Nation & World News

Rick Santorum Announces Presidential Run

By Krishnadev Calamur on May 27th, 2015 | Last updated: May 27, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Updated at 5:25 p.m. ET

Republican Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, announced Wednesday that he is running for president.

“Working families don’t need another president tied to big government or big money,” he said in Cabot, Pa.. “And today is the day we’re going to begin to fight back.”

Santorum, who appeals to his party’s social conservatives, won the Iowa caucuses in 2012 and, donning his trademark sweater vest, challenged eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney in several other states.

Santorum enters an already-crowded Republican field. According to Real Clear Politics’ most-recent average of polls, he is in 10th place among his party’s presidential hopefuls. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has a slight lead over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who are tied for second place. Most major polls show them all trailing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

For more on Santorum’s candidacy, please read these stories on our It’s All Politics blog:

Santorum Hopes To Catch Lightning In A Bottle A Second Time

5 Things You Should Know About Rick Santorum

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Research Chimps Get Their Day In Court In New York

By Krishnadev Calamur on May 27th, 2015 | Last updated: May 27, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Two research chimps got their day in court — though they weren’t actually present in the courtroom.

Steven Wise, an attorney with the Nonhuman Rights Project, told Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Barbara Jaffe that Hercules and Leo, the 8-year-old research chimps at Stony Brook University on Long Island, are “autonomous and self-determining beings” who should be granted a writ of habeas corpus, which would effectively recognize them as legal persons. The chimps, he argued, should be moved from the university to a sanctuary in Florida.

But Christopher Coulston, an assistant state attorney general representing the university, called the case meritless. The Associated Press reports that he said granting chimps personhood would create, in the words of the AP, “a slippery slope regarding the rights of other animals.”

“The reality is these are fundamentally different species,” Coulston said. “There’s simply no precedent anywhere of an animal getting the same rights as a human.”

Jaffe, the AP adds, didn’t make a ruling Wednesday but called the proceeding “extremely interesting and well argued.”

NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang reported on the story Wednesday for our Newscast unit. He says:

“Past judges have struck down this lawsuit since it was first filed in 2013. But the current judge at the Manhattan Supreme Court is ordering the university to defend why it’s detaining the chimps.”

As we reported last month, Jaffe briefly granted Hercules and Leo a writ of habeus corpus before amending her ruling. New York courts have previously declined to extend habeas corpus to two other chimps, Tommy and Kiko, and the Nonhuman Rights Project has appealed those decisions.

Science, which has been following this story, provides the legal background:

“The case began as a salvo of lawsuits filed by NhRP in December of 2013. The group claimed that four New York chimpanzees — Hercules and Leo at Stony Brook, and two others on private property — were too cognitively and emotionally complex to be held in captivity and should be relocated to an established chimpanzee sanctuary. NhRP petitioned three lower court judges with a writ of habeas corpus, which is traditionally used to prevent people from being unlawfully imprisoned. By granting the writ, the judges would have implicitly acknowledged that chimpanzees were legal people too — a first step in freeing them.”

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U.S. Finalizes Rules To Protect Rivers, Streams From Pollution

By Brian Naylor on May 27th, 2015 | Last updated: May 27, 2015 at 3:04 pm

The Obama administration announced new clean water rules today that it says will protect sources of drinking water for 117 million Americans, rules welcomed by environmental groups, but bitterly opposed by congressional Republicans and farm state democrats.

The rules clarify which waterways fall under the Clean Water Act.

President Obama, in a statement released by the White House, said that in recent years:

“Court decisions have led to uncertainty and a need for clarification. One in three Americans now gets drinking water from streams lacking clear protection, and businesses and industries that depend on clean water face uncertainty and delay, which costs our economy every day. Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable to pollution. That’s why I called on the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clear up the confusion and uphold our basic duty to protect these vital resources.”

The rules have been in the works for some time, and have already drawn opposition from many Republicans in Congress, along with farm groups. The House approved a measure to block the new regulations earlier this month, and a similar bill is pending in the Senate.

David Luker, a cattle farmer in central Missouri, told NPR’s Scott Horsley:

“Anyone that owns any land in this country that has any type of little creek or puddle or anything in it, in order for you to do anything on your property you’re going to have to go to someone and ask permission from them to do it and then they’re going to tell you how you have to do it and they don’t care what it costs.”

