Friday, May 29, 2015

Seth Blatter Says The Vote For Russia And Qatar Is The Root Problem Of The FIFA Crisis

ZURICH — The worst corruption crisis in soccer history stems from the governing body's decision to award Russia and Qatar the next two World Cup tournaments, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Friday.
Blatter spoke at the FIFA congress hours before the presidential election in which he is a seeking a fifth term. He has refused calls to resign after FIFA was targeted by U.S. and Swiss authorities in separate corruption investigations.
In 2010, Russia was chosen to host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar was awarded the 2022 tournament amid widespread allegations of wrongdoing.
"If two other countries had emerged from the envelope, I think we would not have these problems today," Blatter said. "But we can't go back in time. We are not prophets. We can't say what would have happened."
The United States was one of the losing bidders for the 2022 World Cup. On Wednesday, U.S. authorities indicted 14 people on bribery, racketeering, fraud and money-laundering charges going back to the 1990s.
Seven of the officials — including two serving FIFA vice presidents — were arrested in Zurich on Wednesday ahead of the congress.
The two criminal investigations have cast a new shadow on Blatter's 17-year reign as president of FIFA. The 209 FIFA member nations will decide later Friday whether to stick with the 79-year-old Blatter or vote for Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
Amid the dramatic build up to the election, UEFA president Michel Platini appealed to Blatter to immediately step down — calls the president has rejected.
"I am willing to accept the president of FIFA is responsible for everything but I would at least like to share that responsibility with everyone," Blatter said in a presidential address on Friday morning. "We cannot constantly supervise everyone in football ... you cannot ask everyone to behave ethically."
Blatter also cautioned that "it will take some time" to rebuild FIFA's reputation.
"The events of Wednesday have unleashed a storm and there was even questioned whether this congress would be organized or change the agenda," Blatter said. "Today I am appealing to unity and team spirit so we can move forward together. That may not always be easy but it is for this reason that we are here together today."
A two-thirds majority would be enough for Blatter or Prince Ali to win the secret presidential vote, or a simple majority in a second round of voting. Just forcing the ballot to a second round could represent a victory of sorts for Blatter's critics, denying the incumbent president an emphatic mandate in his next term.
Blatter's opening address to the congress was briefly disrupted by a pro-Palestinian activist, who held up a red card and shouted "Red card to racism." The protest was to draw attention to a campaign that aims to stop Palestinian players from being detained by Israeli security forces.
After calling for security, Blatter announced: "I would ask you to please check the access points of this room."

2016 GOP Hopefuls Christie And Cruz Court Jewish Vote

NEW YORK — One declared and one likely Republican presidential contender criticized the administration's nuclear negotiations with Iran and reaffirmed their support for Israel as they courted wealthy Jewish donors Thursday at a gala in New York.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a declared presidential candidate, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is widely expected to jump into the race next month, criticized President Barack Obama's handling of the Middle East as they worked to impress donors at the third annual Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala.
"Our friends in Israel deserve better than what they've gotten in the last seven years from this White House," said Christie, who also spoke at the dinner last year.
The co-hosts of the gala included politically active millionaires and billionaires the candidates are wooing as they work to win financial support in a crowded Republican field that is expanding daily.
Among those in attendance: Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who is known for his dedication to Israel and is likely to spend millions backing his favored candidate. Both Christie and Cruz, along with their wives, were seated at Adelson's table.
Adelson has yet to publicly endorse anyone. Andy Abboud, Adelson's top political aide, has said his boss might not choose until next year.
Adelson and his wife were among the 2012 presidential election's top donors, contributing more than $90 million to candidates and causes. That included money for the super PAC supporting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, which helped extend his run.
In his remarks, Christie tried to translate his brash persona into a foreign policy that projected toughness.
"We must meet tragedy with strength. We must meet evil with strength," he said, making the case that weak leadership from the White House was to blame for unrest across the Middle East.
"All throughout the history of the world, it has been clear, direct, honest, unadulterated strength which those who are evil respond to," he said.
Cruz took a more alarmist tone.
"The nation of Israel has never been more in jeopardy," he said, declaring that, come January 2017, the new president should immediately work to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities.
"If Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, that president in 2017 should stand up to the world and explain very simply: Either Iran will stop, or the United of America will stop it," he said.
Neither Cruz nor Christie offered specifics.
Christie has drawn some unwanted attention at past Adelson events. Last year, he stumbled in a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas when he made a reference to the "occupied territories." He also raised eyebrows at the gala last year when he made no mention of Israel in his speech.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Travel Ban Ends For Terrorist Swapped For Bergdahl

