SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Violent clashes erupted in Santiago as tens of thousands marched through the streets demanding education reforms in Chile. Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds.
Over 100 demonstrators were reportedly detained and eight officers injured as massive street protests once again rocked the city. One of the injured officers is said to be in critical condition after being hit by acid.
Some 80,000 protesters took part in the demonstration, authorities said, while organizers – the Student Federation of the University of Chile – put the figure as high as 150,000.
The bulk of the protests did not see any major violent incidents, though small pockets of vandalism caused property damage and some protesters threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at riot police. The organizers complained of excessive use of force by police, who have employed riot control tactics such as water cannons and tear gas.
One AP photographer documenting the protest captured two students clad in leopard print clothing and bright makeup, holding up signs that read, "The state does not regulate the business of prostitution because it is a 'private business.' If education is a private business, what can we expect?"
The protests, which have been ongoing in Chile since the 2006-2010 term of former President Michelle Bachelet, have proved to be an even larger political liability for her successor Sebastian Pinera.
Students taking part in the protests are demanding that the Chilean government provide free education, and have complained of inadequate public schools and unaffordable private universities. Though Pinera’s administration vowed to allocate a portion of the country’s 2013 budget to finance school loans at lower rates, student alliances seem dissatisfied with the government’s lack of progress in the two-plus years of his term.
Chile is considered to have one of the best – and most expensive – education systems in Latin America. The country also has one of the world’s lowest levels of public funding for higher education, which protesters believe has resulted in poor teaching quality and overall inequality in Chilean society.
The massive protests are mainly organized by the Confederation of Chilean Student Federations (CONFECH), which has presented a 'Social Agreement for Chilean Education' that proposes increased state support for public higher education leading to free education, the elimination of for-profit universities and the repeal of laws that prohibit student participation in university governance.
The unrest has badly damaged President Pinera’s approval ratings, which sank below 30 percent in 2011 and have not made a significant rebound. Though Chile is considered one of the most stable countries in the region, student protests have accounted for the largest civil unrest since the country’s return to democracy in 1990, making education reform one of the top issues in the upcoming 2013 presidential elections.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- China has announced a sixth death from a new bird flu strain, while authorities carried out the slaughter of all poultry at a Shanghai market where the virus was detected in pigeons being sold for meat.
The mass bird killing on Friday is the first so far as the Chinese government responds to the H7N9 strain of bird flu, which has sickened 14 people, many critically, along the eastern seaboard in its first known infections of people.
The first cases were announced Sunday.
Health officials believe people are contracting the virus through direct contact with infected fowl and say there has been no evidence so far that the virus is spreading easily between people.
Scientists are watching closely, however, to see if the flu poses a substantial risk to public health or could potentially spark a global pandemic.
The Agriculture Ministry confirmed late Thursday that the H7N9 virus had been detected in live pigeons on sale at a produce market in Shanghai.
The killing of birds at the Huhuai market started Thursday night after the city's agricultural committee ordered it in a notice also posted on its website.
State media on Friday ran pictures of animal health officials in protective overalls and masks working through the night at the market, taking notes as they stood over piles of poultry carcasses in plastic bags.
The area was guarded by police and cordoned off with plastic tape.
Experts urged Chinese health authorities to keep testing healthy birds, saying the H7N9 virus can infect birds without causing disease, making it harder to detect than the H5N1 bird flu virus that is more familiar to Asian countries.
H5N1 set off warnings when it began ravaging poultry across Asia in 2003 and has since killed 360 people worldwide, mostly after close contact with infected birds.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Scores of heavily armed gunmen stormed a military base in unrest-plagued southern Thailand, in a major assault that left at least 19 attackers dead, a military spokesman said.
"Some 100 fully armed militants stormed the base, where there were 60 marines," Colonel Pramote Promin, southern army spokesman, told the AFP news agency on Wednesday.
Promin said the attack, one of the most ambitious in several years of violence in Thailand's deep south, had resulted in the deaths of at least 19 assailants.
No military casualties were reported in the early hours assault at the base in Bacho district of Narathiwat province, one of three Muslim-dominated provinces near the border with Malaysia.
"We learned of the attack in advance from defected militants," Pramote told Thai television. "We were able to secure the camp. All of our force are safe."
He added that a key local leader of the fighters, who wore bulletproof vests during the attack, had been killed in the clashes.
