It was less than a year ago when the United States made it to the knockout stage of the World Cup in South Africa, giving soccer some new American fans along the way.
Now, two high-ranking members of the sport's world governing body have been suspended amid allegations of corruption. The uproar may be giving some of those new soccer fans a crash course in the role that FIFA plays in the sport, and it may leave them wondering what the corruption allegations might mean for soccer in America and around the globe.
"FIFA likes to say that it has more members than the United Nations - and it does," said Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl. "Their members include 208 nations around the world."
It also earned more than $4 billion last year, more than the gross domestic product of some of its member nations.
FIFA is the top of the pyramid of the organization of the sport worldwide. And like the U.N., the organization is full of politics and has the occasional scandal. In the latest scandal, high-ranking FIFA officials Jack Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam - a candidate for FIFA's presidency - were accused of offering bribes in return for votes for Bin Hammam. Both were suspended over the weekend, and the only remaining presidential candidate, incumbent Sepp Blatter, was re-elected on Wednesday.
Before that, some FIFA members allegedly sought bribes for a different kind of vote - the December decisions on the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Two members have denied claims that they took money to vote for Qatar, which was awarded the 2022 event. That vote was of particular interest for the United States, which was vying to host the 2022 edition.
What do these allegations mean for soccer fans in the United States? Do they care? CNN Radio's Steve Kastenbaum looked for the answers. Click the audio player to hear Kastenbaum's story:
[9:32 p.m. ET] At least four people have been killed in the tornadoes that struck western Massachusetts on Wednesday, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said.
[8:25 p.m. ET] Severe storms - including tornadoes - have left behind "many injuries" and extensive damage in western and central Massachusetts on Wednesday, Gov. Deval Patrick said.
Patrick also said he's received a report one person has died as as result of the storms. He said he has declared a state of emergency for Massachusetts and called up 1,000 National Guard members, who will be asked to help with cleanup and search-and-rescue operations.
"It's been particularly devastating in downtown Springfield," he said.
Patrick said he was asking school superintendents in affected communities to cancel Thursday classes so that rescue and recovery personnel could concentrate on cleanup.
The National Weather Service has said it received three reports of tornadoes in Massachusetts on Wednesday: at least one near Springfield; one near Palmer; and one near Sturbridge and Oxford.
Sandra Ahearn, a spokeswoman for the Western Massachusetts Electric Co., said 12,000 customers were without power in the utility's service area and that hard-hit areas might not have electricity until the end of the week.
[7:50 p.m. ET] Trained weather spotters reported a tornado near Sturbridge, Massachusetts, at 7:25 p.m. ET, bringing to at least three the number of tornadoes that have been reported in the state Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.
By 7:35 p.m., the suspected tornado was located near Oxford, Massachusetts, moving east at 30 mph.
[6:53 p.m. ET] Local law enforcement reported a tornado caused widespread damage near Palmer, Massachusetts, about 14 miles northeast of Springfield. The tornado was moving east at 35 mph, the National Weather Service said.
[4:51 p.m. ET] Witnesses reported a tornado near downtown Springfield, Massachusetts, on Wednesday as heavy thunderstorms swept through western Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.
Police and amateur radio operators said tornadoes were spotted in a Springfield neighborhood and within a half-mile of downtown, according to a warning put out by the Weather Service. No confirmation of damage or injuries was immediately known, however.
Springfield is about 90 miles west of Boston.
Comment of the day: “Sorry, there is no constitutional right to free money. If you don't like it, you don't have to apply.”– LeaC24
Saying it is "unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction," Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday signed legislation requiring adults applying for welfare assistance to undergo drug screening. Scott said the measure saves tax dollars and provides "incentive to not use drugs,” but some Democratic lawmakers say the tests represent an "illegal invasion of personal privacy."
The story about the measure generated a lot of back and forth between CNN.com readers, though most readers said they support the legislation.
