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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Students, educators and Occupy Wall Street activists held demonstrations Thursday across California to protest state budget cuts to education, partially shutting down at least one college campus.

Hundreds of students blocked entrances to the University of California, Santa Cruz, and prevented cars and buses from entering the coastal campus, school officials said.

"The campus has been effectively closed to vehicles," said campus spokesman Jim Burns. "Clearly it’s had an access impact for many students, staff and faculty."

School administrators had warned the campus about the protest. Many classes were canceled or rescheduled, and administrative offices were not fully staffed, Burns said.

The Santa Cruz blockade was among the demonstrations held on about 30 college campuses across California to protest rising tuition and call on lawmakers to restore funding to higher education. Rallies, marches, teach-ins and walkouts were scheduled to coincide with state budget negotiations, organizers said.

In San Francisco, about 200 demonstrators holding signs that read “Tax the Rich” and “Refund Education” held a teach-in in the lobby of the California State Building before attending an afternoon rally outside City Hall. College students and Occupy activists around the country held demonstrations as part of a “National Day of Action for Education.”

About 15 of the demonstrators were taken into custody when they refused an order to disperse around 6:30 p.m., said California Highway Patrol Sgt. Diana McDermott. The 15 were cited on suspicion of trespassing and released.

At California State University, Los Angeles, about 300 students marched through campus blowing whistles and chanting, “No cuts, no fees, education should be free,” according to the Los Angeles Times. At a rally in front of the campus bookstore, the group held signs that read “Stop Privatization” and “Defend Public Education.”

The California protests are a prelude to a major “Occupy the Capitol” rally in Sacramento on Monday. Students and faculty members planned a “99 Mile March for Education and Social Justice” from Oakland to the state capital over the next few days.

The protesters are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to reject any budget deal that includes higher education cuts or tuition increases. They also want the governor to support a ballot measure that would raise taxes on millionaires to pay for education and social services.

"We’ve destroyed our tax base and we stopped funding the most important parts of our society," said Josh Brahinsky, a UC Santa Cruz graduate student and union representative who helped organize the action. "We’re calling on the state to tax the wealthy and use that money to build services for all of us."

The campus demonstrations were coordinated by ReFund California, a coalition of student groups and labor unions that organized a series of sometimes rowdy campus protests during the fall.

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Doctor in Homs: Everyone is waiting to die..

The bodies begin coming in before the sun had risen to the sky. Some arrive with heads decapitated or their torsos split open like animals after slaughter. Or their limbs are mangled under the crush of rubble.

Ali Hazoury trained to be a doctor, to save lives. What can he do for the dead? He looks instead to help the 100 or so people who trickle into his makeshift clinic in the flashpoint Baba Amr area of the city of Homs. But the most he can do is wrap their wounds.

"All I have is gauze, bandages, old stitches and few antiseptic wipes," Hazoury tells CNN Thursday morning.

He has no surgical equipment, nothing that he can use to fix broken people.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent tried to reach Baba Amr the other day and bring in badly needed medical aid, but Hazoury says their vehicle was attacked. They were forced to turn around, leaving behind a neighborhood of people upon whom the Syrian regime’s wrath has been focused in recent days.

At least 105 people have already been killed in Syria on Thursday, according to the Local Coordination Committees, a network of Syrian opposition activists. Many of the dead are in Baba Amr.

Syria’s third largest city, once known for leafy parks and al fresco coffee shops, turned into a raging battleground over the many months of the uprising. For the past five days, Homs has suffered an onslaught by Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Libya's interior minister and nine of his family members flew into Cairo Monday on their private plane in what appeared to be the highest level defection from Moammar Gadhafi's regime in months.

Egyptian airport officials said Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah entered on a tourist visa. No Libyan embassy officials greeted him at the airport and one embassy official said they were not aware of his plans to visit Egypt. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media.

Troops blamed for mass graves in Ivory Coast..

Government forces in Ivory Coast have been accused by the United Nations of a spate of extra-judicial killings targeting supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo, including a 17-month old baby.

Mass graves have been discovered in an opposition neighbourhood of the business capital Abidjan. The UN mission recorded 26 killings, as well as rapes and illegal arrests in the past month. The reported reprisals will add to concerns that the internationally supported new leader, Alassane Ouattara, has broken promises over reconciliation in the deeply divided West African nation where a contested election led to civil war this year.

