About the author  ⁄ WFIN

iStock/Thinkstock(ATHENS, Greece) — If the news about Greece’s debt crisis has left you wondering about how the country could have gotten itself into such an economic pickle, one thing is clear — it didn’t happen overnight, and there’s no single cause.

The roots of the crisis run deep with many contributing factors, including the highest pension spending in the European Union. But there are also political and cultural factors.

“The moment of truth for Greece and for the euro zone approaches,” said Hari Tsoukas, who was born in Karpenissi, Greece, and is a professor of organization studies at Warwick Business School in the U.K.

Hours before a midnight deadline Tuesday night when Greece defaulted on a $1.7 billion payment to the International Monetary Fund, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there will be no new negotiations about Greece’s bailout.

Here are some of the changes Greek workers have experienced and will face head-on with austerity measures imposed by creditors from the last five years:

1. Inefficient Pension System

Greece spent 17.5 percent of its economic output on pension payments, the most in the E.U., according to the most recent Eurostat data from 2012. But with existing cuts, that figure has fallen by more than one percentage point. Italy, France and Austria each spent about 15 percent of their GDP on pensions in 2012, according to Eurostat.

Greece’s struggle to pay pensioners is even more evident this week with banks closed and Greeks unable to withdraw more than 60 euros from ATMs.

Not only is the pension system pricey, but it is highly fragmented and political, Tsoukas told ABC News from Athens. Trade unions, such as those that may represent the police or military, can exert political power and reap better pension benefits.

“Not all Greek pensions are generous,” Tsoukas said. “This is one of the things I find bizarre.”

His elderly mother receives a farmer’s pension of 600 euros a month while his father, who ran a shop, receives a small business pension of 700 euros, cut 40 percent compared to what they received five years ago.

“It’s impossible to further reduce that small pension,” Tsoukas said.

2. Benefits

Government employees have had some of the best worker benefits in Greece. For example, an unmarried daughter used to receive her dead father’s pension, Tsoukas said, though that specific practice stopped after the bailout agreement was made in 2010.

Some workers received atypical bonuses for showing up to work on time, but these bonuses were paid so workers were not paid higher pensionable salary. Either way, it’s a practice that austerity measures eliminated.

“These were bizarre bonuses with bizarre names and misnomers, not because people regularly attended work,” Tsoukas said. “It was a cheap way to give people more money without necessarily encumbering itself with paying higher pensions.”

3. Early Retirement

In 2013, Greece’s retirement age was raised by two years to 67. According to government data, however, the average Greek man retires at 63 and the average woman at 59.

And some police and military workers have retired as early as age 40 or 45, Tsoukas said.

There are also unique benefits for some workers. Female employees of state-owned banks with children under 18 could retire as early 43, he said.

“These kinds of exemptions were made — particularly young mothers with young children who were able to take advantage of this and work 15 or 20 years for a reduced pension,” he said.

4. High Unemployment and Work Culture Issues

A man who gave his first name as Apostolis, 39, who works in a store in Athens selling organic products, told ABC News he’s concerned that his boss does not have the money to pay him. Still, he said, “It’s not too serious. First of all I could go a bit earlier in the evening and go to the beach to surf. Secondly, I will have a ready excuse not to pay electricity and water bills that have just arrived home.”

The unemployment rate is 25.6 percent in Greece.

John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement and executive coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray and Christmas, told ABC News that entrepreneurism is in dire straits in Greece. He said he’s not surprised by the shop worker’s response.

“It’s kind of endemic and built into that culture that if I don’t get paid, I can’t pay you. It’s not the right foundation culturally for the economy to come out of this tailspin,” Challenger said.

5. Tax Evasion

The country has struggled to collect taxes from citizens, especially the wealthy, which is a problem when Greece’s national debt is 177 percent of its GDP. Italy’s debt is about 133 percent of its GDP as of 2014, according to Eurostat. Greece’s far-left government has said it wants to target wealthy tax evaders, but creating a more equitable tax system has been challenging.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Chris Jackson – WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) — The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, Princes Charles and Camilla, attended a special event at Lancaster House Tuesday night, hosting a poignant reception to support the charity Elephant Family where they serve as joint presidents.

The Duchess of Cornwall’s late brother Mark Shand was the driving force and founder of the charity that seeks to raise awareness for the Asian elephant, which is endangered. Ninety percent of the population has been lost to poaching and modernization that has destroyed the Asian elephant’s habitat.

Shand died in April 2014 in New York City when he slipped and fell outside a hotel near Gramercy Park.

“As joint presidents of this marvelous charity Elephant Family, my wife and I could not be more proud to support their vital work” Prince Charles told supporters who came out to raise awareness. “After all, we are all here to ensure that dear Mark’s hard-won legacy is maintained and enhanced.”

They were accompanied by Princess Eugenie, who is the younger daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, who has also been an outspoken proponent for the endangered Asian elephant.