Phreaky said, “I'm a democrat and I fully support this law and wish it was nationwide. There is no excuse for drug users to receive government money because they are needy.” NJDoc responsed, “Many addicted individuals started their drug use because of their lack of income or a decent education. I am sure the ACLU will file an objection to this law and we will once again see tax dollars going towards legal battles instead of creating jobs."
LakewayJake said, “About damn time. This needs to be in place for all states. For those that feel this is an invasion of privacy, keep this in mind, no one is required to take the money. What's the difference between an employer mandating drug testing to be employed and /or stay employed?" huwie responded, “You just explained the difference. Athletes, employees, etc. are not on the government’s dime. They are paid by their PRIVATE employers. Do you know the difference between private and public?”
pinksunshine said, “As a person who was once on public assistance I see no problem with testing. I am a divorced mother of 4 and needed help. If drugs are what you use the assistance for you shouldn't be getting it in the first place.”
31459 said, “So what if they fail? Are they then criminally prosecuted? Sounds like self incrimination to me. If I were a drug using parent, I'd skip the test and the help for my children rather than risk creating a permanent record of my drug abuse.”
Baug said, "How dare Florida mandate that in order to receive assistance you need to make yourself more employable and set a better example for your children! That's downright disgusting! poln8r said, “Drug testing is required for many jobs these days, so why shouldn't someone who is receiving FREE MONEY from the taxpayers also undergo testing? opus512 responded, “So getting a job is exactly the same as getting welfare? There's no difference at all here? Really?”
soundoff14 said, "Thank you Governor Scott, this measure is long overdue. More power to you as you face the challenges to this common sense approach." Jim22 said, “What is it with democrats and their belief that nobody should be responsible? The tax payers have to pay for the mistakes others make in life and in a lot of cases we have to support them for life, yet nothing is expected of those who receive tax payer support. It sickens me!”
missj75 said, “As a taxpayer you should be upset about this law cause guess who's paying for all those drug test on top of the welfare benefits. YOU! Papagino responded, “@Missj – The taxpayers pay for the tests if the client passes them. The applicant is responsible for the cost of the test upfront.” And missj75 replied, “@Papagino: Yes and when a million people pass a test that cost anywhere from $50 to $90 then thats about $50,000,000 that taxpayers are forced to REIMBURSE them.”
NBA star Shaquille O'Neal appears ready to hang up his size 23 basketball shoes after a 19-year pro run that saw him collect four championships and reach fifth on the league's all-time scoring list.
“We did it. Nineteen years, baby. (I) want to thank you very much. That’s why I’m telling you first, I’m about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon,” Shaq said in the video on Tout.com, linked from his Twitter account.
His team, the Boston Celtics, has not announced his retirement, but it did re-tweet one of O'Neal's retirement posts.
O'Neal, a 7-foot-1-inch center, won four NBA titles and reached the league finals two other times. He is fifth on the NBA’s all-time career scoring list with 28,596 points - short of only Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain - and 12th on the league’s all-time rebounding list, with 13,099.
Drafted after his junior year at Louisiana State University in 1992, O’Neal would earn NBA rookie of the year honors with the Orlando Magic, with whom he played four seasons. He reached the NBA finals for the first time in 1995, but the Magic lost to Houston.
Do you believe flying saucers have been around for "many years?" Would you like to see people travel in flying saucers as part of their daily life?
For reasons not immediately apparent, you'll have to answer these two questions, among others, if you want to bid online on the flying saucer that was used to temporarily trick authorities into believing a 6-year-old boy was floating above Colorado.
Richard Heene's claim in 2009 that his son was in the balloon prompted live coverage nationwide of authorities tracking the craft while they grappled over how to rescue the boy inside. When the balloon came to rest in a field, however, Heene's son was not inside. The boy later was found hiding in the family's house.