WASHINGTON — A one-year travel ban is expiring for five senior Taliban leaders held in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, until they were released last year in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, raising the possibility that the five can move freely around the world as early as Monday.
Under terms of the exchange in May 2014, the five detainees were sent to Qatar where officials there agreed to monitor their activities and prevent them from traveling out of the country. In return, Bergdahl was released to the U.S. military after being held captive by the Taliban for nearly five years after he walked away from his Army post in Afghanistan.
U.S. officials have discussed with the Qataris the possibility of extending the travel ban after it expires on June 1. But so far, the White House has not publicly announced any new agreement with Qatar, meaning the five could leave the tiny nation on the Arabian Peninsula at the end of the month.
"In Congress, we spent a lot of time debating whether the Qataris were going to adequately keep an eye on them in the course of the 12 months," said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee. "My point all along was that I'm more worried about month No. 13 than the first 12."
Schiff has been privy to the details of the still-secret memorandum of understanding the U.S. reached with Qatar that put the five under a 12-month watch following their release.
"The Qataris did pretty good — I wouldn't say perfect," he said about the year-long monitoring. "But the big question is what comes next."
At least one of the five allegedly contacted militants during the past year while in Qatar. No details have been disclosed about that contact, but the White House confirmed that one was put under enhanced surveillance. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said last week: "I know that at least one has had communication with the Taliban."
One or more of the detainees had some members of the al-Qaida-affiliated Haqqani militant group travel to Qatar to meet with them earlier in the year, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. That was an indication that the group was reaching out to communicate with so-called Taliban Five, said Graham, who predicts all five will rejoin the fight.
Four of the five former detainees remain on the United Nations' blacklist, which freezes their assets and has them under a separate travel ban. But the U.N. itself has acknowledged that its travel ban has been violated. In a report late last year, the U.N. sanctions committee stated: "Regrettably, the monitoring team continues to receive a steady — albeit officially unconfirmed — flow of media reports indicating that some listed individuals have become increasingly adept at circumventing the sanctions measures, the travel ban in particular."
The State Department insists that U.S. officials work to mitigate the risk of former Guantanamo detainees returning to the fight, threatening Americans or jeopardizing U.S. national security. U.S. officials have noted in the past that the five Taliban leaders are middle-aged or older, were former officials in the Taliban government and probably wouldn't be seen again on any battlefield, although they could continue to be active members of the Taliban.
Members of Congress have repeatedly expressed concern about what will happen after the travel ban expires. They have asked the Obama administration to try to persuade Qatar to extend the monitoring.
"It's impossible for me to see how they don't rejoin the fight in short order," said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., wrote Defense Secretary Ash Carter in March, asking him to take any step necessary to make sure the five do not return to the battlefield in Afghanistan. And earlier this month, the 13 Republican members of the House Intelligence committee wrote President Barack Obama asking him to urge Qatar to extend travel restrictions on the former detainees indefinitely.
"If, as scheduled, Qatar permits these five former detainees to possess passports and travel to Afghanistan or Pakistan when the memorandum of understanding expires on June 1, they will be at liberty to play an even more direct role in attacks against the men and women of our military," they wrote.
Many lawmakers from both parties were irate when the five Guantanamo detainees were swapped for Bergdahl, who recently was charged with desertion. They complained that the White House did not give Congress a 30-day notification of the transfer, which is required by law. The White House said it couldn't wait 30 days because Bergdahl's life was endangered.
After the transfer, the House Armed Services Committee demanded the Pentagon release internal documents about the swap. The committee received hundreds, but lawmakers complain that they are heavily redacted. The committee inserted language in the fiscal 2016 defense policy bill that threatens to cut Pentagon spending by about $500 million if the Defense Department doesn't provide additional information about the exchange.
Army Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, a spokesman for the Defense Department, said the Pentagon has provided the committee with more than 3,600 pages of documents and redactions have been minimal.

