the Obama administration initially disclosed.

American officials have said that cybertheft originated in China and that they suspect espionage by the Chinese government, which has denied any involvement.

The newer estimate puts the number of compromised records between 9 million and 14 million going back to the 1980s, said one congressional official and one former U.S. official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because information disclosed in the confidential briefings includes classified details of the investigation.

Fallout and armchair analysis continues from the truly bizarre story of Rachel Dolezal, a senior NAACP representative who apparently turned out to be not exactly who she seemed.


* SPORTS * Both the Stanley Cup (Saturday) and the NBA Finals (Sunday) reach Game Fives this weekend, with both series all-square.



Here comes the Knight. Arise, Sir George Ivan Morrison.

(Van Morrison Official)

House Democrats deal blow to Obama’s trade agenda


Despite last-minute lobbying by President Obama, Democrats in the House of Representatives dealt a blow to the White House by rejecting one legislative element of a contentious trade agenda. Reuters reports:

In a dramatic vote, Obama’s own Democrats, as well as Republicans, failed to produce enough support to approve a bill that would have given aid to workers who lose their jobs as a result of U.S. trade deals with other countries. The measure was soundly rejected in a 302-126 vote.

That was quickly followed by the House’s narrow approval of a separate measure to give Obama “fast-track” authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. But the legislation is stuck in the House because of the defeat Obama and House Speaker John Boehner suffered on the first vote.

House Republicans are reportedly planning a second vote on the defeated legislative measure on Tuesday.


MIDNIGHT, JUNE11 – Obama’s trade deal heads for House showdown


The House is set to vote on Friday on a key – and contentious – part of President Obama’s trade agenda.

The legislation has prompted unusual bipartisan partnerships on both sides of the issue, while the culmination of the process has prompted what the New York Observer calls “a lobbying frenzy.”

An ongoing backlash against the TPP – Trans-Pacific Partnership – agreement and its fast-track enabling legislation (TPA) among some congressional Democrats and labor unions has intensified, while  last-minute holdouts are apparently playing “lets make a deal,” The Hill reports.

Supporters of fast-track, which would allow Obama to send  the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership deal to Congress for an up-or-down vote, are sounding a confident tone.

But a huge number of lawmakers remain undecided or are unwilling to announce their position, suggesting many votes are in play. The Hill’s Whip List shows that nearly 150 members have yet to announce a position.

Some members may be genuinely undecided, while others may want to keep their heads down to avoid the ire of whichever side they are disappointing.

Rep John Conyers writes at The Nation writes why the TPP is “a terrible deal for all Americans” while Democracy Now looks at the implications of the deal for health care, in light of a leak by Wikileaks of part of the draft deal concerning the pharmaceutical industry.

(Democracy Now!)


* POLITICS * Net neutrality rules go into effect on Friday, after an appeals court rejected a request by the telecoms industry for a stay in implementation. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The immediate impact of the rules may not amount to much, as the commission has pledged to use a light touch, while the cable and telecom industries broadly agree with the basic principles of not blocking or degrading Internet traffic selectively. But the shift could have longer term implications for the oversight of companies that are betting more heavily on Internet service for their future growth and profits.

Ahead of Hillary Clinton’s “lavish campaign kickoff” event in New York City at the weekend, former President Bill Clinton said it was likely he would stop giving paid speeches should his wife win the White House. The Clintons received an estimated $25m for speeches since the beginning of last year.


* WORLD * The Telegraph has details of a former Prime Minister’s life after office.blair

After the G7 wrapped up across the border in Bavaria, this weekend is the annual meeting of the Bilderberg Group. Guardian contributor Charlie Skelton apparently spent last night talking to Austrian police about criminality. Deutsche Welle reports that a demonstration against the meeting is planned for Saturday – a safe and quiet 15 kilometers away from the gathering.