Now, the self-styled scientist behind the "balloon boy hoax" is offering up the saucer in an online auction to benefit relief efforts in Japan, according to the website, balloonboyflyingsaucer.com. The site, which claims to be the work of California lawyer Perry Rausher, assures potential bidders that Heene will not receive any money from the auction.
"The winning bidder’s funds will go directly into the Trust Account of Attorney Perry H. Rausher of Calabasas, California. Mr. Rausher will then write a check to a selected charitable organization that is helping the Japanese cause. The Heene family will not receive anything from the sale," the site says.
Rausher did not immediately return calls for comment.
The site says visitors can purchase the saucer outright for $1,000,000 or submit a bid online. In addition to the questions mentioned above, the form also inquires of "your main interest" in the craft, how it will be used and whether you have read Heene's paper, "Electromagnetic Fields Recorded in Mesocyclones."
The site also contains a link to a YouTube video of Heene and his wife, standing outside in front of a deflated silver balloon while they explain their motives and the craft's functionality.
"We went on the Internet and we saw that over 18,000 people have perished over in Japan because of that tsunami," Heene says in the video. "We thought, how can we help out? We can't with our hands but we have something that we think could help."
"Funds raised by the sale will go to charity to help Japanese in their recovery," his wife, Mayumi, says in subtitled Japanese.
Heene did some jail time on a felony charge for the hoax and was ordered to pay $36,000 in restitution. Since then, he has managed to remain in the public eye through stunts that included a rock band and back scratchers.
A new national poll indicates that a majority of Americans don't like what they've heard so far about congressional Republicans' plans to change Medicare.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, a majority also don't think the GOP has cooperated enough with President Barack Obama and, for the first time since they won back control of the House last November, the number of Americans who say that Republican control of the chamber is good for the country has dropped below the 50 percent mark.
The poll indicates that 58 percent of the public opposes the Republican plan on Medicare, with 35 percent saying they support the proposal. The survey's Wednesday release comes as the president met with House Republicans to discuss, among other things, Medicare reform. The House Republican 2012 budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, passed the chamber in April without a single Democratic vote and included a proposal to overhaul Medicare. Under the plan, the government would no longer directly pay medical costs for those 55 and younger, but instead would offer subsidies for seniors to use to get private health insurance coverage.
"Half of those we questioned say that the country would be worse off under the GOP Medicare proposals and 56 percent think that GOP plan would be bad for the elderly," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Opposition is highest among senior citizens, at 74 percent, suggesting that seniors are most worried about changes to Medicare even if those changes are presented as ones that would not affect existing Medicare recipients."
"A majority of all demographic groups don't favor the GOP Medicare proposals," Holland adds. "That includes conservatives - 54 percent of them don't like the plan. As a result, rank-and-file Republicans are split right down the middle, with 48 percent favoring the GOP plan and 50 percent opposed."
The poll is another sign that the House Republicans' Medicare proposal could be politically damaging to the party. Last week the Democrats won a special election to fill a vacant House seat in New York's 26th congressional district, which the GOP held for over a generation. The Ryan Medicare plan became a major issue in the race, with both the Democratic and Republican candidates, the party committees and outside organizations spending millions of dollars to run ads that focused on Medicare.FULL POLITICAL TICKER POST
The circus was in Joplin last week, but no one in the tornado-ravaged Missouri town was really interested in seeing clowns or anyone on a flying trapeze.
An elephant, though, had a very enthusiastic audience.
A CNN affiliate in Kansas City reports that the Piccadilly Circus allowed one of its elephants to help move debris from the May 22 twister that leveled whole neighborhoods. Many folks cheered, but some were outraged, saying the elephant was being mistreated.
Ashamed, embarrassed, betrayed. These are words you'll most certainly hear when celebrities look back on those pesky sex tapes that accidentally got leaked. But you won't hear them complaining about the ticket to fame that came along with it.
