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Alexander Ly

A student currently attending UCSD with a major interest in politics.

ISIS Attemps to Seize Refugee Camp on the Outskirts of Damascus

ISIS Reaches Gates of Syrian Capital

The Islamic State entered the camp on Wednesday despite attempts by the local Palestinian militias to hold them back. ISIS has taken the camp center and pushed local militias to the fringes.

Government forces have laid siege to the camp for more than 700 days and remain around the camp. On Sunday they also dropped ‘barrel bombs’ and launched artillery strikes on the camp.

The Assad Regime has suffered a string of defeats. Just last week, Al Qaeda affiliated Al Nusra took over Idlib, a region close to Turkey. That was the largest blow to the Syrian government in two years.

Al Nusra, although clashed with ISIS in other parts of Syria, pledged their neutrality in the ongoing conflict in the refugee camp.

The refugee camp, also known as Yarmouk, was home to about half a million Palestinians prior to the outbreak of the Syrian Crisis. About 18,000 are still currently besieged and trapped within the camp.

Palestinians within Syria have been forced to decide whether to support the populist uprising against Assad or to defend the Assad Regime.

Speaking for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group allied to Assad, Anwar Raja mentioned how several pro-regime militias within the camp have organized to repel ISIS.

Raja also stated that ISIS has already killed or kidnapped about 100 civilians.

Noting the situation and the plight of Palestinians caught in-between the conflict, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas remarked how Palestinians “pay the price” while the conflict rages on.

Yarmouk lays only a few kilometers from the Presidential Palace.

Historic Nuclear Deal Reached between the United States and Iran

Negotiation with Iran bears fruit after time extensions

After nearly 18 months of talks, Iran has agreed to a framework of cuts to its nuclear program in exchange for lifted sanctions by the European Union and the United States. The talks had continued nearly day and night for the last eight days in Switzerland.

The talks concluded on the last day of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. The deal was the result of nearly one year of secret negotiations between the United States and Iran.

The countries involved in the talks besides Iran were United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif released a joint statement alongside European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini to note the achievement.

The deal pledges that Iran will make significant reductions in centrifuges, which are machines that can spin uranium gas to levels used in nuclear warheads. The country would be allowed to operate just over 5,000 which is a sharp drop from the 20,000 operational centrifuges in Iran at the moment.

Much of its enriched stockpiles would also be neutralized. A planned reactor would be reconstructed so it produced no weapons-grade plutonium and converted to a nuclear physics facility for civilian use. Monitoring and inspections by the UN would also be allowed.

The deal was met with caution but accepted by Britain, Germany, France and Italy –key European allies to the United States–

“We are closer than ever to an agreement that makes it impossible for Iran to possess nuclear weapons,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “That is a great credit to all negotiating partners.”

Indian spokesman for the External Affairs Ministry Syed Akbaruddin stated, “The announcement yesterday underlines the success of diplomacy and dialogue, which India has always supported and which we hope would lead to a comprehensive agreement by June 30.”

However the deal also has its critics.

The Republican controlled Congress were sharply against the negotiations and noted that they would refuse to work with a deal and any deal made would be temporary so long as Obama is in office.

See Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark) open letter to Iran which was also signed by 47 other senators.

House Speaker John Boehner said it would be “naive to suggest the Iranian regime will not continue to use its nuclear program, and any economic relief, to further destabilize the region.”

Recently reelected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (and the Republican Congress’s MVP) told Obama a deal based on the agreement “would threaten the survival of Israel.”

In response to opposition to the deal Secretary of State John Kerry had this to say. “Simply demanding that Iran capitulate makes a nice sound bite, but it is not a policy, it is not a realistic plan,” Kerry said.

The final deal will be made on June 30, and until then things could change and the negotiation could have been for naught.

However if a deal is secured, then this part of Obama’s legacy as president would have him curb Iran’s development of nuclear weaponry or have him secure “peace in our time.”

Houthi Rebels Take Presidential Palace in Aden

Situation deteriorates in Yemen for the Hadi Government

Yemeni officials said Shiite rebels have entered the southern coastal city of Aden today after heavy clashes Thursday morning.