The International Monetary Fund stopped negotiating with the Greek government over its debt situation, Reuters reports, as the EU “told Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to stop gambling with his cash-strapped country’s future and take the crucial decisions needed to avert a devastating default.”

Former head of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn will hear on Friday whether he will be found guilty on charges of “aggravated pimping.” The BBC reports that he “faces 10 years in prison if a judge in Lille holds that he procured prostitutes for sex parties in France, Belgium and the US.”

UPDATE: Dominique Strauss-Kahn was acquitted of “aggravated pimping” along with most of his 13 co-defendants.


* MEDIA * Rupert Murdoch signaled that he would step down as CEO of 21st Century Fox and hand control to his sons.

CNN reports:

Minutes after Fox’s rival CNBC broke the news about the succession plan, Fox Business reported it, too, along with this new detail relayed by anchorman Stuart Varney: Ailes “will still report to Rupert Murdoch.” Varney repeated for emphasis: “Roger Ailes, the founder of Fox News, will still report to Rupert Murdoch.”

Change at the top also at Twitter, where CEO Dick Costolo will step down at the end of the month, with the company’s co-founder and Chairman Jack Dorsey taking over as interim head. Predictably, there’s plenty of speculation as to who should get the job permanently,

but at least there’s one candidate who hasn’t been backward about coming forward.


* SPORTS * Fifa’s Director of Communications, Walter De Gregorio, resigned after a recent appearance on Swiss TV.

No joke for Jack Warner – he of citing The Onion fame –  who apparently thought John Oliver was criticizing Trinidad and Tobago in a recent spot on local TV.

Meanwhile, a judge ordered federal prosecutors to unseal the plea agreement between the government and former Fifa official Chuck Blazer. ESPN reports that the government has until Friday to apply to redact any portion of the document and until Monday to decide whether to appeal the ruling.


* IN MEMORIAM * While it was a busy day in the world of the rich and powerful, one embodiment of evil and a classic villain sadly left us.

We also lost a jazz great.

New Hampshire throws spanner in TV debate works

Republicans in New Hampshire are attempting to stop the plan by Fox News to limit the number of GOP candidates who will take part in the first televised Presidential debate in August.

With an expanding field posing obvious logistical challenges, a group of fifty prominent state Republicans have written to Roger Ailes of Fox and to RNC chairman Reince Priebus urging that the debate be open to all declared candidates, rather than – as Fox had said – just the top ten as measured by national polls. The AP reports that

The New Hampshire Republicans who want everyone in say that relying on early polling to determine debate participants will give an unfair advantage to candidates who are better known or have raised more money.

The first televised debate of the 2016 campaign should place all candidates on an even footing and let them make their case directly to voters and viewers, according to the letter, signed by 56 Republicans. They include two former governors, nine state senators and a number of former RNC delegates and state party leaders.

The pressure on Fox to amend its format intensified further on Wednesday evening, when the Manchester Union Leader, the influential local newspaper, said it would host its own forum for all candidates, which would be televised on C-SPAN, on the same night as the Fox debate.

“What Fox is attempting to do, and is actually bragging about doing, is a real threat to the first-in-the-nation primary,” [Union Leader Publisher Joseph W] McQuaid said. “Fox boasts that it will ‘winnow’ the field of candidates before New Hampshire gets to do so. That isn’t just bad for New Hampshire, it’s bad for the presidential selection process by limiting the field to only the best-known few with the biggest bankrolls. Why the RNC and, especially, its New Hampshire representative, Steve Duprey, would defend this and be a party to it is baffling.”

Fox then in turn said that it would add a forum for so-called “lower tier” candidates on the same night as its “main” debate – just earlier in the day. But that may not be enough to satisfy the NH GOP.

How this will all resolve itself in coming weeks is unclear, but it offers a fascinating look at the conflict between the not-always-aligned needs of local politics and national horse-race coverage.


