- A gunman opened fire at a synagogue outside of San Diego, California on Saturday, killing one person and injuring three.
- Several people, including the synagogue’s rabbi, have been applauded as heroes for their actions to help others.
- The attacker turned himself in shortly after the shooting, and now faces one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.
Shooting at Chabad of Poway
A gunman opened fire at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California on Saturday, killing one woman and injuring three others.
The attacker fled the synagogue after his gun jammed, escaping by car. However, shortly after fleeing, the gunman called the California Highway Patrol to report his location. He then surrendered to a police officer who responded to the scene.
The attacker was then taken into custody and charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder, according to a press release from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
The press release also stated that officials believed the shooter was acting alone and gave no indication that he was part of an organization.
Heroes Emerge After Attack
Following the shooting, a number of people are being hailed as heroes for the actions they took during the crisis.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who is the leader of the synagogue, has been applauded for his efforts to protect and unify his congregation both during and after the attack. Rabbi Goldstein was preparing his sermon for the day when he heard shots ring out in the synagogue’s banquet hall.
He then turned around and was confronted by the gunman, who shot the rabbi in the hand, badly injuring him. After being shot, the Goldstein ran to help a group of children escape outside to safety.
Members of the synagogue have commended Goldstein’s leadership, saying that despite his injuries, he did not leave his congregation until he had finished calming them, speaking of resilience and unity.
Goldstein was later taken to a hospital where he lost an index finger after undergoing extensive surgery.
Others, including the rabbi himself, have applauded Oscar Stewart, a veteran who chased after the gunman and tried to tackle him. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department acknowledged Stewart in a press release, saying: “Stewart risked his life to stop the shooter and saved lives in the process.”
Rabbi Goldstein also praised Johnathan Morales, an off-duty border patrol, who chased after the gunman when he fled the synagogue. Morales reportedly followed the attacker to his car and shot at the vehicle while the gunman drove away.
Donald Trump also echoed this in a tweet, thanking Morales. Although to be clear, Morales did not succeed in stopping the attacker.
Finally, Rabbi Goldstein has commended Lori Gilbert-Kaye, the member of the synagogue who was shot and killed by the gunman. During an emotional press conference on Sunday, Goldstein reflected on her life, which he believed she sacrificed for the congregation.
“In my own interpretation, Lori took the bullet for all of us. She died to protect all of us. She didn’t deserve to die,” said Rabbi Goldstein. “This is Lori. This is her legacy, and her legacy will continue. It could have been so much worse if the sequence of events didn’t happen the way it happened, it could have been a much worse massacre.”
Social Media Aspect
Saturday’s attack fell on the last day of Passover, which is one of the holiest days in Judaism. Authorities, including the mayor of Poway, have condemned the shooting as a hate crime.
The attack also comes six months to the day after a gunman murdered 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, Saturday’s attack bares another significant similarity to other religious attacks that have been seen recently: the use of social media.
According to reports, the attacker had a helmet camera and was trying to live stream the shooting, but fortunately, his video equipment failed to work. This move was seemingly inspired by the Christchurch attacker, who killed 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand while live streaming the massacre.
Additionally, a man claiming to be the attacker posted on the anonymous message board 8chan, linking to an “open letter” and a Facebook page, claiming that the attack would be broadcast on Facebook live.
In the letter, the writer identifies as an “anti-Semite” and “white supremacist.” The writer references the shooters at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue and the New Zealand mosques as well as Adolf Hitler as role models.
The writer also confessed to setting fire to a mosque in Escondido, California last month, and explicitly dedicated the fire to the Christchurch shooter. The letter also included instructions for spreading the news of the planned shooting and called for others to commit more violent hate crimes.
Law enforcement and other authorities are still investigating if the letter was in fact written by the shooter.
The Facebook page that linked in the 8chan post has since been disabled on the platform. While Facebook was able to identify and block the page before it became widespread, the letter was reproduced on the text storage site Pastebin before Facebook was able to take it down.
