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Greece And Europe Are On The Brink Of A Deal. Here Is How It Could Still Be Dead On Arrival.

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After months of high-stakes negotiations, the Greek government and its creditors are reportedly within striking distance of a lasting new bailout deal.

But even if Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras inks an agreement with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the other creditors, it could still be dead on arrival in the parliaments of either Germany or Greece. Hardliners within Merkel’s and Tsipras’ parties have been particularly skeptical of a deal.

A new bailout package may face challenges in other eurozone countries as well, but a vote in Germany, which is Greece’s largest creditor and Europe’s top economy, could prove decisive.

Members of Merkel’s right-of-center Christian Democratic Union party are reluctant to approve any deal they believe rewards Greece’s fiscal irresponsibility. The Christian Democrats’ disdain for Greek demands is evident in their preference for a Greek default and subsequent “Grexit,” or Greek exit from the eurozone, over a deal they deem too generous. In May, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, considered the senior-most hardliner, indicated he wouldn’t have a problem with a Grexit. Other Christian Democratic members of parliament (MPs) have been less delicate. On June 15, MP Erika Steinbach tweeted, “Greece is a cancerous growth on the European Union if it remains in the eurozone!”

The looming June 30 deadline, when Greece’s 1.6 billion euro repayment to the International Monetary Fund is due, makes a deal’s passage in Germany harder still. There is no time left in the parliamentary schedule for “normal parliamentary procedure” for a vote on a deal before the June 30 deadline, the German Finance Ministry said in a document sent Monday to other eurozone leaders that Bloomberg Business obtained. This raises the threshold for a deal considerably, because it means that lawmakers must instead agree to vote on it in a fast-track process.

In order to reassure German lawmakers that they would not be fast-tracking a deal they dislike only to have Greece reject it, the German Finance Ministry concluded, the Greek parliament must sign off on any deal before Germany and other eurozone parliaments.

If the German document is sincere, a vote on the deal in the Greek parliament will be the most important vote, since Greece’s approval is a prerequisite to consideration by other parliaments. And the Greek parliament’s approval of the deal is hardly assured.

Yannis Koutsomitis, a Greek political analyst for Germany’s NTV and BBC Radio, told The Huffington Post that Prime Minister Tsipras would only strike a deal with the creditors if he thought it could receive the support of a majority of the 300 members of parliament. Koutsomitis believes Tsipras could rely on the votes of legislators from the center-right New Democracy party if he had to. Other analysts believe New Democracy would balk at the corporate tax increases that have made it into the most recent iterations of the deal.

Regardless, much like Merkel’s ruling party in Germany, the greatest threat to a deal is from Tsipras’ own governing coalition. Within the Syriza party, both the hardline Left Platform bloc, which controls 30 percent of the seats on Syriza’s central committee and a subgroup known as “53” indicated their strong opposition to a Tuesday version of the deal, according to the Greek news site Iefimerida. George Saravelos, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG, told Bloomberg Business that between 10 and 40 Syriza lawmakers have expressed their opposition to the deal Tsipras appears to have endorsed — and likely will also oppose the final one, which could include more Greek concessions.

In addition, one of Syriza’s coalition partners, the right-wing Independent Greeks party, has said that it will only back a deal that includes some debt relief. The Independent Greeks’ leader, Panos Kammenos, also said the party would be willing to leave the government if a VAT increase were extended to Greek islands that currently enjoy an exemption. As of Wednesday, it was unclear whether the promise of debt relief and the preservation of the discounted VAT for Greek islands would survive last-minute negotiations.

In sum, Tsipras could win a parliamentary majority without the backing of his governing coalition, but his government would fall, which could endanger the deal anew. Koutsomitis describes three different scenarios for how a vote could play out in Greece’s parliament:

1. The parliament approves the debt deal with the backing of the Syriza-led coalition. This is the simplest scenario, and guarantees durable approval of the agreement. Even if a marginal number of Syriza parliamentarians vote against it, it would not be enough to topple the Tsipras government.

2. The parliament approves the debt deal without the backing of the Syriza-led coalition. The government collapses. Tsipras breaks with the hardliners. In this scenario, the law passes thanks to opposition members of parliament. Immediately thereafter, the Syriza-led government collapses, and Tsipras calls for snap elections to decide a new government. Tsipras breaks with the left-wing hardliners, maintaining his support for a deal with the troika of creditors — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF. To form the new government, he either wins an absolute majority with a new incarnation of Syriza that has fewer hardliners, or forms a government with more centrist parties.

