Thursday, June 18, 2015

Greece faces banking crisis after talks break down; China stocks head for worst week since 2008; Why yoga day is stressing India

1 Greece faces banking crisis after talks break down (Ian Traynor & Phillip Inman in The Guardian) Greece is facing a full-blown banking crisis after a meeting of eurozone finance ministers broke down in acrimony and recrimination on Thursday evening, bringing the prospect of Greek exit from the eurozone a step nearer.

Some €2bn of deposits have been withdrawn from Greek banks so far this week – including a record €1bn yesterday – triggering fears that a breakdown in talks would spark a further flight of funds. The German leader Angela Merkel, French president Fran├žois Hollande and Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras agreed to stage an emergency EU summit on Monday as a last critical attempt to prevent Greece going bankrupt. A representative of the European Central Bank told the meeting it was unsure whether Greek banks would have the funds to be able to open on Monday.

Leaders of the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund aimed bitter criticism at the leftwing Greek government, accusing it of lying to its own people, misrepresenting and misleading other EU leaders, refusing to negotiate seriously, and taking Greece to the brink of catastrophe.

The current bailout for Greece expires on 30 June when Athens is also due to repay the IMF around €1.6bn. If the payment is not made on time, Greece will be declared to be in default and would disqualify itself from receiving any further IMF funds.

2 China stocks head for worst week since 2008 (Straits Times) China's stocks fell, sending the benchmark index toward its steepest weekly loss since 2008, amid concern the government will clamp down on margin trading and valuations are excessive after a world-beating rally over the past year.

The Shanghai Composite Index dropped 1.5 per cent to 4,712.15 at 9:33 a.m. on Friday, extending losses to 8.7 per cent this week. The China Securities Regulatory Commission is working on margin-trading risk management rules for securities firms, the 21st Century Business Herald reported.

3 Why yoga day is stressing India (Geeta Pandey on BBC) Massive preparations are under way in India to celebrate the first International Day of Yoga on Sunday - even as an unsavoury row has broken out over whether practising the ancient discipline makes one a Hindu.

The lawns of India Gate in the heart of the capital are a hive of frenetic activity. Rajpath - the King's Avenue - has been shut to traffic for days, dozens of metal detectors are in place, a massive public address system is being installed and 7,000 yoga mats are being unrolled. This is where 35,000 officials, soldiers and students are expected to perform 35 minutes of exercises, led by trained yoga teachers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is a huge yoga enthusiast and according to reports practices it daily, will be in attendance though he will not be doing yoga. Similar events are being organised in hundreds of Indian cities and towns and across the globe too. "The numbers are mindboggling, we expect tens of millions to participate," Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said.

But the day, being billed as one to promote "harmony and peace", has hit a controversial note. Some Muslim organisations say yoga is essentially a Hindu religious practise and that chanting "Om" or performing Surya Namaskar (Salutation to the Sun God) is against monotheism that Islam preaches. Angered by the debate, an MP from Mr Modi's party advised Muslims opposed to sun salutation to "go drown in the sea".

The government has been quick to point out that participation in the yoga day is not mandatory. "We're not forcing any one to participate - there's no threat, no coercion," Ms Swaraj said, adding that Hindu chants or the sun salutation were not even part of the yoga day protocol and reports that Muslims were opposed to yoga were exaggerated. But the slugfest has some yoga practitioners worried.

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