-Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos has been asked to make a third attempt to form a coalition government in Greece, amid turmoil after Sunday’s elections. Mr Venizelos was given the mandate to start new talks after failed bids by leaders of the centre-right New Democracy and radical left Syriza bloc. Under the bailout agreement, Athens is due to pass new austerity measures worth 14.5bn euros (£11.6bn; $18.8bn) next month – part of cuts required to qualify for bailouts worth a total of 240bn euros.
-Rescuers say they have discovered bodies near the wreckage of a Russian-made passenger plane that crashed into the slopes of an Indonesian volcano with 45 people aboard. Search and rescue spokesman said his teams reached a crater on the remote, rugged upper slopes of Mount Salak, but had not found any survivors.
-Two powerful blasts in quick succession have killed dozens of people and injured more than 300 others in the Syrian capital Damascus, according to Syrian officials and state media. One of today’s rush hour explosions hit the Qazaz neighbourhood that houses a well-known military intelligence headquarters involved in President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on a 14-month uprising. The interior ministry said at least 55 people were killed and 372 wounded in the blasts.
-Police have found the dismembered and decapitated bodies of 18 people in two abandoned vehicles in western Mexico in what appears to be a new wave of revenge killings in an ongoing power struggle between drug gangs.
-Thousands of off-duty police officers have taken to the streets of London in a rare protest against austerity measures. They rallied against budget cuts and a government-commissioned report that recommends a shake-up of their employment conditions and a rise in the pension age. The protest coincided with a mass public sector walk-out including immigration, health and prison staff.
-Voting has begun across Algeria for the parliamentary elections, which authorities have pledged will be the most open in the country’s history. More than 48,000 polling stations in the North African country opened today at 8:00 am (0700 GMT), many under tight police surveillance. The first results are due on Friday but a turnout estimate, the most important figure in the election given many Algerians are expected to boycott the vote, is due after polling stations close at 7:00 pm (1800 GMT).
-Two candidates will square off today in Egypt‘s first-ever televised presidential debate -just two weeks ahead of the elections. Secular candidate Amre Moussa, Egypt’s former foreign minister and the former head of the Arab League, enjoys a considerable lead in a recent poll. He will debate Abdelmoneim Abolfotoh, a moderate candidate who was once a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian Cabinet, meanwhile, prepared for the arrival of four new members -the ministers of higher education, culture, parliamentary affairs and labor and immigration, the state-run MENA news agency reported.
-US President Barack Obama has said he believes same-sex couples should be allowed to get legally married. The remarks marked a shift in his position on the issue that is likely to please his political base and upset conservative rivals.Obama’s comments came days after Joe Biden, the US vice-president, and Arne Duncan, the education secretary, both made statements to the press in support of same-sex marriages.
-Thousands of years after the first athletes competed at the ancient stadium in Greece, a high priestess swathed in white lit a flame from the sun to mark the start of a new Olympiad.
–Vidal Sassoon, who revolutionized hair styling and created an international fashion business, died at age 84. He originated iconic looks such as the Nancy Kwan bob and the five-point cut, made famous by model Grace Coddington.
-Japanese electronics giant Sony posted a record full-year loss of $5.7bn, but vowed it would return to profit this year as it embarks on a huge restructuring plan. Sony, which is struggling to stem losses at its television division, said a strong yen and natural disasters were among the main reasons for its disastrous earnings.
Sources: BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Reuters, euronews, NYT, WSJ