3. The parliament approves the debt deal without the backing of the Syriza-led coalition. The government collapses. Tsipras co-opts the hardliners. It is possible that Tsipras could assuage his hardline colleagues by finding an as-yet-unexplained way of securing a better deal from the troika. A more likely possibility is that to co-opt Syriza’s hardliners, Tsipras would have to embrace a Grexit, seemingly dooming a deal.

One possibility that Koutsomitis does not entertain is Tsipras losing the premiership.

“He is very popular,” Koutsomitis notes.

Recent polling shows that public support of Syriza under Tsipras’ leadership remains strong. In a June poll by Greek polling firm Metron Analysis, 45 percent of Greeks said they would vote for Syriza if elections were held at the time of polling, marking an increase in support from the January elections that would allow Syriza to govern without the right-wing Independent Greeks. The same poll showed that 59 percent of Greeks approved of the government’s negotiating style.

More on the Greek debt talks:

The Economic Crisis In Greece – As Told By An Athens Taxi Driver
Here’s What Happens If Greece Defaults On Its Debts
19 Pieces Of Athens Graffiti That Perfectly Sum Up The Attitude Of Young Greeks
How The Financial Crisis Is Choking Greek Businesses
Why Greece Is Not Leaving The Eurozone
On The Blog: Greeks Are Just Trying To Stay Alive

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Lifestyle

Top 10 Travel Destinations to the Start the New Decade

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For many, traveling offers an opportunity to disconnect from the everyday and experience new places and cultures. With the beginning of a new decade, it is the perfect time to start deciding your next travel adventures.

When booking your future destinations, consider these spots and tips recommended by travel expert and Bank of America ambassador, Lee Abbamonte, the youngest American to visit every country plus the North and South Poles.

1. Australia

From its deserts to tropical beaches, Australia is a beautiful country to explore. While many people might be familiar with the Sydney Opera House and the unique wildlife, there are many hidden gems in Australia.

“I’ve been to Australia 10 times and I still can’t get enough,” Abbamonte said. “One of my favorite cities is Melbourne. While it’s one of the largest cities in Australia, the heart of the city is hidden and secretive. It comes to life when you visit the alleys, laneways and arcades. The vibrant city has so much to offer: cafes, a unique street culture and street art.”

2. New Zealand

If you are going to New Zealand for the first time, Abbamonte recommends boogie boarding down the sand dunes, hiking up a volcano and visiting the Moeraki Boulders. However, if you are really interested in getting the blood pumping, take a leap from Nevis Bungy near Queenstown. It is among the highest bungy jumping experiences in the world, measuring 440 feet.

3. Mexico

“Mexico City has two of my favorite things – great food and sports,” Abbamonte said. “The street tacos are to die for, and I love going to soccer games at Estadio Azteca.”

In 2020, there will be many festivals to explore. The city is a cultural hub with music, theater, dance and food events throughout the year. While experiencing the festivities, it is also an opportune time to take a step back and enjoy Chapultepec Park.

4. Brazil

One of Abbamonte’s favorite waterfalls is Iguazu Falls located on the border of Brazil and Argentina. While Iguazu Falls might be well known, the falls themselves are truly unique. The waterfall system consists of 275 falls that stretch over approximately 1.68 miles. The Devil’s Throat is the tallest fall with a drop of more than 262 feet.

While traveling internationally can be fun and exhilarating, there are also places throughout the United States that offer memorable activities:

5. Scottsdale, Arizona

If you enjoy being outdoors, Scottsdale is an ideal place to visit. There are many trails to explore in Camelback Mountain, Papago Park and Hole in the Rock. After hiking, follow Abbamonte’s example and golf at The Short Course at Mountain Shadows.

“Scottsdale has some of the most beautiful sunsets in the States, and from The Short Course at Mountain Shadows, I get to enjoy the view while practicing my swing,” he said.

6. Boston, Massachusetts

“I love sports, so I visit Boston regularly for the professional games,” Abbamonte said. “I’m also fortunate that Boston is a beautiful city I can enjoy along the way.”

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the country. Founded in 1630, Boston is filled with history, museums and universities. If you are interested in a more unique attraction, check out the Warren Anatomical Museum, which is one of the last of its kind in the United States.

7. Portland, Oregon

What makes Portland unique are the bizarre and wonderful things you can do when you visit. For example, you can try bone marrow ice cream, stop by Mill Ends Park (the world’s smallest park) or attach your wish to The Wishing Tree.

“Portland is absolutely beautiful,” Abbamonte said. “It has a bit of everything – restaurants, bars, parks – and I enjoy the people watching. Portland has some of the nicest people while maintaining an edgy vibe.”

