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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week

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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
August 22 to August 28, 2021

Featured Investigation
Kamala Harris Backed Afghan Exit
Despite Intel Warning Taliban Would Abuse Women Again

A little-noticed intelligence memo warned the White House just before the precipitous Afghan withdrawal that allowing the Taliban back in power would put Afghan women at grave risk -- throwing doubt on Vice President Kamala Harris’s claims to be a fierce advocate for their rights, Paul Sperry reports for RealClearInvestigations. Sperry reports:

  • On April 2, 12 days before she endorsed President Biden’s withdrawal order, a two-page memo from the National Intelligence Council warned the pullout would make it easier for the Taliban to systematically abuse women.
  • The document cited recent red flags signaling that the Taliban, despite paying lip service to women’s rights in peace talks, had not changed their misogynistic ways.
  • “Taliban officials have issued statements opposing ‘alien-culture clothes worn by women’ and have accused women’s rights advocates of promoting immorality, indecency and non-Islamic culture.”
  • That warning has now proved prescient.
  • It undermines Harris’s pledge during the presidential campaign to “protect" women in Afghanistan
  • Biden nonetheless pressed ahead with the withdrawal – with the support of Harris, who boasted that she was the last person in the room with the president when he made the decision and felt comfortable with the plan.
  • The rights of Afghan women and girls are central to criticism of the American pullout. Gains in women’s rights have been highlighted as a major achievement during the two decades that American forces have been deployed in the country.

Featured Investigations
Flashback: RCInvestigations ID's Cop
Who Shot Ashli Babbitt,
Month Before His NBC Interview

NBC News
Michael L. Byrd
Ashli Babbitt with husband Aaron.

An exclusive interview aired by NBC News this week with Capitol Police Lt. Michael L. Byrd confirmed aspects of the Ashli Babbitt killing during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that were first reported by RealClearInvestigations weeks and months ago (see links below). They include his identity as the officer who fired the fatal shot; the fact that he had earlier faced discipline for leaving his service weapon behind in a Capitol bathroom; and that he’s been "in hiding" and out on paid administrative leave since the shooting. 

Before Byrd came forward of his own accord, officials and major media declined to disclose Byrd's identity, citing concerns for his safety. That was a departure from standard practice in police killings around the country, when the names of officers involved have been promptly released and widely publicized, typically in fatal shootings of minorities.

Here is reporting by RCI's Paul Sperry on the Babbitt shooting -- an episode of deadly police violence that many Americans are only now becoming more familiar with:


Featured Investigation
Will Snuffing Out Fine Latin Cigars
Strike the Match of Illegal Immigration?

Anti-smoking advocates say what this country doesn’t need so much anymore is a good imported $10 cigar -- and that puts the Biden Administration in a geopolitical bind, Steve Miller reports for RealClearInvestigations: Will a crackdown on premium Latin stogies worsen the already massive flow of migrants to the U.S.? Miller reports:

  • If the Food and Drug Administration gets its way, it may undermine one of Central America's most vibrant industries, regional advocates say. “There would be lost jobs, and those people would head to the U.S., where the better jobs are.”
  • Ambassadors from Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic say proposed FDA regulations imperil “over 300,000 jobs among our three nations" and millions of dollars in exports.
  • Cigar advocates are fighting back in court. In August, a federal judge demanded more scientific proof that primo cigars are hazardous to youth.
  • Forget smoke-filled rooms: The committee of scientists and academics advising the FDA is composed almost exclusively of tobacco critics.
  • The FDA action comes as the Biden administration has taken on the migration problem by pledging $4 billion in aid to Latin countries to help them rebuild their economies.
  • The number of migrants seeking entry to the U.S. has nearly tripled since January compared with the previous year.
  • RCI writer Steve Miller is also editor of Cigar Snob magazine.


Biden, Trump and the Beltway:
Afghanistan Edition

Behind Kabul Airport Killings: War of Taliban vs. ISIS
Wall Street Journal
How messed up is Afghanistan? Consider that the international community may soon be propping up the Taliban in that war-torn nation because it may be seen as the least toxic of available evils. The suicide bombs that tore through the crowds surrounding the Kabul airport on Thursday, highlight the ongoing battle between the victorious Taliban forces and other radical jihadist groups including Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks. This article reports that ...

... [T]he continued presence of Islamic State in Afghanistan is one reason the Taliban could receive international support from countries, including the U.S., that view Islamic State as a profound threat. Russia, China and Iran say they see Taliban as a mainstay of stability in Afghanistan—a reason they plan to keep their Kabul embassies open after the U.S. withdrawal.