“This evening’s events are designed to highlight the quest to save Asia’s endangered elephants from a frighteningly precipitous decline. There may be no more than fifty thousand left in total in the wild across the thirteen countries where they are literally clinging to survival,” Prince Charles told supporters before an auction of rickshaws was opened to raise funds for the Elephant Family charity.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Girl Scouts of Western Washington/Facebook(SEATTLE) — The Girl Scouts of Western Washington recently returned $100,000 to a donor who sent a follow-up note to the donation requesting that the gift “not be used to support transgender girls,” the group said.

Despite the loss, the Girl Scouts have now raised the amount back, and some more, in less than 24 hours since they began an Indiegogo campaign using the hashtag #ForEVERYgirl on Monday.

“Girl Scouts empowers EVERY girl regardless of her gender identity, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity [and] sexual orientation,” the group said on a video for their campaign. “EVERY girl deserves access to a safe friendly environment where she can stand up for what she believes in and be proud of who she is.”

The Girl Scouts of Western Washington added they were “thrilled” when they initially received the $100,000 gift, which would have been used to make sure 500 girls would get the financial support they need to join the troop.

The CEO of the Girl Scouts for that region told a local paper that she would not reveal the donor’s identity out of respect for their privacy.

“The relationship is complex,” CEO Megan Ferland told the Seattle Met, adding that she was “very sad” when she got the donor’s follow-up letter.

“Girl Scouts is for every girl,” Ferland said. “And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”

Ferland previously made headlines in 2012 when she fought for 7-year-old transgender girl Bobby Montoya to join a troop in Denver, Colorado, after she was initially denied entry.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Girl Scouts of Western Washington/Facebook(SEATTLE) — The Girl Scouts of Western Washington recently returned $100,000 to a donor who sent a follow-up note to the donation requesting that the gift “not be used to support transgender girls,” the group said.

Despite the loss, the Girl Scouts have now raised the amount back, and some more, in less than 24 hours since they began an Indiegogo campaign using the hashtag #ForEVERYgirl on Monday.

“Girl Scouts empowers EVERY girl regardless of her gender identity, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity [and] sexual orientation,” the group said on a video for their campaign. “EVERY girl deserves access to a safe friendly environment where she can stand up for what she believes in and be proud of who she is.”

The Girl Scouts of Western Washington added they were “thrilled” when they initially received the $100,000 gift, which would have been used to make sure 500 girls would get the financial support they need to join the troop.

The CEO of the Girl Scouts for that region told a local paper that she would not reveal the donor’s identity out of respect for their privacy.

“The relationship is complex,” CEO Megan Ferland told the Seattle Met, adding that she was “very sad” when she got the donor’s follow-up letter.

“Girl Scouts is for every girl,” Ferland said. “And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”

Ferland previously made headlines in 2012 when she fought for 7-year-old transgender girl Bobby Montoya to join a troop in Denver, Colorado, after she was initially denied entry.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Women think about their boobs almost as often as men think about sex…kind of.

Elle magazine knows how important boobs are to women and their everyday lives, so the magazine conducted its first ever “Boob Survey” on Elle.com, and discovered some interesting facts from 7,000 readers.

Women definitely judge their breasts. Sixty percent of the women polled think they look like udders, and 21 percent compare their breasts to fruit for the sake of understanding the size.

Speaking of size, 60 percent of the women polled have never considered getting a breast augmentation, meaning 40 percent have. For those who have not considered the procedure, they probably prefer the quick fix: 29 percent of the sample set have stuffed tissues in their bras. On the other hand, 30 percent use sports bras to make their breast look smaller.

Even if they are dealing with heavy hitters, women like to keep it light. Eleven percent have named their breasts, a fact that shocked the magazine. Sixteen percent have made their boyfriend try on their bra just for fun…or, maybe to teach him a lesson in feminism.

Speaking of feminism, 26 percent of the women polled said they have had to “school” someone on what term to use when talking about their breasts, since there are just so many. One reader commented, “I do wish people would stop using the word ‘boobs.’ It sounds like a fifth-grader would say that.”

Perhaps Elle will name its survey something else next time.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

ABC/Richard Harbaugh(WASHINGTON) — Nothing brings Congress together like Taylor Swift.

Members are holding at least 19 fundraisers around the pop star’s two Washington, D.C. concerts in mid-July, according to the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks political fundraising.

While tickets can be found on Swift’s website for about $180, members are asking supporters for as much as $5,000 in political contributions in exchange for concert seats at Nationals Park on July 13 and 14.

“With so much competition for time and money, politicians are always looking for new and creative ways to fund-raise,” said Jenn Topper, a spokesperson for the Sunlight Foundation.

Swift has been a major draw for politicians since 2010, Topper said, citing the nonprofit’s data. But members traditionally take advantage of any well-known musician in town — from Bruce Springsteen, to the Jonas Brothers.

While both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have plans for Swift’s shows, the 25-year-old singer has kept her own political affiliation ambiguous.

