European Media Claims FIFA President Sepp Blatter Resigning

“Sepp Blatter has sensationally quit amid the bribery scandal that has consumed FIFA,” writes the U.K. Daily Mail.

He announced it at the Zurich FIFA headquarters at a hastily-called news conference.  Blatter is currently under intense scrutiny as the FBI in the U.S. investigates whether bribes were authorized by soccer’s world governing body.

Blatter announced he will continue in the role until an “extraordinary congress” can be called to vote in a successor.

Speaking on Tuesday, Blatter said: “I have thoroughly considered and thought about my presidency and the last 40 years in my life. These years were closely related to FIFA and the wonderful sport of football I appreciate and love FIFA more than anything else.”

“…Although FIFA have given me a new mandate, it doesn’t seem to be supported by everyone – fans, clubs. Those who inspire FIFA like we do.”

The resignation announcement comes after a press on Tuesday that reportedly linked FIFA’s number two man – secretary general Jerome Valcke – to payments made in 2008 that investigators believe amounted to $10 million in bribes. FIFA said in a statement that the payments were approved in 2007 by the chairman of FIFA’s finance committee at the time, Julio Grondona, write The New York Times.

“I only want to do the best for FIFA and my institution,” said Blatter in Zurich.  “I decided to stand again as the best option for football. The elections are closed but the challenges we face haven’t come to and end. FIFA needs restructuring. Although FIFA have given me a new mandate, it doesn’t seem to be supported by everyone – fans, clubs. Those who inspire FIFA like we do.

“This is why we will cause a process, it will be held to. I will continue to exercise my function as president at FIFA until next time. The new elections will be held until in Mexico.

“I will not stand of course and I am free from the constraints of an election. I will be free to focus on an election.

Blatter’s 17-year reign as FIFA’s top official has looked increasingly untenable since the FBI charged 14 officers with high-level corruption last week.

He reportedly would like to recommend term limits for the FIFA presidency.  “We need a structutual change of profile change. We need to look at the profiles and attitude of all the members. We need limitations on mandate in terms of office presidency…,” he said.


FIFA Officials Arrested On Corruption Charges


Acting on an indictment by the U.S. Justice Department, Swiss police arrested several top FIFA officials on charges of corruption.

The officials were allegedly arrested Wednesday morning in Zurich.  They were accused of widespread corruption dating to the 1990s.

The New York Times reports that Sepp Blatter, a Swiss national, “has ruled FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, for the past 17 years with no term limit, no external oversight, no passion for business ethics, no appetite for reform and, apparently, no shame over the rampant scandals, corruption and match-fixing that have sullied the beautiful game.”

FIFA is a multibillion-dollar organization that governs soccer but has been plagued by accusations of bribery for decades, writes the New York Times.

What About Sepp Blatter?  A FIFA spokesman said that Blatter remains serene despite the arrests of officials on corruption charges and that a leadership vote will go ahead on Friday.

Mr. Blatter was not charged. Still he remains wildly unpopular, except among his “enablers,” writes the New York Times – corporate sponsors like Coca-Cola, Adidas and Visa, and docile national soccer federations.

Mr. Blatter, 79, is expected to win a fifth term as FIFA’s president on Friday, but he presides over an organization with a reputation in tatters.  Sepp Blatter became president of FIFA in 1998. He has held other jobs with the organization.In FIFA Politics, Blatter Is the “consummate player,” writes the New York Times.

(Updated article)

Are Teachers Treated Poorly In This Country?

The Young Turks

Annika McKenzie, 34, is charged with second-degree assault and strangulation for physically attacking a teacher, according to ABC 7.  Her 14-year-old niece is facing second-degree assault charges as a juvenile.

McKenzie allegedly became enraged because she believed that a math teacher at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School in Hempstead, Long Island “put her hands on” her 12-year-old daughter, the New York Daily News reports.

The teacher, Catherine Engelhardt, was outside her classroom at around 2 p.m. when, cops said, McKenzie attacked her. Engelhardt is a 22-year veteran of the Hempstead School District.  McKenzie allegedly knocked the teacher to the ground, then put her in a chokehold until she lost consciousness, according to Pix 11.

