RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week

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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
November 15 to November 21, 2020

Featured Investigation:
The FBI Spying Denial
That Never Grows Cold

Trump opponents are now using their denial of proven 2016 surveillance of the Trump campaign to dismiss charges of 2020 election fraud as merely more falsehoods by the president, Eric Felten reports for RealClearInvestigations.  

Felten cites recent examples of such spying denials, and facts that belie them:

  • Covering the vice presidential debate, NBC “fact-checkers” took Vice President Mike Pence to task for his “false claim” of “Obama administration spying” on the 2016 campaign.
  • Politico caricatured the accusation of spying as a story “riddled with falsehoods, exaggerations and assumptions.”
  • USA Today maintained that claims that Trump’s team had been spied on were “debunked allegations.”
  • Leslie Stahl, in her “60 Minutes” interview with President Trump ahead of the election, refused to even discuss the spying charge, rejecting it as unverified and untrue.
  • But Felten reminds us that it has been verified that the FBI took the extraordinary step of investigating an ongoing campaign for the presidency -- semantic quibbles aside.
  • And he dismantles a blue-ribbon finding that the spy claim was false, by noting the carefully parsed language of the very Inspector General’s report cited as support of that conclusion.
  • Read closely, Felten shows, the IG report is actually an admission that the FBI used paid informants to gather intelligence on the Trump campaign. 

Featured Commentary:
What If Biden Were Seeking Recounts?

Quote from J. Peder Zane of RealClearInvestigations:

We don’t have to imagine the answer – just recall 2016 when the same liberal news organizations that are damning Trump as a tyrant and suggesting he might be planning a coup cheered and facilitated Democrat efforts to delegitimize Trump’s victory by claiming he was a crooked businessman who had colluded with Vladimir Putin to steal the election.

After early efforts failed to convince electors to defy the will of their states and cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton, talk turned to impeachment before Trump was even sworn in. On the morning of his inauguration – which was boycotted by several dozen Democrat members of Congress because, as Rep. Jerrold Nadler said, he was not “legally elected” – a Washington Post article reported, “The campaign to impeach President Trump has begun.”

Trump-Russia/2020 Election News

Pa. Rejected Far Fewer Mail Ballots Than in Past Just the News
Biden Cancer Charity Spent Millions on Pay, $0 on Research New York Post
GOP Shows Limited Appetite for Pursuing Biden Probes The Hill
Georgia Official: Sen. Graham Suggested Tossing Ballots Washington Post
DC Lobbyists Know Biden Well, as Their Ex-Boss Wall Street Journal
Two NY Tax Probes Said to Involve Ivanka Trump New York Times


Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

Chicago Cop Body Cameras Miss Tens of Thousands of Encounters
Two stories about what government chooses to see – or not. Since Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, body cameras have been hailed as an effective means to document police behavior. Nearly half of law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have established body camera programs, including Chicago, which had equipped almost all its officers with one by 2017. But, this article reports, tens of thousands of everyday encounters in the Windy City were never recorded, leaving communities in the dark, and there’s little evidence to show officers were disciplined for failing to record their interactions. Despite layers of oversight to ensure the program works, internal records reveal critical breakdowns in accountability, undermining CPD’s promises that the technology would improve policing and public trust. In a separate article, Vice reports that the U.S. military is buying the granular movement data of people around the world, harvested from innocuous-seeming apps. These include a Muslim prayer and Quran app that has more than 98 million downloads worldwide, a Muslim dating app, a popular Craigslist app, an app for following storms, and a "level" app that can be used to help, for example, install shelves in a bedroom. 

Scams, Soaring Prices as Californians Move Out
So many Californians are fleeing the Golden State that moving-company scams are a fast-growing grift. “There are hold-hostage cases where a mover will take possession of the belongings after agreeing to a price with the consumer, and then they will not give the belongings back unless the consumer pays well over and above what the agreed-to price was,” says Yeaphana La Marr, the acting chief of the California bureau of household goods and services, which regulates the moving industry. “Some just take the belongings and they are never seen again by the people who contracted for a move.” The agency is trying to crack down on them, as well as new movers who are entering the booming market without licensing or insurance required by the state. 

