Summary by Patricia D’Cunha Posted Jul 13, 2015 5:22 am MDT Last Updated Jul 13, 2015 at 7:11 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Eurozone leaders reach agreement on Greek bailout Nine hours after a self-imposed deadline passed, the leaders announced the breakthrough early Monday.Greek debt stands at around 320 billion euros ($357 billion) — 180 per cent or so of the country’s GDP.If the talks had failed, Greece could have faced bankruptcy and a possible exit from the euro. A man walks past a European and Greek flags in central Athens, on June 30, 2015. The European part of its international bailout expiring Tuesday and with it, any possible access to the remaining rescue loans it contains. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Petros Giannakouris By: Pan Pylas And Raf Casert, The Associated PressA summit of eurozone leaders reached a tentative agreement with Greece on Monday for a bailout program that includes “serious reforms” and aid, removing an immediate threat that Greece could collapse financially and leave the euro.Nine hours after a self-imposed deadline passed, the leaders announced the breakthrough early Monday.If the talks had failed, Greece could have faced bankruptcy and a possible exit from the euro, the European single currency that the country has been a part of since 2002. No country has ever left the joint currency, which launched in 1999, and there is no mechanism in place for one to do so.For three days of negotiations between Greece and its international creditors, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras held out for a better deal to sell to his reluctant legislature in Athens this week, even though financial collapse is getting closer by the day.A breakthrough came in a meeting between Tsipras, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and EU president Donald Tusk. Details were not immediately available.The breakthrough came after the threat of expulsion from the euro put intense pressure on Tsipras to swallow politically unpalatable austerity measures because his people overwhelmingly want to stay in the eurozone.Greece has requested a three-year, 53.5 billion-euro ($59.5 billion) financial package, but that number grew larger by the tens of billions as the negotiations dragged on and the leaders calculated how much Greece will need to stay solvent. The creditors are demanding tough austerity measures in exchange for Greece’s third bailout in five years.Early Monday, a Greek official said the key sticking points were the involvement of the International Monetary Fund in Greece’s bailout program and a proposal that Greece set aside 50 billion euros ($56 billion) worth of state-owned assets in a fund for eventual privatization.The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the negotiations, said any agreement would provide quick help for Greek banks from the European Central Bank. Without it, they risk running out of money this week.The negotiations began Saturday with a meeting of finance ministers. The heads of state convened mid-afternoon Sunday and were still negotiating at dawn Monday.The deal on the table appeared to include commitments from Tsipras to push a drastic austerity program including pension, market and privatization reforms through parliament by Wednesday, and from the 18 other eurozone leaders to start talks on a new bailout program.Sunday’s four-page discussion paper put to eurozone leaders and obtained by The Associated Press spoke of a potential “time-out from the euro area” for Greece if no agreement could be found.It highlighted the increasing frustration of European leaders during five months of fruitless talks with Greece.“The most important currency has been lost: that is trust and reliability,” Merkel said.Tsipras insisted his government was ready to clinch a deal.“We owe that to the peoples of Europe who want Europe united and not divided,” he said. “We can reach an agreement tonight if all parties want it.”Hollande insisted it was vital to keep Greece in the euro and said in the event of a departure, “it’s Europe that would go backward. And that I do not want.”Greece has received two previous bailouts, totalling 240 billion euros ($268 billion), in return for deep spending cuts, tax increases and reforms from successive governments. Although the country’s annual budget deficit has come down dramatically, Greece’s debt burden has increased as the economy has shrunk by a quarter.The Greek government has made getting some form of debt relief a priority and hopes that a comprehensive solution will involve European creditors at least agreeing to delayed repayments or lower interest rates.Greek debt stands at around 320 billion euros ($357 billion) — a staggering 180 per cent or so of the country’s annual gross domestic product. Few economists think that debt will ever be fully repaid. Last week, the International Monetary Fund said Greece’s debt will need to be restructured.Menelaos Hadjicostis and John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels contributed to this story.