The niece allegedly joined in the attack by punching the teacher in the head, Hempstead Police Chief Michael McGowan told Newsday.

(Updated report)

Who Is Aaron Schock?


Aaron Schock, a Republican U.S. Representative from the city of Peoria, Illinois, resigned recently after numerous scandals concerning his repeated illegal use of Taxpayer money.  Schock was known for office decor made to look like “Downton Abbey,” and he had reportedly spent tens of thousands of dollars on hotels and flights in the first three months of 2015, according to the Peoria Journal-Star. Schock made an announcement March 17th, 2015, that he would resign effective March 31st.

Also, it was reported that Aaron Schock made campaign contributions to “at-large” Peoria City Council members and others during the three-month period in which scandal surrounded him.  City Council members Chuck Weaver and Eric Turner received the largest campaign checks.

The Schock for Congress committee wrote a check to Weaver — the second-highest vote-getter in the at-large council races — on March 5 for $5,000.

Just days after Schock resigned, Weaver took steps with his campaign treasurer to isolate those funds until the query into the lawmaker had reached a conclusion.

Schock also had a $2,500 check cut on Feb. 19 to support Turner’s candidacy.

Schock also donated $2,000 apiece to the nascent re-election efforts of four female Republican members of Congress — Ann Wagner of Missouri, Mimi Walters of California, Renee Elmers of North Carolina, and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming.

(Updated post)

CBS Denver: TSA Screeners At Denver Airport Manipulated System To Grope Passengers

Two TSA agents allegedly changed the screening system at the Denver International Airport in order to grope male passengers. The agency has since removed the two officers, Mashable confirmed.

“These alleged acts are egregious and intolerable,” TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein said.

It happened roughly a dozen times, according to information gathered by CBS4 in Denver, Colorado.

According to law enforcement reports obtained during the CBS4 investigation, a male TSA screener told a female colleague in 2014 that he “gropes” male passengers who come through the screening area at Denver International Airport.

“He related that when a male he finds attractive comes to be screened by the scanning machine he will alert another TSA screener to indicate to the scanning computer that the party being screened is a female. When the screener does this, the scanning machine will indicate an anomaly in the genital area and this allows (the male TSA screener) to conduct a pat-down search of that area.”

Although the TSA learned of the accusation on November 18th, 2014, from an anonymous tip from one of the agency’s own employees, reports show that nearly three months would pass before anything was done.

More here

Who Is Michele Brown And Is She Involved In Corruption In The State Of New Jersey?

Michele Brown has been New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s top economic adviser the last three years.  She was the head of the state Economic Development Authority (EDA).

It was a job Christie recommended for her, states the Courier-Press.

Recently, she apparently left that job for a new one with the business marketing group Choose New Jersey.

As Choose New Jersey’s president and chief executive officer, Brown will have a salary of $450,000, double what she made with the state, and will advocate for public utilities, corporations and contractors — the same entities that received lucrative state contracts and tax breaks while Brown was at the EDA.

Choose New Jersey is a non-profit organization with a $3 million budget generated by membership fees from companies prevented by pay-to-play laws from donating to the governor, according to the Courier-Post.  Many of the companies employ their own lobbyists.  Oddly, that seems to make her salary almost 1/6th of their budget.

Her first day as leader of Choose New Jersey was Feb. 16, according to The Courier-Post.

But Michele Brown is maintaining close ties to the Republican governor, raising questions on whether she’ll have immense influence with her longtime boss.

Questions about Michele Brown started arising in 2009, when it came out that she accepted a $46,000 loan from her boss Christie.   The loan was given in 2007 when Mr. Christie was a U.S. attorney and she was a subordinate in his office.

Brown was a federal prosecutor in New Jersey and resigned that post in 2009 amid the controversy over the loan from Christie.  Christie’s failure to disclose the loan became an issue in his first gubernatorial campaign in 2009, but the loan has since been repaid.

