Greece looms large over final day of G7 finance meeting

Greece is negotiating to unlock some 7.2 billion euros in bailout cash with creditors -- the IMF, the European Union and the European Central Bank

Dresden (Germany) (AFP) – Greece’s fate in the euro area continued to cast a shadow over the second and final day of a Group of Seven finance ministers meeting in Dresden Friday with still no sign of a deal in sight.

The governor of the Bank of Japan Haruhiko Kuroda — who is attending the meeting — warned of the consequences of a possible “Grexit” or Greek exit from the euro. 

“If for the first time a country leaves the eurozone, then it won’t be the same stable monetary union as before,” Kuroda told the business daily Handelsblatt. 

In fact, the euro area would then simply resemble a system of fixed exchange rates and such systems had never proven particularly successful in the past, the central bank chief said. 

Nevertheless, Kuroda said he did not believe there would be any contagion effects “in the short term if Greece defaults or even leaves monetary union.”

That would “manageable,” he said. 

While Greece is not officially on the agenda of the Dresden meeting — which is preparing for a wider summit of G7 leaders starting on June 7 — the issue was at the top of everyone’s minds.


– Potential ‘Grexit’ –


International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde caused a flurry when she said in a newspaper interview on the sidelines of the meeting that a Grexit scenario was “a potential.”

But the IMF subsequently scrambled to clarify her comments by saying Lagarde hoped it was a scenario “the Europeans will not have to face because hopefully they will find a path to agree with the future of Greece within the eurozone.” 

Athens’ coffers are empty and the Greek government under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said it has “no money” to make a series of repayments to the IMF that are due beginning June 5, totalling 1.6 billion euros ($1.75 billion).

Athens is negotiating to unlock some 7.2 billion euros in bailout cash with creditors — the IMF, the European Union and the European Central Bank. 

While Greece is hopeful it could reach a deal by Sunday, its creditors are more sceptical.

The EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Pierre Moscovici, said on Thursday that a deal was “possible” but a great deal of work still needed to be done.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told radio station VimaFM in Athens on Friday that a deal was close.

“We are close to concluding the negotiations, there will be an agreement soon,” he said, adding there was a consensus “on the majority of questions.”


– Range of topics –


The official topics on the agenda of the Dresden meeting range from the state of the global economy, to financial regulation, fighting tax evasion and ways of starving jihadist groups like the Islamic State of funding. 

On Thursday, there was a “great deal of discussion” about the current weakness of global growth and how that should be redressed, participants said. 

Ahead of the final news conference on Friday afternoon, there were to be working sessions on other issues such as Ukraine and its financial situation, or possible aid to Nepal in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake there. 

Another possible topic could also be Britain’s future within the EU as the re-elected conservative government under David Cameron will hold a referendum on the matter by 2017. 

Cameron is currently on a whistlestop tour in Europe and met Poland’s premier in Warsaw Friday before heading to to Berlin later in the day to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Chinese currency, the yuan or renminbi, could also feature in discussions, as Beijing continues to push for it to play a greater role in the world financial system, such as being included in the basket that makes up the IMF’s own “special drawing rights” reserve currency.

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US spelling bee ends in a tie — again

Speller Vanya Shivashankar (L) of Olathe, Kansas, and speller Gokul Venkatachalam (R) of St. Louis, Missouri, hold up the trophy after winning the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee May 28, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland

National Harbor (United States) (AFP) – The world’s premier spelling bee ended in a tie in the US for a second year in a row after an intense 10-round showdown between two young contestants who tackled some of the English language’s most obscure words.

Vanya Shivashankar, 13, and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, together hoisted the gold trophy amid a flurry of confetti after they clinched the 88th Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Shivashankar, the sister of 2009 champion Kavya Shivashankar, initially oozed confidence as she breezed through such words as cytopoiesis, bouquetiere and thamakau.

Venkatachalam, a basketball fanatic sporting sharp Air Jordans, also tackled such tongue-twisters as poblacion, caudillismo and nixtamal with panache.

But as their eight fellow finalists stumbled one by one, the tension grew until they stood alone on stage at the Gaylord resort by the Potomac River outside Washington.

When Shivashankar, in the fourteenth round, correctly spelled scherenschnitte, the German-derived word for artistic paper cutting, official bee pronouncer Jacques Bailly, broke the news to Venkatachalam.