The Associated Press reports that Republican Sen. James Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said his panel will consider a measure this summer and “continue our work to halt EPA’s unprecedented land grab.”

But EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, writing in a blog post on the agency’s website, said the measure doesn’t add any new burdens for agriculture:

“The final rule doesn’t create any new permitting requirements for agriculture, maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions, and even adds exclusions for features like artificial lakes and ponds, water-filled depressions from construction, and grass swales — all to make clear our goal is to stay out of agriculture’s way. Just like before, a Clean Water Act permit is only needed if a water is going to be polluted or destroyed — and all exemptions for agriculture stay in place.”

Environmental groups praised the new rules. Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica says the “common sense steps” will “ensure our waterways stay clean.”

On the other side, according to Politico, are some of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington:

“The Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have joined the American Farm Bureau Federation, Dairy Farmers of America, pesticide manufacturers, mining companies, home builders, state and local governments, water utilities, flood control districts, the timber industry, railroads, real estate developers and even golf course operators among the more than 230 organizations and companies that have listed ‘Waters of the United States’ on federal lobbying disclosures since the administration proposed the rule in March 2014.”

Several farm-state Democrats are also on record opposing the new rule. In a statement, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp pointed to bipartisan legislation she co-sponsored to send the rule back to the EPA and “require the agency to consult directly with states and those affected by the proposed rule, like local farmers and ranchers.”

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Nebraska Lawmakers Override Governor’s Veto Of Death Penalty Repeal

By Krishnadev Calamur on May 27th, 2015 | Last updated: May 27, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Updated at 5:52 p.m. ET

Lawmakers in Nebraska overrode Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto of their vote to repeal the death penalty, making it the first Republican-controlled state in the U.S. to repeal the death penalty since North Dakota in 1973. The vote was 30-19.

As we reported Tuesday, Ricketts, a Republican, vetoed the legislation flanked by law enforcement personnel, murder victims’ family members and state lawmakers who support capital punishment. Opposition to the death penalty in the conservative state came from Republicans who were against it for religious or fiscal reasons, as well as from Democrats and independents.

“The efforts and arguments of Nebraska conservatives are part of an emerging trend in the Republican Party, evidenced by the involvement of conservative Republicans in legislative efforts to repeal the death penalty in other states, such as Kansas, Kentucky, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming,” Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said in a statement.

Those who opposed capital punishment in Nebraska point out that the state hasn’t executed a prisoner since 1997.

But writing today in the Omaha World-Herald, Ricketts said:

“Even without executions in recent years, the death penalty in Nebraska has continued to play an important role in prosecuting criminals, protecting our families and ensuring that criminals remain locked behind bars. The death penalty allows prosecutors to get stronger sentences which keep dangerous criminals off our streets.

“In Nebraska, there are only 10 inmates on death row. Unlike California or Texas, which have hundreds on death row, we use the death penalty judiciously and prudently.

“Retaining the death penalty is not only important to the integrity of criminal prosecutions but also vitally important to good prison management and protecting our prison officers.”

Lawmakers in Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature needed 30 votes to override Ricketts’ veto. Under state law, all bills go through three votes. The vote last week was 32-15. In the previous rounds, it was 30-16 and 30-13.

After the vote today, Ricketts tweeted:

Nebraska’s previous attempt in 1979 to repeal capital punishment failed when the measure was vetoed by then-Gov. Charles Thone.

The death penalty is legal in 32 states; the other 18 states that have banned recently it include Maryland (2013), Connecticut (2012), Illinois (2011) and New Mexico (2009).

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More Severe Storms Possible For Flood-Hit Texas

By Brian Naylor on May 27th, 2015 | Last updated: May 27, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Updated at 2:45 p.m. ET

Residents of southeastern Texas woke up Wednesday morning to another flash-flood warning, as a new round of thunderstorms rumbled across parts of the already flood-soaked state.

The National Weather Service forecasts more storms for Wednesday across the region, some of them possibly severe.

Near Dallas, the Padera Lake dam was breached for a time, forcing evacuations before officials drained the lake to reduce pressure on the earthen structure.

