Mattarella elected new president of Italy
Sergio Mattarella, a native of Sicily, has been elected by the Italian parliament to become the new president of Italy after Giorgio Napolitano resigned earlier this year. A veteran politician, constitutional court judge and Democratic Party representative, Mattarella won 665 votes out of a possible 1,009, when both houses of parliament and regional delegates elected him on the third day of voting. Current Prime Minister and fellow Democratic Party member Matteo Renzi offered support and sponsored Mattarella throughout his campaign. Mattarella was sworn in for his seven-year term on Feb. 3.
Suspected U.S. drone attack kills three in Yemen
Three men believed to be al Qaeda militants were killed in a suspected U.S. drone attack that struck a car on Jan. 31 in southern Yemen. The attack occurred within the desert town of al-Saeed in Shabwa province. Residents have stated a second drone may have crashed in the al-Hada district of central Dhamar province, though it is unconfirmed whether the two drones are linked. A similar drone strike occurred on Jan. 29, where two other suspected al Qaeda militants and a sixth grade student were killed. The al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo Massacre of Paris on Jan. 7.
South African apartheid death squad leader de Kock granted parole
Justice Minister Michael Masutha confirmed on Jan. 30 that 66-year-old Eugene de Kock would be granted parole after being sentenced nearly 20 years ago. Know by his alias “Prime Evil,” de Kock was sentenced to two life terms for six murders as well as an additional 212 years for other charges ranging from attempted murder, fraud and kidnapping. de Kock’s death squad, known as the Vlakpaas unit, targeted suspected opponents of apartheid by killing and torturing dozens of activists throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Masutha stated the parole was granted in the interest of nation-building and reconciliation after speaking with relatives of the victims.
One dead, two injured on set of latest Scorsese film
During the pre-production of Martin Scorsese’s latest film Silence, a structure on the Taiwan set collapsed and killed a studio construction worker alongside two other employees. According to police, the workers were repairing a building to be used as scenery on the set when the collapse occurred, sending two to the hospital with one in critical condition. The production hired a third-party contractor to reinforce the structure when they grew concerned that it may be unsafe to have on set. No arrests or charges have been made, but police will continue to investigate.
NASA launches satellite to measure water in Earth’s soil
On Jan. 31, NASA launched an unnamed Delta 2 rocket into orbit from Vandenberg Airforce Base, California. The rocket contained a new satellite whose purpose is to measure moisture in the top layer of the Earth’s soil. The satellite will spend three years orbiting the Earth and measuring the top two inches of the soil, which scientists hope will lead to better analyses of weather forecasting and tracking global climate change. Soil moisture binds together the planet’s environmental systems, and the data yielded from the satellite may enable policymakers to better handle drought and flooding issues in specific regions. This satellite joins 19 others launched by NASA whose objectives range from tracking land, sea and atmospheric content for the organization.