Venezuela’s government has announced that President Hugo Chavez has overcome a severe respiratory infection that came as a complication after his last cancer surgery in Cuba. "The respiratory infection has been overcome, although there still is some degree of breathing difficulty that is being treated appropriately," Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas said Saturday on the sidelines of a regional summit with European Union leaders in Chile. Chavez has not been seen in public since his fourth and most serious surgery on December 11. His ill health meant Chavez had to skip his inauguration ceremony to take more time to recover.
Thousands of Portuguese teachers have taken to the streets of Lisbon to protest against major spending cuts to the education budget. Unions say the government plans to privatize many public schools and cut about 50,000 jobs. The move is part of austerity measures that have sparked strikes and protests across the nation. Portugal is in the midst of its third year of severe recession.
French-led troops have taken control of the Malian town of Gao, according to the French Defense Ministry. Soldiers reportedly moved in after securing the town’s airport and bridge to the south. The town has been a stronghold of Islamist fighters since it was seized by Tuareg rebels and Islamists last April. Islamists seized a vast area of northern Mali last year and imposed strict Sharia law on its residents. France has deployed 2,500 ground soldiers and launched numerous air strikes in Mali, in an effort to stop Islamists from moving south.
Ten local policemen have been confirmed dead and eighteen people wounded, in a suicide attack in the northeastern city of Kunduz in Afghanistan. The explosives were detonated by a man seen walking up to a group of police officers, the resulting explosion also injuring civilians. No group has officially claimed responsibility, though local officials pointed the finger at Taliban radicals. There was a smaller botched terror attack in the western part of the country on Saturday that killed its perpetrators.
At least 31 people have been killed after fighting between Pakistan Taliban militants and a pro-government militia. About 300 Taliban fighters attacked a pro-government militia in the overnight assault in the Maiden area of Tirah, but were beaten back. The militia said it had killed 15 and captured 8 Taliban fighters, while the Taliban itself stated that they’d killed 13 members of the pro-government militia. Three villagers are said to have been killed in the crossfire.
Left-leaning former Prime Minister Milos Zeman has been elected the new president of the Czech Republic. With more than 98 per cent of the 14,904 polling stations counted, Zeman has received 55.06 per cent of the vote. Conservative rival Karel Schwarzenberg received 44.93 per cent of the votes. The 69-year-old will replace euro-skeptic President Vaclav Klaus, whose second terms ends March 7. The election marks the country’s first-ever direct presidential election.
Valery Abramkin, a former political prisoner who became famous for his campaign to reform the Russian penal system, has died in Moscow at the age of 66. He reportedly suffered from tuberculosis. Abramkin was once a nuclear scientist who was jailed and sent to a Siberian colony for publishing an “anti-Soviet” magazine in 1979, and was sentenced again while in jail for leaking information about the appalling prison conditions. Following his release six years later Abramkin was an ever-present member of leading human rights organizations, including the Moscow Helsinki Group.
All Nippon Airways, which owns more Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliners’ than any other airline, has canceled all of the aircraft’s routes for the next three weeks. The total number of cancelations by the company since last month has exceeded 800, and has affected more than 80,000 passengers. The world’s biggest 787 fleet has been grounded since January, after a string of battery fuel fires aboard the aircraft, the cause of which is still yet to be fully determined.
French-led soldiers have taken control of the airport and the bridge over the Niger River in Gao, a city located northeast of Mali’s capital, Bamako. It follows Friday’s victory when French-led Malian soldiers have recaptured the northern town of Hombori which leads to Gao. France has been aiding Mali’s government in suppressing the gathering strength of a coalition of Islamist groups that includes al Qaeda's North African wing, AQIM.
The US government is seeking $32 million to put towards the training of African troops against Islamic extremists in Mali. Although the US has not provided any direct aid, the request for financial backing was reported to have been put to Congress on Friday. Washington has already assisted France in the transportation of troops and equipment. France’s operations to reclaim strongholds in the country began on January 11.