Paris who? – By now, you've probably heard about Paris Hilton's leaked sex tape. In fact, that's probably how you knew who she was in the first place. Here, she tells CNN's Piers Morgan how she regrets the sex tape she made. What's most notable in the interview is the teary reaction from her mom that will make you want to wiggle right out of your chair.
Casey Anthony's brother testified Wednesday about a "combative" confrontation between his mother and sister on the night of July 15, just before his 2-year-old niece Caylee's disappearance a month earlier was reported to police.
Lee Anthony told jurors in his sister's capital murder trial he arrived at his parents' house after being contacted by his father and asked to go. He said shortly after he arrived about 8 p.m., his mother Cindy Anthony came home, with his sister in tow.
The two were arguing about Caylee's whereabouts, Lee Anthony said. At that point, according to Cindy Anthony's previous testimony, she had not seen her daughter or granddaughter for weeks. She testified she found her daughter only after contacting a friend and being led to the home of Casey Anthony's then-boyfriend.
Casey Anthony kept insisting the little girl was with her nanny, Lee Anthony said, and could be picked up the next day. She maintained Caylee was already asleep by that point and she didn't want to disturb her or disrupt her routine.
Lee Anthony told jurors he offered to go get Caylee or have his roommate do it. "There was, in my mind, no excuse why anybody couldn't go get Caylee," he testified.
A short recess was called as Lee Anthony recounted the confrontation. According to Cindy Anthony's testimony, her daughter eventually broke down and told her brother Caylee had been missing for a month and that the nanny had kidnapped her, which prompted Cindy Anthony to call police.
Casey Anthony, 25, is charged with seven counts in Caylee's death, including first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and misleading police. If convicted, she could face the death penalty.
On Tuesday, a former friend of Casey Anthony's testified that she was growing more frustrated with her parents around the time Caylee was last seen on June 16.
A woman was killed when she was swept over Niagara Falls, according to news reports.
Witnesses said the woman appeared to be alive as she approached the brink of the Horseshoe Falls about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, reported CNN affiliate WIVB-TV in Buffalo, New York.
The Maid of the Mist, the vessel that takes tourists to the foot of the falls in the Niagara River, dispatched a boat to help her, but she was dead when it reached her, according to the WIVB report.
The woman has not been identified, and her death is under investigation by the Niagara Parks police and Niagara Regional Police, according to a report in the Niagara Gazette. Foul play was not suspected, WIVB reported.
On Monday, two men in a small boat came within 700 feet of the brink of the falls before they were pulled to safety, CNN affiliate WGRZ-TV in Buffalo reported. The motor failed on the men's boat, and the current carried them toward the falls before rescuers were able to hook the craft with a rescue line, according to the report.
Countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been swept up in protests against longtime rulers since the January revolt that ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abedine Ben Ali. In many cases, these demonstrations and movements have been met with brute force and escalated into seemingly unending violence.
On Wednesday, Bahrain lifted state-of-emergency laws that had allowed for a crackdown on opposition leaders and journalists, while warning against anti-government activity.
The announcement by the country's Information Affairs Authority followed one from the justice ministry the day before, warning against "any type of activities that could affect the security or harm the national peace and safety."
The lifting of the emergency laws, imposed in mid-March, is thought to be an effort to signal an end to months of civil unrest.
On Tuesday, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa appealed for dialogue, saying that talks with opposition groups are scheduled to begin in July.
Roots of Unrest:
Protesters initially took to the streets of Manama to demand reform and the introduction of a constitutional monarchy. But some are now calling for the removal of the royal family, which has led the Persian Gulf state since the 18th century.
Young members of the country's Shiite Muslim majority have staged protests to complain about discrimination, unemployment and corruption, issues they say the country's Sunni rulers have done little to address.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is a die-hard fan of the HBO series "The Wire," a Dickensian drama about cops, drug gangs, crime and political and union corruption in Baltimore. Fervently praised by critics, "The Wire" attracted a large audience for five seasons before wrapping in 2008.