The Houston Emergency Operations Center confirmed an additional storm-related death Wednesday. As many as 18 people have died in flooding and storms in Texas and Oklahoma since Sunday, with many others unaccounted for.

As NPR’s John Burnett reported from Austin on Morning Edition, cleanup efforts are well underway in places such as the Shoal Creek Saloon:

“Owner Ray Canfield hopes to be putting boiled crawfish and boudin sausage back on his tables after he power-washes all the mud out, replaces all of his kitchen equipment, and satisfies the platoon of city code people.

“But the Cajun chef is a whole lot better off than folks other parts of the water-logged Southwest.

“Gazing down upon the scoured landscape left by the historic flood on the Blanco River, an amazed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott described the ‘tsunami-like’ power of the water.

“When the moisture-swollen storm reached Houston on the coastal bend, it dumped nearly a foot of rain in some places. The aptly-named Bayou City…became an aquatic metropolis yesterday. The mayor has declared a local state of disaster.

“Panicked drivers abandoned an estimated 2,500 vehicles … as the murky water crept up highway ramps and onto roadways. The flooding damaged 500 to 700 homes in Harris County.”

The Houston Chronicle reports that videos shot by cameras in drones show “stunning images of wrecked bridges, destroyed buildings and swelling waterways during the Memorial Day weekend.”

One video shows a bridge over the Blanco River that was destroyed by flooding over the Memorial Day weekend. The bridge — located on Fischer Store Road in Wimberley — failed after water levels rose following more than 12 inches of rainfall on Saturday, according to the video’s description.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, reports there has been criticism of the warnings issued by local officials in advance of the weekend storms:

“Authorities defended their warnings to residents ahead of the weather, which included alerts via phone and in person, but acknowledged challenges with reaching tourists and said a messaging system in Houston is still waiting for improvements.

” ‘Nobody was saying, “Get out; get out; get out,” ‘ said Brenda Morton of Wimberley. ‘We’re pretty trained, so we were calculating. We knew the flood plain. People who were visiting or had summer homes, you have company from out of town, you don’t know. You don’t know when that instant is.’

“Authorities in surrounding Hays County said warnings included multiple cellphone alerts and calls to landlines. Some received in-person warnings to evacuate, but officials could not say whether those in the washed-away home talked to police.”

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Federal Appeals Court Blocks Arkansas Ban On Abortion After 12 Weeks

By Bill Chappell on May 27th, 2015 | Last updated: May 27, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit has blocked an Arkansas law that bans abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The case was filed by two doctors on their own and their patients’ behalf.

The court’s ruling notes:

“By banning abortions after 12 weeks’ gestation, the Act prohibits women from making the ultimate decision to terminate a pregnancy at a point before viability. Because the State made no attempt to refute the plaintiffs’ assertions of fact, the district court’s summary judgment order must be affirmed.”

NPR’s Jennifer Ludden reports that:

“Arkansas’ law required doctors to test for a fetal heartbeat, then banned abortion after 12 weeks if a heartbeat was present. But the law’s opponents noted that all fetuses at that stage have a heartbeat, yet none is considered viable outside the womb.

“The Eighth Circuit ruling notes that the Supreme Court gives women the right to an abortion up to the point of viability, generally considered to be around 24 weeks. The ruling goes on at length about how technology is pushing the point of viability earlier and earlier. But it says the state of Arkansas presented no evidence that a 12-week-old fetus is ever viable.”

NPR’s Nina Totenberg notes that “a three-judge panel of judges all appointed by President George W. Bush permanently barred the ban on abortions after 12 weeks from going into effect.” she adds:

“Arkansas’ law is the second-most restrictive in the country. North Dakota has the most restrictive law, banning abortions after six weeks gestation, but that law too has been blocked by the courts. And both states have backup laws banning abortions after 20 weeks and making them more difficult to obtain. In all, 10 states now have laws banning abortions after 20 weeks.”

The Arkansas Legislature approved the strict law in 2013 — and then voted to override a veto by then-Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat. The state’s governor is now Asa Hutchinson.

As we reported in 2013:

The bill, whose main sponsor is Sen. Jason Rapert, would require anyone who provides abortions in Arkansas to “perform an abdominal ultrasound test necessary to detect a heartbeat of an unborn human individual according to standard medical practice.”