* WORLD * As European leaders agreed to intensify moves to resolve Greece’s debt crisis ahead of the next deadline at the end of this month, S&P cut the Athens government’s credit rating for the third time in a year, signaling that a default may actually be moving closer.

Amid reaction to the White House’s move to escalate the conflict against ISIS by sending more military advisers to Iraq – one critic called it a “band-aid” – the House rejected a move to eliminate funding for programs to arm and train Syrian rebels.

The State Department confirmed that a Massachusetts man, 36-year-old Keith Broomfield, had become the first known American citizen to die fighting ISIS alongside Kurdish forces in Syria. The BBC, meanwhile, has a dramatic video report of a young Englishman, known simply as Harry, who returned home after a year fighting ISIS with the Kurds.

The Guardian has a fascinating read about how ISIS has “ripped apart” Al-Qaeda and has left it as “no longer a functioning organization.”

Senior insiders in Jordan add that al-Qaida around the Middle East has been drained of recruits and money after losing territory and prestige to its former subordinate division. The ongoing war between al-Qaida and Isis has left the US struggling to catch up with the tectonic shifts within the global jihadi movement, intelligence insiders told the Guardian.

Pope Francis pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to make more strenuous efforts for peace in Ukraine when the two men – eventually – met at the Vatican. Putin was more than an hour late for the appointment. It was also announced on Wednesday that the Pope had approved the establishment of a tribunal for judging bishops who had been accused of covering up child sexual abuse by priests.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar opposition leader and Nobel laureate, is in China for her first official visit to the country. ABC (Australia) reports that

While in Beijing, Ms Suu Kyi will likely face calls to raise the case of jailed fellow Nobel laureate Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo, sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for circulating a petition calling for democratic reforms.

Meanwhile, India has defended its incursion into Myanmar as a 45-minute “surgical strike” by special forces in which more than 100 northeast insurgents may have been killed.


* POLITICS * Marco Rubio has been fundraising – pretty effectively it seems – off those recent New York Times stories on his finances. Slate reports:

The every-man spin quickly took hold with a number of reporters wondering aloud whether Rubio’s personal finances would actually help him stand out in a presidential field that is full of the rich and absurdly rich. Others, meanwhile, suggested that the relatively weak traffic-ticket report had undermined the more noteworthy dive into Rubio’s financial history. The rapid defense-to-offense reaction was so successful that Rubio’s campaign manager sent out a snide “thank you” tweet to the Times on Tuesday.

Bernie Sanders probably wasn’t expecting to be asked about something of dubious origin circulating on the internet about him – especially not during a public radio interview.

Ashley Parker at the New York Times writes on how Republicans are “still playing catch-up” when it comes to digital campaigning.

Using data to determine the most efficient and effective way to target voters, considered by many to be a crucial advantage for President Obama’s campaign in 2012, could prove particularly important in a crowded Republican primary in which every dollar counts. But it is another area in which only a handful of Republican companies specialize.

The lack of experience among Republican operatives and companies is captured in a coming study by Daniel Kreiss, an assistant professor of political communications at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Christopher Jasinski, a graduate student there.


* SPORTS * Swiss investigators visited the offices of Fifa in Zurich – Fifa denies it was a “raid” – and apparently took IT material from the offices of senior officials, including Sepp Blatter and Jerome Valcke, as part of inquiries into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Meanwhile, the bidding process for the 2026 finals was suspended. According to Valcke, “in the current situation, it’s “nonsense to start any bidding process for the time being.”

As real life and satire rapidly morph, John Oliver took to Trinidadian TV with a special message for former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner…


* CULTURE * Wait, what..? Homer and Marge are calling it quits? And Homer takes up with his pharmacist, voiced by Lena Dunham?

Peter Holley at the Washington Post has a nice piece on a “revenge of the nerds”-type sting operation in response to the theft of some valuable game cards.

Finally, ah, The Sun… Really, no-one is better at condensing any nuanced story involving an international and cultural faux pas into a 72-point three-decker including the word “boobs”.