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Dispatches


American Pharoah Jon Durr/ESW/CSM (Cal Sport Media) via AP

Dispatches
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June 6

A Thoroughbred named American Pharoah made history and carried horse racing into the limelight when it jumped across the finish line in first place at the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, N.Y., nabbing the sport’s first Triple Crown in decades. The last horse to win all three races in the Triple Crown series—the Belmont Stakes, the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness Stakes—was Affirmed, in 1978. The horse’s name was misspelled during registration (it should have been “Pharaoh”).

Sky spying

June 2

Dozens of small, nondescript Cessna aircraft that sometimes fly in circles above U.S. cities are actually FBI surveillance planes, the Associated Press said in a report. Over the course of a month the AP identified at least 50 of the planes, which often flew in unusual counterclockwise patterns above such cities as Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. The planes, registered with fake companies, carry surveillance cameras and occasionally technology to track cell phones on the ground. The FBI has used the spy planes to support its ground operations since at least the 1980s, but has kept them quiet. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service have similar programs.

Cruise and calamity

June 5

Rescuers looking for survivors inside a cruise ship that sank in the Yangtze River in central China found mostly bodies. The Oriental Star capsized while caught in a windstorm June 1, and out of the 456 crew and predominately middle-aged and elderly vacationers aboard, just 14 people survived, including the captain. Family members of the dead questioned why the captain did not drop anchor during the storm, while Communist officials tried to censor media reports of the recovery effort. It was China’s worst ship disaster since 1948, when the steamship Kiangya sank near Shanghai, killing up to 3,920.

Stepping down

June 2

Joseph “Sepp” Blatter announced his pending resignation as president of FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, just four days after his reelection to a fifth term—and just six days after U.S. investigators indicted nine current and former FIFA officials for alleged involvement in a long-running scheme of fraud and money laundering. The U.S. Justice Department said FIFA officials awarded soccer marketing rights in exchange for bribes and kickbacks worth over $150 million, and took bribes to cast votes allowing South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup. In a separate probe, Swiss officials were investigating whether Russia and Qatar fairly won their bids to host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. Blatter was not among those indicted but served as FIFA president throughout the time of the alleged corruption.

Lethal heat

May 29

A scorching heat wave descended on India from mid-April to early June, driving temperatures to 118 degrees Fahrenheit, melting asphalt roads, and causing 2,500 deaths from dehydration and heatstroke. Unreliable or nonexistent electricity meant most Indians went without air conditioning, and some took to their roofs to avoid stifling indoor heat. Delayed monsoon rains, needed to cool the air and quench crops, finally arrived in southern India June 5.

Shot in Boston

June 2

Boston police and FBI investigators shot and killed a black Muslim man, Usaama Rahim, who they said lunged at them with a foot-long, military-style knife after they tried to question him. Rahim, 26, had been under FBI surveillance for allegedly planning to carry out a jihadi attack. Hours before his death, investigators said Rahim told his nephew, David Wright, in a secretly recorded phone call that he planned to “go after them, those boys in blue … ’cause it’s the easiest target,” a reference to police officers. Police later arrested Wright at his Everett, Mass., home.

Hastert accused

May 28

A federal grand jury indicted former U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, 73, on charges of lying to FBI agents and making illegal payments to keep an undisclosed person quiet about “prior misconduct” by Hastert. The indictment claimed Hastert, an Illinois Republican who retired in 2007, paid $1.7 million to someone from Yorkville, Ill., where Hastert was a high-school teacher and wrestling coach from about 1965 to 1981. Officials familiar with the investigation said the misconduct claim involved inappropriate touching of a former male student. Hastert on June 9 pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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