A shadowy insurgency calling for greater autonomy has plagued Thailand's far south near the border with Malaysia since 2004, claiming more than 5,300 lives, both Buddhist and Muslim.
Members of Thailand's security forces are frequently targeted in ambushes and roadside bombs, while civilians perceived to have collaborated with Thai authorities are also routinely executed.
A report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) on the violence in December said insurgents had grown "bolder and stronger" amid political inaction from successive Bangkok governments.
"The violence has evolved at a pace that is starting to challenge the ability of the government to respond on its own terms," said Jim Della-Giacoma, ICG's Southeast Asia project director.
ICG recommended a greater push towards decentralisation and closer engagement with local civil society groups and peace negotiations with insurgents.
It added that the deployment of 60,000 security forces and an emergency decree "have not achieved any appreciable decline in casualties".
Five soldiers were killed on Sunday in a bomb attack by suspected insurgents in the deep south, police said.
The bomb, which also wounded a sixth soldier, was detonated as the troops passed by in their patrol vehicle in a village in Yala, another southern province.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Hamas, which governs Gaza, has allowed the West Bank political party, Fatah, to celebrate its 48th anniversary by staging a rally in Gaza City for the first time since its forces were ousted following a brutal civil war.
Supporters carrying the distinctive black and yellow flags of late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat's group arrived on Friday in a steady stream to the venue.
Many Palestinians living outside of Gaza City arrived overnight, lighting fires and starting the celebrations early. Cars cruised the streets with waving Fatah and Palestinian flags.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last month allowed Hamas supporters to celebrate their movement's founding in a rare rally in the West Bank.
The moves appear to be an attempt by the two sides to mend relations after years of division and mistrust.
After decades of dominance, Fatah lost a 2006 parliamentary election to Hamas, the largest Palestinian armed group.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Hundreds of thousands of Fatah supporters packed into Gaza's al-Saraya square on Friday morning to commemorate the 48th anniversary of their faction's founding. It was the first time in five years Fatah has been allowed to celebrate the date in Gaza, which is governed by its rival, Hamas.
Waving yellow flags and chanting slogans, supporters of all ages from across the length of the coastal enclave packed the city's streets since Thursday night, with many camping out - fearful of losing their spaces.
In a televised speech from Ramallah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas greeted revellers and praised the steadfastness of the people living in Gaza.
"Shortly, we will achieve unity and end the occupation, to finally raise the Palestinian flag in Jerusalem," he said to rapturous applause.
"Gaza was the first Palestinian territory to get rid of the occupation and settlements, and we want the blockade to be lifted so that [Gaza] can be free and be linked to the rest of the nation."
A number of Fatah activists and officials travelled from the West Bank to Gaza for the rally, including Jibril Rajoub, who formerly led Palestinian security forces in the West Bank; negotiator Nabil Shaath, Fatah cofounder Abdul Aziz Shaheen; and Fadwa Barghouti, the wife of jailed activist Marwan Barghouti.
The event is being seen as a key step forward for national Palestinian reconciliation between the religiously oriented Hamas and the secular Fatah movements. The two fronts of the rift have been getting closer since the suspension of talks between Israel and the Palestinian authority, and moreso following the most recent Israeli assault on Gaza, Operation: Pillar of Defence.
Fatah supporters in Gaza had been banned from celebrating their faction's events since 2007 - when Hamas routed Fatah from the Strip in internecine fighting, effectively banishing them to the West Bank. Hamas supporters, meanwhile, were simililarly denied the right to gather in the West Bank, until their 25th anniversary celebrations in December 2012.
Abu Hassan was heading to al-Saraya square, along with his ten children. The 45-year-old said he felt it was an historic day for an historic faction.
"Hamas won the war in Gaza and Fatah got us the Palestinian state. Today, Hamas should know that Fatah is a strong partner which can't be ignored," he told Al Jazeera.
Abbas has been riding high since he led the Palestinians' successful bid to upgrade their status at the United Nations to a non-member observer state. On Friday, he signed a presidential decree officially changing the name of the Palestinian Authority to "The State of Palestine".
Hamas officials who were due to attend the rally bowed out, as part of the celebration's programme was cancelled after "overcrowding and a logistics failure".
"We decided not to go after we got a call from Fatah co-ordinators. They told us not to because of [damage caused by the crush of people] around the stage," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zohri.
About 50 people were injured, including three critical cases, said Ashraf Al-Qedra, the spokesman of the ministry of health in the Hamas government in Gaza. Rally-goers caught in the crush of the crowd suffered breathing dificulties, and some fell from precarious viewpoints.