The Pastebin link was circulating on Twitter for hours after the shooting, and it was shared nearly 100 times before Twitter blocked the link.
In an article, Slate reported that while Twitter and Facebook seemed to be removing the links and the open letter, the letter itself was “easily found when searching for key details about the shooting on YouTube.”
“According to the site, the video has since been removed for not adhering to its community guidelines,” Slate reported.
The letter and its social media presence were contained a lot faster than the Christchurch shooting live stream. Video of the Christchurch attack was viewed and reposted millions of times while social media sites like Facebook and Twitter scrambled to take it down. This latest attack could have had similar social media reach had the gunman been successful in his efforts to stream his crime.
Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders or suspected mass murderers who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.
Tik Tok “Skull Breaker” Challenge Leading to Severe Injuries
- Tik Tok has seen a new viral challenge that involves a person getting tricked into jumping into the air while two others kick their legs out from under them, causing them to fall onto the ground.
- Multiple young people have suffered injuries as a result of the challenge, and it has been reported that one Brazilian teenager died.
- Concerned parents are striving to raise awareness of the dangers of the trend, and one student even started a non-profit organization to combat pranking and bullying after falling victim to the challenge herself.
Dangerous Online Trend
A new trend is making its rounds on the popular app Tik Tok— one that has led to serious injuries and received backlash from concerned parents.
The “skull breaker” challenge involves three people standing in a line, shoulder to shoulder, under the pretense that all of them will jump into the air at the same time. But instead, only the middle person jumps while the two people flanking them kick their legs out from under them, causing them to slam into the ground. In most cases it appears that the middle person is tricked into the challenge, unaware that they will be knocked over.
The danger of the “skull breaker” challenge can be found in its name, as it quite literally has the potential to crack people’s heads open. Doctors are warning that it can result in broken bones, concussions, and brain bleeding, among other injuries.
Tik Tok has expressed their disapproval of the challenge. The app told ABC News that the safety of their users is a top priority and they “do not allow content that encourages or replicates dangerous challenges that might lead to injury.”
This new online fad is the latest dangerous trend among young people, akin to the Tide Pod challenge and the viral Tik Tok “outlet challenge” that prompted warnings from fire officials. A Brazilian teenager reportedly died from the “skull breaker” challenge, and more youth around the world have been seriously hurt.
The recent virtual trend raised eyebrows in Daytona Beach, Florida in January, when two students convinced an unsuspecting third female student to perform the challenge for Tik Tok content.
According to the Daytona Beach News Journal, the video has since been deleted. The News Journal reported that the victim’s parents were originally going to let the school handle it but ultimately decided to press charges. The Daytona Beach Police Department told TODAY that two students are facing misdemeanor charges of battery and cyberbullying as a result of the prank.
On Feb. 8, an Arizona woman posted images of her injured son to Facebook, reporting a head injury as well as stitches and cuts to his face that stemmed from the skull breaker challenge.
“My son was asked to do a jumping contest with his 2 ‘friends,’ when he jumped up, the 2 boys kicked him, as hard as they could, so his legs flew out in front of him,” Valerie Hodson wrote. “He landed hard flat on his back and head, as he struggled to get up he lost consciousness, he fell forward landing on his face.”
“I really contemplated posting this, but I feel there needs to be awareness of this malicious cruel viral prank,” Hodson said.
Hodson’s son is not the only child to be hospitalized due to the skull breaker challenge. Teri Smith, a woman located in Alabama, also took to Facebook to discuss her son’s broken bones after falling victim to the prank.
“Prayers needed… Parker was unknowingly tiktok pranked which caused him to fall,” Smith wrote.
Similar pushes for awareness have been seen as impacts of the challenge have been felt by others around the country. In Portland, Oregon, 14-year-old Olivia Ross said she hit her head hard on the ground after she was tricked into the challenge by two seniors at her high school.