“If a heartbeat is detected and the pregnancy is at 12 weeks or greater, an abortion would be forbidden. Exceptions are provided for cases of medical emergency, rape, and other situations.”

In recent weeks, Arkansas lawmakers have approved a bill banning most abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy as well as a bill that doubles the period a woman must wait before undergoing an abortion, to two days.

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Penn State Bounces Fraternity For 3 Years Over Nude Photo Scandal

By Bill Chappell on May 27th, 2015 | Last updated: May 27, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Tripling a penalty that was announced this spring, Penn State has shut down the school’s Kappa Delta Rho fraternity chapter for three years, after an inquiry over a Facebook group page that collected pictures of nude women also uncovered other transgressions.

“The suspension is based on an investigation after reports in March that fraternity members were posting photos to a private Facebook page that showed nude women, some of whom appeared unconscious,” member station WPSU reports. “The investigation also revealed hazing and drug dealing.”

Update at 11:40 a.m. ET: Kappa Delta Rho Responds

NPR’s Jeff Brady reports, “Kappa Delta Rho executive director Joseph Rosenburg says the fraternity respects Penn State’s decision and will seek recognition again in three years.

From the national fraternity’s statement:

“We agree completely that the conduct described in the statement is unacceptable. As stated in the Report of the Inter Fraternity Council (IFC), only a few of our members were accused of such misconduct. As we outlined previously, we have initiated disciplinary proceedings against members accused of any wrongdoing, and have established educational programs and other measures, such as a hazing hotline, to address and prevent future misconduct.”

Our original post continues:

The three-year ban comes two months after Penn State suspended Kappa Delta Rho for one year. At the time, Emily Chappell, the opinions editor of campus newspaper The Daily Collegian, told NPR’s Scott Simon that the problems found at the fraternity went far beyond one house, or one school.

Here’s some of their conversation:

“CHAPPELL: We were shocked and disgusted when this information came out. You know, one of our first editorials was just somewhat emotional — us explaining that we are very frustrated that this has happened. We are disgusted. These actions are vile, and we, as a student newspaper, are putting our foot down. We’re not going to stand for it. As more information has unfolded, specifically the anonymous interview that came out in Philadelphia magazine – that was another topic of one of our editorials.

“SIMON: I don’t know that story.

“CHAPPELL: An anonymous member of the fraternity was interviewed by Philadelphia magazine. And went on to discuss that he didn’t think that what was happening was a big deal, that people were being unfairly prosecuted by the media and blamed for things that had been happening for years, that are happening everywhere. You know, people just having some fun, and we were just livid with what was said.”

Of the school’s report that came out Tuesday afternoon, WPSU’s Emily Reddy reports, “The university says pledges were forced to ‘run errands, clean the fraternity house, and participate in boxing matches.’ They were also forced to hold a plank position with bottle caps under their elbows.”

Penn State says, “Pledges also were made to create stories containing pornographic images and a ‘sex position of the day;’ members regularly posted embarrassing photos of women; used demeaning language to describe females; and cultivated a persistent climate of humiliation for several females.”

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U.S. Indicts 14 In FIFA Corruption Inquiry

By Mark Katkov on May 27th, 2015 | Last updated: May 27, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

Arrest and search warrants have been executed against senior FIFA officials and several executives for what the Justice Department says was a corrupt scheme that gleaned “well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks” over the course of 24 years.

The department announced that it has indicted 14 people from the U.S. and South America — including nine senior officials with FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. Seven of the FIFA officials were arrested in Switzerland early Wednesday.

“This really is the World Cup of fraud,” says Richard Weber, chief of the IRS’ Criminal Investigation unit, “and today we are issuing FIFA a red card.”

Acting upon a U.S. request, Swiss police apprehended the seven FIFA officials at the Baur au Lac, a luxury hotel on Lake Zurich where they had gathered ahead of FIFA’s pending presidential election.

Of the nine officials who were indicted, two of them are FIFA vice presidents. Charges in the 47-count indictment include bribery, racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud. Five corporate executives were also indicted.

FIFA says it has provisionally banned those who were named in the charges.

Nearly all of the charges center on tournaments and other activities that took place in the U.S. and South America. The bribes allegedly influenced the awarding of media and marketing rights to international tournaments.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch also says U.S. investigators linked both the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2011 FIFA presidential election to corruption.