Cooped up for the past five years without an avenue to collectively identify, excited Fatah supporters hit the streets on Friday to proclaim, loud and clear, that they still exist in Gaza.
"In the past, I used to come by my own, but this time is different," Ra'ed Omar, a former PA officer, told Al Jazeera. "I brought all my family members to send a message to Hamas that Fatah's popularity is more overwhelming now, and that they have to deal with it."
Omar was one of several who fled to Egypt after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. He returned a year ago, but said Hamas had subsequently banned him from leaving Gaza.
"I wish we could have elections soon," he said. "I will definitely vote for Fatah because I believed in it before Hamas was even founded."
Sabah Al-Bahnasawy, a 60-year-old woman resting from the noise of the crowd at a nearby restaurant, said that she insisted on coming - "despite old age" - because she has always been "eager to share the flavour of unity".
"I was surprised at the scene today," she said. "You can see the unity and heartiness between all the factions' supporters - which is all we need to face the occupation."
Sabah said that reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas would improve the hard life faced by Gazans since the Strip was isolated internationally following Hamas' victory in free elections in 2006.
"[New] elections will give us the chance to have a unity government and to have a better life socially, financially and politically," she said.
It is, however, not all sunshine and roses between the two factions. Last week, Fatah said the rally would be cancelled after Hamas refused to let the group use either Saraya square or the more central al-Kateiba square - saying it could not provide security. A day later, Hamas reversed its decision and gave the rally the green light.
Taher al-Nono, a Hamas government spokesperson, said that Prime Minster Ismael Haniyeh called Mahmoud Abbas following the rally, and congratulated him on the anniversary.
"Abu Mazen [Abbas] expressed his gratitude for our co-operation and said that he wished this unity would be a starting point for close relations between the two factions," he explained.
But despite the positive atmosphere of the day, talking about imminent reconciliation may still be premature.
Mukhymar Abu Sa'ada, a political analyst and lecturer at Gaza's al-Azhar university, said that the differences between the rivals would not be overcome easily.
"You are talking about an ideological difference," he said. "Hamas believes in the one-state solution and adopts armed resistance to achieve it, while Fatah believes in the two-state solution and uses negotiations with Israel to achieve it; which can’t be easily compromised."
Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal, deemed more pragmatic than many of the Gaza-based hardliners, managed to reach a reconciliation agreement with Abbas in 2011. But the results have yet to be fully implemented on the ground.
Gaza resident Faten Saleem, meanwhile, represents many others who have lost faith in the ability of the factions to unite in common cause.
"I no longer trust them, reconciliation is such a complicated issue," said the 23-year-old who stayed away from the rally.
"It's not just about celebrations and phone calls."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Tens of thousands of people have held protests in Cairo against Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, who last week granted himself sweeping new powers.
Flag-waving demonstrators chanted slogans accusing the president and the Muslim Brotherhood of betraying last year's revolution.
On Monday Mr Mursi sought to defuse the crisis by saying the decree granting him new powers was limited in scope.
However, his opponents want him to withdraw the measure completely.
Ahead of Tuesday's rally, opposition activists clashed with police protecting the nearby US embassy. A protester, who was in his fifties, died of a heart attack after inhaling tear gas.
Activists later converged on Tahrir Square - the main focus of the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak - for one of the largest demonstrations to date against Mr Mursi.
"The people want to bring down the regime," marchers chanted, echoing slogans used in last year's protests.
"We don't want a dictatorship again. The Mubarak regime was a dictatorship. We had a revolution to have justice and freedom," protester Ahmed Husseini was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
Journalists, lawyers and opposition figures - including Nobel Peace prize laureate Mohammed ElBaradei- joined Tuesday's rally,
"The main demand is to withdraw the constitutional declaration," said Amr Moussa, a former Arab League chief who has joined the opposition.
Protests were also held in Alexandria and other cities.
The president's decree - known as the constitutional declaration - said no authority could revoke his decisions.
There is a bar on judges dissolving the assembly drawing up a new constitution. The president is also authorised to take any measures to preserve the revolution, national unity or safeguard national security.
Critics say the decree, issued last Thursday, is an attack on the judiciary. It has sparked violent protests across the country.
On Monday Mr Mursi told senior judges that the scope of the measure would be restricted to "sovereign matters", designed to protect institutions.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which supports President Mursi, said it was postponing its own demonstration, originally due on Tuesday, to avoid "public tension".
