10 things you need to know today: May 29, 2015

Ex-House speaker Dennis Hastert is indicted, FIFA's president faces reelection, and more

Before the fall.
(Image credit: (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta))

1. Ex-House speaker Hastert accused of evading currency-reporting law

Former House speaker Dennis Hastert was indicted Thursday on charges that he tried to hide $3.5 million in hush money he allegedly paid someone to keep quiet about past misconduct. Hastert, 73, is accused of trying to mask nearly $1 million in bank withdrawals to avoid banking laws requiring banks to report cash transactions over $10,000. He also is accused of lying about the withdrawals to the FBI. Both counts carry up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The Associated Press

2. FIFA's embattled president, Sepp Blatter, faces reelection

FIFA officials are voting Friday on whether to give President Sepp Blatter a fifth term. Blatter has faced calls to resign since a corruption scandal erupted this week at the organization — soccer's global governing body. He is expected to defeat his sole challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, but Hussein gained support ahead of the vote. Blatter on Thursday addressed the scandal for the first since the Wednesday arrests of nine FIFA officials, denying blame. "We, or I, cannot monitor everyone all of the time," Blatter said.

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BBC News The New York Times

3. Pataki formally announces presidential bid

Former New York governor George Pataki, a moderate Republican, announced on Thursday that he would run for the White House in 2016. Pataki adds one more long-shot candidacy to an already crowded field, with more contenders expected to join the race soon. Pataki served for three terms, but has not held office since 2006. Lacking national name recognition, he polls behind a dozen GOP rivals. Announcing his candidacy with a swipe at Democrat Hillary Clinton for her high speaking fees. "She speaks for the middle class?" he said.


4. Volcanic eruption forces evacuation of small Japanese island

Japanese authorities ordered the evacuation of the small island of Kuchinoerabu on Friday after a volcano, Mount Shindake, erupted there. At least one person suffered minor burns from falling debris after the volcano sent rocks and black smoke into the sky, and a dense flow of rocks and hot gases toward the sea. The injured man and two others were airlifted out, and 133 others were evacuated by boats. Shindake also erupted last August, for the first time since 1980.

The New York Times

5. Veterans overcharged for student loans to get refunds

The Department of Justice has arranged for military veterans who were illegally charged too much interest on student loans to receive up to $100,000 in refunds. Student loan service provider Navient Corp., formerly known as Sallie Mae, will begin issuing refunds in June. A total of $60 million has been set aside for 77,795 veterans overcharged when Navient violated a required 6 percent cap on interest rates for some loans. The average veteran will receive $770.

The New York Times

6. Journal retracts high-profile study on gay-marriage views

The journal Science on Thursday retracted a December article on shifting attitudes toward same-sex marriage. The highly publicized study concluded that people's attitudes toward gay marriage could be changed through brief face-to-face conversations. The study's senior author, Columbia University political scientist Donald Green, asked for the retraction after his co-author, University of California graduate student Michael LaCour, declined to provide the raw data on which he based his conclusions. LaCour stood by his work.

The New York Times

7. Christie changes his mind on Common Core education standards

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) announced Thursday that he was abandoning the Common Core program and calling for state education officials to develop new education standards. Christie once supported the controversial Common Core, but said in the five years since its adoption it had created "confusion and frustration" for parents and created unanticipated new problems. "The truth is that it's simply not working," Christie said. "We need to do something different."

CBS News

8. N.C. governor vows to veto bill letting officials refuse to perform marriages

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) said Thursday that he would veto a newly passed bill that would let magistrate judges refuse to perform marriages due to their religious beliefs. The bill does not single out same-sex marriages, but opponents say it would result in discrimination against gay couples, who can marry in the state under federal court rulings. McCrory said he agrees with fellow Republicans "with sincerely held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman," but that public officials must uphold their duties.

Raleigh News & Observer

9. Dozens rescued from latest Texas floods

Emergency responders rescued dozens of people from continuing flash floods in Texas early Friday. Flood alerts stretch nearly 800 miles from southern Texas to central Missouri. Texas is facing its wettest May on record. At least 23 people have died in flooding and tornadoes caused by severe storms across Texas and Oklahoma in the past week. Another 14 were killed in northern Mexico. About 56,100 Texans remain without power.


10. National spelling bee crowns co-champions for second straight year

The Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday ended in a tie for the second straight year. Before last year, the last tie was in 1962. This year's winners — Vanya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, of Chesterfield, Missouri — battled head to head for 30 minutes after the rest of the 285 contestants were eliminated. When Vanya correctly spelled "scherenschnitte" and Gokul spelled "nunatak," the judges ran out of championship words and called a draw. Vanya was the first sibling of a former champ to win — her sister, Kavya, won in 2009.


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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.