A sponsorship deal between Brazil’s national soccer team and “a major U.S. sportswear company” was also tied to bribery, the attorney general says.

Also Wednesday morning, Swiss federal prosecutors said they had opened an investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively. But FIFA is reiterating that it would not consider moving those tournaments.

Update at 2:50 p.m. ET: Blatter: ‘We Understand The Disappointment’

Breaking a silence that had drawn speculation and criticism as it lingered, FIFA President Sepp Blatter says that while the events are “unfortunate,” FIFA is taking steps to root out corruption, and “we welcome the actions and the investigations by the U.S. and Swiss authorities.”

He added: “such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game. Following the events of today, the independent Ethics Committee… took swift action to provisionally ban those individuals named by the authorities from any football-related activities at the national and international level.”

Calling it a difficult time for soccer, Blatter said, “We understand the disappointment that many have expressed.”

Update at 10:50 a.m. ET: U.S. Details Charges

Announcing the charges, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the accused officials “corrupted the business of worldwide soccer” to enrich themselves.

At a mid-morning news conference in New York, Lynch said that “beginning in 1991, two generations of soccer officials” in the U.S. and South America used positions of trust to obtain money in return for help in securing marketing and media rights and other favors.

Lynch said federal agents are executing search warrants at CONCACAF offices in Miami today. And she said the federal investigation found that the Copa America tournament, which is set to be played in the United States next year for the first time, was also the center of bribes.

She stated that the money involved was found to be “$110 million — nearly a third of the legitimate costs” for several years’ worth of rights to the tournament.

Lynch noted that a former CONCACAF president who ostensibly served without pay actually received some $10 million in bribes.

Our original post continues:

“Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner — the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States — are among the soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery offenses,” the U.S. Justice Department said earlier today.

[See the full list of those indicted at the bottom of this post.]

The seven people arrested today are among nine senior FIFA officials — including two of the group’s current vice presidents — the U.S. has indicted. Charges in the 47-count indictment include bribery, racketeering, money laundering, and wire fraud. Five U.S. and South American corporate executives were also indicted.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch says:

“It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable.”

The U.S. attorney’s charges were first reported by The New York Times.

At a news conference today, FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio said the organization’s president, Sepp Blatter of Switzerland, was not a target of the investigations and that Friday’s election for FIFA president would go ahead as scheduled. Blatter is being challenged by Jordanian Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein.

The U.S. is requesting the extradition of the seven officials. Swiss authorities said the detainees will be questioned Wednesday and have the right to contest their extradition.

In addition to the 14 people indicted in the U.S. case, an additional four individuals and two corporations had earlier pleaded guilty under seal. In those arrangements, at least three people each forfeited more than $1 million — including one, Brazilian sports executive José Hawilla, who agreed to hand over $151 million.

According to the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police, the U.S. says others are accused of bribing the officials:

“The bribery suspects — representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms — are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries — delegates of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organizations — totaling more than USD 100 million. In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America. According to the US request, these crimes were agreed and prepared in the US, and payments were carried out via US banks.”

In the investigation concerning Russia and Qatar, Swiss authorities raided FIFA’s headquarters early this morning, seizing electronic data and documents. Swiss prosecutors said they will interview 10 FIFA executive committee members who took part in the votes to award the World Cup to Russia and Qatar.

FIFA spokesman de Gregorio said FIFA had gone to Swiss authorities in November with concerns that the bidding process was corrupt.

“This is the consequences of what we initiated,” said de Gregorio. “So it’s a surprise that it happened today, but it’s not a surprise that it happened.

“We cannot investigate as the police can or a general prosecutor can. So that’s the reason why we did it and that’s the reason why we fully cooperate.”

FIFA governs the world’s most popular sport. The multibillion-dollar organization has been accused of bribery and corruption for decades.

The 14 people indicted (descriptions from the Justice Dept.):

FIFA:

  • Jeffrey Webb: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, Caribbean Football Union (CFU) executive committee member and Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) president.

  • Eduardo Li: Current FIFA executive committee member-elect, CONCACAF executive committee member and Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEFUT) president.

  • Julio Rocha: Current FIFA development officer. Former Central American Football Union (UNCAF) president and Nicaraguan soccer federation (FENIFUT) president.

