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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week

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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
May 9 to May 15, 2021

Featured Investigation:
The High-Pressure Business of Selling
Woke Corporate Armor

A cottage industry of corporate consultants has cropped up along with the woke movement, purporting to help companies navigate a charged political environment. But are these consultants helping in a time of conflict, or exploiting the conflict for political and financial gain? Mark Hemingway reports for RealClearInvestigations on the boycott, blacklist, and “brand safety” business:

  • After the success of progressive organizations like Sleeping Giants in leading conservative media boycotts, left-leaning entities have arisen to advise companies on how to avoid becoming the targets of boycotts themselves.
  • Brands turn to these advisers to help protect themselves from backlashes over everything from old content deemed politically incorrect, as in the case of Disney, to ads appearing alongside controversial news stories.
  • “Check My Ads,” created by Sleeping Giants co-founder Nandini Jammi, tells companies where to advertise to avoid controversy – namely, at like-minded liberal news outlets.
  • The website targets companies for specific business practices – for example, Air France for transporting monkeys to laboratories; and Amazon for avoiding taxes.
  • “Good on You” rates brands on their environmental and social positions, but also makes money driving traffic to specific retailers and promoting certain clothing brands – a potential conflict.
  • Boycott advocates like Jammi now fear they have inadvertently punished their media allies, because risk-averse corporations preemptively steer their ad dollars away from any even remotely divisive news.
  • Keyword blacklisting on stories about the coronavirus cost publications $1.3 billion in five months alone.

Biden, Trump and the Beltway

Hunter Biden's Relationship With a Chinese-American Assistant Daily Mail
How Biden White House Polices Language in DC Intelligencer
Ex-Feinstein Aide Funneled Millions to GPS, Steele Washington Examiner
ICE Nominee and BLM Pushed False Race Murder Claim Free Beacon

Alleged Honeypots Deployed vs. Trump's Gov’t Foes
New York Times
A network of conservative activists, aided by a British former spy, mounted a campaign during the Trump administration to discredit perceived enemies of President Trump inside the government, according to documents and people involved in the operations, this article reports. The campaign included a planned sting operation against Trump’s national security adviser at the time, H.R. McMaster, and secret surveillance operations against F.B.I. employees, aimed at exposing anti-Trump sentiment in the bureau’s ranks. The article says the operations against the F.B.I. “were run by the conservative group Project Veritas,” and involved so-called “honeypot” scenarios in which female undercover operatives arranged dates with the F.B.I. employees with the aim of secretly recording them making disparaging comments about Trump. The publisher of this article, the New York Times, is coy about disclosing that it is currently embroiled in a defamation lawsuit with Project Veritas. It references the litigation later in the article, and includes a response from James O’Keefe, Project Veritas’ CEO. It omits his claim that he “unequivocally … had nothing to do with” with the operations alleged in the article. The Times later seems to concede this point, contradicting its initial claim that the operations “were run by the conservative Group Project Veritas,” when it states that “although several Project Veritas operatives were involved in the plot, it is unclear whether the group directed it,” or who funded it.

Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

Grade School or College, Cheating Easy and Rampant 
Wall Street Journal
A year of remote learning has spurred an eruption of cheating among students, from grade school to college, this article reports. The internet has seemingly supplied cheater demand. Websites that allow students to submit questions for expert answers have gained millions of new users over the past year, while a newer breed of site, allowing students to put up their own classwork for auction, has also gained traction. Online cheating has boosted a competing industry as well: surveillance-type companies that hire online proctors to watch students take tests from home. The proctors look for suspicious behavior, such as a student disappearing from camera view or being slipped answers. Some use facial-detection software to check for wayward eyes and unusual movements. One outfit, ProctorU, has busted a student suspected of trying to use a drone’s camera to take images of a test to possibly share with others; another trying to cheat by using information on sticky notes on his dog; and still another female student who sneezed and disappeared from view, to suddenly be replaced by a male wearing a blond wig, impersonating her.

