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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
December 5 to December 11, 2021

Featured Investigation:
Journalist-Authors Isikoff, Corn Also Fell
For Danchenko's Mythical Dossier Source

Since a recent indictment exposed the primary source of the Steele dossier as a liar, some high-profile journalists have retracted their reporting about wrongly accused Trump supporter Sergei Millian. But not Yahoo News' Michael Isikoff and Mother Jones' David Corn, Paul Sperry reports for RealClearInvestigations:

  • In their 2018 bestseller, “Russian Roulette,” the authors falsely tagged Millian as the source of the allegation that the Kremlin had a blackmail tape of Trump with peeing prostitutes.
  • Corn and Isikoff were prominent among journalists to first press the discredited dossier in the media in the fall of 2016.
  • And today they are less than fully contrite.
  • Isikoff has claimed he disavowed the dossier in a 2018 interview, when he could only speculate the information he was fed was wrong. Now he knows for certain what he reported was incorrect -- and yet he remains silent.
  • Isikoff once tweeted a link to “Russian Roulette” to President Trump, arguing “here is what is true, Mr. President.”
  • Corn argued last month in Mother Jones that just because the dossier turned out to be fiction, Trump is still “guilty” of betraying America by cozying up to Russia.
  • Corn didn’t mention Millian once in his 4,000-word essay.
  • In an interview, Millian said the pair owe him not just a correction but an apology.

Biden, Trump and the Beltway

Top Brass Called 'Liars' re: Jan. 6 Politico
Female Victim of Jan. 6 Cop Beating: ‘I Could Have Died’ American Greatness
The Identity Politics in Biden Judge Picks 538
Secret History of U.S. Afghanistan Failure New Yorker

Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

Deceit in International Probe of Syria Gas Attack (Pts. 1 & 2)
In April 2018 the United States, with the support of Britain and France, executed air strikes on Syria in response to its government's alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people in the city of Douma. This two-part series by Aaron Maté, a contributor to RealClearInvestigations, challenges that claim reporting that expert toxicologists had, in fact, ruled out chlorine gas as the cause of death for the more than 40 civilians reported at the scene. Instead of publishing that finding, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons suppressed it. Leaked documents revealed that ...

... Senior OPCW officials tried to rush out a replacement, doctored version that falsely claimed evidence of chemical weapons use. The original report’s chief author, Dr. Brendan Whelan, thwarted the release of the bogus substitute only after discovering it at the last minute and sending an email of protest. … By erasing and blocking the findings of leading specialists – and investigating Whelan for voicing concern in response – the OPCW leadership ensured that an organization committed to “a world free of chemical weapons” would in fact become, in its high-stakes Douma probe, free of world-leading chemical weapons expertise.

Today's Looting Tied to '20 BLM Riots
New York Times
From the Annals of the Mainstream Media Finally Admitting the Obvious, this article reports that the rash of brazen robberies plaguing retail stores in urban centers is connected to the looting and hands-off police policies embraced since the 2020 BLM protests.

Some recent robberies – in which large groups rush into a store, overwhelm employees and flee in cars before the police can respond – recall the looting that occurred across the country amid protests after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. At that time, people took advantage of police departments stretched by the protests and ransacked hundreds of stores, including the Macy’s in Herald Square and many smaller retailers, causing millions of dollars in damage. … “Looting in general started during civil unrest, and it has now evolved,” said Ben Dugan, president of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, a trade group focused on crime at retailers. “Criminal organizations saw during civil unrest that they were able to get their hands on millions of dollars of stolen product very quickly.” The rise in thefts comes as punishments for retail theft have been broadly eased over the past decade.

In a separate article on Substack, Michael Shellenberger argues that progressive efforts to reduce incarceration rates and aggressive police tactics are driving the rise in violent crime:

... Most people who commit crimes only do so because they believe they will get away with it. Deterrence, which means to frighten away, works. It’s true that longer sentences do not necessarily work better than shorter ones, which is good news from both a humanitarian and economic point of view. But there must be consequences for breaking the law or more people will break the law. And there must be sufficient police officers to scare criminals away.

Back-to-School Wave of Student Misbehavior
Wall Street Journal
School districts across the U.S. say they are seeing a surge of student misbehavior in the return to in-person learning, after months of closures and disruptions due to the pandemic. This article reports that schools have seen an increase in both minor incidents, like students talking in class, and more serious issues, such as fights and gun possession. In Dallas, disruptive classroom incidents have tripled this year compared with pre-pandemic levels. The Albuquerque, N.M., superintendent sent a letter to parents warning of a “rise in violence and unacceptable behaviors posted to social media” that have disrupted classes. The National Association of School Resource Officers said it has seen a rise in gun-related incidents in schools. New York school psychologist Peter Faustino said his colleagues across the country have seen roughly the same volume of mental-health complaints and behavioral issues in the first three months of the school year that used to occur in an entire academic year. “I think the pandemic was like an earthquake and I think we are seeing that tidal wave hit shore,” he said. Another person quoted in the story said time away from school during the pandemic has set back many students: “In that year off, we lost a lot of social maturity. So, they don’t know how to express their emotions.”

