Those Pesky Gun Laws

J.W.

Just One Girl ♥

“What? Gun control?! The government is coming for my guns- what about my second amendment rights?” I’m sure you’ve heard someone, somewhere say these kinds of things. Am I right? Of course I am. Whether it’s your uncle Al the proud gun owner, your own parents, or the media, you’ve most likely heard these things. The problem is knowing how true those statements are and what these statements are taking away from the truth.

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Obama vs. The Senate

this article comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

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WASHINGTON (AP) — As the Senate prepares to begin debating new gun control measures, some of President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats are poised to frustrate his efforts to enact the most sweeping limits on weapons in decades.

These Democrats from largely rural states with strong gun cultures view Obama’s proposals warily and have not committed to supporting them. The lawmakers’ concerns could stand in the way of strong legislation before a single Republican gets a chance to vote “no.”

“There’s a core group of Democratic senators, most but not all from the West, who represent states with a higher-than-average rate of gun ownership but an equally strong desire to feel their kids are safe,” said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. “They’re having hard but good conversations with people back home to identify the middle-ground solutions that respect the Second Amendment but make it harder for dangerous people to get their hands on guns.”

All eyes are on these dozen or so Democrats, some of whom face re-election in 2014. That includes Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

The Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings Wednesday.

Interest groups, lobbyists, lawmakers, crime victims and others with a stake in the outcome will be watching these senators closely for signals about what measures they might support. The answers will say a lot about what, if anything, Congress can pass in the wake of the shootings of 20 school and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month.

At issue are Obama’s proposals to ban assault weapons, limit ammunition magazines, crack down on trafficking and require universal background checks. Leading the charge against those ideas is the National Rifle Association. The group wields enormous power to rally public sentiment and is a particular threat to Democrats in pro-gun states who face re-election.

The political concerns of Democrats create problems for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has his own history with the NRA.

The powerful gun lobby endorsed him in previous elections, but stayed neutral in his most recent race, in 2010. Even before Obama announced the gun proposals this month, Reid told a Nevada PBS station that an assault weapons ban would have a hard time getting through Congress. That comment irked Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., author of such a ban.

“Clearly it wasn’t helpful,” she said this past week in reintroducing her measure. But Feinstein’s original assault weapons ban was a stern political lesson for Reid and other Democrats. Its passage as part of President Bill Clinton’s crime bill in 1994 was blamed for Democratic election losses that year after the NRA campaigned against lawmakers who supported the legislation. When the assault weapons ban came up for renewal in 2004, Congress, under pressure from the NRA, refused to extend it.

Reid has pledged action on gun measures. “This is an issue we’re not going to run from,” he said. But he’s under pressure from all sides.

Some major pieces of legislation are shepherded by the Senate leadership to the Senate floor. But Reid is promising that the gun bills will go through the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman is Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a gun owner and Second Amendment supporter.

Reid also is promising an open amendment process, potentially a lengthy endeavor. Those signals have some gun control activists concerned that the process will go so slowly that it will grind to a halt without action. Some question whether that’s just the outcome desired by some moderate Democrats.

“I’m concerned just because Harry Reid has a mixed record on these things and we want him to be a champion,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

On the other side, the NRA, known for rewarding friends and punishing enemies, promises it will be closely watching Reid, too.

“He’s going to be torn and a lot of people are going to be torn, particularly Democrats, but I think as the debate goes on he’ll do more good than bad from our perspective,” said David Keene, NRA president. “All this stuff has been debated before and once you get into a debate and a discussion and say will this do anything to protect children, to prevent another Newtown, I think the answer is going to come out `no.'”

Baucus, Begich, Pryor and others have been cautious in their comments on Obama’s gun proposals.

Baucus called for “a thoughtful debate.” Begich told his home state Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that passage of any element of the package was “a long haul. … There are some of us who just fundamentally believe in a Second Amendment right.” Pryor has told Arkansas media that efforts on gun safety should start with enforcing existing laws.

