- Tropical Storm Dorian
- Iran to US: No talks with sanctions
- Amazon fires in Brazil
- Joe Biden argues for his sanity, and why this is important for upcoming elections
- Australia blocks 'extremist' content
- What's up with Hong Kong?
- Tropical Storm Dorian passes over Windward Islands; targets US
The fourth named storm of the 2019 season, Tropical Storm Dorian is moving over the Caribbean with wind speeds of 60 miles an hour. Dorian has defined the odds, building in strength with the strong possibility of becoming a full hurricane in the near future. It may weaken again; the projected paths make it likely that the storm will pass over the larger landmasses of either Puerto Rico or Hispaniola. A US landfall—most likely in Florida or South Carolina—is not out of the question.
The 2018 season was a difficult one for the Southeastern US, with Hurricanes Florence and Michael wrecking havoc on the region. With Dorian potentially en route and Tropical Depression Six forming off the Carolinas, folks in the region are well advised to prepare for the worst.
- Iran to US: No talks until sanctions lifted
Following statements from President Trump, indicating that he would be willing to meet with Iranian President Rouhani, the latter head of state issued a statement clarifying that any such meeting would be contingent on the lifting of US sanctions against Iran. Speaking on a state-run television network, Rouhani said “The step is to retreat from sanctions. You must retreat from all illegal, unjust and wrong sanctions against the nation of Iran . . . Without taking this step, the deadlock will not be unlocked.”
Tensions between the US and Iran are no new thing, but the last several months have seen an especially high risk of potential conflict. Both US and Iranian military actions have contributed to the brinksmanship we now see in the region. On President Trump’s part, this may be a repeat of the carrot-and-stick diplomacy he used to negotiate talks with North Korea; the pattern is certainly there and his end goal does seem to be direct conversation with Rouhani. Given the vast differences in the history between the US and Iran and the latter’s cultural proclivities, whether or not this approach proves effective remains to be seen. Regardless: Rouhani stating terms for talks is a de facto negotiation, indicating that Trump’s approach is at the very beginning of seeing results.
- Brazil rejects G7 aid in fighting Amazon fires
Fires in the Amazon are a regular event, due to both regional agricultural practices and recurring forest fire cycle in the region. With the potential for long-lasting global repercussions, world leaders have been quick to express concerns. At the recent G7 meeting, French President Emmanuel Macron offered at 22 million USD donation to Brazil to help combat the various blazes. Other nations offered independent, additional donations. Brazilian officials have flatly refused the offer, with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro accusing Macron of thinly veiled colonialism. An ugly public and social media exchange ensued, often peppered with personal attacks.
The Amazon fires in Brazil have garnered a great deal of popular attention, with a great deal of information and misinformation floating around in the popular discourse. Initially reluctant to combat the blaze, Brazil change course due to international pressure and has deployed the military to fight the fires. With that in mind, where does the refusal of a cash donation originate? Given Bolsonaro’s history, it may be a matter of optics. Accepting foreign aid over an environmental issue runs contrary to the Brazilian president’s image as a nationalist and a populist. A hard right government may find it difficult to engage with international center-left leaders and maintain support at home. However, the internaional pressure is still there, particularly via jeopardized trade deals with European powers. What this means for the fires, the Amazon, and the future of Brazil’s international relations remains to be seen.
- US Presidential Nominee Joe Biden assures nation that he’s “not going nuts”
The US is firmly in the grips of the 2020 election cycle. With primary elections scheduled to start in February and a crowded field of potential candidates, Democratic hopefuls are looking for ways to stand out from the crowd. However, former Vice President Joe Biden has discovered that despite conventional wisdom there is such a thing as negative publicity. After a series of public gaffs, misteps, and bouts of forgetfulness, Biden stated "I want to be clear, I’m not going nuts” at a recent rally in New Hampshire. Concerns about Biden’s mental fitness are ongoing: he underwent brain surgery for aneurysms 30 years ago. That, combined with his age, has led to speculation that he may be having cognitive issues.