PHILADELPHIA – A cut-rate demolition contractor was found guilty of manslaughter Monday, more than two years after a towering wall fell on a busy thrift store, killing six people.A jury convicted Griffin Campbell of six counts of involuntary manslaughter, rejecting the third-degree murder charges sought by prosecutors who said Campbell ignored warnings of an imminent collapse.Campbell described himself as a scapegoat for the architect overseeing the demolition of a seedy downtown block, and in his testimony last week called the collapse “an accident.”However, prosecutors said he controlled the worksite and lied about how the demolition was being done. Their experts said he caused the unsupported wall to fall on the adjacent thrift store by cutting corners on the job in June 2013.One survivor lost both legs after spending 13 hours trapped in the rubble. A dozen other people were injured.Subcontractor Sean Benschop testified that he was using heavy equipment nearby when the wall crashed onto the Salvation Army store, instead of doing the delicate job by hand.“When I saw the building like that, I should have walked away,” Benschop testified, explaining why he pleaded guilty in the case. “I had my family to feed and I had bills to pay.”He pleaded guilty to six counts of involuntary manslaughter, and faces a maximum 10 to 20 years in prison. Campbell turned down the chance to forge a similar plea. He could face a much stiffer sentence if the manslaughter counts are run consecutively.Campbell was also convicted of aggravated assault and risking a catastrophe. His lawyer tried to shift the blame to building owner Richard Basciano, project architect Plato Marinakos and others. Basciano, once dubbed the Porn King of Times Square, wanted the wall brought down quickly so he could redevelop the strip of low-end stores.Campbell had gutted the support beams and joists to sell them for salvage, leaving the four-story walls unstable, prosecutors said.Both Campbell and Benschop had prior prison records, but were trying to support families through contracting and demolition work. Campbell’s $112,000 bid for the work was a fraction of the other bids.The victims included two young artist friends dropping off donations, a woman buying clothes to send to her native Sierra Leone and a woman working her first day at the store.The collapse led city officials to revamp the requirements needed to get a demolition permit. A city inspector who had checked on the project last spring killed himself days after the collapse.The victims’ families have filed lawsuits against Basciano, the Salvation Army, Campbell and others. City treasurer Nancy Winkler and her husband, Jay Bryan, who lost their 24-year-old daughter Anne Bryan and attended the three-week trial, said in a statement Monday that they will now focus on “the fault of everyone involved, not just one individual.”Campbell’s lawyer agreed.“The civil litigation will … tell the complete and true story of all the participants and all the players,” lawyer William Hobson said Monday, “layers … far above Griffin Campbell and Sean Benschop.” Demo contractor accused in Philadelphia building collapse convicted of 6 manslaughter counts by Maryclaire Dale, The Associated Press Posted Oct 19, 2015 12:41 pm MDT Last Updated Oct 19, 2015 at 9:40 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email
by Josh Boak, The Associated Press Posted Dec 10, 2015 6:39 am MDT Last Updated Dec 10, 2015 at 12:20 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email US filings for jobless aid climbed to 282,000 last week; but job market still looks healthy FILE – In this April 22, 2015, file photo, a job seeker fills out an application during a National Career Fairs job fair in Chicago. According to information released by the Labor Department on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, applications for U.S. jobless aid climbed in the week earlier, but the number of Americans seeking benefits remains close to historic lows in a positive sign for the job market. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File) WASHINGTON – Applications for U.S. jobless aid climbed last week, but the number of Americans seeking benefits remains close to historic lows in a positive sign for the job market.THE NUMBERS: Weekly applications for jobless aid rose 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 282,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The less volatile four-week average was 270,750.The weekly filings have stayed near historic lows for the past nine months. Applications below 300,000 usually correspond with net monthly job gains in excess of 200,000.THE TAKEAWAY: The low numbers point to a solid environment for hiring, suggesting that employers are holding onto workers and potentially looking to add staff on the expectation of further growth.KEY DRIVERS: More Americans have returned to work during the past three years, as the economy has slowly recovered from the Great Recession. The influx has enabled the economy to grow at a moderate pace of roughly 2 per cent a year, enough for employers to retain their workers and steadily expand their payrolls.BIG PICTURE: Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs, so the low level indicates that job growth will continue. The economy added roughly 211,000 jobs in the November and 298,000 in October, the government said last week. The unemployment rate has held at 5 per cent. Monthly job growth has averaged more than 200,000 so far this year, enough to lower the unemployment rate over time.
