The former president of the Ecuadorian Soccer Federation was convicted of money laundering Friday as part of a widespread fraud investigation into FIFA, the international governing association of soccer. Luis Chiriboga and two other Ecuadorian soccer officials allegedly received $6.12 million in bribes from 2010-2015. Chiriboga was originally named in a U.S. investigation, which sought charges on 16 soccer officially worldwide for a bribery scheme involving broadcasting rights. Ecuador, though, does not have an extradition agreement with the U.S. and conducted its own investigation. Chiriboga, a 65-year-old, was given a 10-year sentence, which he will likely serve in house arrest because of his age. The two other convicted officials were given a 10-year and 40-month sentence, respectively. All three men said they would appeal their convictions.
Today's News: Nov. 18, 2016
Settlement in Trump University case, 102 million trees die in California, Obama administration’s Arctic drilling move, and more from the United States and around the world.
—President-elect Donald Trump agreed to pay $25 million Friday to settle three lawsuits against Trump University, which was accused of bilking students out of $40 million. More here
—The continued five-year drought in California has killed more than 102 million trees, the U.S. Forest Service announced Friday, increasing the threat of wildfires. More here
—The Obama administration declares parts of the Arctic off-limits to offshore oil and gas drilling. More here
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
Former Ecuador Soccer Head Convicted of Money Laundering
Seeking Veteran Benefits After Being Dismissed From the Military for Being Gay
Yet another gay veteran of the U.S. military is attempting to get his discharge status upgraded. On Friday, H. Edward Spires, a 91-year-old veteran who was dismissed from the Air Force as “undesirable” in 1948, sued the secretary of the Air Force, demanding his discharge status be upgraded to “honorable.” The Connecticut man tried to get his status changed after the 2011 repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but the Air Force said his records were lost in a 1973 fire and couldn’t be verified. If his status is upgraded, he will finally be able to take advantage of military veteran benefits. There are still many veterans who have not had their records corrected. Just in January, an 82-year-old Ohio man and veteran of the Army, who was discharged in 1955 for being gay, had his discharge status changed to “honorable.” Around 100,000 members of the military were dishonorably discharged because of their sexual orientation.
California Drought Kills 102 Million Trees
The continued five-year drought in California has killed more than 102 million trees, the U.S. Forest Service announced Friday, increasing the threat of wildfires. Since May, 36 million trees have died from the Sierra Nevada to Northern California, which only adds to the grim forest die-off in that state caused by warmer temperatures and low mountain snowmelt. Dry conditions starve trees and invite invasive species, like bark beetles. Dead trees, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says, “complicate our efforts to respond safely and effectively to fires when they do occur and pose a host of threats to life and property.” State government officials have attempted to clear dead trees to reduce fire hazards, but are hindered by limited funding. Vilsack called on Congress to free up federal dollars. More trees are expected to die in the coming year. The tree loss in 2016 is a 100 percent increase to the loss in 2015.
Trump University Lawsuit Reaches $25 Million Settlement
President-elect Donald Trump agreed to pay $25 million Friday to settle three lawsuits against Trump University, which was accused of bilking students out of $40 million. Eric Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General, said the decision marked a major victory for the 6,000 students involved with the case, adding that “every victim will receive restitution and that Donald Trump will pay up to $1 million in penalties to the State of New York for violating state education laws.” The dispute, which involved two class-action suits in California and the case brought forward by Schneiderman, marked one of the more controversial moments of Trump’s presidential campaign, during which he claimed U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not preside impartially over the class-action lawsuits because of his Mexican ancestry.
Zika No Longer a Global Health Risk, WHO Says
The Zika virus is no longer considered a public health emergency of international concern, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Friday. The mosquito-borne virus, which was first given the rare designation in February, has spread to more than 50 countries, where it has been linked to severe birth defects. One of those conditions is microcephaly, in which children are born with abnormally small heads and undeveloped brains. David Heymann, the chair of the WHO’s emergency committee on the Zika virus, said that despite the new designation, Zika remains a “significant and an enduring public health challenge” that would require a long-term response by the WHO.
A U.K. Teenager Won the Right to Have Her Body Cryogenically Frozen in the U.S.
A 14-year-old British girl dying of cancer was allowed by the U.K. High Court to have her body sent to the U.S. and cryogenically frozen, hoping that in the future humankind will have invented a cure for the disease. The girl was not identified—other than by the initials “JS”—and she died October 17. The judge had blocked the release of court documents until now, so the media would not distress her as her condition grew worse in the hospital. The girl lived in London, and in the last months of her life she researched cryonics, a process of freezing a body with liquid nitrogen for preservation. “I have been asked to explain why I want this unusual thing done,” the girl wrote before her death. “I’m only 14 years old and I don’t want to die, but I know I am going to. I think being cryo‐preserved gives me a chance to be cured and woken up, even in hundreds of years’ time.” The teenager’s body was packed in dry ice and sent to Michigan to the Cryonics Institute where it was frozen.
Obama Declares Arctic Off-Limits to Off-Shore Drilling
The Obama administration declared parts of the Arctic off-limits to offshore oil and gas drilling Friday, handing a victory to environmental activists who said industrial activity could threaten the region’s wildlife and aggravate global warming. In a five-year blueprint outlining offshore oil and gas leasing in public waters, Sally Jewell, the interior secretary, said the country would focus lease sales in places with the highest resource potential and exclude vulnerable regions, like the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas, “that are simply not right to lease.” This blueprint could change under President-elect Donald Trump, who has previously advocated an expansion of offshore drilling, though the process of rewriting the proposal could take months or years.