  • Costas Takkas: Current attaché to the CONCACAF president. Former CIFA general secretary.

  • Jack Warner: Former FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, CFU president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special adviser.

  • Eugenio Figueredo: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member. Former CONMEBOL president and Uruguayan soccer federation (AUF) president.

  • Rafael Esquivel: Current CONMEBOL executive committee member and Venezuelan soccer federation (FVF) president.

  • José Maria Marin: Current member of the FIFA organizing committee for the Olympic football tournaments. Former CBF president.

  • Nicolás Leoz: Former FIFA executive committee member and CONMEBOL president.

Executives:

  • Alejandro Burzaco: Controlling principal of Torneos y Competencias S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.

  • Aaron Davidson: President of Traffic Sports USA Inc. (Traffic USA).

  • Hugo and Mariano Jinkis: Controlling principals of Full Play Group S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.

  • José Margulies: Controlling principal of Valente Corp. and Somerton Ltd.

The cases of the people and corporations that previously pleaded guilty date back to 2013. They include:

  • Daryll Warner, son of defendant Jack Warner and a former FIFA development officer
  • Daryan Warner
  • Charles Blazer, the former CONCACAF general secretary and a former FIFA executive committee member
  • José Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group, the Brazilian sports marketing conglomerate
  • Traffic Sports USA Inc. and Traffic Sports International Inc.
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6 Top World Soccer Officials Arrested In Switzerland On U.S. Corruption Charges

By Mark Katkov on May 27th, 2015 | Last updated: May 27, 2015 at 5:04 am

Six soccer officials with FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, were arrested early this morning by Zurich police in the Baur au Lac, the luxury hotel on Lake Zurich where they were staying.

The Swiss Department of Justice and Police said in a statement that the arrests were made at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. According to the statement, the U.S. alleges the officials accepted bribes and kickbacks from the mid-1990s to the present day.

The U.S. Attorney’s charges were first reported by The New York Times.

The officials are in Zurich for the FIFA Congress which is scheduled to elect FIFA’s president on Friday. Longtime incumbent Sepp Blatter of Switzerland is being challenged by Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein.

The U.S. is requesting the extradition of the six officials to face trial in the United States. Swiss authorities said the detainees will be questioned today and have the right to contest their extradition.

According to the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police, the U.S. says others are accused of bribing the officials:

“The bribery suspects – representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms – are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries – delegates of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organizations – totaling more than USD 100 million. In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America. According to the US request, these crimes were agreed and prepared in the US, and payments were carried out via US banks.”

FIFA governs the world’s most popular sport. The multi-billion dollar organization has been accused of bribery and corruption for decades.

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Nebraska Governor Vetoes Bill That Repealed Death Penalty

By Krishnadev Calamur on May 26th, 2015 | Last updated: May 27, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed legislation passed last week that repealed the state’s death penalty.

“Please sustain my veto. Please stand with the citizens of Nebraska and law enforcement for public safety,” he said, flanked by law enforcement personnel, murder victims’ family members and state lawmakers who support capital punishment.

As we reported last week, “opposition to the death penalty came from Republican lawmakers who are against it for fiscal or religious reasons, as well as Democrats and independents.

“Nebraska has not executed a prisoner in nearly 20 years — something Ricketts, a Tea Party Republican who strongly supports capital punishment, wants to change. He said this week that Nebraska had bought new lethal injections to resume the practice.”

Last week’s vote was 32-15. The state has a unicameral Legislature where all bills go through three votes. The vote in the previous rounds were 30-16 and 30-13.

It would take 30 votes to override a veto from Ricketts.

Fred Knapp of member station NET News tells our Newscast unit that one supporter of repeal “has already announced he’ll switch and side with the governor. A close vote is expected Wednesday afternoon.”

If lawmakers succeed in overriding the veto, Nebraska will become the first Republican-controlled state in the U.S. to repeal the death penalty since North Dakota in 1973.

The previous attempt in 1979 to repeal capital punishment in the state failed when the measure was vetoed by then-Gov. Charles Thone.

The death penalty is legal in 32 states; the 18 states that have banned it recently include Maryland (2013), Connecticut (2012), Illinois (2011) and New Mexico (2009).

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