RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
Aug. 18 to Aug. 24, 2019
Andrew McCarthy’s new book, “Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency,” finds the white whale that eluded Special Counsel Robert Mueller for two years – evidence of a massive conspiracy to undermine American democracy. It wasn’t the Trump campaign, McCarthy reports, but agents of the federal government who intentionally perpetrated a fraud on the American people through the Russia collusion hoax in order to undermine the duly elected president of the United States.
McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, draws on his own distinguished analysis of the Trump/Russia investigation for the National Review and Fox News as well as the work of skeptical journalists, including ones from RealClearInvestigations, who tirelessly challenged the collusion narrative trumpeted by leading news outlets. He provides a smart and brisk account of a broad effort to delegitimize Trump.
“Ball of Collusion” covers the major revelations discovered so far about how top officials in the Obama administration – including the FBI and the CIA, the departments of Justice, State, and the White House itself – turned government power into a political weapon to sabotage the Trump administration. Still, many questions remain about the origins of Trump/Russia hoax – especially the role of President Obama. In the excerpt run by RealClearInvestigations, McCarthy details the Obama administration’s fearful yet calculated response to Trump’s surprising election.
Jeffrey Epstein and Other Sexual Abuse: Top Articles
Epstein May Have Gamed His Estate From Beyond the Grave, Associated Press
NYT Reporter Won $30K Donation From Epstein, Daily Beast
How NY Times, ABC, and Vanity Fair Fell Short on Epstein, NPR
Epstein's Florida Jail Time Almost a Lark, Sun-Sentinel
Epstein Was Allowed to Buy Small Women's Panties in Fla. Jail, Miami Herald
Epstein Litigation Details His Teen Sex on Jail 'Work Release', Miami Herald
Ghislaine Maxwell's Crazy, Rich, Dangerous Family, Daily Beast
Ghislaine Maxwell Photo at LA Burger Joint Was Staged, Daily Mail
Other Noteworthy Articles and Series
New Jersey: Lead in Newark's Water and a City in Crisis
New York Times
On Aug. 9, the Environmental Protection Agency reported finding dangerously high lead levels in the water supply in Newark, New Jersey. It may have stoked fear among residents and a call of action but it also surprised no one. In 2009, for example, the city estimated that the rate of children affected by lead poisoning in Newark was three times higher than it was in New Jersey and the rest of the United States. In 2016, the city shut off drinking fountains in 30 schools because it found elevated lead levels in the water. Last fall, as concern spread that lead was also leaching into the tap water in people’s homes, city officials said they would hand out 40,000 water filters. Even still, city officials were loath to acknowledge the problem, which has now created broad mistrust. “At this point I don’t trust this administration at all,” said Rasheeda Scott, 34, on a recent afternoon as she fingered a cigarette on her stoop. “They’ve just denied, denied, denied there was any problem — but look now.” Meanwhile, the Daily Caller reports that Michigan’s environmental agency issued a violation notice to Flint in August and said the Michigan city has not done basic testing of its water for lead levels. The city of fewer than 100,000 has collected more than $647 million in state and federal aid since the water crisis began in 2014 for what is often described as a public health emergency.
Why FEMA Isn't Ready for Disasters: It Chases Small Storms
The Federal Emergency Management Agency was not ready to respond in force in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Houston. That’s because almost half of the agency's emergency workforce was tied up with other, smaller “disasters” when the first sheets of rain began to inundate large parts of Texas. This article reports that FEMA has wasted more than $3 billion and misused thousands of its employees by responding to hundreds of undersized floods, storms and other events that states could have handled on their own. FEMA has chronically overestimated the damage to U.S. states from small disasters and underestimated the capacity of states to respond to them. Those errors triggered at least 325 unnecessary deployments of money and personnel since 1998. The errors also resulted in homeowners and businesses receiving $725 million in low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration.
Ransomware Attacks Cripple Cities Across America
New York Times
More than 40 municipalities have been the victims of cyberattacks this year, from major cities such as Baltimore, Albany and Laredo, Tex., to smaller towns including Lake City, Fla. The latter is one of the few cities to have paid a ransom on demand — about $460,000 in Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency — because it thought reconstructing its systems would be even more costly. In most ransomware cases, the identities and whereabouts of culprits are cloaked by clever digital diversions. Intelligence officials, using data collected by the National Security Agency and others in an effort to identify the sources of the hacking, say many have come from Eastern Europe, Iran and, in some cases, the United States. The majority have targeted small-town America, figuring that sleepy, cash-strapped local governments are the least likely to have updated their cyberdefenses or backed up their data.