The rebels entered the center of Aden on tanks or foot and entered the presidential palace but retreated for fear of airstrikes.

The palace, located atop a rocky outcrop that overlooks the Arabian Sea, was the last place where deposed President Hadi resided before heading off to Saudi Arabia.

This comes as a setback for the Saudi led coalition which started an air campaign against the Houthis and their allies last week. The Saudi coalition is composed of various Gulf nations but also Sudan and Pakistan.

The Houthi rebels are directly supported by forces loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh that provide the Houthis with much needed heavy arms. They are also backed by Iran.

Saleh, who was president for 33 years, was forced out of office in 2011 after a wave of populist uprising broke out across the Middle East. Saleh was the fourth president to be toppled by the Arab Spring.

The situation proved to be a catalyst for various factions to battle for dominance in Yemen.
Alongside the breakdown of security forces during the wave of demonstrations, Al Qaeda emerged as a force that filled the power vacuum in northern central Yemen.

The Houthis located in the southern Yemen are fighting against the forces of Hadi in order to secede. However they also captured Sanaa, the capital of Yemen last year.

The United States had been active in combating Al Qaeda in Yemen but the armed forces were evacuated just last month.

Mandatory Water Regulations Enacted in California due to Dire Drought

Governor Brown Finally Decides Volunteer Efforts not enough

On April 1st, Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) issued an executive order to reduce water usage by 25 percent through the 400 water agencies in California. The agencies, which serves about 90 percent of Californians water needs, are tasked with the goal of monitoring Californians and assuring compliance with the new policy.

However, the water agencies are given discretion to how to monitor and assure that people follow the new order.

The water agencies have also been advised to charge heavy water users with higher prices. This is to reward conservers and punish wasteful people.

In a news conference yesterday, Governor Brown remarked, “People should realize we are in a new era, […]The idea of your nice little green lawn getting watered every day, those days are past.”

State officials mentioned that the new water order would affect homeowners, businesses, as well as public property like cemeteries and golf fields. Fines may be introduced to enforce compliance, though the authorities stated they wish that step is not necessary. They also believed that food prices would not be affected significantly.

Also to note, large farms would not be affected by the 25 percent restriction, since they have been ‘observed’ to already follow water cutbacks.

Critics of Governor Brown noted his lackluster enthusiasm in making regulations apply to large farms.

According to Adam Scow, California director of the group Food & Water Watch, “In the midst of a severe drought, the governor continues to allow corporate farms and oil interests to deplete and pollute our precious groundwater resources that are crucial for saving water.”

However large acres of farmland have gone fallow as water shipments to farms from state reservoirs have been restricted by the state and local governments.

Jerry Brown had originally planned a voluntary 20 percent cut in water usage back in January 2014. However results shown that less than half of that amount had be restricted.
Maintenance of lawns have been the greatest burden on water in California, so the state government is planning to work with local officials throughout the state to replace 50 million acres of lawn with plants that consume less water.

The diminished amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada bears ill news for California as well. That means that California would receive less water from snow sources in summer, further straining water sources.

Things look pretty bleak as wildfire season approaches.

 

Leftist Radicals Killed After Hostage Taking in Istanbul

1970s Leftist Terror Cell Styled Attack Leaves Three Dead

A prosecutor of the Turkish court was killed on Tuesday after hostage negotiations failed and a shootout broke out between the hostage takers and police. Negotiations lasted for about six hours inside a courthouse in Istanbul.

According to the state run news TRT, the prosecutor was identified as Mehmet Selim Kiraz. He sustained a head wound during the shootout and died on route to a hospital.

From Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu identified the hostage takers as militants belonging to the left wing Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party–Front (DHKP-C in Turkish abbreviation).

The DHKP-C militants dressed up as lawyers in order to gain access to the courthouse.
The motive for this raid on the courthouse was speculated that it was in retaliation to the death of a protestor during anti-government protests in 2013 after the protestor was hit by a gas canister.

