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FIFA Corruption Bust, India Heat, Pregnant Hands

SENIOR FIFA OFFICIALS ARRESTED IN CORRUPTION PROBE

Swiss police have arrested at least 14 senior FIFA officials on charges that include “racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy,” the AFP reports. The charges follow an FBI investigation and allege “widespread corruption in FIFA over the past two decades, involving bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals.” Several of those arrested face extradition to the United States. Swiss prosecutors have opened a separate criminal case into the 2018 and 2022 football World Cup bids.

  • The decisions to award Russia and Qatar the organization of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups have been highly controversial, especially the latter with reports of widespread and far-reaching corruption last year in The Sunday Times.
  • Swiss daily Le Temps reports that the arrests took place at a luxury hotel in Zurich where the officials were gathered for their annual meeting, ahead of the organization’s presidential election, planned for Friday.
  • FIFA’s increasingly controversial president Sepp Blatter is standing for a fifth term after all candidates but one gave up. Last week, former World Player of the Year Luis Figo of Portugal pulled out of the race, blasting the vote as “a plebiscite for the delivery of absolute power to one man.”
  • In a press conference following the arrests, FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio said Friday’s election would take place as planned and ruled out a re-vote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

INDIA HEAT WAVE KILLS MORE THAN 1,100

Photo: Prabhat Kumar Verma/Pacific Press/ZUMA

Scorching temperatures over the past two weeks have killed more than 1,100 people across India, especially in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, The Hindustan Times reports. The temperatures are expected to remain well above 40 degrees Celsius in the coming days, with forecasters saying relief won’t come until the end of the month, when the monsoon season arrives on the Indian mainland.


ISRAEL STRIKES GAZA AFTER ROCKET FIRE

The Israeli air force has struck Islamic Jihad and Hamas training facilities in Gaza overnight after a rocket was fired from the enclave late Tuesday, Haaretz reports. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned that Gaza “will pay a heavy price” should the violence escalate. On Monday, the UN Special Coordinator published a report in which the current ceasefire agreed to after last summer’s 50-day war was described as “perilously fragile,” news agency Ma’an notes.

  • In a report published today, Amnesty International accuses Hamas of having used the conflict to eliminate political opponents, accusing them of “collaborating” with Israel. The 44-page report shows how some prisoners were tortured and executed in public.

ON THIS DAY


On May 27, 1647, the first “witch” was executed in the U.S. Check out what else happened on this day here!


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Rich families from Guangzhou or Beijing are flocking to the new Asian "villages" of the famous French vacation brand “Club Med.” Activities include mahjong and karaoke but the beloved GOs (Genteel Organizers) are still here, Ursula Gauthier reports for French weekly L’Obs: “For Raphaël Erez, who has been director of the Giulin village for four months, China is a breath of fresh air compared to the ‘blasé’ atmosphere of the European villages. ‘Here, everything is new for the vacationers,’ he says. ‘Chinese people are delighted, full of enthusiasm. They want to try everything and have new experiences. It's just like in the original Club Med, in 1950, when France welcomed, amazed, this new concept of holidays.’”

Read the full article, In China, Club Med Is A Brand New Idea 65 Years After Its Founding.


ISIS ON 3 FRONTS: SYRIA, IRAQ, LIBYA

  • The Syrian army has launched a new offensive against ISIS in the terrorist group’s strongholds of Raqqa and Yarmouk, as well as in the strategic city of Palmyra, killing dozens of fighters, Al Jazeera reports.
  • This follows Iraq’s offensive in the Anbar province against the Islamist forces, which suffered a setback late yesterday after several ISIS militants carried out suicide attacks against the army, killing at least 17 troops, according to AP.
  • Libya’s recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said yesterday he had survived an assassination attempt by gunmen, Al Arabiya reports. It’s unclear who the gunmen were as fighting among different rebel groups hasn’t ceased since the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi. ISIS has also been benefitting from the chaos in Libya and is growing, as their capture of the city of Sidra last week showed.

EXTRA! DEADLY FLOODS IN TEXAS

At least 17 people have been killed in Texas and northern Mexico from floods, storms and tornadoes, with dozens of others still missing. Read more about it in our Extra! feature.


$80 MILLION

The Chinese police have arrested 175 people as part of what authorities are describing as the biggest ever operation to recover 1,168 stolen artefacts worth some $80 million. The cultural relics include a coiled jade dragon, one of the earliest known depictions of the mythological creature. Read more from the BBC.


VATICAN: IRELAND GAY MARRIAGE VOTE A “DEFEAT FOR HUMANITY”

Days after 62% of Irish voters backed a constitutional change to allow same-sex couples to marry, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, described the result as not just “a defeat for Christian principle” but also “a defeat for humanity.”


HERPES VS. SKIN CANCER

Scientists have successfully developed a new version of the herpes virus that causes cold sores and some cases of genital herpes to treat skin cancer patients. Their results, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, show that some patients saw their survival substantially prolonged, compared with current treatments. Read more from The Washington Post.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



VERBATIM

“One hadith states that those who have sexual intercourse with their hands will find their hands pregnant in the afterlife,” a Turkish Muslim televangelist stated, causing a storm of ridicule on social media.

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Society

In Denmark, Beloved Christmas TV Special Cancelled For Blackface Scenes

The director of the 1997 episode complained that TV executives are being "too sensitive."

Screenshot of a child wearing apparent blackface as part of a vintage "TV Christmas calendar" episode on Danish TV

Screenshot of the controversial scene in a vintage episode of Denmark's traditional "TV Christmas calendar"

Amélie Reichmut

If there’s one thing Scandinavians take seriously, it’s Christmas. And over the past half-century, in addition to all the family and religious traditions, most Nordic countries share a passion for what's known as the "TV Christmas calendar": 24 nightly television episodes that air between Dec. 1 and Christmas Eve.

Originally, the programs were strictly aimed at children; but over the years, the stories evolved more towards family entertainment, with some Christmas calendars becoming classics that generations of Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and others have watched each year as national and family traditions in their own right.

But this year in Denmark, one vintage episode has been pulled from the air because of a blackface scene.

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