Midday Roundup: Greece slides toward debt default

by Leigh Jones
Posted 6/30/15, 11:45 am

Dead beat. Greek Finance Minster Yanis Varoufakis said his country does not intend to make the debt payment it owes international and European creditors by midnight tonight. Ongoing negotiations between the country's leaders and their counterparts in France and Germany have been unsuccessful, setting the stage for Greece to get kicked out of the European Union. The troubled Mediterranean nation owes $1.8 billion by 5 p.m. EDT today and another $3.9 billion next month. It borrowed $270 billion from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and 19 eurozone countries, but did not wrestle its welfare programs in line with its revenue. On Sunday, Greek voters will decide whether to accept conditions set by the EU or move forward on their own, the plan advocated by the government. “If the Greek people want to proceed with austerity plans in perpetuity, which will leave us unable to lift our head, we will respect it, but we will not be the ones to carry it out,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Greek television late Monday.

Nuclear extension. Iran and its negotiating partners, including the United States, have agreed to extend the deadline for talks over a deal to limit the country’s nuclear program. The deadline was set to expire at midnight today, but talks have stalled in the last week. The new deadline will “allow more time for negotiations to reach a long-term solution,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, according to The Associated Press. Earlier today, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iran’s foreign minister and said they had a “good conversation.”

Air disaster. An Indonesian military transport plane crashed into a residential neighborhood today, killing at least 100 people. The plane was carrying 113 people, so the death toll is expected to rise. Witnesses in the Sumatra city of Medan said the 50-year-old cargo plane appeared to explode before plowing into houses and a hotel. The plane, carrying air force personnel and their families, took off from a base in Medan, but the pilot requested permission to turn around, citing some kind of mechanical problem. The Indonesian military has faced criticism over the age of its military aircraft and other equipment. And the country has a dismal aviation safety record, with 10 crashes of police or military aircraft in the last 10 years. Officials said they weren’t yet sure what caused today’s crash.

Overtime increase. President Barack Obama announced last night new regulations that will require businesses to pay overtime to salaried employees making up to $50,400 per year. The previous threshold was $23,660. Business groups say the change will force them to cut workers’ pay or reduce the workforce. Obama said the increased limit would help level the playing field among businesses because companies that do pay overtime are at a competitive disadvantage. The government put the overtime rule in place in 1975. It then applied to 62 percent of the workforce. The new increase applies to about 40 percent of the workforce and matches what the limit would have been if it had kept up with inflation. Retail and restaurant chains say the increase will mean fewer managerial positions and fewer opportunities for workers to expand their careers.

Confused tolerance. A Walmart in Slidell, La., is facing a social media firestorm after it refused to make a cake decorated with the Confederate flag but sold one made to look like the black and white Islamic State (ISIS) flag. Customer Chuck Netzhammer placed the two orders—and recorded the whole thing for a YouTube video—to make a point. “Hi Walmart, you’ve got some explaining to do,” he said in the video. “I went to buy a printed cake from y’all the other day with this image on it and y’all wouldn’t do it. I’ve got proof. Went back yesterday and managed to get an ISIS battle flag printed. ISIS happens to be somebody we’re fighting against right now who are killing our men and boys overseas and are beheading Christians.” A Walmart spokesman said the employee who made the cake didn’t know it was the symbol of the Islamic militants trying to take over the world and kill anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

New low. Meanwhile, in Syria, ISIS sank to a new low, beheading two women for “sorcery and witchcraft.” Although the militants have stoned women for offenses like adultery, they have never beheaded them. The grisly punishments come amid a rash of public torture sessions that even included several crucifixions. The militant group’s leaders have called for an increase in jihadist attacks during month-long Ramadan holiday.

Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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