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Blatter wins fifth FIFA term as challenger concedes

BlatterSepp Blatter

 ZURICH--Sepp Blatter was re-elected president of FIFA for a fifth term on Friday after the only other candidate conceded defeat after a first round of voting in an election overshadowed by allegations of corruption in world soccer.
  Blatter's victory came despite demands that he quit in the face of a major bribery scandal being investigated by U.S., Swiss and other law enforcement agencies that plunged the world soccer body into the worst crisis in its 111-year history.
  Neither Blatter nor Jordanian challenger Prince Ali bin Al Hussein got the necessary two thirds of the vote in the first round, with Blatter on 133 and Prince Ali on 73. Prince Ali later conceded.
  In a victory speech, Blatter declared: "Let's go FIFA, let's go FIFA," to a standing ovation.
  Speaking just before the vote, Blatter, who joined FIFA in 1975, said he felt that he had only been with the organization for a short time and wanted to stay longer. "What is time anyway. I find that the time I have spent at FIFA is very short," he said. "The more one ages the more time flies by quickly. I am with you, and I would like to stay with you," he said to applause.
  Prince Ali, in his pitch for votes, had pledged an open, more democratic FIFA, saying: "We have heard in recent days, voices which described our FIFA as an avaricious body which feeds on the game that the world loves.
  "There are no easy answers. And no blame that can be cast that will wash away the stain that marks us all," he said.
  While Asian, African and Latin American states had been expected to rally around Blatter, Europe, which accounts for all but three of the countries that have ever made it to a World Cup's final match, had been keen for him to step aside.
  On a visit to Berlin, British Prime Minister David Cameron told Blatter to go "the sooner the better". Chancellor Angela Merkel said the dirty side of soccer must be cleaned up.
  U.S. authorities have accused top FIFA figures and sports executives of corruption, while Switzerland is investigating the award of the next World Cup finals to Russia and Qatar.
  The scandal widened on Friday when Britain's Serious Fraud Office said it was examining possible corruption at FIFA.
  A judge in Argentina has ordered the arrest of three businessmen accused of using bribery to obtain soccer media rights, and the Brazilian Senate moved to open a formal inquiry into soccer bribery allegations.
  Marco Polo Del Nero, the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, dramatically flew back to Brazil from the FIFA Congress shortly before the election. His abrupt departure followed the arrest of nine senior FIFA officials including former Brazilian soccer chief Jose Maria Marin.
  Del Nero told a press conference on Friday he did not plan to resign and "had nothing to do" with corruption.
  FIFA takes in billions of dollars in revenue from television marketing rights and sponsorships, making it one of the wealthiest and most powerful sports bodies in the world. It has been dogged by corruption scandals for decades, mostly investigating itself and avoiding scrutiny by criminal courts.
  Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of meddling in an effort to force Blatter out.
  Qatar on Friday issued a further defense of its bid and said it would carry on with plans to stage the event. The decision to host the world's biggest soccer tournament in a small desert state where daytime summer temperatures rarely fall below 40 degrees Celsius startled many in global sport.
  Many of Blatter's opponents have spoken of steps they can take against him. English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said England could back a
possible boycott of the 2018 World Cup if Blatter stays in office.
  Other European soccer officials have also alluded to the prospect of a boycott, but that is still seen as unlikely given the tournament's importance to the global game.
  Most of the developing world in Africa, Asia and parts of Central America and the Caribbean are happy that FIFA under Blatter has guaranteed them annual grants and bonus payments in World Cup years.

Storms kill eight in Texas, Oklahoma; Houston hard-hit

TexasHOUSTON--Torrential rains have killed at least eight people in Texas and Oklahoma, including two in Houston where flooding turned streets into rivers and led to nearly 1,000 calls for help in the fourth-most populous U.S. city, officials said on Tuesday.
  Another 12 people were missing in Texas after the storms slammed the states during the Memorial Day weekend, causing floods and tornadoes that destroyed homes and swept away bridges.
  "There are still some significant areas of really devastating flooding in Houston," Mayor Annise Parker said at a news conference, adding she has asked the governor to declare the city a disaster area. She said most of Houston is high and dry but advised people to stay home.
  President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that he had assured Texas Governor Greg Abbott that he could count on help from the federal government as the state recovers from the floods. Abbott has declared a state of disaster in 24 Texas counties.
  There was no damage estimate available for the state, which has a $1.4 trillion-a-year economy and is the country's main domestic source of energy as well as an agricultural and manufacturing power.
  More bad weather was expected with the National Weather Service issuing a flash flood warning on Tuesday for Houston as a line of thunderstorms moved along the Gulf of Mexico coast toward Florida. It said there was a high chance of more rain and thunderstorms for Texas this week.
  Rescue workers looked for 12 members of two families missing after their vacation home was swept off its foundation in Wimberley, a town about 30 miles southwest of Austin, where flood waters caused a wave of destruction. "(People) have lost their homes, they have lost their livelihoods in some businesses," said Wimberley Mayor Steve Thurber.
  One of those killed was an 18-year-old girl whose car was swept away by flood waters as she returned home from her high school prom, police in Devine, Texas, south of San Antonio, said.
  More than 40 flights were canceled as of 10 a.m. CDT (1100 ET) at airports in Houston and Dallas, some of the nation's busiest, as blocked roads made it difficult for workers to get to their jobs. A sinkhole also closed a runway at the Dallas/Fort Worth International airport, according to media reports.
  About 100,000 customers were without power throughout the state due to high winds and rising waters that caused power poles to snap.
  In Houston, Parker said there were about 1,000 vehicles had been submerged in flood waters while in Austin, emergency crews used helicopters and boats to remove people from rushing water.