Pro-EU Scots, Northern Irish eye UK escape after Brexit vote Irish Prime Miinister Enda Kenny speaks during a press conference in Dublin Friday June 24, 2016 after Britain voted to leave the European Union in an historic referendum. (Niall Carson/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE by Paul Kelbie And Shawn Pogatchnik, The Associated Press Posted Jun 24, 2016 1:10 pm MDT Last Updated Jun 24, 2016 at 4:27 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email EDINBURGH, Scotland – The United Kingdom’s stunning vote to depart the European Union could end in the breakup of the U.K. itself.While majorities of voters in England and Wales backed the campaign to leave the 28-nation bloc, the U.K.’s two other regions of Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay. Hot on the heels of Friday’s results, nationalist leaders in both countries vowed to leave the U.K. if that is the required price to keep their homelands fully connected to Europe.Scotland, where nationalists already in power narrowly lost a 2014 independence referendum, appears poised to be first out the U.K. door if its English neighbours don’t manage a negotiated U-turn to remain inside the EU. Most analysts dismiss that prospect.“Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the EU against our will. I regard that as democratically unacceptable,” said Scotland’s leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. More than 60 per cent of Scots voted to remain in the EU, compared with 48 per cent of voters in the U.K. overall, reflecting Scots’ belief that EU membership provides a moderating influence on political life in a U.K. traditionally dominated by the vastly more numerous English.Sturgeon emphasized that her administration would aim first to help negotiate a compromise between the British government in London and EU chiefs in Brussels “to secure our continuing place in the EU and the single market.” But she said such hopes appeared unlikely to prevail, and made a second Scottish independence referendum “now highly likely.” She said such a vote would have to be held before the United Kingdom formally exited the EU, which could happen as soon as 2018.Scotland in September 2014 voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent to reject independence. But leading members of Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party said they were confident that many voters who rejected independence two years ago were ready to switch allegiance given England’s decisive embrace of euroskepticism.“People in Scotland are quite simply stunned,” said party lawmaker John Nicolson. He said Britain’s traditional big three parties — the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats — all argued two years ago that U.K. membership was the only way to keep Scotland securely within the EU.“Clearly they’ve misled the Scottish people,” he said.Next door, Irish nationalists in the long-disputed U.K. region of Northern Ireland say the British vote has reignited their demands for an all-island referendum to reunite the two parts of Ireland after 95 years of partition. They argue that a British withdrawal from the EU would force authorities in both parts of Ireland to renew customs and security controls on what would become the U.K.’s only land border with an EU state, the Republic of Ireland.Sinn Fein, already in power in Northern Ireland’s 9-year-old unity government and positioned to become the Republic of Ireland’s top opposition party, insists that the hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens who live in Northern Ireland must be given a chance to vote for their own U.K. escape.In Dublin, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny convened an emergency Cabinet meeting as Ireland’s stock market suffered the biggest market falls in Europe, reflecting the fact that Ireland’s main trading partner is Britain. Kenny emerged saying his government’s top priority was to minimize damage to Ireland’s exports-driven economy, not to open old wounds in Northern Ireland.Kenny and Britain’s secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, agreed that Northern Ireland’s U.S.-brokered 1998 peace accord contained a provision for staging an all-Ireland vote on reunification in event of popular demand. But both asserted that decades of opinion polling and election results had demonstrated that such a demand was too weak to merit a vote anytime soon.Kenny said his government would support an Irish unity referendum only if analysts could document “a serious movement of a majority of people to a situation where they would want to join the republic. There is no such evidence.”“There are much more serious issues to deal with in the medium term,” he said, citing the need to protect Ireland’s decades-old agreement to maintain special travel and trade relations with Britain, an agreement that predates both nations’ 1973 entry to the then-European Economic Community. “That’s where our focus is.”And Villiers, who joined Conservative Party rebels in opposing Prime Minister David Cameron’s push to remain in the EU, called a potential Irish referendum “a divisive distraction.” She noted that “remain” won with just 56 per cent of the vote in Northern Ireland, the biggest per-capita recipient of EU aid in the U.K.Left unmentioned was the ever-present sectarian rivalry of Northern Ireland, where a decade of delicately balanced peace has followed three decades of bloodshed that left nearly 3,700 dead. While Sinn Fein led the Catholic minority in seeking to remain in the EU, the top Protestant-backed party campaigned to reject it. As a result, Catholic areas staunchly backed “remain,” Protestant areas “leave.”Sinn Fein usually is an EU critic, but this time it backed the “remain” campaign because of the risk that Ireland’s nearly invisible border could become a daily economic, social and security obstacle again. Sinn Fein’s overarching goal is to overturn the 1921 division of the island, when Irish rebels in the south fought a successful war of independence from the U.K. but pro-British Protestants anchored in industrial Belfast received a new northern state that remained within the U.K.Martin McGuinness, the former Irish Republican Army commander who is Sinn Fein’s co-leader of the Northern Ireland government, said Irish nationalists in the north — representing more than 40 per cent of the population — would demand a chance to test public support for Irish unity versus continued U.K. membership.McGuinness said the prospect of reintroducing security checks along Northern Ireland’s meandering 310-mile (500-kilometre) border, barely a decade after the outlawed IRA renounced violence and British security forces were withdrawn from border forts, should be avoided at all costs.“Anybody who doesn’t think this is big stuff needs to get their head around it. This is huge for us,” McGuinness said. “I do have great concerns about the future.”In Scotland, high-profile opponents of independence forecast that Cameron’s backfiring referendum would end in the U.K.’s own fracture.“Scotland will seek independence now,” said “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, who donated 1 million pounds to anti-independence campaigners two years ago.“Cameron’s legacy will be breaking up two unions,” she said in a tweet. “Neither needed to happen.”___Pogatchnik reported from Dublin.