The hostage takers ordered that the policemen involved in that death to confess and to have those policemen be tried by ‘people’s courts.’

Mehmet Selim Kiraz was involved in the investigation of the protestor’s death.

The DHKP-C is labeled as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government and the group was more active in the 1970s though a suicide bombing that killed one security guard was linked to the DHKP-C in 2013.

GERMANWINGS CRASH ON ALPINE MOUNTAINSIDE

Airbus A320 crashes; no survivors

Flight 9525 operated by Germanwings, an associate of Lufthansa, on the way to Duesseldorf from Barcelona lost radio contact with their control center after about one hour in flight.

The plane took off on Tuesday just after 10:00A.M. From Spain and crashed in France at about 10:53A.M.

The flight went down around the area near Digne-les-Bains in the Alpes de Haute Provence region. The area was snow covered and difficult to access.

Search helicopters found that the flight had disintegrated on impact and no pieces larger than a small car was found. No bodies were retrieved on Tuesday.

Among the victims were sixteen students and two teachers from Germany. Most of those aboard were Spanish, German, or Turkish. 67 passengers, nearly half, were German. There were also two Australians and two Colombians.

The plane had descended to about 6,000 feet from its cruising altitude of 38,000 feet within eight minutes.

It is speculated that the pilot had tried to make an emergency landing since any stall in the twin engines of the airbus would have led to a crash within minutes.

The black box has been found according to French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and would be investigated immediately.

Lee Kuan Yew, Founder of Modern Singapore Dies at 91

According to the Prime Minister’s office, Lee Luan Yew has died Monday, aged 91. Lee was suffering from severe pneumonia for nearly 2 months.

Lee was heavily involved with the transition from British rule and further into Singapore sovereignty. Under his leadership, Singapore grew from an outpost of the British Empire with no natural resources to one of the Four Asian Tigers (Asian nations that experienced great economic growth following World War II). Singapore developed into an industrialized nation through trade relations with ASEAN and with China. To this day, Singapore remains a top place to do business around the globe.

Lee was born in 1923 to a middle class Chinese family and survived the Japanese invasion during World War II. Lee recalled the Japanese invasion “The dark ages had descended on us. It was brutal, cruel.” Following the Japanese occupation, Lee studied Law at Cambridge where he met his wife, Kwa Geok Choo.

Lee became Singapore’s first prime minister after Singapore was granted self-rule by the British in 1959 and resumed his position as prime minister after Singapore was forcibly removed from Malaysia in 1965. He was prime minister until 1990 when he stepped down in favor of his deputy, Goh Chok Tong.

Singapore’s extraordinary survival and flourishing is tantamount to the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew and thus part of the legacy he left to Singapore.
However whilst under Lee’s jurisdiction, punishment for crimes remain very strict. Caning is allowed for the lightest of crimes. Under Goh Chok Tong, Lee’s successor, the sale of gum was also prohibited on the island nation. Lee remarked that “If you can’t think because you can’t chew, try a banana.”

Freedom of the press and democracy also have much still to be developed. Singapore placed 153 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) have won every election since the establishment of modern Singapore. Libel actions have been used by the PAP to stifle dissent by opposition.

Regardless of whether Lee is remembered for his economic achievements or his heavy handedness on policy, he should be acknowledged by all for what he has paved to make Singapore what is currently is.

Why You Should Study Abroad

Volunteer Opportunities with Projects Abroad

Whether for philanthropic purposes, padding a resume, or just looking for experience, volunteering/studying abroad serves as a great way to combine all three. Through helping others you can help yourself develop as a person. The skills obtained or refined by volunteering abroad can further help domestic society by understanding the privilege it is to live in a developed country compared to a developing country. On the other hand, it serves to connect with the people in other countries and realize that the struggles they go through are similar in a way to the struggles at home.

Volunteers Abroad provides a way in which people can connect to the youth of developing countries through various programs available.

The organization was founded in 1992 by Dr. Peter Slowe whose focus was in Eastern Europe. Now the organization is a leader in volunteer programs with projects various countries and recruitment offices in the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Holland, Hong Kong, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and the US.