FBI Seized Safe Deposit Boxes of 'Honest Citizens' 
On March 22, federal agent, armed with a warrant raidedproperty belonging to Beverly Hills, Calif-based U.S. Private Vaults. Even though the warrant explicitly exempted the safe deposit boxes in the company's vaults, this article reports, they were taken too. More than 800 in total were seized. The seizure has raised constitutional red flags as well as procedural issues. For example, one 80-year-old woman, identified in court documents only as “Linda R.,” may have lost a significant portion of her life savings due to what legal filings say are shoddy inventories of the safe deposit boxes’ contents. Those who claim innocence but had their assets confiscated in the raid are trying to recover them. Such legal efforts to force the FBI to return confiscated items have so far been unsuccessful, but at least five lawsuits are pending in federal court. In a separate article, Bloomberg reports on a storied 215-year-old private Swiss bank, Pictet, known for discreetly tending to the assets of the very rich. While representing a literal old boys’ club – only 43 individuals, all men, have risen to the rank of managing director – the $662 billion asset manager is at a turning point, according to one researcher; it sits “in the old world of Geneva private bankers, and the new world of globalized finance, where they want to be present internationally, they want to grow, they want to present themselves as modern, but not too much. Two worlds that are on a collision course.”

Why Are Feds Hiding Jan. 6 Video Footage? 
American Greatness
President Biden has put the events of Jan. 6 on par with the Civil War, but this article reports that the Capitol Police and Justice Department are withholding evidence from the purported battlefield. More than 14,000 hours of video shot between noon and 8 P.M. that day reportedly was captured by an “extensive system of cameras” positioned both inside and outside the Capitol, as well as near other congressional offices on the grounds. But only law enforcement officials and members of Congress have been able to access it in full. Capitol Police argue that making all the recordings available to defense attorneys, much less the American public, could provoke future violence. The Department of Justice, in numerous cases, is seeking protective orders to rigorously limit how surveillance video is handled by defense attorneys. Recordings have been deemed “highly sensitive” government material subject to onerous rules. The accused have access to the evidence only in a supervised setting. Clips cannot be copied, downloaded, shared, or reproduced in any fashion, the article reports. In a separate article, Just the News reports on the alleged harsh treatment of Capitol riot defendants being held in pretrial detention in Washington D.C. Defense lawyers claim that their clients have been placed in 23-hour solitary confinement, making consultations with them difficult, especially since the design of the inmate facilities hampers confidentiality. The plight of the prisoners has drawn bipartisan outrage.

Coronavirus Investigations

China Eyed Corona Military Potential in '15 
Daily Mail
Chinese scientists have been preparing for a Third World War fought with biological and genetic weapons including viruses like COVID-19 for the last six years, according to a document obtained by the U.S. State Department. This article reports that the bombshell paper, prepared by People's Liberation Army scientists and health officials,  insists such weapons will be ‘the core weapon for victory’ in such a conflict, even outlining the perfect conditions to release a bioweapon, and documenting the impact it would have on "the enemy's medical system." The dossier examined the manipulation of diseases to make weapons “in a way never seen before.” Senior U.S. figures say it "raises major concerns" over the intentions of those close to Chinese President Xi Jinping amid growing fears about the country’s lack of regulation over its activity in laboratories. Looming over the article is the question of whether this research is connected to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic – dots which have yet to be connected.

CDC Exaggerates Outdoor Covid Transmission Rate 
New York Times
When the CDC released new guidelines last month for mask wearing, it announced that “less than 10 percent” of coronavirus transmission was occurring outdoors. This article reports that the number is almost certainly misleading, with the real transmission rate sitting at below 1 percent and perhaps even below 0.1 percent. The major reason the CDC’s figures diverge so wildly, David Leonhardt reports, is that it is erring on the side of protection – exaggerating the risks of outdoor transmission, and sowing widespread public confusion. When the author solicited an explanation from the CDC for how it could justify the 10 percent benchmark, it responded in part:

There are limited data on outdoor transmission. The data we do have supports the hypothesis that the risk of outdoor transmission is low. 10 percent is a conservative estimate from a recent systematic review of peer-reviewed papers.

According to the article, there is not a single documented infection anywhere in the world from casual outdoor interactions, such as walking past someone on a street or eating at a nearby table.

In something of a follow-up, Leonhardt reports on the CDC’s recent covid guideline overhaul, in which it suggests that vaccinated people can remove their masks in most settings, including indoor gatherings. He credits the CDC with catching up with the science, with a caveat: “The C.D.C. has not fully shed its caution. It has not withdrawn its exaggeration of outdoor risks for the unvaccinated. And yesterday’s guidance continues to direct vaccinated people to wear masks and remain physically distant in some circumstances.”

Other Coronavirus Investigations

COVID-19 Pet Boom Has Vets Backlogged, Burned Out AP
Exposed: Florida’s Virus Scandal Hoaxster National Review
Inside One Network Cashing In on Vax Disinformation AP

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