The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says the postponement is another sign that the government wants to defuse confrontation, but it remains to be seen whether it ends the days of angry and sometimes violent protests.
Egypt's union of judges, known as the Judges Club, rejected the president's statement, calling it "worthless" and said they would continue to suspend work in courts.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik has typewritten a 27-page letter calling his prison conditions "a mini Abu Ghraib." He claimed guards watch him while he takes vitamins and brushes his teeth, and that his prison director wants revenge on him.
"If it wasn't for the fact that I am an exceptionally patient person, I would most likely have lost my mind in pure frustration. Anyway, there are limits to what a person can take," AP quoted Breivik's letter as saying.
Breivik claimed that the prison's director wanted to exact a personal revenge on him and that guards interfered with his strict daily schedule, in which each activity is timed to the minute.
The mass murderer wrote that numerous practices at the prison facility are “degrading” – he is apparently watched while taking vitamins, and isn’t allowed a mop to clean his cell. Breivik also wrote that he is strip-searched daily, sometimes by female prison guards.
"Use of a toothbrush and electric shaver is always under supervision. One is therefore under mental pressure to finish quickly as the guards are tapping their feet outside the cell. … This limits brushing to once a day and shaving to once a week in order not to have to go through the mental ordeal more often than necessary," he said.
In his letter, the mass killer compared his prison to Abu Ghraib, a prison facility in Iraq that became notorious in 2004 when photos were released showing detainees being abused by US soldiers.
"Therefore there is the likelihood that Norway's own 'mini Abu Ghraib,' in the cellars of Ila Prison, are being kept a secret and that Norway's human rights ambassadors' work to spread the 'world's most humane principles' are avoiding being embarrassed," he said.
A spokesperson for Ila Prison, where Breivik is being held, said that no security restrictions have been lifted despite previous complaints. However, he received a normal pen to replace his rubber safety pen, which he described as an "almost indescribable manifestation of sadism."
He sent a copy of his letter to Amnesty International, the Associated Press, the International Press Center in Oslo and a few Norwegian media outlets.
Earlier this month, Breivik was given an electric typewriter, though not because of his complaint letter, or his previous statement branding his prison conditions “inhumane.”
During pre-trial detention, the mass killer was allowed to use a computer that could not be connected to the Internet. The privilege was revoked when he started serving his jail sentence.
The 33-year-old right-wing fanatic murdered 77 people in two terror attacks last year in Norway's worst peacetime massacre. A car bomb planted by Breivik outside government offices in Oslo killed eight people; he then drove to the nearby island of Utoya, where he massacred 69 people in a shooting spree at a youth summer camp.
He was sentenced to 21 years in prison for terrorism and premeditated murder, a sentence that can be extended if Breivik is deemed to still be a threat after serving his term.– www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Hundreds of Italian mayors have marched in Milan and threatened to resign en masse to protest against tough austerity measures introduced by the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti.
On Wednesday, around 1,000 mayors, including the heads of important cities such as Milan, Rome, Turin, and Venice, gathered in Italy's financial capital under the banner "Free towns from the Stupidity Pact," a reference to spending cuts imposed on local authorities under a so-called Stability Pact, Reuters reported.
The pact, which includes a series of austerity measures, ranging from tax hikes to spending cuts in health and education sectors, won three confidence votes in the parliament's lower chamber on Wednesday, and is now expected to be approved by the Senate, or the upper chamber, by the end of the year.
The mayors warned Minister for Relations with Parliament Dino Piero Giarda of mass resignations if the law is not changed.
The Italian premier pushed through a series of budget-cutting measures that, Italians say, has hurt the country’s working class and the poor.
However, Monti says that the austerity measures are needed to reduce Italy’s budget deficit.
The continued recession in the eurozone’s third-largest economy is gloomy news for Italians, who have seen a series of austerity packages and pension charges.
Over the past decade, Italy has been the slowest growing economy in the eurozone.
The worsening debt crisis has forced the EU governments to adopt harsh austerity measures and tough economic reforms, which have triggered incidents of social unrest and massive protests in many European countries.– www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - More than 44 million hacking attempts have been made on Israeli government websites since Israel began its air raids on the Gaza Strip almost a week ago.
The figures, released by the Israeli government, indicated that attempts on defence-related sites had been the highest, while 10 million attempts had been made on the site of Israel's president, seven million on the country's foreign ministry and three million on the site of the prime minister.
Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said just one hacking attempt was successful on a site he did not want to name, but it was up and running after 10 minutes of downtime.
Anonymous, an international group of cyberactivists, has posted online a list of nearly 700 Israeli websites it claims it has targeted, defaced and disrupted in response to the latest airstrikes on Gaza.
One of the most major targets of the "OpIsrael" campaign was the foreign ministry’s international development programme, Mashav.
In an announcement on twitter, Anonymous claimed to have tampered with the website’s internal database.
On Thursday morning, Anonymous issued a statement that called on other hackers to help disable and deface websites associated or belonging to the Israeli government or military.
Kadima Party site hacked
Among the group's other high-profile targets were the websites of Israel's Kadima Party, which was taken offline shortly after being hacked, and Bank of Jerusalem.
Most of the sites that were hacked appeared to be unavailable, but others displayed pro-Palestinian images and messages.
An Israeli ministry spokesman says that while the attacks have come from around the world, most have been from Israel and the Palestinian territories.
"The ministry's computer division will continue to block the millions of cyber attacks," Steinitz said. "We are enjoying the fruits of our investment in recent years in developing computerised defence systems."
Steinitz has instructed his ministry to operate in emergency mode to counter attempts to undermine government sites.
Both sides in the Gaza conflict, but particularly Israel, are embracing the social media as one of their tools of warfare.
The Israeli army has established a presence on nearly every platform available, while Palestinian fighters are active on twitter.
"The war is taking place on three fronts. The first is physical, the second is on the world of social networks and the third is cyber," said Carmela Avner, Israel's chief information officer.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Mr. Breivik, the Norwegian extremist convicted of the coldly premeditated murders of 77 people in 2011, is serving a 21-year sentence in a maximum-security prison outside Oslo. He is not satisfied with the accommodations, though: his three-cell suite with a television and exercise equipment, lodgings commensurate with Norway’s typically humane treatment of its convicts.
Addressing penal officials in a 27-page letter obtained by the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang and confirmed by his lawyer, Mr. Breivik bemoaned the “800” strip searches he has undergone, for instance. Not one of them has shown him to be holding an object “between the buttocks,” he noted.
He would enjoy more social interaction, according to the letter, which says he is alone with his thoughts for “23 hours and 55 minutes” on a typical day and speaks only with his guards.
“Such treatment isn’t human,” said a lawyer for Mr. Breivik, Tord Jordet, according to Agence France-Presse.
Mr. Breivik is denied a computer or Internet access to prevent him from spreading his ideology of racial hatred, officials have said.
He expressed many other concerns in his letter, many of them prosaic. He must be supervised while shaving and brushing his teeth, he complained, and because of the “mental strain” this causes he is forced to limit those activities to once a week. Nor is he permitted to keep hydrating skin cream in his quarters, which are drab and without a view, he wrote. Switches for his lights and television are outside his suite of cells, obliging him to summon guards to turn them on and off.
Mr. Breivik dislikes handcuffs, too, because the steel edges cut into his wrists, and he dreads putting them on for each trip outside his cell, Verdens Gang reported. Without a thermos, his coffee frequently goes cold, according to news media reports.
Furthermore, he wrote, his phone calls and mail are unfairly censored. “His freedom of speech is being violated,” Mr. Jordet said.
Only correspondence from “New Testament Christians and other people who do not like me” has reached him in recent months, Mr. Breivik wrote.
Letters aside, Mr. Breivik would like to pursue his literary ambitions while in prison, he said, but those aspirations are being thwarted by the stab-resistant safety pen he has been provided, “a nightmare of a tool” that causes his hand to cramp. The pen is “an almost indescribable manifestation of sadism,” he wrote, though presumably it did not prevent him from composing his lengthy letter of complaint.
A prison spokeswoman said Mr. Breivik was given an electric typewriter on Friday. It was not given in response to Mr. Breivik’s letter, the spokeswoman said, according to The Associated Press.
“I highly doubt that there are worse detention facilities in Norway,” Mr. Breivik wrote.
Mr. Breivik’s 21-year sentence is the country’s maximum, and he is considered the most heinous offender in modern Scandinavian history.
Mr. Breivik confessed to setting off bombs in downtown Oslo in July 2011 before shooting dozens of people at a summer youth camp run by the Labor Party. He said the killings were intended to protect Norway from Muslims and multiculturalism. — www.shafaqna.com/English