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Texas governor declares states of emergency, more severe weather expected

TEXAS--The governor of Texas on Monday declared states of disaster in 24 counties, citing the severe weather and flash flooding that have killed at least two people.
  The state has been pounded by tornadoes, heavy rainfall, thunderstorms and flooding that forced evacuations and rooftop rescues and left thousands of residents without electrical power.
  In declaring the states of disaster in 24 counties, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said: "The State of Texas has taken brisk action in dispatching all available resources to aid those affected by this severe weather system. My thoughts and prayers are with all the communities that are suffering as a
result of this weather disaster, and I am grateful for the first responders who have worked tirelessly to provide shelter, care and resources to all impacted areas," he said.
  Widespread severe thunderstorms were forecast for Monday in north-central and northeast Texas and southern Oklahoma, likely bringing destructive winds, tornadoes and hail, the National Weather Service said. The Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm and flash-flood warnings as well as tornado watches throughout the region.
  The most intense storms threatening Texas and Oklahoma were likely to strike in the late afternoon and early evening, according to Accuweather.com meteorologist Brian Lada. "Damaging wind gusts and frequent lightning strikes can occur," he said.
  Parts of the area have received more than a foot and a half of rain since May 1, which is six times more than the area typically receives in all of May, Accuweather said.
  The governor's office said the severe weather could continue through the week. Meteorologists said soil was saturated from heavy rainfall over the past three weeks, leading to the dangerous flash floods.
  An unidentified man was found dead from the flooding in San Marcos, and in Oklahoma, a firefighter died when he was swept into a storm drain.
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Richard Chang)

