TIME Soccer

FIFA President Sepp Blatter Says Graft Cases ‘Shame’ Soccer

He spoke publicly for the first time since the corruption scandals broke Wednesday

(ZURICH) — FIFA President Sepp Blatter says he intends to help restore trust in world soccer after a pair of corruption investigations brought “shame and humiliation” on the sport.

Blatter spoke publicly for the first time since the corruption scandals broke Wednesday and threw FIFA into crisis ahead of Friday’s presidential election.

Blatter blamed the “actions of individuals” and said corruption “has to be stopped now” to prevent FIFA’s reputation from being “dragged through the mud.”

Blatter rejected demands from European association UEFA that he resign. He is expected to win a fifth term in Friday’s election against Prince Ali of Jordan.

American and Swiss authorities are pursuing separate federal investigations into racketeering and the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes.

TIME Geopolitics

These Are the 5 Reasons Why the U.S. Remains the World’s Only Superpower

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Matt McClain—The Washington Post/Getty Images Tyler Whitsett, a First Lieutenant cadet with the Civil Air Patrol United States Air Force Auxiliary helps to hold up a large American flag prior to the start of the National Memorial Day Parade on May 25, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Why Washington can still claim global primacy in the 21st century

A ‘superpower’ is a country that wields enough military, political and economic might to convince nations in all parts of the world to do things they otherwise wouldn’t. Pundits have rushed to label China the next superpower—and so have many ordinary Americans—but the rumors of America’s decline have been greatly exaggerated. In the key categories of power, the U.S. will remain dominant for the foreseeable future. These facts show why America is still the world’s only superpower, and why that won’t change anytime soon.

1. Economics

China’s economy is growing at an impressive rate. But it’s not just the size of an economy that matters—it’s also the quality. According to the World Bank, GDP per capita in the US was $53,042 in 2013; in China it was just $6,807. In other words, little of China’s dramatic economic growth is finding its way into the pockets of Chinese consumers—the byproduct of an economy driven by massive state-owned enterprises rather than private industry. China’s headline growth may be higher, but it’s the U.S. economy that’s allowing its citizens to grow along with it.

And crucially, the American economy remains the bedrock of the global financial system. Over 80% of all financial transactions worldwide are conducted in dollars, as are 87% of foreign currency market transactions. As long as the world continues to place such faith in America’s currency and overall economic stability, the U.S. economy remains the one to beat.

(World Bank, Mon€¥ $ Ban£ing)

2. Military

America’s military superiority remains unrivaled—full stop. The US accounts for 37% of global military spending, and spends more than four times what China, the world’s No. 2 spender, does on its military. The U.S. dominates across land, sea, air and space. America’s Middle East misadventures gave the U.S. military a black eye, but the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan speak more to the changing nature of warfare than declining U.S. military superiority. Terrorists and guerilla fighters give conventional military powers fits by design. The U.S. must ultimately learn to scale down to better meet those challenges. Nevertheless, while conventional military strength might not deter terrorists, it still does a terrific job of deterring hostile nations.

(International Institute for Strategic Studies)

3. Political Influence

Political power comes in many dimensions. For the U.S., foreign aid is an effective way to cement its political clout globally. In 2013, the U.S. doled out $32.7 billion in financial assistance; second was the UK at $19 billion. Turns out that money buys strong political cooperation from countries in need.

But in order to have political power abroad, you must first have stability at home. The U.S. has the oldest working national constitution in the world, as well as strong institutions and rule of law to accompany it. While far from perfect, the governing document created by America’s founding fathers has evolved along with its people. The numbers show the enduring attraction of this system: 45 million people living in the U.S. today were born in a foreign country. That is more than four times higher than the next highest country. For many people around the world, America remains the ideal place to start a new life.

(Washington Post, PolitiFact.com, Pew Research Center)

4. Innovation

Of the 9 largest tech companies in the world, 8 are based in the U.S. Give the growing importance of the technology sector, that’s a big deal. For decades America worried about energy dependency, yet today America is the world’s No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas, in large part due to the development of hydraulic fracturing, a product of public research and private energy. America’s research universities and scientific institutions are best in class, allowing the nation to focus its ingenuity where it’s needed most. And America is spending the money to keep its comparative advantage intact: 30% of all research and development dollars are spent in the U.S.

(Bloomberg, Bloomberg, US News, National Science Board)

5. Culture/Lifestyle

In 2012, Americans spent $370 million on pet costumes. Earlier this year the Fury 325 opened up in North Carolina, claiming the title of world’s tallest rollercoaster—until 2016, when the next ‘giga’ coaster is scheduled to open in Orlando, Florida. In the most recent Charities Aid Foundation survey, Americans ranked #1 internationally when it came to helping strangers. These stats may seem disconnected, but together they point to the fact that Americans continue to enjoy a quality of life unmatched by the rest of the world. When you combine this with America’s strength across the board in economics, military, political influence and innovation, it is no wonder that the U.S. enjoys its privileged position in the world today. Superpower indeed.