Swift voted for the first time in 2008, and told People Magazine she said she “went with her gut instinct” in the voting booth.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — INTERLEAGUE
Pittsburgh 5, Detroit 4, 14 Innings
Minnesota 8, Cincinnati 5
Chi White Sox 2, St. Louis 1, 11 Innings
Colorado 2, Oakland 1
Seattle 5, San Diego 1

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Texas 8, Baltimore 6
Boston 4, Toronto 3
Cleveland 6, Tampa Bay 2
Houston 4, Kansas City 0
L.A. Angels 2, N-Y Yankees 1

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Chi Cubs 1, N-Y Mets 0
Miami 5, San Francisco 3
Washington 6, Atlanta 1
Milwaukee 4, Philadelphia 3
L.A. Dodgers 6, Arizona 4

WOMEN’S WORLD CUP

USA 2, Germany 0

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Peter Kramer/NBC(NEW YORK) — Jeremy Renner recently responded to rumors about his sexual preference. So is he or isn’t he?

“I’m not going to try to prove what I am or am not,” the Avengers star told Playboy magazine. “It’s silly, right? When you Google yourself and the first thing that comes up is ‘Jeremy Renner gay,’ it’s like, ‘Oh, now you’ve arrived. You’re now a giant star.'”

He continued, “I don’t care, ultimately, if that’s what people want to think, read and care about. F***ing say whatever the hell you want about me. Look at where we’re at socially — leaps and bounds ahead of where we started. That’s an amazing thing. To suggest that it’s negative, that being gay is a terrible thing, a perversion or whatever — I just don’t get it.”

When the conversation turned to family, Renner talked about the home he’s in now and his plans for his beloved daughter Ava, 2.

“This will be my daughter’s place in the future,” he said. “I own it now, but Ava owns me. When she drew her first breath and with that palmar reflex grabbed my finger, the thought came to me, if all goes well, this same scenario will happen when I take my last breath.”

With his daughter and his love for her in mind, Renner also opened up about the struggles of his ongoing divorce from ex Sonni Pacheco. The two announced they were married late last year, but the two split months later. Divorce proceedings began earlier this year.

“I haven’t slept more than four hours a night in the past week,” he revealed. “My skin’s breaking out. I’ve got dark circles under my eyes. I’m dehydrated. I look like s**t. I felt pretty insecure walking into a photo shoot this morning, and I was running late because I had just gotten out of my fourth deposition for the divorce.”

The Oscar-nominated actor’s parents also split when he was just in third grade and his situation contributed to the man he is today. “They didn’t have a lot of money, and after the divorce, we moved around a lot. Up until junior high, I thought a new grade meant a new school for everybody,” he said, adding that may be what spawned his “shyness.”

Renner won’t be acting shy, however, when he stars in his next film, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, out July 31.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Peter Kramer/NBC(NEW YORK) — Jeremy Renner recently responded to rumors about his sexual preference. So is he or isn’t he?

“I’m not going to try to prove what I am or am not,” the Avengers star told Playboy magazine. “It’s silly, right? When you Google yourself and the first thing that comes up is ‘Jeremy Renner gay,’ it’s like, ‘Oh, now you’ve arrived. You’re now a giant star.'”

He continued, “I don’t care, ultimately, if that’s what people want to think, read and care about. F***ing say whatever the hell you want about me. Look at where we’re at socially — leaps and bounds ahead of where we started. That’s an amazing thing. To suggest that it’s negative, that being gay is a terrible thing, a perversion or whatever — I just don’t get it.”

When the conversation turned to family, Renner talked about the home he’s in now and his plans for his beloved daughter Ava, 2.

“This will be my daughter’s place in the future,” he said. “I own it now, but Ava owns me. When she drew her first breath and with that palmar reflex grabbed my finger, the thought came to me, if all goes well, this same scenario will happen when I take my last breath.”

With his daughter and his love for her in mind, Renner also opened up about the struggles of his ongoing divorce from ex Sonni Pacheco. The two announced they were married late last year, but the two split months later. Divorce proceedings began earlier this year.

“I haven’t slept more than four hours a night in the past week,” he revealed. “My skin’s breaking out. I’ve got dark circles under my eyes. I’m dehydrated. I look like s**t. I felt pretty insecure walking into a photo shoot this morning, and I was running late because I had just gotten out of my fourth deposition for the divorce.”

The Oscar-nominated actor’s parents also split when he was just in third grade and his situation contributed to the man he is today. “They didn’t have a lot of money, and after the divorce, we moved around a lot. Up until junior high, I thought a new grade meant a new school for everybody,” he said, adding that may be what spawned his “shyness.”

Renner won’t be acting shy, however, when he stars in his next film, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, out July 31.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — A report commissioner by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, a part of the Justice Department, found that multiple shortcomings on the part of law enforcement contributed to the violent riots in Ferguson, Missouri last year.

The report has been disseminated to certain agencies, but the final version won’t be released for a few weeks. The draft version of the report, obtained by ABC News, included 42 findings related to law enforcement’s reaction to the initial protests.

Among the findings were that inconsistent training and different policing philosophies contributed to poor incident command and management, that the Ferguson Police Department and the St. Louis County Police Department used only immediate tactical responses do to the mistaken belief that riots would be “short-lived,” and that use of canine units “unnecessarily [incited] fear and anger among amassing crowds.”

The report also cited military-style uniforms, equipment, weapons and armored vehicles used by law enforcement that “produced a negative public reaction.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →