Sunday news round-up: January 26th-February 1st

An ongoing series that gathers some main headlines from the week, for people too busy to keep an eye on the news.

Top Story: New Greek PM forms radical cabinet: After winning a historic election in Greece last week, radical left-wing and anti-austerity party SYRIZA has formed its cabinet, placing a number of outspoken liberals and socialists in top positions. Newly-appointed Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, a staunch critic of the EU-imposed austerity programme, faces sizeable opposition from the likes of Angela Merkel and David Cameron, both of whom have warned against reversing Greece’s set “recovery” measures. Despite only becoming a political party in 2012, SYRIZA now finds itself the leading voice of the disenfranchised and the dispossessed in Greece, after neoliberal “reforms” and bailout loans left the country’s economy haemorrhaging and its people descending into poverty.

ISIS executes another hostage: Terrorist group and unofficial government ISIS has released a video supposedly showing the execution of a Japanese hostage, journalist Kenji Goto. In the video, the terrorist group warned the Japanese government that they are now a primary target, along with the U.S. and France. ISIS has a long history of executing political prisoners, and recently made headlines for executing gay men for the crime of “sodomy” by throwing them off rooftops. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised to make ISIS “pay for their crimes”.

Cuba formally requests an end to Guantanamo Bay detention camp: Speaking at the CELAC summit in Costa Rica, de facto Cuban dictator Raúl Castro called on the U.S. to end the decades-long economic embargo and return Guantanamo Bay to Cuban control. The embargo, first imposed by President Kennedy, has affected Cuba’s ability to gain many goods from the international market, including medical supplies, while Guantanamo Bay has been home to some of the worst extra-judicial detentions and human rights abuses in the modern world. Tensions between the U.S. and Cuba relaxed quite suddenly in December 2014, after months of secret meetings between President Obama and Castro.

New EU anti-terror plan would indiscriminately harvest traveller’s information: Under new proposals from the European Commission, passengers flying in and out of Europe could be asked to provide a long list of personal details, such as nationality or frequency of travel, which would then be stored in a super database accessible by all EU countries for up to five years. Vice Chairman of the EU Civil Liberties Committee, MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, lambasted the proposal as “an open breach of fundamental rights” that would be largely ineffectual at preventing terror attacks, but proposal architect MEP Timothy Kirkhope claimed the proposal would make it “harder for a radicalized fighter to slip back into Europe undetected”. This writer is not convinced that treating all fliers as potential terrorists is sound counter-terrorism policy. In an age of mass surveillance where terror attacks still occur, the answer doesn’t seem to lie in further mass surveillance.

Scottish government bans fracking: Citing a need to conduct a full investigation into the controversial method of hydraulic fracturing, the Scottish government has issued a moratorium on all current applications and proposed permits, effectively killing the industry until the government’s public consultation on the health effects is issued. Fracking has faced considerable opposition in the U.S. after some shale gas areas experienced poisoned water supplies and an increased presence of earthquakes. Fracking involves squeezing a toxic mix of chemicals, water, and sand into underground cracks, in order to force oil or gas to the surface for collection.

Israel deliberately targeted children in last summer’s assault, report finds: Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has issued a report which accuses the Israeli government of targeting residential homes during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge. Investigating 70 incidents where Palestinians were killed in their own homes, B’Tselem found that over 70% of those killed took no part in any resistance towards the occupation. Protective Edge killed over 2,100 Palestinians by the time it was concluded last year, over 500 of them innocent children, and the Gaza Strip remains under a severe economic blockade which limits Palestinians’ access to food aid and reconstruction materials.

U.S. set to spend $95 million a day for 10 years on updating nukes: In an effort to remain nuclear top-dog, the U.S. is set to spend around $355 billion updating its nuclear arsenal by 2024. U.S. defense spending is most notable for being larger than the next 26 highest-spending countries combined, despite the American poverty rate hovering around the 15% mark. If the budget passes, the U.S. will spend nearly a hundred million dollars a day for the next ten years, whilst approximately 47,000,000 of its own people endure poverty conditions.

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