Another Democrat closely watching the issue is Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, known for a 2010 campaign ad where he fired a rifle shot though a copy of Democratic-written climate change legislation. Manchin recently told a West Virginia radio station that he’s working on legislation to require background checks on most gun purchases. Details weren’t clear but that’s the area where advocates are most hopeful of finding a solution that could get through the Senate and possibly even the Republican-controlled House.

The NRA generally opposes legislation mandating universal background checks and disputes gun control groups’ claims that 40 percent of purchases happen without such checks. NRA officials question whether background checks could be done effectively in a way that makes a difference and doesn’t disrupt legitimate sales.

The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, is to testify Wednesday before Leahy’s committee.

Democrats, especially those from gun-rights states, will be weighing whether to side with the NRA or follow the president, or how best to split the difference.

“We’re a Second-Amendment state. I support the rights of sportsmen and target shooters and collectors to own firearms. It’s an important part of our culture and tradition,” Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in an interview. “But I just hear there’s such grave concern given the experiences we’ve had with Aurora, Columbine … people all over Colorado want to prevent these massacres.”

Jackson Williams.

Until the Casket Drops (Two Years)

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I have not lived. — HENRY DAVID THOREAU

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Although it was difficult for me to pull off, tonight I am writing to you without snark or pretense, my two greatest weapons as a writer; and, for the short time that I am able to pull off this lucid sincerity, I wish to speak a bit about what it is like to lose a friend too young, especially when those friends, by all accounts, are superior to you in every way — in life, in spirit, in ambition, in grace, and in love. This is not a matter of my low (and mostly self-deprecating) opinion of myself. It is instead how I feel about Collin and Ellis, two friends I lost in a car crash exactly two years ago today, and the effect they had on me not only in life but in death, far after the casket has dropped on the world they made better when they were alive, and far after the casket has dropped on the world that in death they have made feel strange and empty, like a song missing its strongest, captivating notes.

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the news: it was late in the evening and my then-girlfriend was over, nagging at me to get ready to go to the movies. We were going to be late to Black Swan, which to me didn’t seem like much of a tragedy anyways, and somehow she never got the message that the Bijou was never crowded, even on weekends — especially cold, depressing weekends in January where no one in their right minds wants to go outside, let alone go see Black Swan at an art-house cinema. It smells like a funeral home in there, which makes total sense since it happened to be a funeral home at one time point, way, way back in the foggy, marijuana-glazed past of Eugene. She was as amped up and naggy as ever because of me, her flaky boyfriend, and I was as low as could be from painkillers to kill the dull and yet somehow roaring pain of a few jagged stones running through and cutting up my kidneys, and in those few moments, unaware that in a minute or so tragedy would strike, it felt as if the world was slowly becoming trapped in a dark amber. By all accounts, this evening was going to be hell.

And then, like prophecy, my ringtone began to go off — “A Beautiful Mine,” the theme song from Mad Men, the same ringtone I still have two years later — and when I looked down at my phone it was my buddy Ethan, who rarely calls (this being before he moved to Vancouver). I call this is a red flag if there ever was one. I answered, and before I even spoke a word I knew something was wrong. Have you ever answered the phone and before any words have been spoken you can tell the person on the other end of the line has been crying profusely, you can just feel the tears over the phone like a strong mist that doesn’t show itself until you’ve stepped right in to the middle of it.

“Ethan? Dude? What’s the matter?”

I asked him this, scared out of my wits. You can always tell when tragedy has struck, as if people don’t realize how easy it is for someone to notice that you are in pain. We’re all just wounded animals making our way across the Savannah.

“They’re dead, dude. They’re dead.”

“What the fuck are you trying to say?”

“DEAD. Collin and Ellis. There’s been an accident.”

“If you’re lying to me, Ethan…if this is some kind of sick joke, I’m going to fucking kill you,” I yell at him over the phone, the shock of what I’ve just heard now rapidly turning in to tears calmly streaming down my face. As you could imagine, my then-girlfriend was looking at me like I had antlers suddenly sprouting out of the top of my head.

