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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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Alexis Tsipras, the head of the leftist, anti-austerity Syriza party, has been sworn in as Greece’s new prime minister. Syriza won a decisive victory in Sunday’s election, becoming the first anti-austerity party to lead one of the 19 nations in the eurozone since the economic crisis began. Syriza spokesperson Panos Skourletis said Europe should not be worried about the new government’s policies.
Panos Skourletis: “Europe should not be afraid of parties like Syriza. If it should be afraid of something, it should be afraid of itself. I refer to the dominant strategic policies of extreme austerity, which have been imposed primarily by the main power in Europe, Germany. These dogmatic, neoliberal economic policies have driven Europe to a stagnation.”
Yanis Varoufakis is expected to be named as Greece’s new finance minister today. He is an economics professor who once described the EU-imposed austerity measures as “fiscal waterboarding.” During an interview on Channel 4 in Britain, he vowed to destroy the Greek oligarchy.
Yanis Varoufakis: “Freedom of speech in Greece has been jeopardized by this unholy alliance between bankrupt bankers, developers and media owners who become the voice of those who want to sponge and scrounge off everyone else’s productive efforts.”
Paul Mason: “And what will you do to the oligarchy concretely?”
Varoufakis: “We are going to destroy the basis upon which they have built, for decade after decade, a system and network that viciously sucks of the energy and the economic power from everybody else in society.”
On Monday, Greece’s new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, visited a World War II National Resistance Memorial in his first outing as the country’s new leader. The memorial is located at the site where the Nazis executed 200 Greek communist resistance fighters in May 1944. During the recent campaign, Tsipras called on Germany to pay Greece reparations for damages incurred during the Nazi occupation. A 2013 governmental study determined Germany owed Greece an estimated $200 billion.
States of emergency were declared across the Northeastern United States due to a heavy winter storm that is still hitting Massachusetts hard. In New York City, a blizzard warning has been canceled after the city was spared the worst of the storm. According to the National Weather Service, the storm moved further east of the city, resulting in “much less snow” than previously predicted. The city had taken the extraordinary precaution of shutting down the entire subway system and barring all non-emergency vehicles from the roads. On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said massive storms are part of the changing climate.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “I believe I’ve gone through more emergency disasters in four years than any governor in history has gone through. There is a pattern of extreme weather that we have never seen before. Buffalo sees snow. Buffalo had never seen seven feet of snow before. So, you’re getting a repeat pattern of these extreme weather situations, whether it’s Hurricane Sandy or seven feet of snow, and that’s part of the changing climate, I believe, that has brought this new extreme weather pattern. And it’s something we have to adjust to. It’s something that’s very costly. It’s also something that is very dangerous.”
Nine Ukrainian servicemen have been killed while fighting Russian-backed separatists. Twenty-nine others were wounded. The Ukrainian government says rebel groups have carried out 120 attacks on government positions in the past 24 hours. Both sides blame the other for the recent outbreak in fighting. Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the Ukrainian military of putting the interests of NATO over the interests of the Ukrainian people. He said the Ukrainian army “is not an army, but a foreign legion, in this case a foreign NATO legion.”
President Obama has arrived in Saudi Arabia with a 27-member delegation to Saudi Arabia to pay respects following the death of King Abdullah and to meet Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman. Officials traveling with Obama include CIA Director John Brennan, General Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command forces in the region, and Secretary of State John Kerry. Meanwhile, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has established a research and essay competition to honor the late King Abdullah. The contest will be open to students at the National Defense University. Dempsey described King Abdullah as a “man of remarkable character and courage.” This comes as Saudi Arabia carried out its first beheading under the new king on Monday. In a statement, Amnesty International said: “While we recognize that Saudi Arabia is in a period of mourning, it must also be acknowledged that there are serious concerns about torture and unlawful detention or beheading by the authorities in the past decade.”
More details have come to light about a U.S. drone strike in Yemen Monday. The strike reportedly killed two suspected members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as well as a 12-year-old boy identified as Mohammed Toiman. The boy’s father and brother had also been killed in U.S. drone strikes.
In news from Iraq, the Iraqi military says it has “liberated” the eastern province of Diyala from the Islamic State. Security forces and pro-government Shiite militias took control of about two dozen villages near the border with Iran after a three-day assault. Meanwhile, an Iraqi governor, parliamentarian and two tribal chiefs are accusing Shiite militias of executing more than 70 unarmed civilians who had fled the fighting with the Islamic State. Mass graves have been found in the eastern village of Barwanah. Some of the victims are said to be children.
