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Greece Misses IMF Payment; Crisis Talks Set to Continue

Jul 01, 2015

Greece has missed a $1.8 billion payment to the International Monetary Fund as it stands on the brink of a financial meltdown. The deadline coincided with the end of Greece’s international bailout, leaving it without an infusion of the money it needs to meet its obligations. On Tuesday, European creditors rejected a last-minute proposal from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for a new financial lifeline. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, said a new bailout program could be negotiated, but only if the Greek government backs down from its rejection of austerity demands.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem: “What can change is the political stance of the Greek government that has led to this unfortunate situation. And what we could consider, but we will have another conference call tomorrow, is further talks on a new program. But given the current political position that the Greek government is taking, it’s very difficult to have constructive talks.”

The Financial Times is reporting Tsipras has made new concessions in a bid to complete an agreement. Greece is set to hold a referendum on Sunday on whether to accept an austerity package of budget cuts and tax hikes in exchange for new loans. On Tuesday, tens of thousands of people rallied in Athens in support of a “yes” vote, one day after a similarly sized crowd rallied against the austerity demands. With its missed payment, Greece becomes the first developed nation to fall into arrears with the IMF, and also for the largest-ever amount.

Report: Greek Creditors Acknowledge Austerity Measures Unsustainable for Debt Load

Jul 01, 2015

Meanwhile, a secret report from Greece’s three main creditors appears to support Greek government calls for major debt relief as part of any new agreement. According to The Guardian, documents from the troika of lenders acknowledge Greece would still face an unsustainable level of debt by 2030 even if it agrees to all of the group’s austerity demands.

Iran Nuclear Talks Extended as Deadline Passes

Jul 01, 2015

Talks on a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers have been extended after the two sides failed to complete an agreement by a midnight deadline. Some believe the real deadline is July 9, the last day for President Obama to present an agreement to Congress before a mandatory review period of 30 days jumps to 60 days. The outstanding differences include access to international inspectors and Iranian nuclear activity in the deal’s final years. Negotiators are also trying to determine the timing of sanctions relief and the scope of Tehran’s nuclear research. Speaking at the White House, Obama said he’s prepared to walk away from the talks if Iran fails to make sufficient concessions.

President Obama: “There’s still some hard negotiations to take place, but ultimately this is going to be up to the Iranians to determine whether or not they meet the requirements that the international community has set forth to be able to fairly and accurately and consistently assess whether or not they have foreclosed the possibility of obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

FISA Court Re-authorizes Bulk Collection of Phone Data

Jul 01, 2015

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has re-authorized the bulk collection of U.S. phone records for another 180 days. The program lapsed with the expiration of the PATRIOT Act last month, but Congress authorized a six-month transition period to move into a new system where telephone companies hold the bulk records. A federal appeals court had declared the bulk collection illegal, but the FISA court decision overrides that ruling. The American Civil Liberties Union now says it will seek a new injunction to block the FISA court’s decision.

Fire at South Carolina Black Church is Latest to Hit Black Congregations

Jul 01, 2015

A black church in South Carolina has caught fire in the latest in a series of similar incidents. The blaze at the Mount Zion African Methodist Church in Greeleyville is believed to be the seventh fire at a black church across the South since the Charleston massacre less than two weeks ago. At least three fires have been caused by arson. Mount Zion African Methodist was burned to the ground 20 years ago by members of the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK has announced a rally for later this month at the South Carolina state House in support of the Confederate flag. There are reports South Carolina legislators now have enough votes to push through the flag’s removal.

County Clerks in Several GOP States Refuse to Follow Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage Equality

Jul 01, 2015

Counties in a handful of Southern states are still refusing to issue marriage licenses to LGBTQ couples despite last week’s Supreme Court ruling. Officials in Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky have vowed to reject the court’s mandate, citing religious freedom. Injunctions have already been filed to force compliance. On Tuesday, the county clerk for Hood County, Texas, said she would back down from an initial refusal to offer marriage licenses to LGBTQ couples.

Florida Judge Blocks Law Imposing 24-Hour Wait Period on Abortions

Jul 01, 2015

A Florida judge has blocked a law forcing women to wait at least 24 hours to have an abortion, with exceptions only if women can document rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking. Opponents argue such measures burden women who have already made their decision or who live too far away from clinics to make repeated visits affordable. The law was due to take effect today and will remain on hold as a court challenge proceeds.

ISIL-Linked Group Kills Dozens in Egypt’s Sinai

Jul 01, 2015

A group tied to the Islamic State has launched attacks on military sites in Egypt’s Sinai desert, killing dozens. The strikes by a group calling itself the Province of Sinai hit several targets at once. The Egyptian military has deployed fighter jets to the area.