What I learned, as much as it pains me to write, the replay of the event in my head that drives me to a solemn silence whenever I picture it: early that morning, on their way south to go snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor, Collin, Ellis, and my other buddy Nick, who admittedly I did not know as well as Collin and Ellis, the late-80’s BMW that they were in had hit a patch of ice and after spinning they rolled down an embankment in to a small patch of woods, the car slamming in to and wrapping itself around a tree on the passenger side, which was the side that Collin and Ellis happened to be on. Nick was driving the car that awful morning and escaped with a broken leg and some lacerations to the face, the poor man somehow managing to crawl away from the wreckage just before the car caught fire.

If I can believe soothing words, which I always choose to do as a rule, my friends died immediately upon impact with that tree, instantaneously peaceful in death, forever-youthful in their steel cocoon, already in the presence of a place called Heaven before the fire began on the side of that snow-covered highway. Sometimes at night, when I dream in my warm bed, I can see that highway, that horrible place where the casket dropped forever and ever amen, and though sometimes in those dreams I see the fire that swallowed the car whole, my friends are never in pain. Not one of those dreams has ever been filled with pain. They stand by peacefully, smiling and watchful, like I always knew them to be, and I do not feel sad. Not even the loss of those wonderful spirits can shake my feeling that they are sleeping peacefully. I feel the turning wheels of the universe bringing us all in and spitting us all back out, treating us all one and the same and without prejudice. What’s the point of making people hurt when we all die equally anyways?

…although it was difficult for me to pull off, tonight I am writing to you without snark or pretense, my two greatest weapons as a writer; and, for the short time that I am able to pull off this lucid sincerity, I wish to speak a bit about what it is like to lose a friend too young, especially when those friends, by all accounts, are superior to you in every way — in life, in spirit, in ambition, in grace, and in love…

At twenty-three years old I have already been to seven funerals in my life. This is the first time I’ve ever really noticed just how many that is at such a relatively young age. Seven times I have stood under some solitary tree remembering the dead, seven times I have walked a walked through a cemetery lane alongside the dead, and seven times I have listened to words spoken by a preacher under unmistakable silence, the dead inhabiting that silence just as much as our own hushed voices do. These seven trips to the land of the dead have taught me nothing about what it means to be alive, as much as I ask for wisdom out of their ethereal silence. From the first to the last, all I’ve understood is that what separates me from them is not much more than fleeting air in the lungs and little electrical explosions in the brain, somehow giving me consciousness. Or, those seven occasions were trying to teach me something this whole time and maybe I just wasn’t listening.

I believe that part of the problem is that I see no point in learning from something only because it has disappeared — why wait for knowledge that way when you can just as easily learn a lot from those who are living, and not just come to cherish their words when they have passed on from this world to the next? Does Death, that cold bastard, suddenly make normal words become words of infinite love with one sweep of his black robe? Does death make a saint out of all of us in the end? Does everything become mysteriously, I don’t know…illuminated, in the end? Is that how love and wisdom are brought to the world?

I think not.

I believe deep down that the goodness in people can be seen well before they are taken from us, unfairly and far, far too young. Angels, like their mortal counterparts, can never keep themselves and their angelic nature a secret because, like we mortals, their goodness shines through all attempts to be secretly wonderful. It is like some holy white light that you try to cover up, but good luck — you’re just too wonderful for us not to notice. And, when that light is suddenly extinguished without warning, we feel that part of ourselves has been doused with water too. The winds calm down, the smoke becomes nacreous, and that wonderful white light that filled us with joy is nowhere to be found. Rest in peace, little light.

But, my dear friends and readers, do not worry yourselves, for that light will never go out. For a moment it appears extinguished and then, in a flash that can’t help but gift you with tears of joy, it reignites, sometimes brighter than ever. Anyone who tells you differently is absolutely full of shit. When those we find wonderful and special are taken from us, that light is left there in their place. It was there when you knew them, and it stays after they are gone. Collin had wanted to be a neurosurgeon and do good for people, to make them neurally whole again. Ellis was studying eastern medicine in hopes of trying to better the lives of others. I look back on my two dear friends and I know that the world has lost two good men too early. I know that if they had lived just a few more years they would have found a way to better the world, both on a micro and macro level. They, out of all of us lowly and scared spirits, were the ones who were truly going to make a difference. The world was going to have a future with them being alive, this I am sure of, and though they are gone the world still beats on like an engine; it will keep on turning, regardless of much I want to the world to stop and let me just mourn for two of my best friends, now lost.

