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RealClearInvestigations’ Picks of the Week

RealClearInvestigations’ Picks of the Week
May 2 to May 8, 2021

Featured Investigation:
Team Biden Flogs Russian ‘Interference’ in U.S. Vote,
No Matter What the Intel Agencies Say

The Biden administration is misquoting its own intelligence findings on Russia in what some former U.S. intelligence officials say is a subtle but significant effort to continue to delegitimize the Trump presidency, Paul Sperry reports for RealClearInvestigations.

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Most notably, the President is advancing the idea that Russians interfered in America’s actual voting process when his intel agencies simply found Russian “influence” operations — the targeting of campaigns through cyber activities or disinformation. Sperry reports:

  • In his speech before Congress last week, President Biden complained about “Russia’s interference in our elections.”
  • But his intelligence czar, Avril Haines, had released a report the previous month formally dismissing the idea.
  • The Biden-ordered report was consistent with a 2017 report by the Obama administration that found no evidence Russia interfered in the 2016 election. The terms “interference” or “interfere” appear nowhere in that report.
  • Special Counsel Robert Mueller inaccurately titled his 2019 final report, “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election.” Mueller not only found no election “interference,” but no evidence the Trump campaign or any individuals associated with it conspired with Russia.
  • By perpetuating the “interference” myth, some critics warn, Biden is aiding Moscow’s objective of sowing voter distrust in the U.S. democratic process.
  • Polls have shown that almost half of Americans believed the Kremlin had tampered with the 2016 election and even “stole the election for Trump.”
  • Biden was echoing the misleading language of the media. Since mid-2016, the phrase “Russian interference in the election” has appeared 8,885 times in news articles and TV news broadcasts, as well as speeches and congressional testimony.

Featured Investigation:
How the Washington Post Toys With the Public
on Fatal Cop Shootings

The Washington Post now routinely describes replica handguns indistinguishable from the real deal as “toy weapons” in its Pulitzer Prize-winning “Fatal Force” tally of people killed by police, Eric Felten reports for RealClearInvestigations.

Felten reports:

  • The Post used to take pains to distinguish between authentic-looking replicas such as BB guns and  obvious toys such as brightly colored water pistols.
  • Now, with “Fatal Force” in its sixth year and civil unrest a risk after any police killing, the Post leaves readers with the impression cops regularly shoot suspects armed with nothing more threatening than a child’s plaything.
  • Since the beginning of 2020, its “Fatal Force” database has described dozens of those shot by police as wielding “toy” weapons, differing from the outside local reports referenced as sources, which make clear that replicas, not toys, were involved.
  • “Using the word ‘toy’ is a bit deceiving,” says the head of the Washington DC Police Foundation. “These are made to look like lethal weapons, and often an officer doesn’t have the time to distinguish whether it is real or fake.”
  • Before Edgar Luis Tirado was shot by Dallas cops, the replica gun he brandished during a one-day crime spree in April was convincing enough to commit robberies and keep police at bay, for a time. He is listed by the Post as simply “a 28-year-old Hispanic man with a toy weapon.”
  • Malcolm Comeaux, killed after pulling what looked like a revolver as FBI agents tried to arrest him, was “a 24-year-old Black man with a toy weapon,” according to the Post.
  • The distinction between replicas and toys would likely be readily evident to shoppers perusing Amazon.com – whose founder owns the Washington Post. Amazon sells both.
  • The Post’s “Fatal Force” team had no comment.

Featured Investigation:
The Curious Case of the Asian American Victim

Prominent Asian Americans have embraced a narrative of pervasive, historical victimization by whites against much evidence to the contrary, Richard Bernstein reports for RealClearInvestigations. He writes that the shift, triggered by the recent Atlanta-area killings of Asian women by a disturbed man, is a remarkable illustration of the power and ascendancy of critical race theory, which holds that racism, not liberty, is the core value of American society. Bernstein reports:

  • While significant, the new view among the Asian American intelligentsia doesn’t necessarily represent that of Asian Americans broadly, particularly on policies like affirmative action that hurt them.
  • Asians’ economic and academic success compared with whites — despite whites’ supposed efforts to maintain dominance — undercuts the narrative of victimization, even conceding that Asian Americans have experienced historical exclusion and violence.
  • A spike in “white supremacist” anti-Asian hatred since the onset of the Chinese coronavirus looks to be exaggerated: Many perpetrators are from minorities or are disturbed individuals. What’s more, the vast majority of the reported anti-Asian incidents were verbal or nonviolent.
  • The aspirational “model minority” narrative of Asian success through hard work and study is now itself under attack as racist. Detractors say this “myth” is used to imply that if blacks changed their behavior, they could do just as well.
  • Such ideas have consequences. California’s Model Ethnic Studies Curriculum includes a sample lesson titled “Asian American Pacific Islanders and the Model Minority Myth.”
  • The term Asian American lumps together people from over 20 diverse nations and regions, reflecting both the wide ambitions of the victimization narrative and its debatable generalizations.

Featured Investigation:
How the Biden-Harris Migration ‘Fix’
Would Throw Good Billions After Bad

The Biden administration’s plan to address the “root causes” of the migrant crisis by sending billions in aid to Central America may sound familiar, because it is. Vince Bielski reports for RealClearInvestigations that presidents since John F. Kennedy have tried a similar approach — with expensively disappointing results. The most recent to try was Barack Obama, who had his vice president, Joe Biden, lead the effort. Focusing on Honduras, Bielski reports why the problem looks intractable:

  • The Central American “dry corridor” creates flight from wide hunger and deprivation spurred by droughts and hurricanes.
  • Violent gangs extort families.
  • Corrupt political leaders and business elites resist reforms to protect their own interests.
  • Honduras’s President is under investigation by U.S. prosecutors, who have brought a string of cocaine smuggling cases against other prominent Hondurans.
  • Members of the Honduran National Congress have a history of embezzlement — robbing citizens of funding for health care, education, and jobs.
  • In a nation where many people still live in adobe huts without running water, the lack of roads, electricity and credit means that only a sliver of aid from U.S.-funded programs gets to farmers who need it.
  • The Biden administration hopes a new get-tough policy will produce different outcomes, but it’s already being snubbed diplomatically.

“It’s been one crisis after another,” says the Honduras representative for Catholic Relief Services.

Biden, Trump and the Beltway

NYT, WaPo, NBC Forced to Retract False Claims on Giuliani NY Post
Steele Did Second Dossier for FBI Telegraph
How Biden Adviser Anita Dunn Skirts Ethics Disclosure Intercept
Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s Sweet Frank Luntz Rental Washington Post
How a Swiss Billionaire Gave $208M to Dem Causes New York Times
‘President Klain’ — Man Running Biden White House? Sunday Times

Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

Biden DHS Eyes Firms for Online U.S. Spying
CNN
The Department of Homeland Security is restricted in how it can monitor citizens online, so the Biden administration is considering using private firms to track extremist chatter by Americans, this article reports. Outsourcing some information-gathering would give DHS the benefit of tactics it’s legally forbidden to do in-house, such as using false personas to infiltrate suspected extremist groups, sources say. Researchers who already monitor such activity online could act as middlemen to obtain the information. In response to CNN’s story, DHS said it “is not partnering with private firms to surveil suspected domestic terrorists online” and “it is blatantly false” to suggest that the department is using outside firms to circumvent its legal limits.

Secret Rules That Put Facebook Users in the Doghouse
Wall Street Journal
As Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms increasingly control the flow of information the opaque and arbitrary standards they use to censor some speech – most famously President Donald Trump’s – is raising questions and alarm. This article reports:

In Facebook jail, many users are serving time for infractions they don’t understand. Colton Oakley was restricted after ranting about student debt. The recent graduate of the State University of New York at New Paltz posted that anyone who was mad about loan cancellation was “sad and selfish.” His sentence: three days without posting on Facebook. Alex Gendler, a freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y., got a similar ban after sharing a link to a story in Smithsonian magazine about tribal New Guinea. Nick Barksdale, a history teacher in Oklahoma, served 30 days recently after jokingly telling a friend “man, you’re spewing crazy now!”