Residents bend it for first International Yoga Day

page5e031SIMPSON BAY--The pumping sound of reggae music making its way up Simpson Bay Beach did not interfere with the quiet quite a large gathering of yoga amateurs and professionals sought on the first-ever International Yoga Day on Sunday afternoon.

Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice or discipline that originated in India.

Yoga practitioners got in the groove to bend, stretch and breathe as the music slowly faded into the background and they moved through the ancient exercise routine.

The waves lapped and sea gulls drifted above as St. Maarten/St. Martin residents and a sprinkling of visitors were led in yoga poses by Kapil Bhatia, member of event organiser Art of Living Foundation St. Maarten.

After a rigorous yet fun workout of sun salutations, striking the warrior pose, the cobra and the half moon, a pleasant shower of rain broke from the sky to cool off the yoga enthusiasts, among whom were former prime minister, now Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams and representatives of the business and civil society.

Yoga brought together thousands of people Sunday on Delhi's Rajpath, the nerve centre of power in India, at the ancient Buddhist temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Times Square in the modern metropolis of New York City, and in tiny St. Maarten.

June 21 was declared International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 2014.

In suggesting June 21, which is the Summer Solstice, as the International Day of Yoga, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the date was the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and had special significance in many parts of the world.

Undeterred by arrests, soccer boss Blatter plots another great escape

BlatterZURICH--FIFA president Sepp Blatter is a master of getting out from tight corners and his federation's initial reaction to Wednesday's extraordinary events in Zurich suggested he has every intention of pulling off another great escape.
  Soccer's governing body was thrown into disarray when several of its leading officials, including vice-president Jeffrey Webb, were arrested in a dawn raid at the luxury lakeside hotel which for years has pampered FIFA visitors. They were detained pending extradition to the United States where they face federal corruption charges.
  Swiss authorities also opened criminal proceedings against individuals on
suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering related to the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA soccer World Cups to Russia and Qatar. Blatter, FIFA's president since 1998, was not among them.
  It was a day FIFA's detractors had long waited for, after years of corruption allegations which critics say have not been properly dealt with. The initial outside reaction was that, surely, FIFA's annual Congress could not go ahead as planned amid such turmoil, and even less so the presidential election where Blatter is runaway favorite to see off a challenge from Prince Ali bin Ali Hussein of Jordan.
  Yet, within hours, FIFA's head of media Walter de Gregorio was turning the situation on its head. The raid was a result of action that FIFA had itself taken, he told reporters.
  Far from being a disgrace, it was an essential, if undignified, part of a cleaning-up process Blatter began in 2011, at the start of his fourth mandate. And, while Blatter was not in the happiest of moods, the 79-year-old was ready for Friday's election for a fifth term.
  De Gregorio said the Swiss investigation stemmed from a complaint that FIFA itself had made to Switzerland's attorney-general's office in November following an investigation by its ethics committee into the bidding process for the hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
  "The timing may not be obviously the best but FIFA welcomes this process and FIFA co-operates fully with the attorney general of Switzerland and the Federal Office of Justice," he said. "Of course Congress will take place. One thing has nothing to do with the other."
 Blatter comes across as an amiable character with eccentric ideas about football but he has shown in the past that he possesses a ruthless instinct for survival and extraordinary political nous.
  In 2001, FIFA faced potential financial ruin following the collapse of its marketing partner ISL/ISMM and Blatter was subjected to intense pressure to reveal details of FIFA finances. He recovered from that obstacle and today his federation boasts reserves of more than $1 billion.
  Blatter faced further troubles in 2002 when FIFA's then secretary general Michel Zen-Ruffinen claimed Blatter's 1998 election victory was based on bribery and corruption. Blatter threatened legal action but never followed up the threat and when he beat Issa Hayatou of Cameroon by 139 votes to 56 in that year's election, Zen-Ruffinen was soon out of a job.
  Four years ago, he was elected unopposed after his only rival, Mohamed Bin Hamman, was investigated in a cash-for-votes scandal and forced to withdraw.
  Blatter has mastered the FIFA electoral system where the 209 member associations each hold one vote, meaning that tiny American Samoa holds the same voting rights as soccer powers like Brazil or Germany. FIFA distributes revenue equally among its 209 members, a policy which helped the likes of Cape Verde to reach the African Nations Cup quarter-finals in 2013 and Costa Rica the World Cup quarter-finals last year.
  Only Europe, which holds 53 votes, has pledged to vote against Blatter and, although some other associations may break ranks, those would be unlikely to result in more than a small dent in Blatter's majority. Outside Europe, federations see Blatter as the force which keeps the game truly global in the face of the growing financial power of a handful of elite European clubs and leagues.
  "He understands the cultures of different parts of the world that make up FIFA, so it is no coincidence that most of the members would vote for him," said Michel D'Hooge, 68, the honorary president of the Belgian FA and a FIFA executive committee member since 1988, told Reuters in August.
  "Of course, you can say that they feel good because they receive a lot of money and grants from FIFA - that is his political behavior."
  Blatter, who has repeatedly said that he does not choose his executive committee, was said to be carrying on as usual on Wednesday and getting ready for Friday's election. "He is focused on the Congress and, for everybody involved, the stress factor is a little higher today than yesterday, but he is quite relaxed that he is not involved," said De Gregorio. "He will accept what will happen."
  "He is not dancing in his office, but he is very calm, he is fully cooperative with everybody. He is not a happy man but he knows this is the consequences of what we initiated. It's a surprise that it happened today but not a surprise that it happened."