by The Associated Press Posted Jan 16, 2017 2:46 am MDT Last Updated Jan 16, 2017 at 3:20 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email PARIS – A new European eyewear giant is set to emerge as Italian frames maker Luxottica — maker of brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley — joins with French lens manufacturer Essilor in a multibillion-euro merger.Essilor International SA announced Monday it had reached a share exchange deal with Luxottica’s main shareholder, Delfin, to create a combined company making both frames and lenses.Shares in Luxottica and Essilor jumped on the news.The statement said the new company would have combined revenues of more than 15 billion euros ($16 billion), 140,000 employees and sales in more than 150 countries.Essilor said the merger is an effort to meet growing global demand for corrective lenses, sunglasses and luxury frames. European eyewear giant in merger of Luxottica and Essilor
A child waits outside a polling box in the final round of parliamentary elections in Bayonne, southwestern France, Sunday, June 18, 2017. French voters are casting ballots Sunday in the final round of parliamentary elections that could clinch President Emmanuel Macron’s hold on power, as his fledgling party appears set to rout mainstream rivals and turn politics as usual on its head. (AP Photo/Bob Edme) PARIS – President Emmanuel Macron’s party, including untested novices, will be sweeping into the lower house of the French parliament, hogging a clear majority of seats after winning an overwhelming victory in Sunday’s elections and clinching the young leader’s hold on power.Macron fulfilled his wish to disrupt politics as usual with new faces — including a farmer, a teacher and a math genius — and a new approach. But he may be getting more than he bargained for with the entry into parliament of loud voices from the ultra-left and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, both promising to fight his plans to overhaul French labour laws, one of the touchiest subjects in France.“Through their vote, a wide majority of the French have chosen hope over anger,” said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, reiterating his “total” determination to work on major reforms in the coming months.A minor reshuffle of the Cabinet, an obligatory move after parliamentary elections, is expected this week, perhaps as soon as Monday.The May 7 election of the 39-year-old Macron, himself untested, upended France’s political landscape, a phenomenon that continued with the parliamentary victory of a party that didn’t exist 14 months ago. With the June 27 start of the new session, the novices within the ranks of Macron’s Republic on the Move! party will be learning at high-speed. Half of the candidates in the running for his party were drawn from civilian life, and half were women.Starting Monday, many will be taking their first official steps in the corridors of power, invited to pick up keys and the blue-white-red sashes warn by elected officials, and learn their way around.Pollsters projected Republic on the Move! and its allies could take up to about 360 of the lower chamber’s 577 seats. Official partial results confirmed the trend, showing them with 327 seats, with 33 seats yet to be counted. The party will have far more than the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority to carry out Macron’s program.Mainstream conservatives and their allies, the closest rivals, held their ground better than expected. The Interior Ministry counted the Republicans and allied candidates with 131 seats, with 33 seats still uncounted.The Socialist Party, which dominated the outgoing Assembly, was flattened by the unpopularity of former President Francois Hollande. With its allies, it could get fewer than 50 seats, according to projections. The stinging reality of defeat pushed party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, who lost in last week’s first-round vote, to resign — and blast the Macron system “with all the power.”The Macron steamroller effect could be blunted with the entrance into parliament of some prickly opponents.Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who rivaled him for the presidency, won a seat representing her northern bastion around Henin-Beaumont with more than 58 per cent of the vote. Her National Front party was expected to place up to eight lawmakers in the lower chamber, compared to two lawmakers in the outgoing Assembly.Le Pen said she would “fight with all necessary means the harmful projects of the government,” especially what she called Macron’s pro-European, pro-migrant policies.