8. Tampa, Florida

Tampa might be known for its spring break party scene, but it has so much more to offer. For example, the city’s zoos and aquariums provide opportunities to interact directly with animals. Then you can take a break at Clearwater Beach, which is known for its soft, white sand and calm waters.

9. Santa Barbara, California

“I go to Santa Barbara when I want to recharge,” Abbamonte said. “I enjoy the food, walking around, talking to the locals and even watching a football game or two.”

There are wine tours, zoos, beaches, museums and restaurants. While taking in the city, also make time to visit the hidden gems such as Knapp’s Castle ruins.

10. England, Germany, Scotland, Azerbaijan and more

While technically more than one place, these locations have one thing in common: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Euro 2020. The international soccer event marks the first time the games will be held across the continent in 12 host cities.

“The year is a big one for sports,” Abbamonte said. “From sporting events in Europe to Japan, it is a fun year for travel and to enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”

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US Vows 100% Tariffs on French Champagne, Cheese, Handbags Over Digital tax

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Image via Shutterstock
By David Lawder and Andrea Shalal

The US government on Monday said it may slap punitive duties of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion in imports from France of Champagne, handbags, cheese and other products, after concluding that France’s new digital services tax would harm US tech companies.

The US Trade Representative’s office said its “Section 301” investigation found that the French tax was “inconsistent with prevailing principles of international tax policy, and is unusually burdensome for affected US companies,” including Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.com.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the government was exploring whether to open similar investigations into the digital services taxes of Austria, Italy and Turkey.

“The USTR is focused on countering the growing protectionism of EU member states, which unfairly targets US companies,” Lighthizer said. His statement made no mention of proposed digital taxes in Canada or Britain.

The US trade agency said it would collect public comments through Jan. 14 on its proposed tariff list as well as the option of imposing fees or restrictions on French services, with a public hearing scheduled for January 7.

It did not specify an effective date for the proposed 100% duties.

CHAMPAGNE, ROUGE AND GRUYERE

The list targets some products that were spared from 25 percent tariffs imposed by the United States over disputed European Union aircraft subsidies, including sparkling wines, handbags and make-up preparations – products that would hit French luxury goods giant and cosmetics maker L’Oreal hard.

Gruyere cheese, also spared from the USTR aircraft tariffs levied in October, featured prominently in the list of French products targeted for 100 percent duties, along with numerous other cheeses.

The findings won favor from US lawmakers and US tech industry groups, who have long argued that the tax unfairly targets US firms.

“The French digital services tax is unreasonable, protectionist and discriminatory,” Senators Charles Grassley and Ron Wyden, the top Republican and Democrat, respectively, on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a joint statement.

Spokespeople for the French embassy and the European Union delegation in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment.

But prior to the release of the USTR’s report, a French official said that France would dispute the trade agency’s findings, repeating Paris’ contention that the digital tax is not aimed specifically at US technology companies.

“We will not give up on taxation” of digital firms, the official said.

France’s 3 percent levy applies to revenue from digital services earned by firms with more than €25 million ($27.86 million) in French revenue and €750 million (£644 million) worldwide.

The USTR’s report and proposed tariff list follow months of negotiations between French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over a global overhaul of digital tax rules.

The two struck a compromise in August at a G7 summit in France that would refund US firms the difference between the French tax and a new mechanism being drawn up through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

But Trump never formally endorsed that deal and declined to say whether his French tariff threat was off the table.

Reuters

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benefits

Andrew Yang Wants You to Make Money Off Your Data by Making it Your Personal Property

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Andrew Yang, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, plans to regulate the tech industry by prioritizing in giving people the right to own their personal data (“data as a property right”), thus allowing them to make money by sharing it with companies. Currently, companies entirely own users’ data – users do not have much control over it.

Yang said, “our data is now worth more than oil” and gave emphasis to the great amount of data people create and how companies make money over it. “By implementing measures to increase transparency in the data collection and monetization process, individuals can begin to reclaim ownership of what’s theirs,” he said.

He also cited a report saying that the collection and use of Americans’ personal data has become a $198 billion industry. Yang believes that people should have more control over their data, such as being able to see how their data is being used and having the freedom to opt out if they choose.

Yang added that we need politicians “who understand technology and a modern way to regulate it,” as reported by Engadget. “In order to regulate technology effectively, our government needs to understand it. It’s embarrassing to see the ignorance some members of Congress display when talking about technology, and anyone who watched Congress question Mark Zuckerberg is well aware of this,” said Yang.

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