(TIME, The Guardian, Charities Aid Foundation)

TIME Soccer

Visa, Coca Cola and Others Warn FIFA to Clean Up Its Act

Sponsors do not want to be associated with corruption

LONDON — Worried that their reputations will be tarnished by their links to FIFA, major sponsors are demanding that soccer’s global governing body clean up its act, with Visa even warning it is prepared to jump ship.

Coca-Cola also made it clear it is unhappy with the scandals rocking the organization it and others support with millions of dollars a year. On Wednesday, seven officials were arrested in a dawn raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich while Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings into FIFA’s awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

Visa provided the most acute criticism, saying it expects the organization to take “swift and immediate steps to address” its issues.

“This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere,” it said in a statement late Wednesday. “Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

Coca-Cola was also among the companies to take a harder stance. “This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations,” the company said in a statement.

The range of companies involved more or less directly with FIFA and the soccer world is large.

FIFA’s partners, which are companies that support the soccer body through long-term contracts, include Adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa, Gazprom and Hyundai/KIA Motors. They have the right to use official FIFA trademarks in their advertising campaigns, exposure in and around stadiums and protection against ambush marketing.

There are second-tier sponsors, too, such as Budweiser and McDonald’s, who pay to be involved during and around the World Cup tournaments themselves.

Beyond those corporations, there are companies that make deals with national soccer associations. Nike, for example, pays to have the Brazilian national team wear its shirts.

Though Nike was not referenced in the Department of Justice indictment that lay behind Wednesday’s dawn raids in Switzerland, a “multinational sportswear company headquartered in the United States” is mentioned with regard to bribery allegations involving Brazil stemming back to a sponsorship deal in 1996.

Without directly referring to speculation it is that multinational company, Nike said it was concerned by the “very serious allegations” and was cooperating with authorities. “Nike believes in ethical and fair play in both business and sport and strongly opposes any form of manipulation or bribery,” it said.

Besides the sponsors, there are also marketing agencies that buy up the media and marketing rights for different FIFA competitions and in turn sell broadcasting and merchandising rights to media companies and corporations. One such company is Traffic Sports USA, which was also named in the U.S. charges Wednesday.

Because of their more direct connections with FIFA, the sponsors and partners are among the most exposed to damage to their brands.

They will be more inclined to seek change than to end their commercial relations with FIFA, however, as these marketing deals are too lucrative.

Corporations with long-term connections to the World Cup know that ending their relationships with FIFA could hand over to rivals what is, alongside the Olympic Games, one of the crown jewels in sports marketing.

Several big sponsors have in recent months shown a growing willingness to voice their concerns publicly about a string of recent scandals.

Just last week, Adidas, Coca-Cola and Visa urged FIFA to push Qatar to improve conditions for migrant workers as the small Arabian Gulf country prepares to host the 2022 World Cup.

And at last summer’s World Cup in Brazil, the sponsors of Uruguay striker Luis Suarez were quick to voice their aghast at his biting of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.

The views of the sponsors aren’t something FIFA can ignore, as the sponsors provide almost a third of its revenues. Recent figures showed that the organization generated $5.7 billion in 2011-2014, which encompassed the Brazil World Cup, with sponsors and commercial partners contributing almost $1.6 billion.

“When a business sponsors an event or association such as FIFA, it is effectively tying part of its brand with them,” said Peter Walshe, Global BrandZ Director at London-based Millward Brown. “There needs to be a fit and when trust issues threaten the organization, the sponsor will need to monitor whether that will have a negative effect on the trust of the brand.”

TIME language

The U.K. Children’s Word of the Year Isn’t Really a Word

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Getty Images

#kidsthesedays

The children’s word of the year in the UK isn’t exactly a word. It’s hashtag, or the symbol #.

After analyzing over 120,000 short story submissions by children to a BBC Radio contest, Oxford University Press found that there was a huge uptick among children using hashtags outside of Twitter, the Guardian reports.

Words such as Snapchat, selfie and emoji all appeared in the top of the list, but Vineeta Gupta, head of children’s dictionaries at Oxford University Press, explained to the Guardian why hashtag was No. 1. “Hashtag, or #, is word of the year because it is entering children’s vocabulary in a new way,” he said. “Children are not tweeting and using Twitter, but they are using the word hashtag and the symbol # for dramatic effect, it is heightening tension.”

A statement about the findings gave two examples of children using hashtags in their writing: “She then picked it up and ran out of the cave… the cave exploded and she didn’t look back at it exploding, she just kept on walking forward # super cool.” And, “The only thing I knew for sure was that I was going to get eaten (# frightened!!!).”

