News & Events

INFOSUM: April 29th 2019

The ISG Weekly Information Summary: An unbiased look at the happenings around the globe, and how they could impact life closer to home. April 29 2019.

December 30, 2019
Michael J.


  1. Self-Avowed White Supremacist Kills 1, Injures 3 in California Synagogue
  2. Anti-Muslim Vehicle Attack Injures 8 in California
  3. ‘New IRA’ Assumes Responsibility for Attack that Killed Irish Journalist
  4. More Than 1000 Migrants Break Out of Detention Center in South Mexico
  5. NASA, FEMA, Other Agencies to Simulate Asteroid Impact Preparedness Exercise
  6. Future Uncertain for Medicare, Social Security
  7. DOJ Dropping Child Porn Cases Rather Than Revealing Surveillance Information
  8. Billions in Illegal Gold Smuggled out of Africa
  9. Spanish Elections See Far-Right Resurgence
  1. Self-Avowed White Supremacist Kills 1, Injures 3 in California Synagogue

We’re saddened to report another round of anti-religious violence this week. On Saturday, a 19-year-old man identified as John Earnest open fired at a Synagogue in Poway, California during a Passover celebration. One person was killed, while three more were injured. At the time of this writing police have not released information about a motive, though many popular voices have labeled this a hate crime. In an online statement released a few hours before the attack, the gunman credited recent similar incidents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Christchurch, New Zealand has his inspiration. Earnest is also under investigation for a fire in a local mosque last month, which appears to answer questions of motive unofficially.

It’s difficult to know what to say at this time. We are within the critical 78-hour window after an unexpected event during which it’s difficult to discern accurate reporting from unintentional misinformation. During the tragedy, parishioners acted quickly when the gunman's weapon jammed.

Oscar Stewart, an Iraq war vet who served both in the Navy, and after September 11th, enlisted in the Army, charged the gunman seizing the opportunity to disarm him. As we often see in active shooter situations, as soon as he was confronted, the shooter abandon the effort and fled.

Stewart was joined by off-duty Border Patrol agent Jonathan Morales, who recovered a firearm set aside for parishioner's with the Rabbi's blessing and under his direction. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein had reportedly told his congregation's Law Enforcement and Military members:

"Arm yourself when you are here, you will never know when we will need it."

Morales fired five rounds at the fleeing suspect and recorded the license plate number of the suspect's vehicle. The suspect was caught shortly afterwards and faces charges of Murder and Attempted Murder.

Evidence suggests that the shooter was inspired by the the Christchurch massacre. The individual has released a lengthy manifesto which could be interpreted as trolling others to commit similar acts, which is cause for concern. We’ll have to keep an eye on the story as it develops, but in the meantime, please be cautious in your place of worship.

Our hearts are with the victims and their families.

  1. Anti-Muslim Vehicle Attack Injures 8 in California

It never rains but it pours. On Tuesday, a similar attempt at mass murder took place in Sunnyvale, California, when 34 year old Isaiah Peoples intentionally drove his car through a group of pedestrians, whom he apparently believed to me Muslims. Eight people were injured, and a 13 year old girl remains in a coma. Peoples is described as an US Army veteran, and according to his family has some mental health issues connected to his service. According to them he spent some time in a treatment facility after a breakdown in 2015.

Religion seems to be a motivator here, as it was in Sri Lanka—the driver allegedly muttered “Thank you, Jesus” after the attack. It’s difficult to know whether he’s a victim of his own demons or whether he bears a broader connection to the faith-inspired tensions and violence around the world just now. Regardless, it’s likely that his actions will feed the fires sparked by other, larger events. Again, we shall see, and our thoughts and prayers are with those affected.

  1. ‘New IRA’ Assumes Responsibility for Attack that Killed Irish Journalist

On April 18th, journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead during rioting in Derry, Northern Ireland. She was killed when a gunman opened fired on police as she was covering the event. McKee was 29 years old.

In a statement given to The Irish News, the New IRA claims responsibility for the incident, claiming that their volunteers were intent on engaging an incursion by “heavily armed British crown forces which provoked rioting”. They then offered a full apology for McKee’s death, which they describe as tragic.

Lyra McKee’s death is indeed tragic. In keeping with her professional ideals and dedication, we’re going to focus here on an even larger story: the potential resurgence of partisan violence in North Ireland. The New IRA has taken conflict for a spate of gun and bomb attacks over the last few years, and directly engaging PSNI officers during a riot potentially marks further escalation. McKee’s death may mitigate their new burst of activity, with both Republican and Unionist communities uniting against the kind of violence which took her life. It’s an evolving situation, so whether this marks the end of the Good Friday Agreement or another stage in moving further from partisan violence remains to be seen.

As the network of alliances in Europe becomes further muddied by conflicting views and values on how to treat social progress, we expect an escalation in partisan/government conflict, and with a spate of faith-based attacks, over the previous few weeks, we expect to see political identities galvanized by the perception of persecution.

  1. More Than 1000 Migrants Break Out of Detention Center in South Mexico

On Thursday, roughly 1300 migrants escaped from a refugee detention center in southern Mexicao, near the city of Tapachula, Chiapas. Chiefly comprised of migrants from the Caribbean (Cuba and Haiti), most of the group returned to the facility within a few hours, however 600 or so are still unaccounted for and speculation abounds as to their whereabouts. Mexican newspapers report that the facility, Siglo XXI, is overcrowded with refugees seeking to enter Mexico from the south.

