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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week

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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
August 15 to August 21, 2021

Featured Investigation:
Guided by Faith, Divinity Student Fought
His 'Anti-Racist' Princeton Seminary -- and Won

A divinity student fought what he called woke "indoctrination" at the Princeton Theological Seminary – and he won, through moral suasion, legal help and the Christian faith that guided him, Stuart Taylor Jr. reports for RealClearInvestigations. Here's a summary of Taylor’s in-depth exploration of an increasingly common conflict as “anti-racist” education faces public resistance:

Timothy Keiderling
Timothy Keiderling
  • Timothy Keiderling entered the Princeton Theological Seminary in 2019 at 24 hoping to study the New Testament.
  • But after the murder of George Floyd, PTS required him and his fellow students to submit to direction in how they must think and speak about matters of race, gender and sexuality.
  • Keiderling refused to participate in "anti-racism" sessions, holding that followers of Jesus should not treat one another differently based on race.
  • Keiderling held fast even after being reminded that the sessions were mandatory.
  • After tense exchanges over months, he finally convinced the seminary to exempt him from the training, aided by the newly founded Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA).
  • “They blinked,” said an AFA leader.
  • Keiderling’s experience opens a window into the often coercive and radical nature of anti-racism training, which major media routinely describe in benign terms.
  • And his victory may presage a broad pushback like the one over unfair campus sexual assault cases, the AFA says.

 

Featured Investigation:
Does Climate Change Cause Extreme Weather Now?
Here's a Scorcher of a Reality Check

If you listen to climate activists and major media this summer, you could be forgiven thinking that it’s now as right as rain to attribute individual weather events to broader climate change, where once scientists discouraged the linkage.

But as Eric Felten reports for RealClearInvestigations, political imperatives shape today's rapid attribution of bad weather to climate change. This summer's scorching heat in the Pacific Northwest offers a case in point:

  • Cliff Mass, an atmospheric scientist who has long studied the region, has disputed the conclusion of a recently formed “consortium of climate experts” that the Northwest’s recent torrid weather “was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.”
  • World Weather Attribution and its alarming report have been trumpeted by Time magazine, touted by the federal website Climate.gov, and featured by a host of other media.
  • Time noted – approvingly – that the value of the consortium is in helping to quickly influence public-opinion and policy over a given weather disaster – “while said event still has the world’s attention.”
  • In other words, the value of rapid attribution is primarily political, not scientific.
  • “For some communicators, the ultimate goal – mobilizing political action – warrants rhetorical use of extreme weather events,” says an expert on the ethics of science communication.
  • Mass says the Northwest’s extreme heat was merely the result of “natural variability.” That helped earn him a description as “a controversial figure” in the Seattle Times – and as a climate apostate elsewhere.

 

Biden, Trump and the Beltway:
Afghanistan Edition

Beltway news was dominated this week by America’s chaotic retreat from Afghanistan following two decades of war. As the Taliban reclaimed power, U.S. officials, news outlets and citizens all asked the same question: What went wrong? One of the most thorough answers came in a report from the Pentagon’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction titled, “What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction.” Here are its main takeaways:

  • The U.S. government continuously struggled to develop and implement a coherent strategy for what it hoped to achieve.
  • The U.S. government consistently underestimated the amount of time required to rebuild Afghanistan, and created unrealistic timelines and expectations that prioritized spending quickly. These choices increased corruption and reduced the effectiveness of programs.
  • Many of the institutions and infrastructure projects the United States built were not sustainable. Billions of reconstruction dollars were wasted as projects went unused or fell into disrepair.
  • Counterproductive civilian and military personnel policies and practices thwarted the effort. The U.S. government’s inability to get the right people into the right jobs at the right times was one of the most significant failures of the mission.
  • Persistent insecurity severely undermined reconstruction efforts. The absence of violence was a critical precondition for everything U.S. officials tried to do in Afghanistan, yet the U.S. effort to rebuild the country took place while it was being torn apart.
  • The U.S. government did not understand the Afghan context and therefore failed to tailor its efforts accordingly.
  • U.S. government agencies rarely conducted sufficient monitoring and evaluation to understand the impact of their efforts.

Other Afghanistan Investigations

Taliban’s Swift Victory Was Years in the Making Wall Street Journal
Collapse and Conquest: Taliban's Winning Strategy New York Times
Taliban Seized Military Biometrics Devices Intercept
U.S. Intel Leakers: Don't Blame Us for Afghan Debacle New York Times

Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

Investigative Issues: Media's Curious Omissions in Coverage of Cuomo's Demise
By Michael Tracey, Substack
Andrew Cuomo may not be likable, but that doesn’t mean he deserves to be railroaded, Michael Tracey argues in this reported column challenging the media narrative that the New York governor had to resign his office because he sexually assaulted 11 women.