U.N. to Declare Yemen a Top Humanitarian Crisis

Jul 01, 2015

The U.N. is expected to add Yemen to the list of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, raising the pressure on the Saudi government to halt a deadly military campaign and blockade. The news comes as aid officials warn parts of Yemen are on the brink of famine amid internal fighting and a continued Saudi-led air campaign. U.N. aid chief Stephen O’Brien says 80 percent of Yemen’s 25 million people need aid and the health system faces “imminent collapse.” The warning comes days after ceasefire talks between Yemen’s warring factions broke down in Geneva. At the Security Council, U.N. special envoy Ismail Ahmed renewed calls for a humanitarian truce.

Ismail Ahmed: “Both sides showed signs of constructive engagement. There is an emerging common ground upon which we can build to achieve an eventual ceasefire coupled with a withdrawal of combatants. While we pursue a sustainable longtime cessation of violence, I call on all the relevant parties to agree without delay to a humanitarian truce, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. We should not forget that Yemeni are living under dire conditions, and it pains me to witness this ongoing suffering.”

In some of Yemen’s latest violence, 17 civilians were reportedly killed and dozens wounded today when Houthi rebels fired on the southern port city of Aden. More than 1,000 prisoners, including al-Qaeda members, also escaped a prison in the city of Taiz amid clashes between rival forces.

U.S. to Lift Military Freeze on Bahrain Despite Admission Rights Climate Not “Adequate”

Jul 01, 2015

The Obama administration is lifting restrictions on military aid to the Bahrain military imposed over the regime’s crackdown on Arab Spring protesters in 2011. Announcing the decision, the State Department said: “While we do not think that the human rights situation in Bahrain is adequate … we believe it is important to recognize that the government of Bahrain has made some meaningful progress on human rights reforms and reconciliation.” In response, Human Rights Watch said the move was “occurring in the absence of any real or meaningful political reform.”

U.S., Brazil Announce Joint Climate Pledges

Jul 01, 2015

The U.S. and Brazil have announced new joint pledges on the use of renewable energy. President Obama unveiled the goals during a White House meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

President Obama: “Both our nations are setting new goals on clean energy. Beyond hydropower, the United States and Brazil will aim to increase the share of electricity we generate from renewable energy to 20 percent by the year 2030. These are very ambitions goals, a near tripling for the United States and more than double Brazil’s current output.”

Rousseff in First U.S. Visit Since NSA Spying Row

Jul 01, 2015

Rousseff’s visit to Washington was her first since cancelling her trip last year following the disclosure of NSA spying. Leaks from Edward Snowden showed the U.S. spied on her personal communications as well as on Brazil’s state-run oil company, Petrobras. On Tuesday, Rousseff said she believes President Obama’s assurances that the spying has stopped.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff: “The change is particularly due to the fact that President Obama and the U.S. government have stated on several occasions that they would no longer engage in intrusive acts of spying on friendly countries. I believe President Obama. And furthermore, he told me that, you know, if he needed — should he ever need nonpublic information about Brazil, he would just pick up the phone and call me.”

Study: Major World Aquifers Losing Alarming Amounts of Water

Jul 01, 2015

New satellite data shows the Earth’s largest underground aquifers are losing water at troubling rates. A NASA study finds 21 of the world’s 37 largest aquifers have provided more water than has been replaced, putting them at a sustainability tipping point. Researchers say the water reserves have been depleted by human activity including agriculture, population growth and mining.

NJ Governor Christie Enters GOP Presidential Race

Jul 01, 2015

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Gov. Chris Christie: “America is tired of handwringing and indecisiveness and weakness in the Oval Office. We need to have strength and decision making and authority back in the Oval Office. And that is why today I am proud to announce my candidacy for the Republican nomination for president of United States of America.”

Outside of Christie’s kickoff event, a group of New Jersey residents gathered in protest.

Kathy Guner: “I’m protesting Christie as president. He has ruined New Jersey; he’ll ruin the United States. He has taken so much money. He’s taking from the middle class; he’s giving it to his corporate buddies. He has robbed our state. We’re practically broke.”

Justice Dept.: Police Violated Ferguson Protesters’ Rights

Jul 01, 2015

And the Justice Department has concluded the police response to last year’s protest in Ferguson, Missouri, violated constitutional rights. A forthcoming report finds police tactics “violated citizens’ rights to assembly and free speech.” The report criticizes the use of tear gas without warning and calls for an end to the use of police dogs on crowds.

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