He’s got certain trends behind him. The GOP has a history of picking the runner-up from the last election cycle as their presidential nominee — John McCain and Mitt Romney are both examples — but 2012’s number two Rick Santorum hasn’t gotten much buzz as a potential future president this time around. Nevertheless, he announced his candidacy at a rally in his home state of Pennsylvania today, entering an already bursting field of Republican candidates. Santorum may be relying on name recognition and a strong social conservative streak to make him stand out.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They’ve been red-carded. Swiss authorities apprehended several officials from international soccer’s governing body early today, politely escorting them from their hotel to be extradited to the U.S. on federal corruption charges. Feds say up to 14 suspects have been involved in “institutionalized” wrongdoing linked to World Cup bids, with charges including racketeering and money laundering. Legal wrangling could further weaken the scandal-dogged organization and threaten its longtime president, Sepp Blatter, who’s expected to be elected to a fifth term on Friday, despite some calling for his resignation.
Water, water everywhere. The southern U.S. is digging out after torrential rains and tornadoes killed at least 17. Parts of Houston, America’s fourth-largest city, remain underwater as workers battle to clear roads littered with debris and abandoned cars, and to restore power to 100,000 homes. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared 40 counties disaster areas, and President Obama has pledged federal funding. But that doesn’t mean Mother Nature is done: Heavy rain remains in the forecast, and with several still missing, the death toll is likely to rise.
Their decision is final. Nebraska is the first Republican-run state in 40 years to ban the death penalty — the last was North Dakota in 1973 — and legislators had to go head to head with the governor to do it, winning 30-19, the smallest possible margin to override an executive veto. Nebraska’s life and death decision was hard fought, with an uneasy alliance between liberals and anti-execution conservatives making the difference, but the ACLU is pointing to it as evidence that the U.S. is “turning away from the death penalty.”
Objection sustained. A Vatican spokesman confirmed the Holy See is standing by comments from Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, who called Ireland’s historic referendum on same sex marriage a “disaster for humanity.” Father Federico Lombardi said the public shouldn’t hold their breath for further elaboration from Cardinal Parolin as it would risk further misunderstanding between the Vatican and Irish citizens. Pope Francis has yet to publicly address Ireland’s vote but insiders say he’ll likely continue outreach efforts with the gay community while standing firm on Church opposition to marriage equality.
Financial aid turned into a financial raid. A record-finding tool called Get Transcript — meant for downloading old returns with information needed for loan applications — has been hacked by identity thieves. Posing as legitimate taxpayers, an organized crime syndicate is suspected of using stolen personal information to claim $50 million of other people’s tax refunds, and authorities fear this could lead to fraudulent bank or credit card accounts being opened. The I.R.S. has shut down the tool to bolster security and plans to notify all affected parties by mail.
They’re going it alone — and going public. Founder Evan Spiegel, 24, says he’s not interested in being acquired, referring to Facebook’s $3 billion offer. Instead he’s planning an initial public offering at an undisclosed date. Spiegel admits that the messaging app startup — valued at $15 billion in March, up from $10 billion last year — has yet to prove it can generate income from ads, but hopes to forge additional revenue streams and IPO strength in a bid to stick around longer than all those fleeting messages.
Libyan prime minister escapes assassination attempt. (Al Jazeera)
High temperatures claim 1,100 lives in India. (DW)
Court refuses to lift block on Obama’s immigration plan. (WSJ) sub
Hamas accused of human rights abuses in Gaza. (AP)
EU asks countries to accept 40,000 asylum seekers. (BBC)
Taliban claims deadly attack on Kabul guesthouse. (DW)
They’ve been saying “oui” to a 35-hour work week since 1998, with employees enjoying 27 vacation days a year. Originally meant to reduce unemployment, those standards are now under fire, with some companies wanting to lay off that brand of socialism. At energy giant EDF — where overtaxed staff work 39.5 hours, netting an extra 23 days for a whopping 10 weeks of annual leave — bosses are now dangling bonuses as incentives to scale back to just seven weeks in order to compete with the rest of the working world.
We’ve got two options: A scientific community that self-regulates its artificial intelligence innovations or a future of autonomous killer robots. That’s some scientists are warning about, worrying about weaponized robotic systems that are developing so fast they fear humans could lose control. University of California scientist Stuart Russell, co-author of the leading AI texbook, says scientists and governments should work to apply international humanitarian law to these systems, just like they do for chemical weapons. Or, other experts argue, we could just embrace a future of robot-human coexistence.
It was a natural choice. The fast food giants are tossing artificial ingredients by the end of the year, hoping to boost sales in an increasingly health-conscious marketplace. Nacho and pizza cheeses will lose their yellow No. 6, and the end is nigh for seasoned beef’s fake black pepper flavoring. The plans to alter nearly every menu item have some diners kicking up a fuss, and naturally, the makeover will have little effect on fat content. But others are applauding the change and hope more restaurants follow suit.
It’s meant to pump blood, not whiskey. A study of 4,500 seniors with an average age of 76 found that drinking can threaten the heart’s structural integrity, especially in women. Researchers found that even modest amounts of alcohol on a regular basis can cause females’ heart muscles to deteriorate in small but significant ways, while men should limit themselves to two tipples a day to avoid damaging their most vital organ. The study, which contradicts earlier research, is unlikely to change current U.S. guidelines, but bolsters recommendations to drink in moderation.
Those neon lights are shining brighter than ever. The Big Apple’s theater hub has been raking in the cash with record attendance and box office grosses this year, thanks to revitalized tourism and new smash hits joining the pantheon of long-running stalwarts. Shows like An American in Paris led the newcomers this season, which saw an unprecedented 13.1 million attendees shell out $1.37 billion for perennial musical favorites and celeb-driven plays, all of which are vying for gold at the Tony Awards on June 7.
Cleveland is rocking. After sitting out two games with an injury, point guard Kyrie Irving didn’t miss a beat, leading the Cavs to a 118-88 victory over top-seeded Atlanta last night to take the Eastern Conference title. LeBron James — who nearly averaged a triple-double in the series — will make his fifth straight appearance in the finals, this time looking to deliver Ohio its first ring since 1964. Meanwhile, the hobbled Hawks will watch from home as the Cavs face the Warriors or Rockets for the NBA title.