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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week

RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
November 21 to November 27, 2021


Featured Investigation:
Five Trump-Russia 'Collusion' Corrections
We Need From the Media Now -- Just for Starters

Despite embarrassing recent corrections in the Washington Post, media still have a long way to go to restore lost credibility from inaccurate and misleading Trump-Russia journalism, Aaron Maté writes in a reported analysis for RealClearInvestigations. And he names some of the worst offenders.

Maté notes that the Post has corrected only errors concerning the already debunked Steele dossier. Still unacknowledged are many falsehoods not related to the dossier -- already exposed and hiding in plain sight in the public record. 

For starters, Maté dissects five falsehoods from Pulitzer-winners at the Post and New York Times:

  • Falsehood 1: Michael Flynn discussed sanctions with Russia and lied about it. No, the ex-National Security Adviser didn’t, transcripts later showed; he only touched briefly on expulsions of diplomats. 
  • Falsehood 2: Trump aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence. No, they didn’t, according to the FBI’s James Comey, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and agent Peter Strzok. Yet the Times claimed vindication when Konstantin Kilimnik was tagged as a spy with virtually no evidence.
  • Falsehood 3: George Papadopoulos’s “night of heavy drinking.” There's no evidence the Trump aide mentioned “thousands of emails,” and thus no evidence that he knew of the hack of Democrats. That torpedoes the FBI’s Russiagate origin story floated in the Times after the dossier flopped. (Also, the participants in the London bar conversation in question say it was only one drink each.)
  • Falsehood 4: Russia’s interference was a “national security threat." Not unless such a “threat” means $46,000 spent on juvenile posts barely about the election.
  • Falsehood 5: The Justice Department pulled punches on Trump. Both prosecutor Andrew Weissmann and Strzok say Justice official Rod Rosenstein did not hold them back.


    Biden, Trump and the Beltway

How Hunter Biden’s Firm Helped Chinese Secure Cobalt 
New York Times
As RealClearInvestigations has chronicled in its Hunter Biden Reader, the president’s son has partaken in a variety of dubious business deals. Singling out one of them in a series of articles on cobalt, a mineral crucial to the green economy, the New York Times relates how in 2016, as then-Vice President Biden’s term was winding down, an investment firm where Hunter was a founding board member assisted a Chinese company’s multi-billion-dollar purchase from an American company of one of the world’s richest cobalt mines, in Congo. A former board member says Biden and other American founders of Chinese-controlled private equity firm BHR were not involved in the mine deal and the firm earned only a nominal fee from it. But as the Times notes, the deal has taken on new relevance because the Biden administration warned this year that China might use its growing dominance of cobalt to disrupt America’s retooling of its auto industry to make electric vehicles. The metal is among several key ingredients in electric car batteries.

Another article in the series details how China catapulted to cobalt dominance:

China’s pursuit of Congo’s cobalt wealth is part of a disciplined playbook that has given it an enormous head start over the United States in the race to dominate the electrification of the auto industry, long a key driver of the global economy.

But an investigation by The New York Times revealed a hidden history of the cobalt acquisitions in which the United States essentially surrendered the resources to China, failing to safeguard decades of diplomatic and financial investments in Congo. The sale of the two mines [including the one Hunter Biden’s private equity firm helped facilitate], also flush with copper, highlights the shifting geography and politics of the clean energy revolution, with countries rich in cobalt, lithium and other raw materials needed for batteries suddenly playing the role of oil giants.

Finally, a third article discusses, albeit with a bit of a slant, the consequences for Congo, ground zero in the global struggle over the mineral:

[Cobalt] demand is set to explode worldwide because it is used in electric-car batteries, helping them run longer without a charge.

Outsiders discovering — and exploiting — the natural resources of this impoverished Central African country are following a tired colonial-era pattern. The United States turned to Congo for uranium to help build the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and then spent decades, and billions of dollars, seeking to protect its mining interests here.

Now, with more than two-thirds of the world’s cobalt production coming from Congo, the country is once again taking center stage as major automakers commit to battling climate change by transitioning from gasoline-burning vehicles to battery-powered ones. The new automobiles rely on a host of minerals and metals often not abundant in the United States or the oil-rich Middle East, which sustained the last energy era.

But the quest for Congo’s cobalt has demonstrated how the clean energy revolution, meant to save the planet from perilously warming temperatures in an age of enlightened self-interest, is caught in a familiar cycle of exploitation, greed and gamesmanship that often puts narrow national aspirations above all else, an investigation by The New York Times found.

Thousands of Unvetted Afghans From Kabul Airlift
Washington Examiner
Almost none of the 82,000 people airlifted from Kabul in August were vetted before being admitted to the United States, despite claims to the contrary from the Biden administration. This is according to a congressional memo summarizing interviews with federal officials who oversaw the effort at domestic and international military bases. This article reports that the Biden administration relied solely on criminal and terrorist databases to flag bad actors, according to the memo—merely screening, rather than vetting, people brought to the U.S. It also apparently permitted the entry of tens of thousands of people who were not qualified. About 75% of the evacuated were not American citizens, green card holders, Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders, or applicants for the visa, three people familiar with the interviews outlined in the memo told the Washington Examiner.

Other Biden, Trump and the Beltway

Democrats Losing Normal Voters of All Races The Intercept
Biden Admin vs. Cataloging Teacher Sex Crimes Washington Free Beacon
Why $1.2T Infrastructure Law Signals 5% Fraud The Conversation
Whose Job Is It to Stop Asteroid Armageddon? Politico

Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

Waukesha Suspect's Rap Sheet Back to '99
Wisconsin Department of Justice 
Darrell Brooks, the 39-year-old man facing murder charges for plowing an SUV into an annual Christmas celebration in Waukesha, Wisc. -- killing 6 and injuring more than 60 -- had a long criminal record going back decades. Charges range from weapons violations to resisting or obstructing officers, drug possession, receipt of stolen property, and aggravated battery.