Among other trends, the study found that children used a lot of words related to technology, current affairs and popular culture. But it also found that gender stereotypes persisted in word use. According to the statement, “Girls write enthusiastically of cupcakes, unicorns, marshmallows, and flowers, and they love words associated with beauty and fashion… For boys, it is all very much about burgers, space, cars, and farting!”

TIME France

Man Dies After Doing 56 Shots, Bartender Found Guilty of Manslaughter

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Getty Images

The drinker was attempting to set a record in his local bar

A bartender in France has been given a four-month suspended jail sentence after he served 56 shots to a customer who subsequently died, the Guardian reports.

Gilles Crepin, 47, was convicted of manslaughter after Renaud Prudhomme, 56, died after a drinking contest in October 2014 at a bar in the town of Clermont-Ferrand in central France.

The court was told that the bar displayed on a notice board the record number of shots that had been consumed on the premises and that Prudhomme wanted to beat the record.

Crepin admitted that the display was a mistake because it encouraged Prudhomme to go too far, the Guardian said.

Prudhomme suffered from alcohol abuse and respiratory complications that were unknown to the bartender. After downing the shots, he was rushed to the emergency room and died the next day in the hospital.

Crepin’s lawyer, who plans to appeal the sentence, said, “We can’t ask every customer who buys alcohol to present their medical certificates.”

However, counsel for Prudhomme’s daughter countered, “We want to remind some professionals that it is illegal to serve alcohol to clients who are in an advanced state of inebriation.”

Crepin has also been banned from working in bars for a year.

[Guardian]

TIME Soccer

Fallout From FIFA Corruption Probe Intensifies

Soccer's governing body is also at risk of losing millions in sponsorship deals

Corporate sponsors are scrambling to distance themselves from the sprawling corruption dragnet launched against soccer’s global governing body, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), by American and Swiss authorities this week.

On Wednesday, prosecutors in the U.S. unveiled a 47-count indictment against 14 defendants tied to the federation, including nine FIFA officials, who are accused of involvement in racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies.

“Our investigation revealed that what should be an expression of international sportsmanship was used as a vehicle in a broader scheme to line executives’ pockets with bribes totaling $110 million — nearly a third of the legitimate costs of the rights to the tournaments involved,” Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General, told reporters during a press conference in Brooklyn.

The presentation of the indictment in New York City came as officials in Switzerland launched their own criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, following the arrest of seven FIFA officials in Zurich on the eve of the federation’s 65th international congress in the city.

Corporate sponsors linked to the organization appear to be in all-out damage control mode as the investigation made international headlines. World Cup sponsor Visa joined the chorus of saber rattlers lambasting FIFA and threatened to abandon its deal with the organization if it failed to weed out corruption in its ranks.

“It is important that FIFA makes changes now,” read a statement released by Visa. “Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

Global soft-drink juggernaut Coca-Cola, which is also listed as one of seven FIFA partners for the 2018 World Cup, also sought to disassociate itself from the investigation, blasting the association for bringing disrepute to the sport.

“This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations,” said the company in a statement.

However, sponsors also appear to be firmly in the crosshairs of the U.S Justice Department.

During the press conference in Brooklyn, Attorney General Lynch said the corruption probe also covered “agreements regarding sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by a major U.S. sportswear company,” a not-so-vague reference to the 10-year, $160 million deal that Nike and the Brazilian national team inked in 1996.

On Wednesday, U.S. officials promised that the investigation launched this week was only the first chapter in their probe into corruption in international soccer.

“This is the beginning of our effort, not the end,” stressed Kelly Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “We are looking into individuals and entities in a variety of countries.”

TIME Aviation

Air France Flight Had a Close Call With a Volcano

Passengers were said to be unaware of the incident

An Air France flight flew a little too close to an African volcano earlier this month.

Flight AF 953 was traveling on May 2 from Malabo in Equatorial Guinea to Douala, Cameroon, and according to Air France the pilots aimed to avoid a storm by taking a route close to Mount Cameroon. The plane’s proximity to the active volcano set off an alarm, and according to CNN, the pilots quickly responded by flying from 9,000 feet to 13,000 feet. The passengers were said to be unaware of the incident.

Air France says its pilots undergo regular training for this type of scenario. The company is conducting an internal investigation, and is supplying its crews with more specifics on how to land near Douala.

“Air France’s priority is to ensure the highest safety standards in all circumstances,” the company said in a statement. “Air France has always chosen the best equipment for flight safety and places great importance on the monitoring of its crews.”

TIME Sports

The Beginning of the End for Sepp Blatter

If FIFA is going to reform itself, its president must go

Yes, Sepp Blatter was not one of soccer officials nabbed by the authorities in Zurich on May 27, as part of the U.S. government’s indictment of 14 people—including top FIFA brass—charged with money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud. Public opinion, however, will cast the FIFA president’s escape as a mere technicality. According to the laws of Nixonian physics, this scandal points right to the top.