“We are the only force of resistance to the dilution of France, of its social model and its identity,” Le Pen said, claiming the mainstream opposition parties were but “satellites” of the Macron power structure.Le Pen’s nemesis, the ultra-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, vowed a “social coup d’etat,” saying Macron’s plans to reform labour laws amount to “destruction of the social order.” Unlike the National Front, Melenchon and his allies will have the required 15 lawmakers needed to form a group, a tool that provides extra funds, speaking time and other ways to weigh on policy.Macron’s bid to ease hiring and firing through a set of measures aimed at bringing down the unemployment rate — now just below 10 per cent — is the most sensitive plan on his agenda. Unions fear it would destroy workers’ protections.Workers unions have already criticized the labour reform and the president’s decision to skirt normal procedure to pass changes that would short-circuit extended debate and nix amendments. The measures must, however, be ratified by parliament.Macron also wants to clean up politics to change the image of a political class dominated by career politicians, peppered with corruption and losing credibility. The new government has already presented a draft bill with new restrictions on how lawmakers operated.Disillusion with the political class is one reason given for what is likely to be a record low participation rate that could outdo the record low in last Sunday’s first round, measured at 43 per cent — five points lower than last week.Experts partly blamed voter fatigue following the May election of Macron, plus voter disappointment with politics.Confusion also played a role, according to Frederic Dabi, of the IFOP polling firm. Macron’s party, which didn’t exist 14 months ago and offered novice candidates from civilian life, has drawn from left and right to fill its ranks, effectively blurring the traditional left-right political divide.Macron’s party “vampirized” the left and right after his huge win in the presidential balloting, Dabi said on CNews TV.___Philippe Sotto in Paris contributed to this report. by Elaine Ganley And Sylvie Corbet, The Associated Press Posted Jun 18, 2017 12:11 am MDT Last Updated Jun 18, 2017 at 5:40 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email President Macron’s party dominates French parliamentary vote
US consumer spending up just 0.1 per cent despite income gain In this Tuesday, May 23, 2017, photo, employees assist a customer, at left, with a computer at Best Buy in Cary, N.C. On Friday, June 30, 2017, the Commerce Department issues its May report on consumer spending. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) by Paul Wiseman, The Associated Press Posted Jun 30, 2017 6:35 am MDT Last Updated Jun 30, 2017 at 9:00 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email WASHINGTON – Americans enjoyed a healthy increase in income last month but didn’t spend much of the gain.The Commerce Department said Friday that personal income rose 0.4 per cent in May, up from a 0.3 increase in April. But consumer spending rose just 0.1 per cent last month after climbing 0.4 per cent in both March and April.After-tax income rose 0.6 per cent, the biggest gain since December 2012. The gap between the May increase in income and the increase in spending drove the U.S. savings rate to 5.5 per cent, the highest since last September.Economists monitor consumer spending closely because it accounts for about 70 per cent of U.S. economic activity. Despite the modest rise in May, analysts remain confident that consumers picked up their spending overall this quarter and will be eager to spend their savings and higher incomes this summer.“Real disposable personal income has risen a whopping 4.7% (annualized) over the past three months, the strongest growth in nearly two years,” James Marple, senior economist at TD Economics, said in a research note. “This should continue to underpin healthy consumer spending through the second half of the year.”Consumers got off to a slow start earlier this year. From January through March, consumer spending rose at lacklustre 1.1 per cent annual pace, the slowest since the second quarter of 2013 and one reason the economy grew at an annual pace of just 1.4 per cent the first three months of 2017.President Donald Trump has pledged to push annual economic growth past 3 per cent, but most economists are skeptical given America’s aging workforce and disappointing gains in productivity — output per hour worked.The Federal Reserve’s favoured measure of inflation fell 0.1 per cent from April and rose 1.4 per cent from a year earlier. That was the smallest annual increase since last November and fell below the Fed’s 2 per cent target.Still, the Fed is confident enough in the economy’s health that it raised short-term interest rates this month and signalled that it expects another hike sometime this year.