The contest, Bailly said, was about to run out of words, and if Venkatachalam spelled his next word correctly, he and his rival would be declared joint winners — a repeat of last year’s surprise tie.

– Word comes easily –

The winning word came so easily to the eighth-grader from the affluent St. Louis, Missouri suburb of Chesterfield that he skipped the bee contestant’s routine of asking for the word’s origin, meaning and usage in a sentence.

“N-u-n-a-t-a-k,” the devoted LeBron James fan said, spelling the Inuit-derived word for a glacial island as breezily as if he was spelling d-o-g or c-a-t.

Asked afterwards what went through his mind upon hearing the word, Venkatachalam candidly replied: “Me and Vanya are going to be champions.”

It was only the fifth time that the National Spelling Bee has ended in a tie since it began in 1925, when gladiolus was the winning word.

It was also the eighth year in the row that American youngsters of South Asian heritage have clinched the title — a trend that Thursday appeared to provoke fewer racially-tinged posts on social media than last year.

Indeed, of the 10 finalists, seven were Indian American, and none was more closely watched than Shivashankar, from the little-known Great Plains tech hub of Olathe, Kansas — so much so that the bee featured her prominently on the banner of its official Twitter feed.

It was her fifth time at the bee, where she tied for fifth place in 2013 and 13th place last year, and due to her age it would also be her last chance at spelling glory.

– ‘Dream come true’ –

“This is a dream come true. I’ve wanted this for such a long time,” said the eighth-grader who lists eating pizza and playing the tuba and piano among her favorite pastimes.

She dedicated her victory to her grandmother, who died last October. “All she wanted was for her grandkids to do well,” she said. “I hope she’s happy with this.”

Coming in third was Cole Shafer-Ray, 14, an eighth-grader from Norman, Oklahoma who fumbled in round four on acritarch, a word for small organic fossils.

Competing for the third year in a row, he came across as a poor sport when he ducked a consolation kiss from his mother and went all-in for the snack bowl — all seen on live national television.

An American institution, the Scripps National Spelling Bee brought together 285 spellers from all over the United States as well as seven foreign countries.

They were the elite of the more than 11 million youngsters, typically aged nine through 15, who competed in local and regional spelling bees this past school year.

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FIFA votes amid corruption crisis : LIVE REPORT

Jordan's Prince Ali bin al-Hussein (left) and FIFA president Sepp Blatter will battle it out for the leadership of football's world governing body

London (AFP) –

09:15 GMT – Call to resign – British Prime Minister David Cameron has backed calls for Blatter to resign, while French President Francois Hollande said sports groups selecting the hosts of major events must be “irreproachable”.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that if world football can’t clear up “poisonous” corruption, government agencies would be forced to step in.

09:14 GMT – Arrests – Today’s vote comes at the end of a gruelling week for the long-serving FIFA president.

Seven top football officials were arrested and Swiss police raided FIFA headquarters on Wednesday as part of an inquiry into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Those arrested in Zurich were among 14 people accused in a US federal indictment of taking more than $150 million in bribes.

09:05 GMT – WELCOME TO AFP’S LIVE REPORT on the FIFA Congress in Zurich, where president Sepp Blatter heads into a dramatic re-election vote calling for unity as a corruption crisis swirls around football’s world governing body.

Blatter is favourite to win having defiantly rejected calls by UEFA chief Michel Platini to stand down. His only challenger is Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan.

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Money is flooding out of Greek banks — and deposits just hit an 11 year low

Greek depositors are still pulling their money out of the country’s banks at a rapid pace.

Data just out shows that €5.6 billion ($6.14 billion, £4.02 billion) left Greek banks during April. After a period of stability, the election of the new Syriza-led government and the current bailout negotiations have started the process again. Greece’s banks have now lost more than €100 billion in deposits since early 2009.

Here’s how it looks: 

deposits Greek Banks

You’ve got to go all the way back to 2005 to get to the last time these levels were seen before. Though there was a modest improvement between the middle of 2012 (when the euro crisis started to cool down) and the end of 2014 (when new elections were announced), deposits are now in free-fall again.

The negotiations for a bailout deal are still ongoing, and they aren’t looking very promising. It’s going to take a lot for Greece to regain trust in its broken banking system.

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England threatens to boycott the 2018 World Cup over the FIFA corruption scandal

Raheem Sterling of England looks on during the EURO 2016 Qualifier Group E match between England and Slovenia at Wembley Stadium on November 15, 2014 in London, England.

