World, State News: Hong Kong Protests, California Drought

Hong Kong Protests

Since September 22 this year, thousands of Hong Kong citizens have crowded their streets in protest over their inability to nominate and elect their own chief executive for the election in 2017. The chief executive in Hong Kong holds a sizeable amount of power, presiding over the government, directing elements of foreign policy and conducting judicial and legislative affairs.
The movement began in Hong Kong when a crowd of students camped outside a government building. Within days, it erupted into a full scale protest that has since drawn hundreds of thousands of people to rally in the name of democracy. Immediately, the conflict became a global focus, bringing to light the imbalance of power between Hong Kong citizens and their government.
In 1990, the creation of the Basic Law by the British and Chinese governments outlined that Hong Kong was meant to be a special administrative state within China. The Basic Law also declared that choosing a chief executive was intended to be decided through through popular vote. The law also created a committee that elects and nominates all officers.
According to the Associated Press, the recent demonstrations have exposed the lack of democracy within the state because China and the allegedly corrupt committee currently have control over which politicians are chosen as candidates for elections. The New York Times reports that while voters will be allowed to choose between up to three candidates, the candidates will have to be approved by a Beijing-controlled nominating committee.
The protesters occupying the financial districts of Hong Kong argue that they have been denied the ability to vote and nominate their own candidates. According to ABC News, the protesters are demanding that Leung Chin Yeung, the current chief officer who has ignored the movement, resign and facilitate full democracy.
Ever since the police started using tear gas during the peak of the contest in late September, the protesters have used umbrellas and facemasks as defense, thus sparking the nickname “the Umbrella Revolution.”
As a symbol of the struggle, the protesters donned yellow bandanas and posted photos and hashtagged phrases that have become synonymous with the protest. The Chinese government has responded indirectly to the protests by censoring media on the mainland, removing posts with words like “Umbrella Revolution” and “yellow bandana” on Instagram, Facebook and Weibo (China’s version of Twitter).
The main group behind the protest is Occupy Central, which is led by a reverend and two Hong Kong university professors; the organization has been planning the civil movement for two years.
In a recent article by CNN, Leung has said China will remain resilient in its position against the protesters. Aside from the actions of local police, reports from The New York Times and Reuters predict that Chinese and Hong Kong officials will simply wait for the protest to die down.
With recent videos surfacing of police brutality towards protesters and Leung’s resilient response, news sources widely speculate that the situation will only continue to escalate in the coming weeks.
California Drought
For the past two years, California has faced record drought conditions throughout the state. The impact has been most dramatic in Southern and Central California, parts of which do not have any running water.
 According to the California Department of Water Resources, 2013 was the driest year on record for much of the state. The drought has continued into 2014 and on January 17, Governor Brown declared a drought state of emergency.
Los Altos has not been immune from the effects. As of October 1, Santa Clara Valley Water District’s (SCVWD) ten reservoirs stood at just 35 percent of their capacity.
As a result of the drought, an increasing number of homeowners are letting their lawns go brown instead of watering them. Because lawns are the largest user of water both commercial and personal, the SCVWD implemented a new campaign called “Brown Is The New Green,” urging residents to refrain from watering lawns as heavily.
The drought has also impacted local wildlife. The Los Altos Town Crier has reported an increase in wildlife encounters, specifically attacks on pets; lack of water in the hills has caused coyotes and mountain lions to travel farther into the community than in the past and to come into frequent contact with people.
Thanks to the drought, elections for seats on the SCVWD are becoming more competitive and in turn, more expensive. A report published by Palo Alto Online on October 11 showed that candidate Gary Kremen has amassed $280,000 for his campaign.
On June 24 the Los Altos city council approved a resolution to encourage water conservation measures throughout the city. These measures include watering plants only at specific times during the day and altering landscaping to include drought tolerant plants.
Although it is not necessarily clear if the increase is enough to replenish deplted reservoirs, rain levels this year have been promising. The Santa Clara Valley has received 114 percent of its seasonal average to date. Furthermore, the National Weather Service states that there is a 66 percent chance of El Niño weather, which ordinarily brings higher than average rainfall in California. Data predicts that heavy rains will fall between November and January.