WICSU/PSU installs new board members

PHILIPSBURG--The new board of the Windward Islands Civil Servants' Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU) was installed during a well-attended ceremony at the union's office Friday evening.

In keeping with the theme of the event, which was "light," board members were given lit candles while the song "Carry your candle" was sung.

The executive board members are President Henrietta Doran-York; Secretary General Riegnald Arrindell; Treasurer Francisco Mariana and Vice President Julia Solognier.

Other members of the board who were installed were Winair pilot Dino Arrundell; Dr. Daphne Illis from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs; Paul Jarvis of the Coast Guard; Signara Hooi of the Miss Lalie Center youth detention facility; Tjamarlie Daal of the St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS); Glen Macnack of the Fire Department; Norwin Reenis of the Pointe Blanche Prison; Claudius Rogers of St. Maarten Police Force and board member representing St. Eustatius Eardley Woodley.

In remarks at the ceremony Mariana said he decided to join the union after witnessing mistreatment and violation of workers' rights. He said there was one occasion where he had been forced to defend his rights as a worker. "It was at that time, Mr. [William – Ed.] Reed saw my potential and invited me to become a member of the WICSU/PSU," he said.

Mariana plans to manage the union's finances according to the highest possible standards. He said the union "is here to fight and struggle for the workers as long as they are within their rights. Needless to say, if a worker is wrong the union's hands are tied and will be unable to fight their cause. As a social partner, the union can and will continue to do what is in the best interest of its members and to make sure to come to favourable decisions."

Arrindell said he is very excited for the opportunity to use his acquired skills, energy and expertise in WICSU/PSU. "As a second generation union member I consider the labour union to be a very powerful force to build meaningful solidarity, create a balanced economy and bring about positive social change on St. Maarten."

"It stands to reason that many of the benefits and job security workers enjoy today did not arise naturally or by providence, but through the inexhaustible efforts of the labour union," he said. "In an age of globalisation where powerful corporate interests eat away at job security and outcomes particularly of working families, the work of unionism especially on small island-developing states has never been more urgent than it is today."

"It goes without saying that our determined efforts will be for naught unless we have the continued support of our members... To remain passive, reactive or separate, self-interested individual persons, stifles and undermines our ability to achieve the collective goals of the working class on St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius," he continued.

He said it is only through the active participation of every member on every level that everyone will be able to move forward without further delay. "There should be no compromise where our collective interests are concerned."

Doran-York said it was her intention to continue to take the union forward. "You can look forward during my term for a full agenda with ordinary and extra ordinary events."

She said being president of the union is a very essential role, but noted that giving representation is not new to her as she had been representing persons since becoming a civil servant some 32 years ago. "Some of our main goals... are to provide the optimal service to our members, [ensure – Ed.] that the conditions under which our members work are legally correct and also to confront the challenges that our workers face and to always work in the best interest of our members."

WICSU-PSU has been led by "some very strong and courageous leaders," in the past and Doran-York intends to continue on this path. "I will lead, but with an innovative twist meaning that you are to look out for many changes in this organisation."

She said the union has been faced with many challenges over the past years and it will be faced with many more, but noted that the board won't leave any stone unturned to tackle the challenges that arise.

She told members that "it is only together that we will conquer. You stand with us and we will stand for you. Together we stand or divided we will fall. There is much work to be done because union work is never finished. This union continues to move forward because of you the members. We all know that there can be no forward movement without you the members."

Dignitaries attending the ceremony included Members of Parliament (MP) George Pantophlet and Silveria Jacobs from the National Alliance and Independent MP Cornelius de Weever.

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