Facebook has created an Oversight Board of experts to address the problem. At the same time, however, the company recently “turned more toward automation to help guide its decisions, relying on artificial intelligence and algorithms to take down content and also decide on user appeals. The result is more frustration, with some users wondering how Facebook could have made a decision on their content in only a matter of seconds.”

Asian Cartels’ Better Trafficking Through Chemistry
CNN
The blue vats shipped from China to Myanmar were filled with 72 tons of the chemical propionyl chloride – which can be used to make agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals — and a wide range of illegal drugs, including the synthetic narcotic fentanyl. This article uses the seizure of that shipment in Laos last July to detail the growing sophistication of Asia’s multibillion-dollar synthetic drug industry. Until recently, the cartels used highly regulated chemicals to make their illegal drugs – for example, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and phenyl-2-propanone to make methamphetamine. Experts now believe that cartels are importing “precursor” chemicals like propionyl chloride and employing world-class chemists to produce their own ingredients to make meth – “like buying the flour to make a pie crust instead of just purchasing a pre-made one,” Joshua Berlinger writes.

Now Tech Firms Trying to Limit Woke Talk at Work
Wall Street Journal
When the small but influential tech company Basecamp sought to take political conversation out of the workplace – its CEO said such dialogue had become a major distraction – the response was large and swift. This article reports that tech employees, workplace consultants and politicians assailed the decision on Twitter and LinkedIn; some employees publicly threatened to quit, others were offered buyouts, and a significant number left. But Basecamp’s co-founder told the Journal that he had received “an avalanche of supporting emails from executives and employees that work at companies where societal politics are taking over more and more of the domain, and if you’re sitting with the wrong ideology, it’s very intimidating.” The episode lays bare a simmering debate at tech companies about how to define what is political, whether such issues can be separated from diversity and inclusion, and how colleagues should engage on those issues.

Coronavirus Investigations

U.S. Pandemic Monitor Warns of Oversight Breakdown
New York Times
The Treasury Department’s special inspector general for pandemic recovery says other government officials are trying to limit his ability to scrutinize how trillions of dollars of economic relief is being spent. The IG, Brian D. Miller, whose office has been tracking fraud and “double dipping” in the relief programs, says his access to certain databases started to be curtailed last year in the final months of the Trump administration. In a recent report, Miller suggested that the “temperature has cooled on oversight” and said bluntly that “things are not working well.” He warned that there would be negative consequences as a result. “Unfortunately, many of these promising developments, including criminal investigations and leads, will now need to be closed or transferred,” Miller wrote.

The Pandemic’s Undiagnosed Cancer Crisis
ProPublica
In the shadows of COVID-19, another crisis has emerged: untold numbers of cancers that went undiagnosed or untreated as patients postponed annual screenings, and as cancer clinics and hospitals suspended biopsies and chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Across the country, this article reports, preventive cancer screenings plummeted by as much as 94% during the first four months of last year. The National Cancer Institute has predicted almost 10,000 excess deaths over the next decade from breast and colorectal cancer alone because of pandemic-related delays in diagnosing and treating these two cancers, which often can be detected early through screening and account for about 1 in 6 cancer deaths.

Science-Doubting Liberals Who Can’t Quit Lockdown
Atlantic
The more liberal you are, the more likely you are to let fear rather than science guide your response to COVID-19, this article reports. For many progressives, extreme vigilance was in part about opposing Donald Trump. It became an expression of their political identity that they are now finding hard to relinquish. While some of this behavior is harmless – say, wearing a mask while driving alone in one car – others forms of vigilance are more troubling because they impose demands on other people, Emma Green reports:

Even as scientific knowledge of COVID-19 has increased, some progressives have continued to embrace policies and behaviors that aren’t supported by evidence, such as banning access to playgrounds, closing beaches, and refusing to reopen schools for in-person learning. … Scientists, academics, and writers who have argued that some very low-risk activities are worth doing as vaccination rates rise—even if the risk of exposure is not zero—have faced intense backlash.

Other Coronavirus Investigations

The Comprehensive Case for Covid’s Lab Origin Medium
Teacher’s Union Influenced CDC Reopening Guidelines New York Post
Inside India’s COVID-19 Surge New Yorker

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