Hundreds of people, mainly students, marched through the Indian capital Saturday to demand swift implementation of a government commission’s recommendation that India change its antiquated penal code to protect women, including holding speedy rape trials and enforcing sexual assault laws. The government set up the panel in the wake of last month’s gang rape, which caused the death of a physiotherapy student on a Delhi bus who died of her injuries. The attack triggered massive protests across the country and ignited national debate about the shockingly high incidences of rape in India.
A fire that broke out in a garment factory in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka has killed at least six, and injured 10 others, local fire services report. The fire in the two-story building began in the bottom floor welding shop, before spreading to the sewing room upstairs, and trapping some of those inside. The incident follows a fire at another garment factory in the same city that killed 112 people two months ago.
Armed tribal saboteurs blew up Yemen’s main oil export pipeline Friday, nearly two weeks after it was repaired following a previous attack. Local reports suggest that the attackers have links to terrorist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda. The attack was the eighth in two months on the pipeline, which, when operational, carries 110,000 barrels of crude oil a day to a Red Sea oil terminal for export. Last month the army launched a massive offensive in retaliation to the previous attack killing 10 militants and injuring 15 others.
The wreckage of a Twin Otter aircraft that crashed on Wednesday has been found by authorities, leading to strong suspicions that all on board were killed. Three Canadian crewmembers had been flying from the South Pole to an Italian base at Terra Nova Bay. Their fate is still unknown. The plane wreckage was found on a slope, close to the summit of Mount Elizabeth in the Queen Alexandra Range. It reportedly made an impact that ‘was not survivable,’ the New Zealand Herald reports.
Clashes between two Islamic militant groups over a strategically important valley near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border have killed 24 people. The violence began on Friday when the Tehrik-e-Taliban militant group captured the base of Ansarul Islam, another militant group. Ansarul Islam then attempted to recapture the base with fighting continuing into Saturday. A Pakistani military official said most of the dead were militants but some local tribesmen were also killed.
A mass exodus from the Democratic Republic of Congo has been taking place in recent days, according to Doctors Without Borders. The medical aid agency has blamed the raised tensions and new fights between the army and a local militia in southeastern Congo. Two weeks ago the army launched a new operation in Katanga Province, in the southeast of the country. DWB says it is unclear how many have fled, but stated that a string of villages had fled in the climate of fear caused by the fighting. The organization said it brought back ‘terrible memories’ of ‘Triangle of Death’ killings between 2003-2006, when militia killed hundreds and burned and pillaged villages.
Apple was overtaken by Exxon as the ‘biggest public company in the world' on Friday, after the shares of the electronics giant fell from $700 in September to $440.75, giving it a market capitalization of $414.4bn. Exxon Mobil shares went up to $91.58, giving it a market capitalization of $417.4bn. Increasing competition from rival technology firms and a possible ‘slowing down’ in the release of Apple products have been blamed for the slide.
After three years with the right-wing American television network, failed Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Fox News are parting ways. Palin had worked as a contributor to the station for three years following her 2008 bid for the VP spot with fellow Republican John McCain. "We wish her the best in her future endeavors," said Bill Shine, executive vice president for programming at Fox. Palin was reported to have secured a $1 million annual salary when she signed in 2010 with Fox, where she was given access to the biggest pool of conservative American viewers.
A dolphin that apparently lost its way off the Atlantic coast and ended up in New York City's Gowanus Canal died Friday before it was able to be rescued. The dolphin had appeared during the mid-day low tide Friday, drawing a crowd of onlookers as it tried to make its way out of the heavily polluted body of water. Local authorities had hoped it would find its way back to the open sea during high tide, and had planned to mobilize a rescue mission if it was unable to. The US Environmental Protection Agency called the Gowanus, which runs through an industrial zone in New York's Brooklyn section, “one of the most contaminated water bodies in the nation" in 2011.