England may boycott the 2018 World Cup in Russia over the FIFA corruption scandal.

England’s Football Association chief Greg Dyke has backed the suggestion by UEFA, European football’s governing body, to boycott the competition if Sepp Blatter is re-elected as FIFA president for another term. The election takes place today.

Dyke told Sky Sports News this morning: “There would be no point pulling England out if everyone else stays in. It would have no impact. It would just be forgotten. But if you could pull UEFA out [and therefore all the European national teams it represents,] that might have an impact. If Blatter gets re-elected, then that should be discussed.”

UEFA chief Michel Platini yesterday raised the prospect of a boycott, telling a news conference:If Mr Blatter wins, UEFA will meet in Berlin to discuss the future of our relations with FIFA.”

FIFA head Sepp Blatter has shot down claims he should be held responsible for the corruption within his organisation, saying at the opening ceremony of FIFA’s congress in Zurich on Thursday “I can’t monitor everyone all of the time.”

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Apple has announced a temporary fix for the nasty bug that crashes iPhones with a single text message (AAPL)

broken iphone smashed screen icons

Apple has announced a temporary fix for a bug that breaks users’ iPhones with a single text message, as it works to patch the bug permanently.

Earlier this week, Apple users realised that when iPhones are sent a certain string of characters, it can crash Messages, often forcing the device to reboot entirely. It quickly became abused by pranksters to crash their friends phones, and the Guardian discovered it can sometimes affect Apple Watches, iPads, and Macs too.

The devices have trouble rendering the combination of unicode characters in the message — thus slowing them down or causing them to crash.

Apple’s fix, which we first saw on 9to5Mac, doesn’t immunise users phones — if they’re texted the message again, it can still affect them. But it does allow them to open Messages again, as the app often stops working completely after receiving the message.

These are Apple’s instructions for accessing Messages again successfully:

  1. Ask Siri to “read unread messages.”
  2. Use Siri to reply to the malicious message. After you reply, you’ll be able to open Messages again.
  3. In Messages, swipe left to delete the entire thread. Or tap and hold the malicious message, tap More, and delete the message from the thread.

Then, users have to hope that one of their friends doesn’t send them the message again, forcing them to repeat the process all over again.

If one more person sends me that stupid turn off your iPhone text I’m gonna be so mad

— Sarah Margo (@sarahcmargo) May 27, 2015

Here’s the text that’s causing the bug:

effective. Power لُلُصّبُلُلصّبُررً ॣ ॣh ॣ ॣ 冗

And here’s a video of it crashing an Apple Watch:


Apple first acknowledged the bug earlier this week, and is working on a permanent fix. A spokesperson told Business Insider that “We are aware of an iMessage issue caused by a specific series of unicode characters, and we will make a fix available in a software update.”

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The 10 things in advertising you need to know today (GOOG, AAPL, AMZN)

google cardboard selfie

Good morning! Here’s everything you need to know before you head off for the weekend.

1. Get ready for Amazon milk and cereal. The company is reportedly planing an expansion into food products.

2. Here’s the case for how Apple could blow up the cable industry. Investment banking firm Pacific Crest Securities has a new report out on the future of TV.

3. This is everything Google announced at its annual developers’ conference. An update to Google Cardboard, Google Photos, and a new generation of Android.

4. Google also announced a new and updated set of monetization tools for developers. AdExchanger has more.

5. This is how Dick Costolo deals with Wall Street calling for his head. The Twitter boss told the Re/code conference on Thursday that if anything, he over-communicates with the board.

6. This is the extreme diet and fitness regime executives at ad agency Viceroy Creative went on to star in a naked photo shoot. They ended up looking like underwear models.

7. Millennials don’t care about owning anything. That mindset is destroying traditional retail.

8. The world’s biggest brands could sue FIFA for millions in “wasted” marketing budgets. That’s according to Antony Marcou, managing director at sports marketing and technology group Sports Revolution.

9. Under Armour has has one huge advantage over Nike. Its rising star is Stephen Curry, whose basketball team the Golden State Warriors advanced to the NBA Finals on Wednesday — and the Curry One shoe is flying off the shelves.

10. Here’s everything we know about the electric car everyone thinks Apple is building. The initiative is reportedly code-named Project Titan.

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