HARI SREENIVASAN: January 1 brought new calls for brotherhood, new leaders and something new at the day’s most famous parade, all of this in the hours after the world welcomed the new year.
In city after city, the arrival of midnight triggered celebration in the opening moments of 2014. Crowds in London, New York, and Chicago braved the cold to catch extravagant displays of fireworks, some camping outside for hours before midnight.
It was warmer in Key West, Florida, where the annual Drag Queen Drop saw a renowned female impersonator descend in a massive high-heeled shoe.
When New Year’s Day arrived, Pope Francis addressed the throngs in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, urging brotherhood and an end to bloodshed.
POPE FRANCIS, leader of Catholic Church (through interpreter): It’s time to stop. It would be good for us to stop on this road of violence and look for peace. Brothers and sisters, what on earth is happening in the hearts of men? What on earth is happening in the heart of humanity? It is time to stop.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And from papal appeals to political debuts.
MAN: Please welcome the 109th mayor of the city of New York, Bill de Blasio.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HARI SREENIVASAN: New York City welcomed its new mayor, Bill de Blasio. He delivered his inaugural address at City Hall, calling for a progressive approach to tackle New York’s inequality crisis.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, D-New York: To tackle a challenge this daunting, we need a dramatic new approach, rebuilding our communities from the bottom up, from the neighborhoods up.
HARI SREENIVASAN: De Blasio is the first Democrat to hold the office in 20 years. He succeeds Michael Bloomberg, who left office after 12 years.
And in Detroit, Mike Duggan inherited a bankrupt city as its 71st mayor, pledging to bring the broken metropolis back on its feet.
Elsewhere, it was, as ever, a day packed with parades and football. In Pasadena, California, the nationally televised Rose Parade attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators, but this time with a twist. A gay Los Angeles couple exchanged wedding vows on a float that was sponsored by the AIDS Health Care Foundation.
College football fans were treated to a televised smorgasbord of six bowl games, starting this morning and going well into the night. But some around the world celebrated in more daring ways. Hundreds of brave swimmers in the Netherlands and Germany took a New Year’s Day plunge in freezing waters. And, in Rome, a group of daredevils jumped off a bridge into the icy Tiber River.
Part of President Obama’s health care law didn’t kick in as scheduled today. It’s the mandate that some church-affiliated groups provide coverage for birth control. Late last night, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor blocked the requirement, at least temporarily. She acted on an appeal by a Catholic nuns organization in Denver. Sotomayor gave the government until Friday morning to respond to her order.
In Iraq, President Nouri al-Maliki used New Year’s Day to appeal for an end to months of violence. He urged Sunnis to join his Shiite-led government in battling al-Qaida militants. But new trouble erupted as gunmen stormed police stations in several cities. The United Nations estimated today more than 7,800 civilians were killed in 2013, as violence spiked across Iraq. Of those deaths, more than 660 occurred in the month of December alone.
Negotiators from South Sudan’s warring sides have arrived in Ethiopia to begin peace talks. The goal is to end an ethnic conflict that has already killed more than 1,000 people. At the same time, South Sudan’s president declared a state of emergency in two provinces. Meanwhile, fighting raged for another day in the city of Bor. It’s a gateway to the capital, Juba, just 75 miles away.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Volgograd today, site of two bombings that killed 34 people earlier this week. Putin arrived in the southern Russian city before dawn. He left flowers at a makeshift shrine near the scene of one of the blasts and he also visited some of the 65 wounded still hospitalized.
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): The abomination of these crimes committed here in Volgograd doesn’t need any additional commentary. No matter what motivated the criminals’ actions, there is no justification for committing crimes against civilians, especially against women and children.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Putin met with security officials as well. He said they will focus on how to protect the rest of the country during the Winter Olympics in Sochi next month.
The year has begun with two major hacking incidents. There’s word of a breach at the popular photo-messaging app Snapchat. Reports said it involves phone numbers and user names for up to 4.6 million accounts. The website SnapchatDB claimed responsibility, and said it wanted to show Snapchat it’s lax about security.
Hackers also hit the official blog and social network accounts for Skype, the video calling service. A group identifying itself as the Syrian Electronic Army posted messages urging an end to online surveillance.