Immigration, migration, and refugees are still contentious issues in and between the United States and Mexico. The latter nation has returned over 15,000 migrants over the last month due in part to increasing pressure from the White House.  Mexico is an increasingly attractive option for folks attempting to enter the US illegally, with migrants from Central America, the Caribbean, and further afield attempting that mode of roundabout entry. With a growing anti-migrant movement in Mexico itself, leaders on both sides of the Rio Grande are facing complexities both internal and external as things continue to intensify.

  1. NASA, FEMA, Other Agencies to Simulate Asteroid Impact Preparedness Exercise

In conjunction with other national and international agencies, NASA and FEMA will take the lead on a preparedness exercise simulating an asteroid strike at various places on Earth and how an international coordinated response would work when the likelihood of impact reaches 1%, the threshold at which most experts agree action must be taken.

This is a drill, and it’s only a drill. In particular, it is the sixth such drill in which NASA, FEMA, et al have taken part. It’s an interesting drill and worth following just to learn a bit more about how various experts and agencies approach such a vast problem. The only word of warning we have is this: exercises of this sort often give birth to conspiracy theories. Those are unhelpful, broadly speaking. If you’re interested in what the response would look like and how you might increase your own chances of survival should such an unlikely event occur, we’d encourage you to follow along and take notes.

Further, while such events as an asteroid strike are cause for legitimate concern, its important to note two things:

  1. They're exceptionally rare, and;
  2. They aren't all the same magnitude of severity.

At ISG, we consider such events a "Type III" emergency, or one that fundamentally changes the way life is lived for an indefinite period of time. It's important to note that when governments plan for such events, they do so in a "top down" way that addresses the needs of the citizen last. Consider that rationally while weighing the odds of such an event - which again - are extremely low probability, but high impact.

  1. Future Uncertain for Medicare, Social Security

A latest series of reports from government regulators indicate that both Medicare and Social Security may be at risk of insolvency, possibly as soon as 2026 if corrective measures are not implemented. While the numbers and projections are largely unchanged from 2018, they paint a consistently sobering picture of the future for two of the nation’s primary social programs.

We’ve all known that both Medicare and Social Security were in trouble for a while now, but mostly those concerns have been political footballs kicked around to motivate voters before an election. There’s an element of that in this case, as the 2020 presidential election looms and the Dems are dealing with an internal civil war between their established leadership and the more progressive elements within the party. However, there is genuine cause for concern, and Congress faces a choice: take immediate action in hopes of turning the tide or postpone and risk having to make more drastic decisions. Add in the Baby Boomers aging out of the workforce, and this is a delicate balancing act indeed.

  1. DOJ Dropping Child Porn Cases Rather Than Revealing Surveillance Information

The US Department of Justice has been dropping child pornography cases, rather than revel information about the software used to collected the data behind the charges. The software tools in question are the products of private companies, but have not been submitted for independent review and analysis. With little to no information about their processes, error rates, or internal biases, the potential for false positives is a legitimate concern. Defense attorneys have the right to review such information, per many courts, and thus we reach this deadlock.

As several articles about this issue have noted, kiddie porn dealers are “hardly the most sympathetic” defendants. However, we are looking at legitimate questions about metadata collection as a 4th and 5th Amendment issue and of the role of the 6th Amendment in criminal defense. A lack of transparency by the government would suggest that something larger is afoot, either via the scope and scale of metadata collection or of its efficacy in finding these sorts of criminals. Child pornographers may be odious, but our civil rights are worth protecting. As Techdirt notes:

...either the government is prosecuting innocent people, or letting bad people go to preserve its secrets.

Both scenarios lead us to ugly and disturbing conclusions.

  1. Billions in Illegal Gold Smuggled out of Africa

We learn via Reuters this week that billions of dollars in gold is smuggled out of Africa via the United Arab Emirates annually, ultimately destined for markets in the Western World. Most of this is done illegally, without taxes being paid in the country of production. Much of it is done in illegal mines by workers, many of them children, laboring away in substandard conditions with no official oversight or protections.

This story, by itself, is a sad piece about economic exploitation and human rights violation. That’s bad enough, but in the broader context it connects with concerns about the new Scramble for Africa. China’s been active on the continent for years, investing heavily and allegedly ensnaring African governments in joint venture and loan schemes designed to increase debt and dependency. Middle Eastern nations are no strangers to African skullduggery, as this report reveals yet again. How the US and the UK/EU will respond is an ongoing question. Trump’s administration has decreased US military involvement in Africa, but has also presented an unclear economic policy.

  1. Spanish Elections See Far-Right Resurgence

Spain’s governing socialist party came out as the leader in the country’s most recent election, but failed to secure a majority. Pedro Sánchez will retain his seat as PM if he can secure a coalition with Spain’s regional or centrist parties. The left-wing victory was expected; the question was how the far-right would perform. For the first time since the 1970s the far right has broken through on the national level in Spain. Vox, a party which opposes immigration, regional secession, feminism, and multiculturalism, has secured 24 seats in Madrid.

There’s a lot to be learned from Vox’s victory, especially when comparing it to similar far-right/populist wins in Europe. They relied on a well managed and hard hitting social media campaign, they played to ongoing concerns about the economy, development, and regional migration, and they appeal to the notion of a shared-yet-neglected set of history and values. Similar patterns are emerging across Europe, with a similar growth in success on the national level. As Europe drives deeper into a complex set of social and economic crises centered around economic union, growth, immigration/migration, the future of the EU, and environmental factors, its various far-right groups may be able to play popular dissatisfaction to their collective advantage. This will be particularly true if transnational alliances form, as ironic as such a move would be.

We hope you've enjoyed this week's Information Summary. If you did, please help us get the word out so we can bring an unbiased look to current events.


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