Tycoons Avoided Paying Taxes for Years
Stephen Ross, a global real-estate tycoon best known for developing the Time Warner Center and Hudson Yards in Manhattan, added nearly $3 billion to his fortune between 2008 and 2017. But, this article reports, he didn’t pay a nickel in federal incomes tax during that time because of reported losses from his businesses. It was all entirely legal.

He is among a subset of the ultrarich who take advantage of owning businesses that generate enormous tax deductions that then flow through to their personal tax returns. Many of them are in commercial real estate or oil and gas, industries that have been granted unusual advantages in the American tax code, which allow the ultrawealthy to take tax losses even on profitable enterprises. 

In real estate, depreciation – the idea that holdings lose value over time – is the key. “If a building initially cost investors $100 million, the tax code allows them, over a period of years, to deduct that $100 million.

But rather than losing value, real estate properties often rise in value over time, much like One Columbus Place [a 51-story apartment complex in midtown Manhattan] has done for Ross and his business partners…. These depreciation write-offs, along with deductions for interest and other expenses, have helped many of the nation’s wealthiest real estate developers largely avoid income taxes in recent years, even as their empires have grown more valuable.

In a separate article, ProPublica reports on how the sport of kings, thoroughbred horse racing, provides massive tax deductions for the wealthy.

Racism Plagues U.S. Military Academies
Associated Press
Here’s another example of how woke ideology is undermining good journalism. It sports an inflammatory headline – a plague of racism! – that isn’t supported by the reporting. The first tip-off is the opening, which focuses on the fact that Robert E. Lee’s portrait still hangs at West Point. It is obvious why this would offend many people, but it hardly qualifies as evidence of a plague. It then quotes two African-Americans who attended U.S. military academies. A black West Point graduate asserts, “I was repeatedly in trouble or being corrected for infractions that were not actually infractions,” he said. “It was a very deliberate choice to dig and to push on certain individuals compared with other cadets – white cadets.”

Xavier Bruce, who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1999 and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel during his 24 years of duty, said that for him, it was the ongoing slights directed at him as a Black man, rather than openly racist behavior, that cut deep. “We just feel it, we feel the energy behind it, and it just eats us away,” he said.

Some students of color have spotlighted what they see as systemic racism and discrimination at the academies by creating Instagram accounts — “Black at West Point,” “Black at USAFA” and “Black at USNA” — to relate their personal experiences. “I was walking with a classmate and we were both speaking Spanish when a white, male upperclassman turned around and said ‘Speak English, this is America,’ ” a 2020 Air Force Academy graduate wrote in one post.

The article then devolves into an exercise in disparate impact. Instead of exploring why lower percentages of people of color attend the service academies than their presence in the larger population, it cites the fact as proof of racism – same goes for the relatively low graduation rates of those admitted. 

Musicians Say Ex-NY Times Scribe Fleeced Them
A former New York Times reporter misled musicians into agreeing to give him writing songwriting credit and 50 percent of royalties for those works, this article reports. In his pitch letter – sent from his Times email address after he had left the paper – Ian Urbina asked musicians to participate in a “passion project” that would leverage his pedigree and storytelling skills to generate attention and revenue for their work. Benn Jordan, who described Urbina’s project as a “scam,” said he mistakenly believed he’d be part of a small cadre of hand-selected artists. Ultimately, at least 462 artists signed on to partner with Urbina, giving him more than 2,100 songs in total that generate revenue by being streamed on Spotify, Bandcamp and other platforms.

The alleged scheme, according to Jordan, works like this: By aggregating musicians together into a collective, the publisher claims to be able to better support and publicize the artists’ music. In exchange for that, the publisher asks for a 50 percent cut. The cut is a significant share of income, but it’s income that the artist would otherwise not be getting — because, goes the theory, they’re being put in front of more people. In reality, the promotion is minimal, and artists often end up signing away their work in exchange for very little, all while the publisher generates passive income.

One participant, who asked to be identified as AB, called The Outlaw Ocean a concern. “[Urbina] also reached out to me later on asking if I knew of other artists for the project,” says AB. “He seemed hungry for more and more.” Ultimately, at least 462 artists signed on to partner with Urbina, giving him more than 2,100 songs in total.

Coronavirus Investigations

Nurses Leave Jobs to Earn Triple as Traveling Fill-In Nurses
Washington Post
Nurses are getting a raise by hitting the road. The continued pandemic; an aging, burned out and retiring nurse workforce; the return of hospital services that were shut down last year; and a shortage of foreign recruits and nursing students have combined to make travel nursing one of the most critical and sensitive issues in health care, this article reports. The field has grown by 35 percent over the pre-pandemic year of 2019, and industry experts expect this trend to continue as travelling nurses command higher wages – adding fiscal and staffing pressures on hospitals. “If people can go somewhere else and earn a year’s salary in three or four months, they will,” said Karen Donelan, a professor of health policy at Brandeis University who follows nurse staffing issues. “But they’re walking into high-Covid zones. So this is a risk-reward scenario.”  

Other Coronavirus Investigations

Covid Contracts Were Rushed to Troubled Plants Reuters
How One Ship’s Delays Hurt Small Businesses Wall St Journal
How Worst Nursing-Home Offenses Are Hidden From Public New York Times
OMG, How to Pronounce ‘Omicron'? Wall Street Journal

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