The leftist, anti-austerity Syriza party has swept to victory in Greece. Syriza won 149 seats in the 300-seat Parliament, two short of an absolute majority. This marks the first time since the economic crisis in 2009 that a member of the 19-nation eurozone will be led by a party rejecting German-backed austerity. The head of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, will become Greece’s new prime minister.
Alexis Tsipras: “Greece is turning a page. Greece is leaving behind catastrophic austerity. It is leaving behind the fear and the autocracy. It is leaving behind five years of humiliation and pain. … Today, there are no winners and losers. Today, Greece’s elite and Greece’s oligarchs were defeated. … Our victory is also a victory for all the people of Europe who are fighting against austerity that is destroying our common European future.”
Supporters of Syriza praised the party’s vow to renegotiate Greece’s debt agreements and its willingness to oppose the austerity measures demanded by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
Dimitris Karamanis, Greek voter: “I think that Syriza is the only alternative at this time in Greece, and of course Syriza’s proposals are the only alternatives in Europe concerning the issues about the debt, about the crisis and all that stuff. And of course I’m voting for Syriza because it’s the only alternative for my generation.”
Coming in second in the Greek election was the conservative New Democracy party headed by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Antonis Samaras: “The Greek people have spoken, and we all respect their decision. My conscience is clear. I took over a country on the edge of catastrophe; I had to handle hot coals. Most people said we wouldn’t make it, but we did, and we avoided the worst. … I hand over a country that is a member of the European Union and the euro. For the good of the country, I hope the next government will continue to maintain what we have achieved.”
In the United States, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders praised the election of Syriza. He said, “The Syriza victory in the Greek elections tell us that people around the world will no longer accept austerity for working families while the rich continue to get much richer.”
In Egypt, at least 17 people were killed on Sunday in Egypt’s bloodiest protests since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power as security forces fired at protesters marking the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak. Riot police backed by soldiers in armored vehicles sealed off roads, including those leading to Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Riot police with rifles and plain-clothed men with pistols were seen chasing protesters through the streets of Cairo. The heaviest death toll was in the Cairo suburb of Matariya, a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold, where eight people, including one policeman, were killed. On Saturday, Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, a leading member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, was shot dead at a protest near Tahrir Square. Video and photos of the shooting went viral across Egypt.
Two sons of Hosni Mubarak were released from prison in Egypt today nearly four years after they were first arrested along with their father. Last week, an Egyptian court ordered their release pending their retrial in a corruption case.
The United States and India have reached a deal to allow U.S. companies to build a new generation of nuclear power plants in India without being held legally liable in the event of a nuclear power plant catastrophe. India is one of the few nations that does not exempt nuclear suppliers from accident liability. It put strict compensation laws on the books after the 1984 catastrophe in Bhopal when a factory owned by the U.S. multinational Union Carbide Corporation leaked cyanide gas into the air, killing thousands of Indians. President Obama announced the deal in India during a joint press conference with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
President Obama: “In the last few years, trade between our two countries has increased by some 60 percent, toward a record $100 billion. We want to trade even more. So we welcome the reforms that the prime minister is pursuing to make it easier to do business here in India. Today, we achieved a breakthrough understanding on two issues that were holding up our ability to advance our civil nuclear cooperation, and we’re committed to moving towards full implementation.”
U.S. firms, including General Electric and Westinghouse Electric, are expected to benefit from the nuclear deal. Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed plans to expand military ties with the United States, including joint production of drone aircraft and equipment for Lockheed Martin Corporation’s C-130 military transport plane.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi: “Today, we also decided to take up our growing defense cooperation to the new level. We have agreed in principle to pursue co-development and co-production of specific advanced defense projects. This will help upgrade our domestic defense industry and expand the manufacturing sector in India.”
President Obama is cutting his trip to India short in order to visit Saudi Arabia to pay respects following the death of King Abdullah and to meet Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman. Over the weekend, many world leaders traveled to Saudi Arabia to offer condolences, including Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President François Hollande and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Meanwhile, human rights groups are urging the new king to pardon dissident blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for charges including insulting Islam.