Soccer World Shocked By FIFA Criminal Probes

ZURICH — Latest developments following the launching of criminal proceedings against FIFA officials in separate U.S. and Swiss corruption probes.
____
1131 a.m.
FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio told a hastily convened news conference in Zurich that FIFA's presidential election will take place as planned on Friday. Sepp Blatter is running for a fifth term. De Gregorio also ruled out any revote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups won by Russia and Qatar.
___
1130 a.m.
Swiss federal prosecutors have opened criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, throwing FIFA deeper into crisis only hours after six soccer officials were arrested in a separate U.S. corruption probe.
The Swiss prosecutors' office said in a statement they seized "electronic data and documents" at FIFA's headquarters on Wednesday as part of their probe. And Swiss police said they will question 10 FIFA executive committee members who took part in the World Cup votes in December 2010.
The Swiss investigation against "persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering" again throws into the doubt the integrity of the voting to award Russia the 2018 World Cup and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
The announcement came only hours after six soccer officials were arrested and detained by Swiss police pending extradition at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich. FIFA President Sepp Blatter was not among them.
____

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Senior NATO Official Said: We Will Probaly Be At War This Summer

A senior NATO official told former NSA intelligence analyst John Schindler that the world would “probably be at war” sometime this summer.
“We’ll probably be at war this summer, if we’re lucky it won’t be nuclear,” the official told Schindler last week.

Although the tweet was retweeted over 400 times, the comment garnered no mainstream media attention whatsoever, which is odd given that Schindler is a former U.S. Naval War College lecturer and is known to have many high level military contacts.
Although not specified, the reference was almost certainly in relation to growing tensions between the United States and Russia.
One analysis of the comment suggests it may have been a “deliberate “leak” from NATO sources, to emphasize how serious the situation is.”
Earlier this month NATO launched its biggest ever wargame exercise on Russia’s doorstep. Moscow responded by conducting “provocative” wargames in the Mediterranean Sea in coordination with the Chinese PLA, the first ever naval drill involving both superpowers.
NATO powers are also taking part in one of Europe’s largest ever fighter jet drills from today, with the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Finland, Norway and Sweden all involved in the 12 day exercise.
Tensions are also building between the U.S. and China, with The Global Times, a state media outlet owned by the ruling Communist Party, today warning that “war is inevitable” if Washington doesn’t halt its demands that Beijing stop building artificial islands in the South China Sea.
“If the United States’ bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a U.S.-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea,” the newspaper said. “The intensity of the conflict will be higher than what people usually think of as ‘friction’.”
Last week, CNN revealed how China’s Navy has repeatedly issued warnings to U.S. surveillance planes flying over the South China Sea.
Billionaire investor George Soros also cautioned last week that the planet was heading towards a third world war as a result of a potential economic collapse in China.
Noting that Beijing may need to rally its population around an external threat to avoid an internal collapse, Soros said that, “there is a real danger that China will align itself with Russia politically and militarily, and then the threat of third world war becomes real.”
In a People’s Daily editorial last September, Chinese PLA Professor Han Xudong also warned that Beijing should prepare itself for a third world war which could arise out of the conflict between the United States and Russia over Ukraine.