Summer of 2009: me and a few friends, Collin and Ellis among them, watch the fireworks after a baseball game at Civic Stadium (which would be closed down by the end of summer). The feelings I have about this memory almost seem cliche now when I look back. You know the old song-and-memory dance: the future is bright ahead of us, our youthful faces lit up by flashes of red, green, blue, phosphorous white; beers are in our hands, we cheer the explosions over the old baseball stadium; we will live for today and not for tomorrow, since it won’t be here, so you might as well drink that Coors and finish off that freshly-rolled joint in the parking lot. We were just kids in college, we had no idea that tragedy could find us just like everybody else. I wasn’t as close to them then as I would eventually become, but love and friendship always have to have a beginning, if they even begin and end at all!

I miss them dearly, forever and ever. I love you, Collin and Ellis, and I will always miss you.

Sincerely,

Jackson Williams.

BREAKING NEWS: North Korea Still Sucks

this news comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea swiftly lashed out against the U.N. Security Council’s condemnation of its December launch of a long-range rocket, saying Wednesday that it will strengthen its military defenses – including its nuclear weaponry – in response.

The defiant statement from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry was issued hours after the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning Pyongyang’s Dec. 12 rocket launch as a violation of a ban against nuclear and missile activity. The resolution, which won approval from Pyongyang’s ally and protector China after drawn-out discussions, also expanded sanctions against the North.

In Pyongyang, the Foreign Ministry maintained that the launch was a peaceful bid to send a satellite into space, not a test of long-range missile technology. But now, North Korea will “counter the U.S. hostile policy with strength, not with words,” the ministry said, ominously warning that North Korea will “bolster the military capabilities for self-defense including the nuclear deterrence.”

The wording “considerably and strongly hints at the possibility of a nuclear test,” analyst Hong Hyun-ik at the private Sejong Institute think tank near Seoul said Wednesday.

A nuclear test would fit into a familiar pattern of defiance in Pyongyang. In 2006 and 2009, North Korea followed up rocket launches just weeks later by testing atomic devices, which experts say is necessary for development of nuclear warheads.

However, North Korea has a new leader, Kim Jong Un, who took over in December 2011 following the death of father Kim Jong Il. How he will handle the standoff with the international community remains unclear.

There was no indication Wednesday of an imminent nuclear test. However, satellite photos taken last month at North Korea’s underground nuclear test site in Punggye-ri in the far northeast showed continued activity that suggested a state of readiness even in winter, according to analysis by 38 North, a North Korea website affiliated with the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies.

Last month’s rocket launch has been celebrated as a success in North Korea, and the scientists involved treated like heroes. Kim Jong Un cited the launch in his New Year’s Day speech laying out North Korea’s main policies and goals for the upcoming year, and banners hailing the launch are posted on buildings across the capital.

Washington and its allies consider the long-range rocket launch a covert test of ballistic missile technology, and suspect Pyongyang is working toward mounting a nuclear warhead on a missile capable of striking the U.S.

North Korea claims the right to build nuclear weapons as a defense against the United States, which stations more than 28,000 troops in South Korea. The foes fought in the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953 and left the Korean Peninsula divided at the 38th parallel.

Six-nation disarmament negotiations, hosted by China and aimed at offering North Korea much-needed food and fuel in return for dismantling its nuclear program, have been stalled since North Korea walked away from the talks following U.N. punishment for its 2009 rocket launch.

Since then, Pyongyang had indicated its readiness to resume discussing disarmament, and in February 2012 negotiated a deal with Washington to place a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests in exchange for food aid.

That deal fell apart when North Korea unsuccessfully launched a long-range rocket in April. In July, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a memorandum declaring that it felt forced to “completely re-examine the nuclear issue due to the continued U.S. hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.

Following Tuesday’s Security Council resolution, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it would rebuff any attempts to engage Pyongyang in disarmament negotiations.

“There can be talks for peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the region in the future, but no talks for the denuclearization of the peninsula,” it said.