The Attorney General’s report that precipitated his downfall does not allege that Cuomo sexually assaulted 11 women. Included among that tally of 11 are women who allege, for instance, that Cuomo committed such infractions as using comical terminology like “mingle mamas.” Another accuser complained about his telling her that she made wearing an elaborate “Personal Protective Gear” gown “look good” — at a public COVID press conference.

Tracey argues that as the New York Times and other influential publications ran with the misleding narrative, they failed to scrutinize the odd posture of Attorney General Leticia James, whose office issued the report.

The state’s chief law enforcement official, announcing her findings, accuses the subject of the investigation of violating multiple state and federal laws, but – in a move that upends every previously existing assumption about due process – then announces she will take no commensurate prosecutorial action, thus providing no venue for any formal cross-examination or rebuttal. Though operating under the auspices of law, she instead is content to just declare that the law had been violated, and issue a kind of newly invented political indictment.

Alleged FBI Deceit, Entrapment in Whitmer Kidnap Plot
Just the News
The FBI appears to spend a lot of time hatching plots it can then take credit for foiling. This article reports that attorneys representing men accused of trying to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen last year are claiming the Bureau entrapped their clients. The lawyer for one of the six men indicted claims an FBI special agent told a paid confidential informant to lie, delete messages between them, and implicate an innocent third party. “These text messages indicate the F.B.I. was pushing their paid agent to actively recruit people into an overt act in furtherance of a conspiracy,” he wrote. In a separate article, the Intercept reports that the biggest Al Qaeda plot the FBI claimed to have foiled in the years following the 9/11 attacks involved no weapons, no plot, and no Al Qaeda. Instead, it reports:

... [T]he vague, implausible threat by a group of construction workers in Florida to blow up U.S. buildings, including Chicago’s Sears Tower, was mostly the making of the FBI, whose undercover operatives sought out the men, promised them money, and coached them over months to implicate themselves in a conspiracy to commit violent acts they never actually intended or had the means to carry out.

Uighur: China Held Me at a 'Black Site' in Dubai
Associated Press
A young Chinese woman says she was held for eight days at a Chinese-run secret detention facility in Dubai along with at least two Uighurs, in what may be the first evidence that China is operating a so-called “black site” beyond its borders. This article reports the 26-year-old woman was on the run to avoid extradition back to China because her fiancé was considered a Chinese dissident. She told the Associated Press she was abducted from a hotel in Dubai and detained by Chinese officials at a villa converted into a jail, where she saw or heard two other prisoners, both Uighurs. While “black sites” are common in China, the woman’s account is the only testimony known to experts that Beijing has set one up in another country. Such a site would reflect how China is increasingly using its international clout to detain or bring back citizens it wants from overseas, whether they are dissidents, corruption suspects or ethnic minorities like the Uighurs. In a separate article, Richard Bernstein reported for RealClearInvestigations in 2018 about what appears to be an early iteration of this strategy – China’s move to “disappear” Uighurs within its own borders in order to pressure their family members living abroad whom it had deemed dissidents.

AI-Powered Tech Landed Man in Jail With Scant Evidence
Associated Press
ShotSpotter has been sold to more than police departments around the country as tool that can help reduce gun violence by using “sensors, algorithms and artificial intelligence” to classify 14 million sounds in its proprietary database as gunshots or something else. Usually placed in high-crime neighborhoods, the device helps get officers to crime scenes quicker, law enforcement officials say, and helps cash-strapped public safety agencies better deploy their resources. ShotSpotter evidence has increasingly been admitted in court cases around the country, now totaling some 200.

But an AP investigation, based on a review of thousands of internal documents, emails, presentations and confidential contracts, along with interviews with dozens of public defenders, has identified a number of serious flaws in using ShotSpotter as evidentiary support for prosecutors.

AP’s investigation found the system can miss live gunfire right under its microphones, or misclassify the sounds of fireworks or cars backfiring as gunshots. Forensic reports prepared by ShotSpotter’s employees have been used in court to improperly claim that a defendant shot at police, or provide questionable counts of the number of shots allegedly fired by defendants. Judges in a number of cases have thrown out the evidence. The AP focuses on one victim in particular: Michael Williams of Chicago.

Food Costs Forcing Families to Scrimp Around World
Bloomberg Businessweek
Inflation is not just rising in America. Food prices in July were up 31% from the same month last year, according to a global index compiled by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. This article reports that “the sustained increase in prices for basic staples is making some governments nervous. Russia, one of the world’s top grain exporters, began taxing wheat exports in February to stem rising prices at home, while Argentina in May temporarily banned beef sales abroad for the same reason. The surge has stirred memories of 2008 and 2011, respectively, when spikes triggered food riots in more than 30 nations across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East and contributed to political uprisings in the Arab Spring. The article details the strategies and trade-offs four working-class families – in Nigeria, Brazil, India, and the U.S. – are having to make to feed themselves.

Coronavirus Investigations

Vaccines Show Declining Effectiveness Against Infection Washington Post
Inside America’s COVID-Reporting Breakdown Politico
The Two-Decade Delay in Lyme-Disease Vaccines New Yorker

 



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