Turkish Military Officers Seek Asylum in NATO Countries, NATO's Chief Says
Turkish military officers who work in NATO’s command structure have sought asylum in the countries where they work, Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, said Friday. The Turkish government has cracked down on the military and civil society after last July’s coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Stoltenberg did not provide details of the number of asylum requests or where they were made, but he did say the individual countries would decide on the applications. Still, the public acknowledgement that Turkish officers had claimed asylum is likely to anger Turkey, a NATO member. Erdogan views many of the coup plotters to be members of—or sympathetic to—the Gulen movement, named for a U.S.-based cleric. Turkey views the group as a terrorist organizations and has sought the cleric’s extradition.
Volkswagen to Cut 23,000 Jobs in Germany Amid an Overhaul
Volkswagen announced Friday it will invest 3.5 billion euros ($3.7 billion) in future technologies such as self-driving and electric vehicles as it looks to move past the emissions scandal that roiled Europe’s biggest automaker. As a result, the company said 9,000 new jobs would be created, even as it gradually sheds 23,000 positions in Germany through attrition—meaning there won’t be any layoffs. That represents about one-fifth of Volkswagen’s 120,000 employees in Germany. Worldwide, the automaker has more than 610,000 people in 31 countries. The cuts announced today, in conjunction with labor unions, will result in annual savings of 3.7 billion euros ($3.9 billion) by 2020. The emissions scandal, which came to light last year, has hurt Volkswagen’s brand as well as its top managers.
Marilyn Monroe's 'Happy Birthday, Mr. President' Dress Sells for $4.81 Million
The dress Marilyn Monroe wore to sing a sultry version of Happy Birthday to then-President John F. Kennedy sold for $4.81 million at an auction in Los Angeles on Thursday. Ripley’s Believe it or Not made the winning bid, and the dress is now likely the most expensive ever bought. It was created by French designer Jean Louis, and originally cost $12,500. The silk-and-gauze gown, outfitted with 2,500 crystals, was so tight the actress had to be sewn into it, according to Julien’s Auctions. Monroe sang her own version of the song, famously repeating, “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” for Kennedy’s 45th birthday celebration in 1962, held at Madison Square Garden. The moment was special for many reasons, partly because it would be one of Monroe’s last public performances. She died three months later of a drug overdose. She left the dress, and many of her belongings, to Lee Strasberg, her acting coach and friend.
U.K. Supreme Court Gives Scotland and Wales a Voice in Brexit Appeal
The U.K. Supreme Court says Scotland and Wales will have a say in the government’s appeal against a High Court order that it must seek parliamentary approval for Brexit. The four-day hearing is expected to start December 5. A decision is expected early next year. Prime Minister Theresa May says she will invoke Article 50 of the EU charter next March to trigger talks on the U.K.’s future relationship with the European Union. Last June the U.K. voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the EU. England and Wales voted to leave; Scotland and Northern Ireland chose to remain—but would be part of the U.K.’s departure from the EU.
Buckingham Palace Will Get a $458 Million Refurb
Queen Elizabeth II is asking her government for a raise in her family’s grant over the next decade, because Buckingham Palace is getting a $458-million refurbishment. The work is meant to replace wiring and piping that is more than 60 years old in the 775-room palace, as well as projects to prevent fire and flood damage to the building and to the Royal Collection of art. Each year the royal family gets about $50 million for travel, living, and property maintenance. It’s no meager sum, but each year businesses and real estate owned by the royals generate hundreds of millions of pounds, the majority of which is handed over to the government. The royal family is expected to ask for a 66 percent increase in funds. Parliament is expected to approve the measure next March.
A Texas Immigration Center Takes Crayons From Migrant Children
An immigration detention center in Karnes, Texas, a privately run facility south of San Antonio, restricted migrant children from playing with crayons, saying the kids had caused damage to the property. The Karnes County Residential Center holds about 600 women and children, and is the largest facility of its kind. It is also one of the most controversial components of President Obama’s immigration policy, because many of the migrants who are seeking asylum there are held for an indeterminate time. A spokeswoman for the Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, a nonprofit legal-aid group, said the center’s staff revoked crayon privileges because staff at the center accused some children of drawing on a table in the visitation room last week. The Karnes detention center is run by GEO group, a private contractor that has been frequently criticized and accused of poorly maintaining its facilities.
Trump Selects Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General
President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly chosen Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Sessions, a conservative elected to the Senate in 1996, also serves on the Judiciary Committee. He has opposed immigration reform and the bipartisan move to cut mandatory minimum sentences. Sessions had been nominated by Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship in 1986 but was rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee at the time—only one of two judicial nominees blocked by the panel in 50 years—after his colleagues brought up a long history of racist remarks he’d made. In the testimony, colleagues said he’d referred to the NAACP as an “un-American” group inspired by Communists; he’d referred to a black federal prosecutor as “boy,” and he reportedly said he thought the Klu Klux Klan “was O.K. until I found out they smoked pot.” Sessions was one of the earliest supporters of the Trump campaign.