The Security Council demanded that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program in a “complete, verifiable and irreversible manner,” and ordered the regime to cease rocket launches.

“Today’s resolution also makes clear that if North Korea chooses again to defy the international community, such as by conducting another launch or a nuclear test, then the (Security) Council will take significant action,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said.

The binding resolution is the first in four years to expand sanctions against Pyongyang. It ordered the freeze of more North Korean assets, including the space agency, and imposed a travel ban on four more officials – limited sanctions that target individuals and specific companies.

“We believe that action taken by the Council should be prudent, measured, proportionate and conducive to stability,” Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said after the vote.

The decision by China, North Korea’s biggest ally and economic supporter, to approve the U.N. resolution – including sanctions – may reflect frustration on Beijing’s part toward its neighbor, analysts said. In the past, China has vetoed applying sanctions for past provocations.

“China has limited influence with North Korea,” Zhang Liangui, a researcher with the ruling Communist Party’s main research and training institute, said in Beijing. “Beijing disapproves of any nuclear test or new missile launch, but there’s not a lot it can do.”

China’s support for the resolution, with targeted sanctions, signals that it agrees that North Korea’s launch was a test of its ballistic missile technology, but it is still trying to protect the ally.

“China is striking a balance here. It wants to punish North Korea for the latest launch and tell it not to undertake a new ballistic missile launch. But it doesn’t want to put unbearable pressure on Pyongyang,” said Shen Dingli, a regional security expert and director of the Center for American Studies at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

Peter James Spielmann reported from the United Nations. Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul and Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.

Jackson Williams.

The Dreamliner Nightmare

this article comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

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TOKYO (AP) — Boeing Co.’s 787 planes were grounded for safety checks Wednesday by two major Japanese airlines after one was forced to make an emergency landing in the latest blow for the new jet.

All Nippon Airways said a cockpit message showed battery problems and a burning smell were detected in the cockpit and the cabin, forcing the 787 on a domestic flight to land at Takamatsu airport in western Japan.

The 787, known as the Dreamliner, is Boeing’s newest and most technologically advanced jet, and the company is counting heavily on its success. Since its launch, which came after delays of more than three years, the plane has been plagued by a series of problems including a battery fire and fuel leaks. Japan’s ANA and Japan Airlines are major customers for the jet and among the first to fly it.

Japan’s transport ministry said it got notices from ANA, which operates 17 of the jets, and Japan Airlines which has seven, that all their 787s would not be flying. The grounding was done voluntarily by the airlines.

The earliest manufactured jets of any new aircraft usually have problems and airlines run higher risks in flying them first, said Brendan Sobie, Singapore-based chief analyst at CAPA-Center for Aviation. Since about half the 787 fleet is in Japan, more problems are cropping up there.

“There are always teething problems with new aircraft and airlines often are reluctant to be the launch customer of any new airplanes,” Sobie said. “We saw it with other airplane types, like the A380 but the issues with the A380 were different,” he said.

Japan’s transport ministry categorized Wednesday’s problem as a “serious incident” that could have led to an accident, and sent officials for further checks to Takamatsu airport. The airport was closed.

ANA executives apologized, bowing deeply at a hastily called news conference in Tokyo.

“We are very sorry to have caused passengers and their family members so much concern,” said ANA Senior Executive Vice President Osamu Shinobe.

One male in his 60s was taken to the hospital for minor hip injuries after going down the emergency slides at the airport, the fire department said. The other 128 passengers and eight crew members of the ANA domestic flight were uninjured, according to ANA.

The grounding in Japan was the first for the 787, whose problems had been brushed off by Boeing as teething pains for a new aircraft. The transport ministry had already started a separate inspection Monday on another 787 jet, operated by Japan Airlines, which had leaked fuel at Tokyo’s Narita airport after flying back from Boston, where it had also leaked fuel.

A fire ignited Jan. 7 in the battery pack of an auxiliary power unit of a Japan Airlines 787 empty of passengers as the plane sat on the tarmac at Boston’s Logan International Airport. It took firefighters 40 minutes to put out the blaze.