“They just told me we were going to jump for a video. Of course I was excited since they were upperclassmen and they were asking me to be in their video,” Ross told KOIN 6. “But I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Ross and her mother, Lindsay Zobrist, decided the best course of action was to spread awareness of these types of viral pranks because they expect that many kids don’t know how dangerous they can be. They created a non-profit organization called Teaching Kindness Matters and are working to get school districts to include “pranking” in their definition of bullying.
Trump Slams Oscars for Awarding South Korean Film Best Picture
- At a Colorado rally on Feb. 20, President Donald Trump bashed the Oscars for giving this year’s Best Picture award to “Parasite,” a South Korean film.
- He instead called for movies like “Gone With the Wind” to return, a production that has been criticized for romanticizing slavery.
- Additionally, Trump called Brad Pitt a “little wise guy” for making a joke about the president’s impeachment trial during his Oscars acceptance speech.
- In response to his remarks, the U.S. distributor of “Parasite,” dissed the president for not being able to read the film’s subtitles.
- Others also gave Trump backlash for not liking the film because it revolves around a struggling Asian working-class family.
At a rally in Colorado on Thursday, President Donald Trump took a dig at the 2020 Oscars for awarding Best Picture to the South Korean film “Parasite.”
“By the way, how bad were the Academy Awards this year?” Trump asked the crowd in Colorado Springs, who responded with boos.
“And the winner is a movie from South Korea, what the hell was that all about?” Trump asked. “We got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of it, they give them the best movie of the year.”
Despite his criticisms, Trump went on to imply that he didn’t even watch the film.
“Was it good? I don’t know,” he said.
“Parasite” made history earlier this month when it became the first film in a non-English language to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. On top of that, the movie took home awards for Best Original Screenplay, Best International Language Film, and Best Director—Bong Joon Ho.
These accomplishments didn’t seem to impress the president. Instead, he called for movies like “Gone With the Wind” and “Sunset Boulevard” to return. Both films feature white stars and were directed by white men.
Released in 1939, “Gone With the Wind” centers around a plantation-owning family in 1861. Accounting for inflation, it still holds the record for the highest-grossing film in U.S. history. But in recent years, the film has largely gone from a revered American classic to a piece of work examined and criticized for its romanticism of slavery.
Also at Thursday’s rally, Trump slammed Brad Pitt, who made a joke about the president’s impeachment trial during his Oscars acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor.
“They told me I only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week,” Pitt said at the awards show on Feb. 9.
The “Once Upon A Time in…Hollywood” star was referring to the former national security advisor who had not been allowed to testify in the impeachment trial.
“And then you have Brad Pitt. I was never a big fan of his. He got up, said a little wise guy statement. Little wise guy. He’s a little wise guy,” Trump said on Thursday.
Clap Backs Against POTUS
The president’s critiques of the Academy Awards did not go unnoticed. Though “Parasite” is in Korean, it’s accompanied by English subtitles. Neon, the film’s U.S. distributor, responded to Trump’s remarks in a biting tweet.
“Understandable, he can’t read,” the company said in their reactions to Trump’s dislike of the movie.
Neon added the hashtag #Bong2020 in reference to the film’s director.
The Democratic National Committee also weighed in, adding their own diss to the president.
“Parasite is a foreign movie about how oblivious the ultra-rich are about the struggles of the working class, and it requires two hours of reading subtitles. Of course Trump hates it.”
Other Twitter users chimed in with similar messages condemning the president.
“Anyway parasite is still the best movie of the year Trump’s racist ass can cry about it,” one person said.
See what others are saying: (NBC) (Washington Post) (The Hill)
UCLA Drops Controversial Facial Recognition Plan
- After backlash from students and activist groups, UCLA is dropping its plans to use facial recognition on campus.
- Critics said the software often fails when recognizing women and people of color, and could lead to racial profiling.
- UCLA released a statement, just over a week before a National Day of Action to Ban Facial Recognition from College Campuses is set to be held, saying that the school longer thinks the technology would be effective at the school.