Brown was behind the award of a $25 million state contract for Sandy Hurricane recovery TV commercials with Governor Chris Christie in a starring role. At the EDA, Brown led a contract evaluation panel that chose the “Stronger Than the Storm’’ marketing campaign that featured Christie in 2013. The winning contractor proposed putting Christie in the ads and – oddly – charged nearly twice the amount for labor and markup costs than the second-place bidder would have charged.

New Jersey has “revolving door’’ laws in place designed to restrict the influence of former state officials on government policy.  However, the rules don’t cover Brown’s job change or prevent Brown from pursuing more tax breaks for her group’s members, said former state Sen. William Schluter, a Republican and past member of the State Ethics Commission.

“If someone who was a lawmaker or head of a certain department wanted to become a lobbyist, they’d have to wait at least a year. That doesn’t apply here,” said Schluter.

A number of other states have post-employment cooling-off periods, which mandate a length of time before a former government regulator may begin work within the industry he or she once regulated.

Long Branch resident Jerry Zaro, who headed the state Office of Economic Growth under former Democratic Governor Jon Corzine, said Brown “is too talented to sit on the sidelines.’’  Zaro is an attorney at Sills Cummis & Gross – a Choose New Jersey member.

“Any incentives that are fair for the business community, all the better. Remember, the incentives only come out of taxes that would otherwise never be paid if a business wasn’t enticed to stay or come to our state,’’ Zaro said.

“Michele Brown is great,’’ he added. “She’s a quick study and a good hire. If you’re playing a football game and you have Tom Brady on the team, do you want to him to sit out a series of downs just for the sake of sitting out?’’

Choose New Jersey partially funded Christie’s recent trip to the United Kingdom, and has also covered some of his travel bills to Canada and Mexico within the last six months.

Brown went on all three trips, including the U.K. tour.  That took place took place after she was hired by Choose New Jersey’s board of directors.

Christie said the three trips were trade missions on behalf of the state but Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, said the tours were designed to promote Christie’s potential presidential campaign.

Lesniak faulted Choose New Jersey for chipping in on the costs.

“I think Choose New Jersey needs to focus on its mission of promoting business rather than promoting Gov. Christie’s political ambitions,’’ Lesniak said. “They should provide a full accounting of its contributors, expenditures and accomplishments.’’

Ben Ray, a spokesman for American Bridge, a Democratic opposition research group keying on Christie as he moves toward a possible bid for the presidency, called Brown’s access to Christie on behalf of Choose New Jersey “more ethical smoke around the governor.’’

The U.S. Senator Bob Menendez from New Jersey was recently indicted on charges of corruption.  Did Michele Brown play an influential role in the recent indictment?  Her role is unclear.

However, according to New Jersey law, if Senator Menendez, a Democrat, were to step down or is removed from office, Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, will get to choose his replacement.

How convenient – more influence by Christie…

New Jersey law reads:

“If a vacancy shall happen in the representation of this State in the United States senate, it shall be filled at the general election next succeeding the happening thereof, unless such vacancy shall happen within 70 days next preceding such election, in which case it shall be filled by election at the second succeeding general election, unless the governor of this State shall deem it advisable to call a special election therefor, which he is authorized hereby to do…

“The governor of this State may make a temporary appointment of a senator of the United States from this State whenever a vacancy shall occur by reason of any cause other than the expiration of the term; and such appointee shall serve as such senator until a special election or general election shall have been held pursuant to law and the Board of State Canvassers can deliver to his successor a certificate of election.”

In an article by the right-wing publication The Weekly Standard, Daniel Halper wrote:  “One Republican suggested to me that should Senator Menendez step down, Christie would likely appoint Joe Kyrillos, the state senator from New Jersey. Kyrillos ran against Menendez in the November election, but ultimately lost…”


(Updated article to post references)


Do We Have Conflicts Of Interest With Elected Judges?

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

The vast majority of US judges are elected, forcing many judges to pander to the electorate and accept campaign money in order to keep their jobs.  The midterm elections gave a host of courthouses all over the country to big business, and corporate campaign donations were the big winner in judicial elections.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver looks at it.