A related article from Wisconsin Right Now, the outlet that obtained Brooks’ rap sheet, reports that:

Brooks was arrested in Georgia for battery (family violence) in May 2021 – WHILE he was out on $500 in a Milwaukee felony shooting case.

Yet nothing happened to him here; in fact, even after he was accused of a new felony in Milwaukee County a few days before the Waukesha parade attack – for running a woman over in a gas station – Brooks was released again, this time on $1,000 bail.

That’s not all. It turns out that Brooks was also wanted on an active warrant out of Nevada since 2016 for being a non-compliant registered sex offender.

Brooks was walking free in part due to the policies of progressive Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm. The Washington Free Beacon reports:

Chisholm, who was elected in 2007, supports deferrals for some misdemeanors and "low-level" felonies in order to cut down on incarcerations. And he's taken credit for inspiring a new wave of prosecutors in cities like San Francisco, St. Louis, and Philadelphia who have enacted similar reforms. Chisholm congratulated San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin following his election in 2019, and the pair spoke at a forum earlier this year on the status of the progressive prosecutor movement.

Chisholm and other progressives support reforms to the cash-bail system, which they say criminalizes poverty. He has acknowledged that his reform-minded approach could put murderers back on the streets of Milwaukee.

"Is there going to be an individual I divert, or I put into [a] treatment program, who's going to go out and kill somebody?" he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2007. "You bet. Guaranteed. It's guaranteed to happen. It does not invalidate the overall approach."

For more on Chisholm, see Jeffrey Toobin’s 2015 New Yorker profile of the DA, reporting on Chisholm’s quest to use prosecutorial discretion to correct for “racial imbalance in American prisons.”

Big Pharmacies Fueled Opioid Crisis, Ohio Jury Finds
New York Times
There has been a first in the effort to hold to account those allegedly responsible for the opioid epidemic. This article reports that a federal jury in Cleveland found that three of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains — CVS Health, Walmart and Walgreens — had substantially contributed to the crisis of opioid overdoses and deaths in two Ohio counties:

The verdict — the first from a jury in an opioid case — was encouraging to plaintiffs in thousands of lawsuits nationwide because they are all relying on the same legal strategy: that pharmaceutical companies contributed to a “public nuisance,” a claim that plaintiffs contend covers the public health crisis created by opioids.

RealClearInvestigations’ Eric Felten reported days before the verdict on a rogue juror who had violated the judge's instructions by distributing to fellow jurors literature relevant to the case, on Walgreens’ pricing of the overdose antidote Narcan. That threatened a mistrial, though ultimately the case proceeded. Nevertheless, as Felten noted, this juror may have poisoned the well and the plaintiffs' victory could ultimately be reversed.

Blacks Flee Chicago; Few Regret Their Move 
Chicago Tribune
Amid drugs, crime and flagging economic opportunities, black families are fleeing Chicago -- a city that once drew tens of thousands of southern black residents and held the nation’s second largest black population. Chicago’s black population dropped to 787,551 in 2020, its lowest total since the mid-1950s, this article reports:

[T]housands of those who left Cook County chose neighboring states like Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. On average, nearly 8,000 Black residents moved to Indiana each year between 2015 and 2019, according to the Brookings Institution.

Far removed from the times when Chicago was an industrial and manufacturing powerhouse and hog butcher to the world, Black Americans no longer arrive in the city with dreams of finding work. In fact, experts say those with less education and fewer skills are looking elsewhere.

Southern states like Georgia, Texas and Florida draw Black residents from all over the country. After Indiana, Georgia and Texas were the top destinations for Black residents leaving Illinois each year between 2015 and 2019.

Researchers with the nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council analyzed early data releases that found low-wage and low-skill workers among the most likely to leave Cook County, outnumbering new arrivals by a ratio of about 2 to 1.

The Tomb Raiders of the Upper East Side
The Atlantic
This article reports on the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Antiques Trafficking Unit—the only one of its kind in the world—pitting the retired Marine colonel and amateur middleweight boxer who leads the unit against a genteel club of largely Upper East Side-based museums, collectors, and auction houses that buy and sell the relics of ancient civilizations:

Over the past decade, [Antiquities Unit Chief Matthew] Bogdanos and his agents have impounded more than 3,600 antiquities, valued at some $200 million. They’ve raided art fairs on Park Avenue, and Christie’s in Rockefeller Center. They arrested a dealer at the five-star Mark Hotel and seized statues on display at the five-star Pierre.

Tips from scholars, dealers, and other informants have repeatedly led Bogdanos to the Upper East Side. The enclave of old-money families along Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile is America’s worst neighborhood for antiquities crime. It’s a long way, culturally, from Bogdanos’s New York. He grew up busing tables at his parents’ Greek restaurant in Kips Bay, and his court filings are salted with sarcastic, class-conscious asides. The problem with “these gentlemen of stature and breeding,” he told one judge, is that they “would never be so gauche” as to check the legal status of ancient art before buying it.

Some dealers have shut down rather than fight back. A 2019 journal article found that the number of ancient-art galleries with Manhattan storefronts had plunged over the preceding two decades from a dozen to three. Other Manhattan dealers continue to operate online or by appointment, but almost none has been spared Bogdanos’s subpoenas and search warrants. Sotheby’s ceased its New York auctions of ancient art in 2016, confining such sales to London. (Sotheby’s says this reflects “demand from collectors.”)

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