A former senior official of world football body FIFA admitted in 2013 to accepting bribes in connection with the selection of 2010 World Cup host South Africa, newly released transcripts have shown. Chuck Blazer, an American who had been a member of the FIFA Executive Committee, also admitted to accepting bribes in connection with the 1998 World Cup. The revelations have come from newly released transcripts recorded in 2013, made during a US hearing in which Blazer pleads guilty to 10 charges. A US-led investigation into corruption at FIFA came to a head last week after Swiss police swooped in to arrest FIFA officials at a hotel in Zurich. 14 people in total have been indicted by US prosecutors, including 9 FIFA officials, while FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Monday announced his resignation in the wake of the scandal. In a separate development, former FIFA Vice-President Jack Warner said on Wednesday that he had evidence linking FIFA officials to the 2010 election in his native Trinidad and Tobago. The scandal engulfing FIFA has raised questions over the future of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. UK Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has said that the UK would offer to host the 2022 World Cup should the competition be stripped from Qatar.
Chinese rescue teams have recovered dozens of bodies from the capsized Eastern Star cruise ship in Hubei province, bringing the death toll to 75. The death toll is expected to rise into the hundreds. Only 14 of the ship’s 456 passengers are currently known to have survived the ship’s capsizing, which occurred on Monday night in reportedly sudden stormy weather. Rescue teams have cut into the hull of the capsized ship, though divers’ rescue attempts have been hampered by poor underwater visibility. On Wednesday night, relatives of passengers broke through police lines surrounding the rescue site. Authorities on Thursday gave dozens of relatives access to the rescue site. Some relatives have expressed frustration over the lack of information given on rescue attempts. President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, has convened a special meeting of supreme governing body the Politburo Standing Committee in order to address the disaster.
Prime Minister David Cameron will today write to the parliamentary watchdog in a bid to prevent a £6,700 pay rise for MPs. Downing Street confirmed that it felt the decision by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to raise MPs pay from £67,060 to £74,000 was wrong. The decision to deliver the letter marks a shift in opinion for the Prime Minister, who had previously said that while he opposed IPSA’s ruling he would accept the pay rise. Pressure has grown on the Prime Minister after many opposition MPs said that they would give the extra money to charity. Conservative MPs, including Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, have also voiced opposition to the pay rise. IPSA has insisted that the pay rise will be balanced with cuts to MPs’ allowances and pensions, and has said that barring “new and compelling evidence”, the pay rise would be finalised.
A mix of familiar topics makes the headlines today. The Times leads with news of a “Migrant surge as job curb ends”. According to the paper, “The number of Romanians given the right to work in Britain soared by more than 200 per cent to over 150,000 people in the year after curbs on them entering the job market were lifted”. The Daily Telegraph writes in its headline that the possibility of a pay rise for MPs has split cabinet ministers. Some ministers fear the suggested 10 percent rise “could trigger public sector wage demands costing taxpayer millions”. The Financial Times leads with a message to Chancellor George Osborne from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to “Put the brakes on spending cuts”. The pace of government austerity measures has “worried” the OECD, the paper writes, with “Fears for impact on the working poor”. The Independent leads with news that ailing NHS hospitals and care services in three regions are “to be put into special measures”. Officials are to be “parachuted” in to the three areas, which cover 2 million people, the paper writes, while an additional £1.1 billion of social care cuts is “likely to exacerbate” the crisis. The Guardian leads with a report into “Labour’s shattered dream”, delving into “The rows, tactical errors and Tory traps” which left the Labour Party “stunned on election night”. According to the paper, the party’s then-Leader Ed Miliband had prepared a detailed action plan in the event of a hung parliament, but the party had failed to take into account “the possibility of an overall Tory majority”.
British Media on China
On the Eastern Star disaster: UK media continue to report on the emerging details of the Eastern Star disaster. The BBC writes that despite assurances of openness, “at the ground level, family members of the missing say they’re being ignored by local officials”. The BBC also includes a piece asking why the ship capsized, exploring whether the disaster had been caused by freak weather or a defect in the ship. The Daily Telegraph features a piece reporting that the Eastern Star “failed safety test” two years ago. The Independent writes that “More than 200 divers” are involved in rescue attempts at the site, but that hopes are fading of finding more survivors. The Guardian’s agency piece also notes the “safety violations” of the ship, and writes that Chinese authorities have launched a “high-profile response but have tightly controlled media coverage”.