Other Afghanistan Investigations

U.S. Gave Taliban Names of Americans, Afghan Allies  Politico
U.S. Race to Neutralize Its Seized Afghan Data  Politico
Fuel-Short Taliban a Boon for Cash-Poor Iran  Wall Street Journal
Investigative Issues: Afghanistan and the Failure of 'Experts' Hanania Newsletter


Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

Inside Veteran Affairs’ State Nursing-Home Disaster
When Covid-19 emerged, elderly and disabled veterans were among the hardest hit. More than 1,400 people – at least 1,394 residents and 40 staff – died of coronavirus in 110 state veterans homes, according to a Politico analysis. The death toll, this article reports, is almost certainly higher; data from another four dozen homes, mostly in the South, hasn’t been publicly reported. This five-month Politico investigation concludes that the problem is that veteran homes for the elderly are often run by the states that contract the work out to private companies. Because of this many lack proper “regulation, oversight and accountability.” It reports that:

... [S]tate homes serve a little more than twice as many people as the federally run community centers, but their pandemic-related deaths were almost five times higher. From July 2020 through mid-February of this year, 187 residents died after positive Covid-19 tests at community living centers, according to a recent GAO report based on VA data. In the same time period, at least 940 residents of state homes died of Covid-19, according to CMS data analyzed by Politico.

Corporate America’s $50B Racial Justice Promise
Washington Post
After the murder of George Floyd ignited nationwide protests, many American corporations pledged to be a force for societal change and to fight racism and injustice. To date, this article reports, the nation’s 50 biggest public companies and their foundations collectively have committed at least $49.5 billion to addressing racial inequality – an amount that appears unequaled in sheer scale. A Post analysis, however, has found that more than 90 percent of that amount is allocated as loans or investments the companies could stand to profit from, more than half in the form of mortgages. Two banks — JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America – accounted for nearly all of those commitments. Meanwhile, $4.2 billion of the total pledged is in the form of outright grants. Of that, companies reported just a tiny fraction – about $71 million – went to organizations focused specifically on criminal justice reform, the cause that sent millions into the streets protesting Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer. In a separate article in City Journal, Chris Rufo reports on anti-racism training at Verizon, which teaches that the United States is a fundamentally racist nation and encourages employees to support a variety of left-wing causes, including “defunding the police.”

The Fall of China's Impolitic Jack Ma
Wall Street Journal
Jack Ma built one of China’s largest business empires from scratch, creating billions of dollars in wealth and introducing digital innovations to hundreds of millions of people. Then he suddenly disappeared from public view, this article reports, because he thought his wealth and influence brought him the power to criticize China’s government. Just days after Ma said Chinese regulators were stifling financial innovation, the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, “personally intervened” to block the record $34 billion-plus initial public offering of Ant Group, Mr. Ma’s financial-tech company. Since then, Ant has been forced to restructure its business leaving its employees and investors in limbo. Ma’s defenders say he was punished for acting like his tech-mogul peers in Western economies – pushing innovation, seeking market domination, creating new products, lobbying for looser regulation and making money. A Beijing official, however, said Ma should have focused on “giving back to the Party instead of just focusing on his own interests.” 

The Shadowy Business of International Education
The Walrus
The Canadian government brags that foreign students bring over $21 billion into the economy each year – more than auto parts, more than lumber. This article reports that this is the result of “a decade of careful nurturing, a triumph of salesmanship, and carefully calibrated government policies.” But, it notes, those who come from abroad to study are not just the children of the well-heeled. Instead, many of the students – including the teenager named Kushandeep featured in this piece – hail from small villages in India where they have been targeted by Canadian advertising campaigns promising them a better life. This system ...

... has blurred the lines between immigration and education in an unofficial, ad hoc arrangement meant to appeal to potential immigrants while avoiding any responsibility for their settlement. It’s a system that is quietly transforming postsecondary institutions, which have grown dependent on fees from foreign students and therefore on the shadowy world of education agents who deliver them. And it’s a system built on attracting teenagers like Kushandeep from small villages across the world, taking their money, and bringing them to campuses from small-town Nova Scotia to suburban BC with lofty promises for the future but little regard for what actually happens to them once they arrive.


Coronavirus Investigations

Science Uncertain, U.S. Schoolkids Masked Anyway  New York
More Children Hospitalized With Covid  Wall Street Journal
Lack of Breakthrough Covid Data Hampers CDC Response  Politico
Banks Are Opting Out of PPP Loan Forgiveness  The Intercept
Remote Workers Who Moved to Tropical Isles  Wall Street Journal


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