NATO has admitted it mistakenly killed an Afghan mother and five of her children in an air strike last week. The air strike occurred in Helmand province. The Pentagon claimed responsibility after the killings were revealed by the governor of Helmand. Meanwhile, there are reports that as many as 14 civilians were killed in another incident in northwestern Badghis province. A spokesperson for Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed dismay Monday over the air strikes, saying they are unacceptable to the Afghan government. In related news, three U.S. soldiers were killed in eastern Afghanistan Monday.
Greece remains in a state of political turmoil after the winner of Sunday’s election, the right-wing New Democracy Party, failed to secure enough backing to form a coalition government. Now the party known as the Syriza, or the Coalition of the Radical Left, will attempt to form the first leftist government in Greece’s modern history. The party campaigned against the austerity measures and structural reforms demanded of Greece in exchange for the international bailout. Thirty-seven-year-old Alexis Tsipras heads the Coalition of the Radical Left.
Alexis Tsipras: “We fully understand the difficulties the country is facing, but at the same time this decision, taken by the people, creates possibilities for a radically different course.”
If no party has enough support to form a coalition government, another round of elections could be held next month.
Human rights and immigrant groups are expressing alarm over the success of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in Sunday’s Greek election. The party received 7 percent of the vote and won as many as 21 seats in the Greek Parliament. In the previous election, Golden Dawn received less than 0.3 percent of the vote. The party, whose flag resembles a swastika, campaigned largely on an anti-immigrant platform. Thanasis Kourkoulas works with the Greek organization Expel Racism.
Thanasis Kourkoulas: “If they enter the parliament, and there is a short period of a parliament with them inside, this means that we will have more attacks to immigrants, but also more attacks to all the pro-immigrant organizations and left organizations and labor unions in Greece.”
In other European news, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected calls by newly elected French President François Hollande to renegotiate the European fiscal pact that has led to widespread austerity measures across the continent. Merkel spoke at a news conference on Monday.
Chancellor Angela Merkel: “We in Germany are of the opinion, and so am I personally, that the fiscal pact is not negotiable. It has been negotiated and has been signed by 25 countries. It has been ratified by Greece and Portugal. In Ireland, there will be a referendum on May 31. And I think that the fiscal pact is right. And it is a basic approach in Europe that we do not change everything we have decided upon already after elections, whether in big or small countries. If that was the case, then we could not work in Europe.”
In breaking news from Iraq, the global police body Interpol has issued a red notice arrest alert for Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on suspicion of planning and funding attacks in Iraq. Hashemi, a leading Sunni Muslim politician, fled Baghdad in December when Iraq’s Shia-led government accused him of running death squads. Hashemi has denied the charges, saying they are politically motivated. He is believed to be in Turkey.
U.S. authorities announced Monday the CIA had thwarted an alleged al-Qaeda plot to place a suicide bomber on a U.S.-bound airliner wearing a new type of “underwear bomb” designed to pass through airport security. Officials said the plot was developed by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen. The would-be suicide bomber was seized outside of Yemen about a week ago with the bomb. It is unclear what has happened to the individual. Republican Rep. Peter King of New York said counterterrorism officials had said of the bomber: “We don’t have to worry about him anymore.” This is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Leon Panetta: “The United States engages in a number of operations to go after al-Qaeda and their militant allies, their terrorist allies, who would try to attack the United States. What this incident makes clear is that this country has to continue to remain vigilant against those that would seek to attack this country. And we will do everything necessary to keep America safe.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross said today fighting has been so intense in parts of Syria that at times the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has qualified as a civil war. ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said he remained very worried about the situation in Syria, where U.N. observers are monitoring a shaky ceasefire between government forces and rebels. On Monday U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the conflict in Syria has become the most serious and gravest concern of the international community.
Ban Ki-moon: “More than 9,000 people have been killed during the last 14 months. This is a totally unacceptable and intolerable situation. The situation has reached to that. Our priority at this time is, by deploying this supervision mission as soon as possible, the cessation of — violence must stop by all of the parties, either government military forces or operation forces. This should be stopped.”
Vladimir Putin was sworn in as Russia’s new president Monday, returning to the office he held from 2000 to 2008. Putin is swapping offices with Dmitry Medvedev who is expected to be confirmed as the new prime minister today. On Monday, Russian police detained more than 300 protesters who opposed Putin’s return to the presidency.
North Carolina voters are heading to the polls today to vote on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman. A law in North Carolina already bans same-sex marriage, but the constitutional amendment would deepen the ban, prohibiting state recognition of other types of domestic unions, including those between same-sex couples. On Monday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan threw his support behind same-sex marriage one day after Vice President Joe Biden said he is “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex couples receiving the same rights as heterosexual couples. President Obama has endorsed civil unions but stopped short of supporting same-sex marriage.
In North Carolina, protesters gearing up for actions against Bank of America at the company’s shareholder meeting tomorrow could face a massive crackdown after police in Charlotte were granted new powers allowing them to stop and search anyone carrying a bag close to the protests. A new city ordinance allows police to ban backpacks, messenger bags, coolers and other items near the meeting, as well as near the Democratic National Convention in September.
A United Nations investigator has said the United States should restore some land to Native American tribes, including South Dakota’s Black Hills, which is home to the famous Mt. Rushmore monument. Special Rapporteur James Anaya concluded a fact-finding mission that determined the United States should return some land stolen from Native American tribes as a step toward addressing systemic discrimination against Native Americans that continues to this day. Anaya said his two-week visit to Native American reservations uncovered widespread stories of dispossession and brutality “all grounded on racial discrimination.” Anaya said he found reservations with upwards of 70 percent unemployment plagued by social problems and tough conditions.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed into law a measure banning the use of public funds by state or local government to contract with any organization that provides abortions as one of its services. Planned Parenthood of Arizona said the ban targets their organization, which provides cancer screenings and well-woman exams in addition to abortions. A similar ban targeting Planned Parenthood in Texas has been blocked by a federal appeals court following a legal tussle last week that saw the rule blocked, then reinstated, in a matter of hours. The law in Arizona comes less than one month after Brewer signed a controversial measure banning abortion after 20 weeks gestation — or 18 weeks post-fertilization — except in medical emergencies.
A government whistleblower who was fired after exposing the dangers of asbestos and dust on workers at Ground Zero in the days after 9/11 has been reinstated to her job following a federal court decision. Cate Jenkins, a chemist who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency, was the first EPA official to warn that dust in the air around the World Trade Center could pose a serious health risk. But the head of the EPA at the time claimed there was no reason for concern. Jenkins accused the EPA of intentionally hiding the dangers of air pollution at Ground Zero. She was fired in 2010. A federal court has now ruled Jenkins must be reinstated and given back pay.
In an update on the student strike in Quebec, student associations at a number of schools have already rejected a government proposal to end the three-month strike. About 170,000 students have been on strike for the past 13 weeks to protest rising tuition. Students will continue to vote over the next two days on whether to continue the strike, the longest in the province’s history.