"I want to speak directly to (creators) Mr. (Ed) Burns and Mr. (David) Simon, do another season of 'The Wire.' ... I want another season, or a movie," Holder said, according to The Washington Examiner.
"I have a lot of power," he joked.
Holder made the remarks while flanked by actors from the show Tuesday at the Justice Department, which last year established an agency intended to help kids whose lives revolve around street violence. National Drug Control Policy czar Gil Kerlikowske and Holder said the show accurately portrayed these children's lives.
A Spanish official bristled Wednesday at accusations that Spain was the cause of a deadly E. coli outbreak that has swept across Germany and Sweden.
Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said, in a SER radio interview, that Spain will not rule out "taking action against the authorities (in Germany) who questioned the quality of our products."
Last week, German officials implied Spanish cucumbers were the cause for the illness that had sickened people. Rubalcaba responded forcefully to that accusation.
"If it was from the cucumbers, there would be cases (of illness) in Spain," Rubalcaba said, adding that there haven't been. "The Hamburg (Germany) authorities don't know where it comes from. I understand they have a problem. We have said, 'You need to say it wasn't us.'"
While authorities in Germany worked to contain and respond to the outbreak, the specific cause remained unclear.
The European Food Safety Alert Network said EHEC, or enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, a strain of E. coli that causes hemorrhage in the intestines, was found in organic cucumbers originating from Spain, packaged in Germany, and distributed to countries including Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg and Spain.
But the source has not yet been pinpointed, authorities said.FULL STORY
An Army Ranger who lost his right hand while tossing an enemy grenade away from fellow soldiers in Afghanistan will be awarded the Medal of Honor, the U.S. Army announced this week.
Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry will be the second living recipient of the Medal of Honor from the Iraq and Afghan wars, according to the military. President Barack Obama will present the award to Petry on July 12.
"It's very humbling to know that the guys thought that much of me and my actions that day, to nominate me for that," Petry said, according to an Army News Service report.
Petry is being awarded the medal for actions on May 26, 2008, in Paktia, Afghanistan.
The sturgeon are jumping on Florida's Suwannee River and boaters beware.
A 60- to 75-pound sturgeon broke the leg of a 25-year-old woman when it jumped from the Suwanee on Sunday afternoon, the fifth time this year a jumping sturgeon has injured a boater, according to a report in The Gainesville Sun.
Tina Fletcher was a passenger on an airboat when the fish struck her, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials told the Sun. No one else was injured, according to the report.
Southwest Florida Online reports there have been four other incidents of sturgeon hitting boats and boaters this year, with two people suffering minor injuries.
The Gulf sturgeon can grow up to 9 feet long and weigh as much as 300 pounds, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The fish migrates from saltwater into freshwater rivers to spawn and spend the warm months, according to the agency.
But no one knows why they jump, Southwest Florida Online reports.
"I have seen these encounters referred to as 'attacks,' " Allen Martin, a regional freshwater fisheries biologist, told Southwest Florida Online. "However, these fish are in no way attacking when they jump. They are simply doing what they have been doing for millions of years: jumping."
Three things you need to know today.
Hurricane season: The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season begins Wednesday with forecasters expecting an above-average year for named storms in the Atlantic basin, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.
During the season, which ends November 30, NOAA is predicting there will be 12 to 18 named storms. Storms are named when they reach tropical-storm status with winds of 39 mph or higher.
Of those storms, forecasters are predicting six to 10 will reach hurricane status, with winds of 74 mph or higher.
Three to six of the hurricane could become major hurricanes, with winds in excess of 110 mph.
"The United States was fortunate last year. Winds steered most of the season's tropical storms and all hurricanes away from our coastlines. However, we can't count on luck to get us through this season. We need to be prepared, especially with this above-normal outlook," NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco said last month.
Arlene will be the name of the season's first storm to reach sustained winds of 39 mph, followed by Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily and Franklin. See the full list here.