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ANA cancelled a domestic flight to Tokyo on Jan. 9 after a computer wrongly indicated there was a problem with the Boeing 787’s brakes. Two days later, the carrier reported two new cases of problems with the aircraft – a minor fuel leak and a cracked windscreen in a 787 cockpit.

The 787 relies more than any other modern airliner on electrical signals to help power nearly everything the plane does. It’s also the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium ion batteries, which charge faster and can be molded to space-saving shapes compared to other airplane batteries. The plane is made with lightweight composite materials instead of aluminum.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that it is “monitoring a preliminary report of an incident in Japan earlier today involving a Boeing 787.”

It said the incident will be included in the comprehensive review the FAA began last week of the 787 critical systems, including design, manufacture and assembly. U.S. government officials have been quick to say that the plane is safe. Nearly 50 of them are in the skies now.

GS Yuasa Corp., the Japanese company that supplies all the lithium ion batteries for the 787, had no comment as the investigation was still ongoing.

In Tokyo, the transport minister, Akihiro Ota, said authorities were taking the incidents seriously.

“These problems must be fully investigated,” he said.

Boeing has said that various technical problems are to be expected in the early days of any aircraft model.

“Boeing is aware of the diversion of a 787 operated by ANA to Takamatsu in western Japan. We will be working with our customer and the appropriate regulatory agencies,” Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is aware of Wednesday’s emergency landing in Japan and is gathering information on the incident, Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for the board, said.

In Wednesday’s incident, a cockpit instrument showed a problem with the 787’s battery and the pilot noticed an unusual smell, the airline said. The flight requested and was granted permission to make an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport.

Aviation safety expert John Goglia, a former National Transportation Safety Board member, said the ANA pilot made the right choice.

“They were being very prudent in making the emergency landing even though there’s been no information released so far that indicates any of these issues are related,” he said.

But much remains uncertain about the problems being experienced by the 787, said Masaharu Hirokane, analyst at Nomura Securities Co. in Tokyo.

The problems could turn out to be relatively easy to fix, or it could be major, and things were still unclear, including how long the improvements would take, he said.

“You need to ensure safety 100 percent, and then you also have to get people to feel that the jet is 100 percent safe,” said Hirokane.

AP Business Writer Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong and AP Transportation Writer Joan Lowy in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Jackson Williams.

Syrian Civil War (Cont’d)

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this article comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

BEIRUT (AP) — Twin blasts inside a university campus in Syria’s largest city on Tuesday set cars ablaze, blew the walls off dormitory rooms and left more than 80 people dead, anti-regime activists said.

What caused the blasts remained unclear.

Anti-regime activists trying to topple President Bashar Assad’s regime said his forces carried out two airstrikes. Syrian state media, for its part, blamed rebels fighting the Syrian government, saying they fired rockets that struck the campus.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and a commercial capital, has been harshly contested since rebel forces, mostly from rural areas north of the city, pushed in and began clashing with government troops last summer.

Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed since in fighting and frequent shelling and airstrikes by government forces who seek to dislodge the rebels.

The competing narratives of the two blasts at the city’s main university highlight the difficulty of confirming reports from inside Syria. The Syrian government bars most media from working in the country, making independent confirmation difficult, and both anti-regime activists and the Syria government sift the information they give the media in an effort to boost their cause.

Aleppo’s university is in the city’s northwest, a sector controlled by government forces, making it unclear why government jets would target it, as opposition activists claim.

Syria’s state news agency blamed the attack on rebels, saying they fired two missiles at the university. It said the strike occurred on the first day of the mid-year exam period and killed students and people who were staying at the university after being displaced by violence elsewhere. The agency did not say how many people were killed and wounded.

The scale of destruction in videos shot at the site, however, suggested more powerful explosives had been used than the rockets the rebels are known to possess.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited students and medical officials as saying that 83 people were killed in the blasts. Several of the more than 150 people injured were in critical condition, it said.

The group, which relies on a network of contacts inside Syria, said it was unclear what caused the blasts.

Syria’s crisis began in March 2011 with protests calling for political reform. The conflict has since turned into civil war, with scores of rebel groups fighting Assad’s forces throughout the country.

The U.N. says more than 60,000 people have been killed.

Jackson Williams.