The Mexican Town That Lynched Alleged Kidnappers
Most weeks Latin American newspapers feature chilling tales of mob justice, often committed by otherwise law-abiding citizens and increasingly coordinated on social media and filmed on smartphones. In one recent case in the Brazilian Amazon, vigilantes smashed their way into a police station with sledgehammers in search of a suspected killer, before hacking him to death with machetes and scythes. But Mexico, which last year registered a record 35,964 murders and where only a tiny fraction of crimes are solved, has been particularly affected. The number of lynchings almost tripled here last year, jumping from 60 incidents in 2017 to 174 – 58 of which resulted in deaths. In the first half of this year that trend has continued with security expert Eduardo Guerrero counting at least 42 killings. A noose-crazy case in point: the farming community of Tepexco.
Indian Bride Married for Love. Her Father Hired Assassins
One month after Pranay Perumalla and Amrutha Varshini married in India, a man came up behind them carrying a large butcher knife in his right hand. He hacked Pranay twice on the head and neck, killing him instantly. It wasn’t a random act of violence but an assassination paid for by her rich and powerful father, who was humiliated that she had married a lower caste man, an “untouchable.” A 2017 study found that just 5.8% of Indian marriages are between people of different castes, a rate that has changed little in four decades.
How Cuba Taught Venezuela to Quash Military Dissent
In December 2007, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez suffered his first defeat at the polls. Although still wildly popular among the working class that had propelled him to power nearly a decade earlier, voters rejected a referendum that would have enabled him to run for re-election repeatedly. Stung, Chávez turned to a close confidant, according to three former advisors: Fidel Castro. This led to an agreement in May 2008 that is still in effect, giving Cuba deep access to Venezuela’s military - and wide latitude to spy on it and revamp it. The agreements, specifics of which are reported here for the first time, led to the imposition of strict surveillance of Venezuelan troops through a Venezuelan intelligence service now known as the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence, or DGCIM. Under Cuban military advisers, Venezuela refashioned the intelligence unit into a service that spies on its own armed forces, instilling fear and paranoia and quashing dissent. Now known for its repressive tactics, the DGCIM is accused by soldiers, opposition lawmakers, human rights groups and many foreign governments of abuses including torture and the recent death of a detained Navy captain. President Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s disciple and increasingly beleaguered successor, said in a 2017 speech: “We are grateful to Cuba’s revolutionary armed forces. We salute them and will always welcome them.”
Fears of White Supremacy at Indiana Farmers' Market
New York Times
Media bias is often subtle, as in this article, which reports on efforts to prevent alleged white nationalists from selling vegetables at a farmers market in Bloomington, Indiana. The operators of Schooner Creek Farm deny the charge, but that hasn’t stopped so called anti-fascists from trying to intimidate them, by silently positioning themselves in front of the stand or aggressively asking the owners about fascism or hating Jews. The article subtly takes sides. It provides no reporting on these protesters but instead works to establish, with little evidence, that white supremacy is growing problem in Indiana and that Schooner Creek’ owners might be connected to it. It is not until the end of the article that we learn that, in any event, the Constitution is still operative in Indiana. Bloomington has declined to remove Schooner Creek from the market, with Mayor John Hamilton defending the farmers' First Amendment rights.
The Almost Unsolvable Harry Winston Diamond Heists
In 2007, four hooded thieves robbed Harry Winston Paris of tens of millions of tens of millions worth of jewels. Police do not know how they got into the highly protected store. The thieves left no clues behind. No fingerprints. No identifiable DNA traces. Still, there were suspects: “Les Pinks,” the Pink Panthers, a shadowy syndicate of jewel thieves hailing primarily from the Balkans. Over the past two decades, Interpol estimates, they’ve pulled off close to 400 jobs around the world, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. They got their name in 2003, when London police found a stolen blue diamond ring inside a container of face cream—a subterfuge lifted from the Inspector Clouseau film series. This article describes efforts to nab the crooks behind the Harry Winston job.
Why Cashier's Check Scams Are So Popular Online
There are no new scams – just fresh twists on ancient grifts. In a classic con, the victim is “given” or promised a large amount of money, from which they are asked to pay a third party, who is actually part of the scam. This article reports that bogus cashier’s checks are increasingly being used to work this scam. In this case the reporter writes that he wanted to sell his old cello on Craigslist. The buyer said she was sending him a cashier’s check for twice the asking price so the seller could pay “the cello movers” – before the check arrived, natch. The article reports that the 1987 Expedited Funds Availability Act adds to the problem because it puts pressure on banks to honor checks quickly. As a result, they may pay on a cashier’s check before verifying it, and then return to the victim a few days later demanding the money back.
How Woodstock 50 Fell Apart
Woodstock 50 had nearly every resource a festival could ask for: a storied brand name, financial backing from a multinational communications company, and agents eager to sign up their artists for sizable paychecks. The three-day show would not only celebrate rock’s most iconic festival; it would connect the original’s heritage to the Coachella generation via hip-hop artists and pop chart-toppers. Instead, Woodstock 50 turned into a slow-moving train wreck. This Rolling Stone investigation is based on three months of reporting, nearly 100 legal filings, and dozens of interviews with people connected to the festival, including artists, agents, managers, and government officials. As Arlo Guthrie might say: "Can you dig that? New York State Thruway ain't closed, man!"