He scored again. After shouldering the storm of controversy, and a second round of voting in today’s presidential election, FIFA’s chief emerged victorious over his rival candidate, Prince Ali of Jordan. He won despite the scandal brought on by racketeering charges against 14 fellow officials and calls for his resignation by everyone from players to The New York Times. But the famously “impenetrable” organization rejected calls for change — ignoring Ali’s pleas that delegates help him “break through the darkness” — and helped Blatter, 79, remain on his throne.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Crime doesn’t pay, but … the former speaker of the House is accused of lying to the FBI about sneaky cash withdrawals used to slip an undisclosed someone $1.7 million in exchange for keeping quiet about “past misconduct,” which some reports are saying was sexual misconduct with a former student. The 73-year-old, now a well-paid lobbyist, allegedly withdrew money in small amounts to avoid detection. Faced with two charges, which each carry up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, he’s likely to cough up more for his defense.
He’s got a lonely road ahead of him. A judge saddled Ross Ulbricht, the man who founded the massive illegal online drug marketplace Silk Road, with the harshest possible sentence: Life in prison. He’ll also have to pay $183 million restitution, a figure that matches the estimated bitcoin value of Silk Road’s sales of drugs and fake IDs. The 31-year-old Texan will be appealing his sentence — an appeal that will rest on recent disclosures about two Secret Service and DEA agents that allegedly stole millions while investigating Silk Road.
Don’t blame us. That’s the message from Burmese officials at a summit in Bangkok, where attendees from 17 countries are addressing the region’s refugee crisis. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have taken to the sea in recent weeks to flee Myanmar, where they’re denied citizenship and face increasing religious persecution. But Myanmar is rebuking the UN for demanding that it take “full responsibility,” saying that “finger-pointing” won’t help. Some 3,500 migrants have come ashore in Malaysia and Indonesia, and thousands more will likely follow unless international cooperation can stem the tide.
They’re gunning for Saudi Arabia’s sense of security. This is ISIS’s second attack in two weeks in the country’s largely Shiite east — ISIS views Shiite Muslims as apostates —but it was much less deadly than the last one: Only four people were killed, while last week’s attack claimed 21 lives. The Saudi government is calling it a victory, saying their security stopped the bomber in the parking lot and mitigated the damage — but witnesses say it was heroic civilians, which could lead the Shiite community to take internal measures to protect itself.
But they don’t need to pack their bags just yet. IMF head Christine Lagarde says Athens can have a three-week extension to drum up the $1.75 billion they owe, pushing their deadline to the end of June. Eurozone creditors have shown increasing irritation with the lack of progress in bailout negotiations — not to mention Greek claims of a pending deal that Lagarde says is not imminent. But she offered reassurances to other Europeans, noting that a Grexit would certainly not bring down the euro.
Defector warns that North Korean hackers ‘could kill.’ (BBC)
Nigeria set to swear in President Buhari. (Al Jazeera)
Investigation reveals hundreds of mishaps at U.S. biolabs. (USA Today)
Foreign investors set record with Chinese stock purchases. (FT) sub
Tunisia investigates decades of police abuse against women. (NYT)
The research and engineering arm of the U.S. Army has come up with a wallpaper that’s more useful than anything you’d ever see in Martha Stewart Living. Made of flexible Kevlar fiber threads, the product can be added to physical structures made of masonry or cinder block and even to fortify temporary shelters in the middle of combat. If an RPG shell explodes, the Kevlar will function as a catch-all net preventing debris from landing on soldiers. While it’s not field-ready quite yet and there’s no timeline for its release, something this useful will likely appear sooner rather than later.
This a good deed that really deserves a Bazinga. The principal cast and crew of the Big Bang Theory TV show announced the creation of a $4 million scholarship fund for low-income science students to attend the University of California at Los Angeles. The show, credited with familiarizing middle America with nerd culture, has been running for nearly a decade and has direct roots to science: star Mayim Bialik has a neuroscience PhD from the University. The money will support 20 students in its initial 2016-16 school year, and five students a year thereafter.
They’re feeling the heat now. Revelers at Midburn, an annual Israeli sister festival to Burning Man, are under fire after accidentally damaging remnants of prehistoric man. When they set alight a built-to-burn wooden temple on a hill in the Negev desert, they failed to notice they’d placed it atop an archaeological site containing 150,000-year-old paleolithic remains. Organizers have apologized, citing their goal to “leave no trace,” but may be slapped with a police complaint — which could see next year’s plans go up in smoke.
This beats a spoonful of sugar. If pancreatic cells don’t generate insulin, why not implant cells that do? Trouble is, they would immediately be attacked by the immune system. So scientists have devised a solution: They’re 3-D printing armor — a mixture of alginate and gelatin — for the cells, enabling them to do their jobs without being destroyed. It’s not viable for human use yet, but it’s working in lab tests, and researchers are hopeful that refinement will lead to a breakthrough.
It’s gunning for competitors like Apple and Amazon. The search engine giant unveiled its forward-thinking plans at the eighth annual I/O conference in San Francisco yesterday, demonstrating new offerings like a contextual mobile search that gives answers based on what you’re doing, an internal Android digital payments tool, and Weave, a communications system that aims to get your smart devices talking. It’s also working with GoPro to bring virtual reality video to the masses with a build-your-own rig called Jump, set to take off this summer.
Tree houses, igloos … and now TV studio rafters. The talk show host, as part of a new Airbnb promotion, is offering fans a chance to sleep where the magic happens. A contestant with the most compelling reason for wanting to stay overnight in Conan’s studio rafters — which boast 1927 craftsmanship and come with free parking — can do so free of charge on June 3. But no other amenities are on offer — shockingly, not even a TV — and throwing tomatoes at the host may get you evicted.
There are now two more ways to spell C-H-A-M-P-I-O-N. The Scripps National Spelling Bee ended yesterday in a tie for the second year running. Vanya Shivashankar, 13, and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, shared the glory after respectively spelling “scherenschnitte” and “nunatak” to end the contest. It was the last year both were eligible to compete for the sesquipedalian crown, and while they hoisted the trophy together, they each get their own to take home, along with $37,000 in cash and prizes.