- The use of facial recognition software on college campuses and on a national level has long been a subject of debate. Several cities have already banned it, and last week, two Senators proposed legislation banning it on a federal level unless Congressional guidelines are enacted.
UCLA Stops Plans to Use Facial Recognition
After backlash from students and activists, the University of California, Los Angeles has dropped its plans to use facial recognition technology on its campus.
UCLA announced plans to potentially use it in its security systems. Students were concerned that this technology could interfere with students’ privacy and lead to racial profiling on campus.
“We have determined that the potential benefits are limited and are vastly outweighed by the concerns of the campus community,” Michael Beck, the Administrative Vice-Chancellor of the school said in a statement to Fight for the Future, a group advocating for freedom in the digital age.
Fight for the Future is holding a National Day of Action to Ban Facial Recognition from College Campuses on March 2. The group had been very vocal when encouraging UCLA not to adopt facial recognition. They did a test on how effective it would be at the school and found racial biases in its algorithm.
Inaccuracies in Facial Recognition
Fight for the Future used Rekognition, a software made available by Amazon, and scanned publicly available photos of UCLA athletes and faculty and compared them to a mugshot database. They scanned 400 faces in total and said that 58 were falsely matched.
“The vast majority of incorrect matches were of people of color,” Fight for the Future said of their findings. “In many cases, the software matched two individuals who had almost nothing in common beyond their race, and claimed they were the same person with ‘100% confidence.’”
They are not the only group to find this. According to a study from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in terms of one-to-one matching, there are higher rates of false positives for Asian and African American faces in comparison to white faces. They specifically noticed increased false positives when it came to African American females.
Students at UCLA expressed their concerns about this. An editorial in the school’s paper, the Daily Bruin, warned against using facial recognition because of the potential inaccuracies and profiling of people of color.
“For students belonging to these groups, facial recognition technology would simply reinforce the biases that are already stacked against them,” the piece said. The editorial listed privacy as a concern as well.
“Facial recognition technology would present a major breach of students’ privacy and make students feel unsafe on a campus they are supposed to call home,” the Daily Bruin editorial staff wrote. “It is one thing to monitor campus activity with security cameras, but it’s another entirely to automatically identify individuals and track their every move on campus.”
Students and advocacy groups like Fight for the Future were pleased with UCLA’s ultimate decision to not use facial recognition.
“Let this be a lesson to other school administrators: if you try to experiment on your campus with racist, invasive surveillance technology, we will come for you. And we don’t lose,” Deputy Director of Fight for the Future, Evan Greer, said in a statement.
Facial Recognition on a National Scale
UCLA is not the only college in the United States having a conversation about facial recognition. Fight for the Future has been keeping a scorecard of schools that have stated their intentions on using facial recognition. While big schools like Harvard, MIT, Michigan State, and NYU have said they do not intend on using it, other major colleges like Ohio State, Princeton, and the University of Georgia have stated that they might.
Outside of colleges, other localities have already been working on fighting against facial recognition technology. In 2019, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban facial recognition technology. Somerville, MA, Oakland, CA and Berkeley, CA did the same months later.
Still, this kind of technology is still used on a wide scale. According to Vox, in states like Texas, Florida, and Illinois, the FBI uses it to scan through DMV databases. In many U.S. airports, Customs and Border Protection uses it for screening passengers on international flights.
Recently Proposed Legislation
The national use of this could be subject to change, though. In February, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-)R) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) proposed legislation that would ban federal use of facial recognition until proper regulations and rules had been established by Congress for it.
“Facial recognition is a technology that is increasingly being used and marketed to law enforcement agencies across the United States without appropriate debate or consideration of its impacts,” the bill said before describing that this technology has been used at protests, rallies, and other events where one’s’ freedom of speech is on display.
“It is critical that facial recognition not be used to suppress First Amendment related activities, violate privacy, or otherwise adversely impact individuals’ civil rights and civil liberties,” the legislation continued.
This legislation would still allow law enforcement to use it if given a court order.