Kickback allegations have shadowed Blatter and his organization since he took over as FIFA president in 1998. Blatter plays big-league pork politics, using his substantial war chest—FIFA has more than $1.5 billion in reserves—to dole out funds to officials of tiny soccer federations, who sometimes keep the money. In November, for example, Nepal’s top soccer official temporarily stepped down after he was accused of stealing more than $5 million. These rich grants buy loyalty: in FIFA presidential elections, the votes of Nepal and Montserrat count just as much as those of America and Brazil.

Will Blatter even survive the presidential election on May 29 that UEFA, Europe’s governing soccer body, insists should be delayed? He was supposed to win his fifth term with ease. Now, it’s no longer a coronation. “If he’s not detained, he’ll probably win,” says Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist from Smith College and author of the book Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup. “FIFA’s propaganda machine strong, and is already distancing Blatter from the charges.” In a statement released on FIFA.com, Blatter said: “Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.”

Even if Blatter somehow survives Friday’s election, Zimbalist believes this scandal will be too tough for him to overcome long-term: “FIFA is an international monopoly with control over a very popular product.” In 2014, a World Cup year, FIFA generated $2 billion in revenues. “If the power is in control of the wrong people,” Zimbalist adds, “things get out of hand.” For FIFA to change, and win back the constituents its supposed to serve—players and fans of the beautiful game—Blatter has to go. Because, as Zimablist puts it, “I don’t think there is any hope of reforming Sepp Blatter.”

Read next: U.S. Accuses Soccer Officials of Decades of ‘Rampant, Systemic and Deep-Rooted’ Corruption

TIME Aid

Most Foreign Aid Does Not Go to Neediest Countries, Report Finds

Advocacy group ONE urges donor nations to designate 50% of their aid budgets to "least-developed countries"

Amazing strides have been made in reducing poverty worldwide over the last quarter century — the rate has halved since 1990, from 36% of the world’s population to 18% — but rather than clapping themselves on the back, aid organizations are now calling for rich nations to go even further, and help eradicate “extreme poverty” altogether.

Extreme poverty is defined as living on no more than $1.25 a day, a figure that encapsulates not only an absence of cash, but often of clean water, education, and even a meal. The circumstance still applies to more than 1.2 billion people, a disproportionate number of whom live in Africa, where poverty has actually increased. Yet most foreign aid goes to countries that are better off.

“We all find it quite surprising how little—32%—of U.S. aid goes to the poorest countries,” says Tom Hart, North America director of the advocacy group ONE, which on Tuesday released a 127-page report calling for donor nations to designate 50% of their aid budgets to “least-developed countries.”

The 50% goal is at the heart of a new global strategy against poverty, aimed at picking up with the conclusion of the 15-year international campaign known as where the Millennium Development Goals. The new effort, dubbed Sustainable Development Goals, will be articulated at a conference in Ethiopia in July, and adopted in the months beyond by assorted convocations of the international bodies ranging from the G-20 to the Committee on World Food Security.

But the brow-beating has already begun, as advocates struggle both to correct misperceptions about foreign aid among the U.S. public, and lobby Washington and other major donors to direct the roughly $140-billion they give each year to where it is most needed.

The fact is that only about 1% of the U.S. federal budget goes to foreign aid. The average American thinks it’s more like 28%, according to a Kaiser poll from earlier this year. And though that American is likely to shelve reflexive objections to the spending when informed of the reality, polls show that the misperception persists year after year.

Advocates for aid believe it can be more effective with the advent of technology that allows aid dollars to be tracked at every stage, including the stages where some of those dollars have in the past disappeared into the pockets of corrupt foreign officials.

The new global strategy expects more of receiving governments — calling for each to provide a basic package of health and education services, with help from donors as needed. For example, Liberia, which was an epicenter of the Ebola outbreak last year, spends $6 per person on basic services each year; it needs to spend $300, and requires $317 million to make up the difference.

The new strategy also calls for specifically directing aid to women and girls. “Poverty is sexist,” the ONE report states, noting that by almost every measure life is harder for women and girls in the poorest countries than it is for men. But at the same time, helping females serves to lift the whole of the societies in which they are so central.

“When we invest in girls and woman, that has more catalytic results that pulls everybody out of poverty,” says Eloise Todd, global policy director for the ONE campaign. Over time, that investment should be made as directly as possible, not necessarily through governments, adds Gargee Ghosh, director of policy and finance for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “We need to focus more on poor people,” Ghosh says.

But the first message to rich countries is that they need to focus on the poorest. Of 29 donors, only Iceland directed more than 50 percent of its aid to the least developed countries. “Something’s going really wrong in the way a lot of donors are allocating their aid,” says Todd. “Finding the end of extreme poverty is going to be a lot harder than the previous 15 years.”

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