RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week

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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week 
Dec. 30 to Jan. 5

Featured Investigation

Angry, grieving parents and their lawyers think a years-old sexual assault allegedly involving Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel's son may explain actions the sheriff took after the Parkland, Florida, school massacre -- actions favorable to a deputy on the scene who might have done more to stop the shootings.

As Paul Sperry reports for RealClearInvestigations, Brett Israel, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the school's starting quarterback, in 2014 allegedly held down a male freshman as another student kicked the boy, grabbed his genitals and rammed a baseball bat between his buttocks, simulating rape. 

The incident was investigated by sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson - the armed deputy, now dubbed the "coward of Broward," who took cover while students and staff were shot at the school last February. Using leniency guidelines pushed by the Obama administration, Peterson’s recommendation helped his boss’s son receive just a three-day suspension. People familiar with the case say Peterson could have referred Israel for felony charges. 

Sperry reports that, in the view of many, the deputy's role in the wrist slap to the sheriff's son and the lenient discipline policies explain why:

  • Israel refused widespread calls to fire Peterson for failing to enter the school during the rampage that took 17 lives. 
  • Israel allowed Peterson, 55, to retire with a pension that will allow him to receive more than $8,700 per month for the rest of his life, in addition to health benefits. 
  • Israel continues to support the Obama-era policies that not only helped his son but allowed the accused  Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz,  to avoid arrest and a police record and thereby purchase his murder weapon. 

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The Trump Investigations: Top Articles

Why Did the Chief Justice Intervene in the Mueller Probe?, Politico Magazine 
U.S. Intel Withheld Secret Exculpatory Russia Evidence on Flynn, The Hill 
GOP Letter: FBI Was Split Over Clinton Email Decision, Fox News

Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

DC's Reduced Child-Sex Penalties ... and Why They're Normal 
Accused of trying to sexually abuse a 14-year-old child, Jessica Kanya Lynn was sentenced to 36 months in prison last March. But Lynn served none of that time behind bars because her sentence was suspended. Max Diamond reports for RealClearInvestigations that such leniency is common in Washington, D.C., where almost half of all sex offenders convicted have their sentences cut in half or suspended altogether. Experts say Washington’s prosecution of child-sex offenders is not unique, because of the difficulty of bringing cases involving children and the alternative sanction of placement on the sex-offenders list.

Beware the Cyber-Den of Crypto-Thieves 
A main attraction of Bitcoin and other cybercurrencies is that they exist in a private, shadowy realm beyond the reach of strict banking or brokerage industry laws and securities regulators. That's also its downside. As John Wasik reports for RealClearInvestigations, authorities are having a hard time policing the technology, the exchanges, and the issuers. And it shows: Cyberthieves stole some $1.2 billion in digital currencies in the past two years alone, including a three-fold increase in thefts during the first half of 2018. Wasik also explores the techniques thieves use to steal digital currencies. They sneak dormant malicious code onto a victim’s computer, then reroute transactions along a disappearing trail.

Alabama Sheriff Made $1.5 Million Jailing Federal Detainees 
Why’s the food in jail so lousy? A big reason is that sheriffs around the country are often allowed to pocket unspent money budgeted to feed prisoners. This story looks at one example from Alabama. Reporters found that over three years beginning in October 2011, Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin took more than $3 million allocated to feed federal inmates. He put half into the county's general fund and pocketed the rest. 

Marshals Service Rife With Corruption, Senate Panel Finds 
Washington Examiner 
A four-year Senate investigation into the U.S. Marshal’s Service found a wide range of problems, including: "wasteful spending on lavish office furnishings, contracts and costly, but rarely-used facilities; inappropriate hiring practices, such as favoritism and nepotism; the use of subordinates to fill out applications for senior executive service positions; and the use of paid and unpaid leave to allow for full retirement benefits of individuals facing substantiated claims of misconduct." Officials also failed to adequately punish people for offenses including sexual harassment, soliciting prostitutes, and forgery of a judge's signature on hundreds of subpoenas.

Fake-Porn Videos Being Weaponized to Harass Women 
Washington Post 
Airbrushing and Photoshop long ago opened photos to easy manipulation. Now, videos are becoming just as vulnerable to fakes that look deceptively real. And they are increasingly being weaponized against women, representing a new and degrading means of humiliation, harassment and abuse. The fakes are explicitly detailed, posted on popular porn sites and increasingly challenging to detect. And although their legality hasn't been tested in court, experts say they may be protected by the First Amendment – even though they might also qualify as defamation, identity theft or fraud.

U.S. Fertility Clinics Provide Services Outlawed Elsewhere 
Washington Post 
Danielle Lloyd, a former Miss Great Britain and celebrity mother of four boys, wants to guarantee that her next baby will be a girl. But screening embryos for gender is prohibited at in-vitro-fertilization clinics in Britain. So she checked clinics in the few places in the world where the service is readily available: Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates — and the United States. America is, in fact, a popular destination for such controversial services — not just sex selection, but commercial surrogacy, anonymous sperm donation, and screening for physical characteristics such as eye color.

Censoring the Chinese Internet for Stability and Profit 
New York Times 
For Chinese companies, staying on the safe side of government censors is a matter of life and death. Adding to the burden, the authorities demand that companies censor themselves. This has created a lucrative new industry: censorship factories. This article focuses on one company, Beyondsoft, which employs over 4,000 workers and reviews and censors content day and night.  New hires start with weeklong “theory” training, during which senior employees expose them to forbidden material. “My office is next to the big training room,” said one of the company’s leaders, Yang Xiao. “I often hear the surprised sounds of 'Ah, ah, ah.’” “They didn’t know things like June 4,” he added, referring to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. “They really didn’t know.”

The American Charged With Spying by Russia 
New York Times 
This article delves into the known biographical past and current predicament of Paul N. Whelan, who was court-martialed by the United States Marines in 2008 for writing bad checks and now stands accused of espionage by Russia, which is holding him solitary confinement. The reporters provide various reasons why it is unlikely Whelan is a spy, while noting Russia’s long track record of planting false evidence on people. His arrest comes after a Russian woman, Maria Butina, pleaded guilty in the United States to conspiring to act as a foreign agent. It may be that Whelan is now trade bait.

Big Jump in Catholic Dioceses Naming Accused Abusers 
Associated Press 
Over the past four months, Roman Catholic dioceses across the U.S. have released the names of more than 1,000 priests and others accused of sexually abusing children. It's a remarkable public reckoning, prompted at least in part by a shocking grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania. An AP review found that nearly 50 dioceses and religious orders have publicly identified child-molesting priests in the wake of the Pennsylvania revelations in August. Fifty-five more have announced plans to do the same over the next few months. All told, they account for more than half of the nation’s 187 dioceses.

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