Immigrant Teens Work Perilous Night Shifts
ProPublica Illinois, Mother Jones and El País
This article draws attention to the “the tens of thousands of young people who have come to this country over the past few years, some as unaccompanied minors, others alongside a parent,” who attend school during the day and work jobs at night “to pay debts to smugglers and sponsors, to contribute to rent and bills, to buy groceries and sneakers, and to send money home to the parents and siblings they left behind.” Around Urbana-Champaign, the home of the University of Illinois, school district officials say children and adolescents lay shingles, wash dishes and paint off-campus university apartments. In New Bedford, Massachusetts, an indigenous Guatemalan labor leader has heard complaints from adult workers in the fish-packing industry who say they’re losing their jobs to 14-year-olds. In Ohio, teenagers work in dangerous chicken plants. The teenagers use fake IDs to get the jobs through temporary staffing agencies that recruit immigrants and, knowingly or not, accept the papers they are handed. 

The Last Children of Down Syndrome
The Atlantic
Recent advances in genetics provoke anxieties about a future where parents choose what kind of child to have, or not have. This article reports that that hypothetical future is already here. It’s been here for an entire generation, especially through screening for Down syndrome, which is frequently called the “canary in the coal mine” for selective reproduction. Reporter Sarah Zhang reports that it was one of the first genetic conditions to be routinely screened for in utero, and it remains the most morally troubling because it is among the least severe. It is very much compatible with life—even a long, happy life. Since universal screening was introduced in Denmark, for example, the number of children born with Down syndrome has fallen sharply. In 2019, only 18 were born in the entire country. (About 6,000 children with Down syndrome are born in the U.S. each year.) Zhang writes that the decisions parents make after prenatal testing are private and individual ones. But when the decisions so overwhelmingly swing one way—to abort—it does seem to reflect something more: an entire society’s judgment about the lives of people with Down syndrome. Fox News reports separately that some accused the Atlantic article of promoting mass child abortion, though others felt the story was an important one that needed to be told. 

Have Rogue Orcas Really Been Attacking Boats in the Atlantic?
During the summer of 2020, the strangest of summers for so many, a group of killer whales off the coast of Spain and Portugal began to act very strangely indeed. Since July, at least 40 incidents have been reported in which the animals appear to have deliberately targeted sailing boats. As one man put it: “They came to us, not the other way around.” An ongoing forensic marine science investigation is determine what is driving these complex, intelligent and highly social marine mammals to behave in this way. One answer may be that they are angry about overfishing of their favorite prey, bluefin tuna. Another is that they are just playing. 

The Distinguished Medieval Penis Investigators
In the Middle Ages, this article reports, impotence was one of the few grounds on which a woman could successfully obtain a divorce, since the Catholic Church believed that spouses owed the “marital debt” of sex to one another. But to confirm the husband’s impotence and to ensure that the woman wasn’t simply making false claims to escape the sacrament of marriage — after all, women were thought to be inherently less trustworthy and more prone to lying than men — the courts needed witnesses. Often the witnesses in impotency cases were women, either married female acquaintances, widows, or local sex workers. They might be tasked by the court with inspecting the man’s genital equipment, or they might expose their breasts and genitals to the allegedly impotent man, give him ale and tasty snacks, kiss him, and rub his penis in a warm room to see whether he became aroused. But other times, these witnesses were men who looked on as the husband in question tried to have sex, or even lent a hand and stroked his penis themselves, reporting their findings to the court. 

Coronavirus Investigations

The Scientific Case vs. Lockdowns Nature Human Behaviour via Axios
Danish Study Casts Doubt on Biden's Touting of Masks New York Times
Britain: Ravers Party Non-Hearty at Covid-Only Soirees Vice
Hundreds of Companies That Got Stimulus Aid Have Failed,Wall Street Journal
Doctors Calling It Quits Under Stress of Pandemic New York Times
Covid Slams Rural Nursing Homes Wall Street Journal
Nursing Homes' Other Scourge: Fatal Neglect AP
How the Pandemic Got People Smoking Again Vox


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