The new government must avoid becoming drunk with power in the manner of its predecessors," said Gilles Yabi, from International Crisis Group. "There must be justice for all if there is to be no repeat of disasters of the last two decades.

Mr Ouattara, a former IMF economist, took power in April with the military backing of France and controversial air strikes by a UN peacekeeping force under the guise of protecting civilians. Mr Gbagbo, who refused to cede power after narrowly losing a presidential run-off against Mr Ouattara last November, was eventually battered into submission and dragged from his bunker.

The post-election fighting in Ivory Coast displaced hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are afraid to return to their homes because of the government-backed militias, according to Amnesty International. The rights watchdog said ethnic killings and abuses continued after President Ouattara came to power.

A number of leading figures from the Gbagbo regime are facing trial for alleged crimes committed while in power, but so far none of Mr Ouattara’s backers has been arrested despite compelling evidence of human-rights abuses.

The [UN] has documented 26 cases of extra-judicial killings, 85 arbitrary arrests and 11 cases of rape," said Guillaume Ngefa, the peacekeeping mission’s human-rights officer. He said that eight mass graves had been uncovered in Youpougon, a Gbagbo stronghold in Abidjan.

On Thursday, Ivorian security forces arrested 57 soldiers from the former regime – all accused of war crimes committed against Ouattara supporters.

"The risk is that now they have the majority, they start to say that they don’t need the rest of the country to rule," said Crisis Group’s Gilles Yabi. "That would be a mistake: Ivory Coast needs an inclusive government and that means justice for all.

Much of Mr Ouattara’s support comes from the north of the country in areas controlled by the rebel Forces Nouvelles. A four-month stand-off followed Mr Gbagbo’s refusal to cede power before rebels allied to the election winner swept south.

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Under-Reported Story of the Week: Protests in Chile. The protests have been about a wide range of issues with the governments but have centered around and been dominated by student protests about education issues. Thousands at a time have been marching through the streets of the capital of Santiago and in other cities throughout the country in recent days. The primary demand of the student protesters is a free public education system for all in Chile. They are joined by parents, teachers, and regular members of the community.

Yesterday, students of the Metropolitan Technological University in Santiago set up a flaming street barricade and clashed with police. In past days, the number arrested is nearly 1000. A BBC article calls these demonstrations, especially the night-time cacerolazos (“saucepan protests”) reminiscent of pro-democracy protests against General Pinochet in the 80s. 

Today, the students received a verbal chiding from President Sebastian Pinera as he signed into law a bill meant to appease them. 

We all want education, healthcare, and many more things for free, but I want to remind them that nothing is free in this life. Someone has to pay.

Opposition to Pinera, the first conservative president since Pinochet left power, is growing. Unions representing public sector workers and copper miners have vowed to join the students. His popularity is dropping with the protests in the past months, reaching an all-time low of 26% in a poll published last week. That’s the lowest rating for a Chilean president since 1990.

A protest against the Santiago mayor is being organized for August 16th and another massive protest also in Santiago for September 3rd. Organizers are hoping to draw half a million people.

Read news articles at Al Jazeera, Merco Press, and the BBC.

Photos: Banging pots and pans in caceralazos via Merco Press; students put up a fiery street barricade via Al Jazeera; thousands march in protest, Hector Retamel/AFP; protests in Santiago, AP via Merco Press

Construction of 7,000 new settlement units in Jerusalem under way

The Israeli occupation authorities are planning on carrying out plans to build 7,000 new settlement units in Jerusalem, Israeli media outlets have reported.

Underway construction plans in the occupied city have accumulated since US Vice-President Joe Biden last visited a year and a half ago.

Now plans to build 1,328 units in Ramat Shlom will be put to the expedited building committee formed by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in 60 days. These were the same plans that caused crisis between the US and Israel during the Biden visit.

A local planning and construction board also approved 900 homes to be built in the Gilo settlement, and another plan under discussion by the expedited building board for 625 units in Pisgat Ze’ev is slated to begin taking effect.

A separate 930 units have been approved to be built in Har Homa (Jabal Abu Ghneim) between Jerusalem and Bethlehem earlier this week.

Meanwhile, EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton has condemned the recent approval of the Har Homa project, saying that she was ‘’disappointed’’ by the decision.

‘’The European Union has repeatedly urged the government of Israel to immediately end all settlement activities in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. All settlement activities are illegal under international law,’’ she added in a statement.

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