In Libya, five foreigners and three guards have reportedly died after militants attacked a hotel popular with foreign diplomats and government officials in Tripoli. Several gunmen stormed Tripoli’s Corinthia Hotel and opened fire in the reception area. A car bomb also exploded outside the hotel.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Justice Department has been building a national database to track in real time the movement of vehicles around the United States. The secret domestic intelligence-gathering program scans and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration created the license plate-tracking program to combat drug trafficking, but many state and local law enforcement agencies are accessing the database for a variety of investigations. High-tech cameras placed strategically on major highways are used to collect data about vehicle movements, including time, direction and location, as well as visual images of drivers and passengers. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticized the program, saying Americans shouldn’t have to fear “their locations and movements are constantly being tracked and stored in a massive government database.”
A federal jury in Virginia has convicted former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling of nine felony counts, including espionage. Prosecutors accused Sterling of leaking classified information about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program to journalist James Risen of The New York Times. Risen later revealed how the risky operation could have inadvertently aided the Iranian nuclear program. Supporters of Sterling described him as a whistleblower, but prosecutors claimed he leaked the information to settle a score with the agency. Sterling is scheduled to be sentenced in April. He faces a maximum possible sentence of decades in prison.
In news from Latin America, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has announced plans to disband the nation’s intelligence agency amid suspicions that rogue agents were behind the mysterious death of a state prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people. The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, had accused President Fernández of helping to cover up Iran’s role in the bombing. He died on January 18, just a day before he was due to appear in Congress to testify about his findings. President Fernández said on Monday night she would send Congress a bill creating a new security body that would be more transparent.
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner: “Essentially, we have seen in these days a sort of permanent revolving door between prosecutors, judges, journalists, media, intelligence services who handle judicial documents or who handle prosecutors or who handle judges. Clearly this has been revealed in recent moments, and it’s necessary to pull out the root, which is why I have taken the decision to dissolve the (intelligence) ministry and the Federal Intelligence Agency.”
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro has appeared to lend his support to talks with the United States in his first comments since both countries agreed last month to restore diplomatic ties. In a statement published in the Cuban newspaper Granma and read aloud by a student on Cuban TV, Castro said he does not trust the policy of the United States but also doesn’t reject a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Cuban Student (reading Fidel Castro message): “To defend peace is the duty of all. Any peaceful or negotiated solution to the problems between the United States and the peoples or any people of Latin America that doesn’t imply force or the use of force should be treated in accordance with international norms and principles. We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all the peoples of the world, among them our political adversaries. It is what we are asking for everyone.”
In Mexico City, thousands of protesters marched Monday to mark four months since the disappearance of 43 students in September. The students were allegedly abducted by local police working with drug gangs, and according to one report, possibly federal forces, as well. Mexican authorities have said the students were incinerated at a garbage dump by drug gang members, but forensic experts say they have been unable to match incinerated remains found in a dump with the DNA of the missing students. Only one student’s remains have been positively identified. Hilda Legideño, the mother of missing student Jorge Tizapa, said she did not trust the government’s claims.
Hilda Legideño: “They are not our children. These tests they are doing, we don’t believe in them. Our children are alive, because the police took them, and the government knows where our children are. We don’t believe in these tests. Scientists have squashed the version of the attorney general’s office, and we don’t believe them.”
In news from Costa Rica, a judge has acquitted seven men of murder charges in the killing of a young sea turtle conservationist named Jairo Mora. In May 2013 Mora was attacked by armed men shortly after an expedition to the beach to collect leatherback sea turtle eggs to rebury them safely away from the poachers. Mora was 26 years old. He was a member of the group Widecast, which coordinates efforts to protect turtle eggs across Central America.
In other environmental news, the Obama administration is expected to propose today to open up coastal waters from Virginia to Georgia for new offshore oil and gas drilling. This comes just a day after he announced a plan to protect some of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from drilling. The Natural Resources Defense Council criticized allowing offshore drilling in the Atlantic. Bob Deans of NRDC said: “It would ignore the lessons of the disastrous BP blowout, the need to protect future generations from the dangers of climate change and the promise of a clean-energy future.”
A record 125 people were exonerated in the United States last year. Thirty-three of the exonerations came in the Houston, Texas, area where 33 individuals had drug convictions dismissed after lab tests determined they never had illegal substances. Many of the individuals had pleaded guilty before the lab work was done. Samuel Gross of the National Registry of Exonerations said: “One of the reasons people plead guilty for a crime they have not committed is they can’t make bail and have to wait in jail while waiting for trial. If they are convicted, they might get decades in prison. They plead guilty if they are offered a deal that is too good to resist.”
Police in Denver, Colorado, have shot and killed a teenage girl. Police say the girl was driving a stolen vehicle and struck and injured an officer, although it is unclear whether she did so on purpose. The girl has been identified by friends as 16-year-old Jessica Hernandez. According to The Denver Post, a video captured by a neighbor shows police handcuffed and appeared to search the girl after she was shot, rolling her on her back and stomach as she lay limp and motionless. Police took the other teenagers who were in the car with Hernandez into custody. Monday night, residents held a vigil in the alley where the shooting took place, holding placards, including one that said, “Girls’ lives matter too.”