Volunteers Abroad offers four distinct projects in which people can participate in.

Canine Therapy in Bolivia and Equine Therapy in Argentina
The goal of these programs is to provide outreach to children with disabilities. The project in Bolivia seeks to encourage and comfort the youth through dogs, while the project in Argentina does this as well through horses. The purpose of the volunteer would be to care for the animals like clean cages and assist the children in therapy sessions.

Childs Rights Initiative in Jamaica and HIV/AIDS Project in Ghana
Both these programs engage the volunteer in social work and immerses them with problems in the local communities. In Jamaica, the project would engage volunteers in informational seminars as well as take observations on the populace and do case work. The project in Ghana focuses on outreach as well as clinical work. 

If you are interested and want more information about Care volunteer projects, visit

www.projects-abroad.org/volunteer-projects/care

These opportunities are great and an excellent investment if you have the time and interest. These sessions seem pretty awesome for people who like dogs and horses since you get to build your own credentials while having fun as well. Experience and knowledge from the latter two can definitely refine your understanding of the issues and enable you translate knowledge to action. 

 

2015 Israeli Legislative Election: Netanyahu Leads Herzog

‘King Bibi’ to Emerge Victorious

With more than half votes counted on Tuesday, Likud is leading with 23.73 percent over the Zionist Union with 19.07 percent.

It was predicted that the chief opposition, Zionist Union, would take 26 to 27 seats. This is out of a total of 120 seats in Parliament with 61 seats needed to form a coalition government.

This comes as a reversal to polls published last week that predicted Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union to have at least a four seat lead over Likud. As of now, Israeli political analysts agree that the next Israeli government would be formed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

Factions traditionally backing Netanyahu were given 54 seats against the left leaning factions with 43 seats by exit polls.
The priority for both Netanyahu and Herzog now is to convince the other parties to join with them to form a coalition. Another party, Kulanu, led by former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon signaled that he would be considering joining in a coalition with either camps but would reveal the decision until after polls close.

As a last minute bid to rally votes for the right-wing, Netanyahu evoked racist sentiments by accusing left-wing groups of busing in Arab Israeli voters to polling stations and pledged that no Palestinian state would be established while he remains prime minister.
Factions traditionally backing Netanyahu were given 54 seats against the left leaning factions with 43 seats by exit polls. President Reuvin Rivlin will have up to 42 days to decide which candidate is best able to form a coalition to be elected prime minister.

Turnouts was over 70 percent, higher than that of the last election in 2013. There was also a 2.3 percent increase of votes from Israeli soldiers.

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat stated that he believed the next Israeli government would be formed by Bibi and will instead push diplomatic efforts at the International Criminal Court. He stated firmly that Netanyahu had destroyed any possibility of the two-state solution.

The United States State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, referring to Netanyahu’s statement about Arab Israelis, remarked that the US is concerned of any statements attempting to marginalize communities.

Hillary Clinton Responds To Personal Email Controversy

Criticism of the Former Secretary of State for Using a Personal Email Instead of a Government One

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton addressed the concern of her using a personal email address instead of an official government email address during her tenure under Obama in a press conference this Tuesday.

Clinton declared that this was just due to ‘convenience.’

In the press conference Clinton admitted to deleting nearly half of the messages, (31,830 out of 62,320), in her personal email address before turning it over to the public. Clinton claimed that the messages she deleted were personal ones, such as Chelsea Clinton’s wedding plans, yoga routine, and other private matters.

In the conference Clinton had also insisted that no discussion of confidential materials were conducted over the personal email address. To do so would be a violation of secrecy laws.

Regardless of the attempt by Clinton to address this controversy, the conservative right refused to be satisfied by Clinton’s statement.

Republican National Committee President Reince Priebus stated, “Because only Hillary Clinton controls her personal email account and admitted she deleted many of her emails, no one but Hillary Clinton knows if she handed over every relevant email.”

Potential 2016 presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., called for an independent investigation into the situation.

This controversy comes as a potential obstacle to Hillary Clinton who would most likely to be running in the 2016 presidential election.