Diagnosing Joe Biden is well beyond the scope or abilities of ISG. However, we can offer some thoughts on the impact this will have on the election. Mainstream candidates are struggling to connect with younger voters and voters of color—both key demographics the Democrats must secure to en sure victory. Biden’s alleged senior moments make him look even further out of touch than his longtime status in American politics already do. Given that it’s nearly certain the DNC will run Biden as its candidate in 2020, the combined impact on Democratic voters may discourage turnout and give the GOP an edge in the coming election.
- Australia to block websites hosting extremist content
In the wake of the terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, Australian and NZ officials are working to develop the means of quickly responding to such attacks in part by immediately blocking websites and online outlets which share and promote extremist content. The ultimate goal is the establishment of a round-the-clock monitoring center, which would on a case by case basis determine which incidents warrant such a response and the best means of implementation. Responsibility would fall to the office of Australia’s eSafety Commissioner.
What happened in Christchurch was both an atrocity and a terrorist attack, and it is difficult to argue that a stringent response isn’t warranted. While much ado has been made about New Zealand’s responsive gun ban, this action in Australia is receiving rather less attention. That is regrettable, as it is equally important. While government needs strong tools to respond to terror attacks, one much consider the long term consequences—in this case the fact that this program would give the Australian government the power to censor or even shut off the internet for that nation. This in turn raises age-old question of liberty vs. safety/security. What decision Australia ultimately makes will have lasting repercussions for both that nation and the world.
- What's up with Hong Kong?
Protesters in Hong Kong have riled interest in pro-Capitalist Americans for a few weeks now, and the situation there is both complex and deep in history. First and foremost, Hong Kong is afforded provincial autonomy in some political and economic matters, but this turmoil is rooted far more deeply than just differences between how the mainland communists in Beijing and the more capitalist Hong Kong prefer their governance.
China has been subject to a slough of strange happenings... while the Chinese Intelligentsia send their children to universities in America, there's subtle resentment growing among the Chinese citizen. Not only is there a resurgence in appreciation for the traditional and ancient practices of Chinese culture banned by the emergence of Mao's Communist regime, it appears that the obvious fallout from an ever-present, invasive surveillance state is beginning to drift down from on high.
Hong Kong's status as a "special administrative region" stems from it's history as a British territory, and being that it doesn't fall directly under Chinese Communist control, Hong Kong has control over it's own press, matters of religious freedom, and how it manages it's culture, trade, and communications... this has put it directly in conflict with Beijing, which provides for Hong Kong's diplomatic and military defense. Most notably, Beijing reserves the right to interpret Hong Kong's laws, and they recently proposed a law that would allow Mainland China to extradite citizens of Hong Kong - a major threat to the longstanding policy between China and Hong Kong.
This system, referred to as "One Country, Two Systems", Pro-Chinese bureaucrats staff privileged positions in Hong Kong, but have been largely happy to let the city prosper as one of the major economic forces in the world. Hong Kong being a bustling port city with lax regulation and reasonably low tax rates make it a hub both for the Communist party's wealthy elites as well as foreign market investment, and it's home to international powerhouse banks that serve the entire region. That means that Hong Kong is ...ahem... a likely gateway between China and the rest of the world in terms of financial decisions and espionage.
So why now?
This situation is probably one that will take generations to fully flesh out, but let's look at the sequence of events: For a year and a half now, US tariffs have been punishing the economy of Mainland China. While Xi Jinping scrambles to bring Hong Kong into the Chinese fold, blaming the CIA for protests, the most logical conclusion is that China is feeling the ripples of the tariffs and is making a strategic move to restrict international trade and banking in the region to hamstring global efforts to reign China in.
Meanwhile, there is a resurgence in support for traditional Chinese culture and an unspoken commitment to ignoring Chinese human rights violations, organ harvesting, and the panopticon created by the Chinese state. While culturally, the Chinese are far more accepting of large government and rule, there is a predictable point at which all reasonable people tire of state abuses. Apart from that, Hong Kong is a diverse and celebrated city by those who live there, and even those who appreciate Beijing, the Communist single-party rule, and the protections afforded by China, tend to love and honor the microcosm Hong Kong has become.
If China could move against persons living in, or visiting, Hong Kong, it would very likely be a political chess move that puts global financiers and IC assets at risk.
It's hard to say where this will go, but for now, it's probably safe to say while it looks like a civil uprising, it's far more likely about who pulls the economic strings, and it's a strong testament to how liberty overshadows patria.
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