World soccer rocked as top officials held in U.S., Swiss graft cases

FIFAZURICH--Seven of the most powerful figures in global soccer faced extradition to the United States on corruption charges after their arrest on Wednesday in Switzerland, where authorities also announced a criminal investigation into the awarding of the next two World Cups.
  The world's most popular sport was plunged into turmoil after U.S. and Swiss authorities announced separate inquiries into the activities of the game's powerful governing body, FIFA.
  U.S. authorities said nine soccer officials and five sports media and promotions executives faced corruption charges involving more than $150 million in bribes. In pursuit of the U.S. case, Swiss police arrested seven FIFA officials who are now awaiting extradition to the United States.
  U.S. officials gave details of a case in which they said they exposed complex money laundering schemes, found millions of dollars in untaxed incomes and tens of millions in offshore accounts held by FIFA officials. At a New York press conference, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said authorities were seeking the arrest of other people in connection with the case.
  One of those indicted, former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner of Trinidad, solicited $10 million in bribes from the South African government to host the 2010 World Cup, the Justice Department said. Warner issued a statement saying he is innocent of any charges.
  Those arrested did not include Sepp Blatter, the Swiss head of FIFA, but included several just below him in the hierarchy of sport's wealthiest body. Lynch said the U.S. was not charging Blatter at this time.
  Of the 14 indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice, seven FIFA officials, including Vice-President Jeffrey Webb, were being held in Zurich. Four people and two corporate defendants had already pleaded guilty to various charges, the department said.
T  he Miami, Florida, headquarters of CONCACAF - the soccer federation that governs North America, Central America and the Caribbean - were being searched on Wednesday, the DoJ said.
  "As charged in the indictment, the defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world," said FBI Director James Comey. "Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks, and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA."
  The FIFA officials appeared to have walked into a trap set by U.S. and Swiss authorities. The arrests were made at dawn at a plush Zurich hotel, the Baur au Lac, where FIFA officials are staying before a vote this week that is expected to anoint Blatter for a fifth term in office. Suites at the hotel cost up to $4,000 a night.
  FIFA called the arrests a "difficult moment" but said Blatter would seek another term as FIFA head as planned and the upcoming World Cups would go ahead as intended.
  Separate from the U.S. investigation, Swiss prosecutors said they had opened their own criminal proceedings against unidentified people on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering related to the awarding of rights to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 event in Qatar. Data and documents were seized from computers at FIFA's Zurich headquarters, the Swiss prosecutors said.
  Officials said that following the arrests, accounts at several banks in Switzerland had been blocked.
  The U.S. Department of Justice named those arrested in its case as: Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, another FIFA Vice-President, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and José Maria Marin. An authoritative source said their extradition could take years if it was contested.
  The DoJ said the defendants included U.S. and South American sports marketing executives alleged to have paid and agreed to pay "well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments".
  "The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," Lynch said in a statement. "It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks," she said.
  The guilty pleas were those of Charles Blazer, a former U.S. representative on FIFA's executive committee, and José Hawilla, owner of the Traffic Group, a sports marketing firm, and two of his companies.
  The international governing body of soccer collects billions of dollars in revenue, mostly from sponsorship and television rights for World Cups. It has been dogged by reports of corruption which it says it investigates itself, but until now it has escaped major criminal cases in any country.
  In particular, the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar, a tiny desert country with no domestic tradition of soccer, was heavily criticized by soccer
officials in Western countries. FIFA was forced to acknowledge that it is too hot to play soccer there in the summer when the tournament is traditionally
held, forcing schedules around the globe to be rewritten to move the event.
  Qatar's stock market fell sharply as news of the Swiss investigation emerged.  Russian official said his country would still host the 2018 World Cup.
  Three years ago FIFA hired a former U.S. prosecutor to examine allegations of bribery over the awarding of the World Cups to Qatar and Russia. However, last year it refused to publish his report, releasing only a summary in which it said there were no major irregularities. The investigator quit, saying his report had been mischaracterized.
  Most of the arrested officials are in Switzerland for the FIFA Congress, where Blatter faces a challenge from Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al Hussein in the
election on Friday to lead the organization. Other potential challengers to Blatter have all dropped out the race.
  Prince Ali, who has promised to clean up FIFA if elected to the top job, said it was "a sad day for football" and called for leadership in the world body that could restore the confidence of hundreds of millions of fans around the world.
  English Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke said Wednesday's developments were "very serious for FIFA and its current leadership". England had nominated Prince Ali as a candidate to succeed Blatter and would be backing him if the FIFA leadership vote went ahead.
  U.S. law gives its courts broad powers to investigate crimes committed by foreigners on foreign soil if money passes through U.S. banks or other activity takes place there.
  Damian Collins, a British member of parliament who founded the reform group New FIFA Now, said the arrests could have a massive impact on the governing body. "The chickens are finally coming home to roost and this sounds like a hugely significant development for FIFA," he told Reuters.
  "It proves that Sepp Blatter's promises over the last few years to look into corruption at FIFA have not materialized and because he has totally failed to do this, it has been left to an outside law enforcement agency to do the job and take action."
  The arrests could also have implications for sponsorship. German sportswear company Adidas, long associated with FIFA, said the soccer body should do more to establish transparent compliance standards.

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.

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.

Trapped driver cut out of vehicle in bad accident Fri

page3a031PHILIPSBURG--The trapped driver of a white Toyota Corolla had to be cut out of his vehicle, which was involved in a terrible accident on A.J.C. Brouwer Road near Harold Jack lookout point mid-evening Friday.

It is unclear how the collision between the Corolla and a sports utility vehicle (SUV) occurred, but police spokesperson Chief Inspector Ricardo Henson told The Daily Herald on Sunday that the impact had been quite severe. Henson said he did not have all the details of the accident on hand, as the report of the incident had not yet been filed by the Traffic Department.

The accident led to the closure of A.J.C. Brouwer Road, which resulted in traffic backing up in the surrounding areas for a lengthy period and being diverted. Henson said the road closure had been to enable authorities to cut out the person trapped in the vehicle and to allow officers to investigate the accident.

The total number of occupants in the vehicles involved in the accident could not be ascertained. However, Henson said he believed one or two persons had been injured, although the extent of the injuries was unclear.

The vehicles had to be towed from the scene.

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