Christophe Deloire, general secretary of Reporters Without Borders: “There can be different kings. The religious police, they succeed to control the whole country, to control information in that country. They succeed to condemn journalists, bloggers, to put them in jails, to inflict them penalties with lashes. So we hope that international pressure in that case, in the Raif Badawi case, will be a success and that the new king, Salman, will pardon Raif Badawi and that really things will change in that country.”
In Yemen, thousands of Yemenis marched Saturday in the biggest demonstrations yet against the Houthi rebels now controlling the country two days after President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi resigned. Up to 10,000 people marched from Sana’a University toward Hadi’s home.
The United States has reportedly carried out its first drone strike in Yemen this year. Three people died in an attack on a vehicle carrying suspected al-Qaeda members in an area called Hareib.
In news from Syria, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is calling for the immediate release of a Japanese journalist held by the Islamic State after a video surfaced claiming that a fellow Japanese captive had been executed. A video posted online appears to show the decapitated body of Japanese captive Haruna Yukawa, who went missing in Syria last August. Japan government officials said they had not confirmed the authenticity of the recording yet.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the first group of about 100 U.S. troops — mostly special operations forces — to head to the Middle East to establish training sites for Syrian opposition fighters. Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have offered sites to hold the trainings.
Ukraine is accusing Russian-backed rebels of violating the September ceasefire by killing 30 civilians in an attack on the Black Sea port city of Mariupol. The attack came two days after eight civilians were killed when a trolley bus was hit by an artillery shell or mortar in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk. At the United Nations, Rupert Colville warned of the rising death toll.
Rupert Colville: “The significant escalation of hostilities in Ukraine since the 13th of January has taken the total death toll in the country to at least 5,086 individuals, and we fear that the real figure may be considerably higher. At least 10,948 people have also been wounded between mid-April last year and the 21st of January.”
In environmental news, President Obama has announced a plan to designate 12 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness in an effort to ban oil and gas drilling in the area.
President Obama: “Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge is an incredible place — pristine, undisturbed. It supports caribou and polar bears, all manner of marine life, countless species of birds and fish, and for centuries it supported many Alaskan Native communities. But it’s very fragile.”
Congress needs to approve any wilderness designation, but the Interior Department will start managing the area under that level of protection until congressional action is taken. The Washington Post is reporting the Interior Department is also planning to place part of the Arctic Ocean off limits to drilling.
Google has revealed it secretly gave the U.S. government the email messages and metadata of three top members of the whistleblowing organization WikiLeaks — investigations editor Sarah Harrison, section editor Joseph Farrell, and spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson, a longtime Icelandic journalist. The U.S. government requested the information in 2012 as part of an alleged conspiracy and espionage investigation targeting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
In the Philippines, at least 40 police commandos have been killed in a clash with militants from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It was the first clash between police and the militants since a peace accord was signed in March.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is reporting the release of the new Hollywood blockbuster, “American Sniper,” has led to an increase in threats against Muslims in the United States. The film is based on a memoir by a U.S. sniper in Iraq named Chris Kyle, who called Iraqis “savages.” The organization says it has collected hundreds of violent messages targeting Arab and Muslim Americans from moviegoers posted to Facebook and Twitter. The group has written to film director Clint Eastwood and star Bradley Cooper to speak out against what it described as “the hateful rhetoric.”
In economic news, American workers are losing up to $17 billion a year in retirement savings due to abusive trading practices. This according to a new memo by Jason Furman, chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. The White House is considering stricter rules on Wall Street brokers, but industry giants including Morgan Stanley and Bank of America are lobbying against any new regulations.
In political news, three potential Republican presidential candidates — Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz — traveled to California Sunday to face off in what some dubbed the Koch primary, a closed-door gathering organized by the billionaire Koch brothers. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal is reporting Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has formed a political action committee, a major step to a presidential run.
The scientists who maintain the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic countdown to global catastrophe, has moved the clock two minutes closer to midnight in its first shift in three years. Kennette Benedict of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said the clock now stands at three minutes to midnight, or doomsday.
Kennette Benedict: “Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity, and world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of leadership endanger every person on Earth.”
A blizzard warning has been issued for New York City and other parts of the Northeastern United States. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said the storm could bring up to three feet of snow.
Bill de Blasio: “So this literally could be one of the top two or three largest storms in the history of this city, and we need to plan accordingly. So my message to all New Yorkers is prepare for something worse than we have seen before.”