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What Happened: September 2, 2021

Tablet’s afternoon news digest: Storm kills 25 in northeast; Generals on the payroll; Taliban speaks

The Scroll
September 02, 2021

The Big Story

Retired four-star Army general Jack Keane, a frequent guest on Fox News programs and a harsh critic of President Biden for ending the war in Afghanistan, is also the executive chairman of AM General, the company that manufactures military Humvees—a fact that neither Keane nor Fox News felt it necessary to disclose during his 33 appearances on Fox-related shows since Aug. 16 to opine on the war. In 2017, AM General won a $459 million contract from the government to send more than 2,000 Humvees to Afghanistan through 2023. Keane is employed by Fox News as its senior military analyst, in addition to his role as the chairman of the Institute of the Study of War, “a defense policy think tank that receives financial backing from several military contractors,” according to The Daily Beast.

Fox’s relationship to Keane is typical of the cable news environment, where networks such as CNN and MSNBC also routinely bring on “expert” national security and foreign policy analysts without mentioning their financial stake in the defense industry. A recent article in The Intercept detailing the nexus of defense and cable news points to Richard Haas, president of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, as one example. Haas is a vocal defender of the wise expertise of the foreign policy establishment and criticized Biden’s leadership in Afghanistan in an appearance on MSNBC without either he or the network mentioning that he’s on the board of investment for the defense firm Lazard.

Read more here:
And here:

Today’s Back Pages: Another Narrative Falls Apart: Matt Gaetz Edition

The Rest

At least 25 people were killed in New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Ida touched down in the Northeast Wednesday. The death toll continued to creep upwards Thursday as ongoing rescue efforts led to the discovery of more dead in the region. In Queens, eight people, including a 2-year-old boy, died in five separate incidents in which the basements of residential homes—some of which might have been converted into separate apartment units—were flooded. Both New York and New Jersey maintained a state of emergency Thursday amid the possibility of further severe weather events and continued disruption of transportation networks in the region. Videos and photos posted to social media showed extensive flooding throughout New York City, including in the subway system, where torrents of water poured down from the streets onto the platforms and tracks.

The U.S. government has lost track of roughly a third of the more than 65,000 unaccompanied minors who entered the country illegally between January and May and were subsequently released by authorities, often into the custody of relatives acting as sponsors. Axios found the data through a Freedom of Information Act request that examined records of calls made by officials attempting to contact the kids or their sponsors after the minors were released from government-run shelters. In 4,890 out of 14,600 calls made during the first five months of the year, the officials could not establish contact. Axios notes that the government is investigating whether dozens of the unaccounted-for children were handed over to the custody of labor traffickers.
Read it here:

A dramatic video posted to the Yeshiva World News website shows “Hatzolah members, in waist-deep water, entering a shul in Williamsburg to rescue” a hand-written sefer Torah before it was destroyed.
See it here:

These photos posted by a journalist working for the BBC are purported to show American-purchased military vehicles and equipment being driven across Afghanistan’s western border, into Iran.

An Iranian Telegram channel that covers military stories has released these “exclusive” images that purportedly show humvees and other military vehicles spotted on the Semnan-Garmsar road in #Iran.

What I am certain of is that those are humvees and that is an Iranian road.

— Kian Sharifi (@KianSharifi) September 1, 2021

A new report shows that more California-based companies have already left the state in 2021 than in all of 2020. Led by a tech industry flight, with many businesses relocating from California to Texas, the capital exodus out of California has been one of the main drivers of the COVID-19-era great migration shifting U.S. demographic and economic patterns. The report from the conservative Hoover Institution argues that the drain from California, “which includes business in nearly all industries, has gone virtually unrecognized by the state’s elected officials and governmental agencies.”

Weeks after seizing control of Afghanistan and days after the departure of the last U.S. military forces from the country, the Taliban are expected to announce the formation of a new government Friday. The Islamist group previously ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when it was deposed by the U.S. invasion.

The Swiss weekly magazine Die Weltwoche has published an interview with a Taliban fighter that can be read in Google translation. An excerpt: 

Our ritual is to say Quranic verses before we fight. Of course, the most important weapon for the Taliban was a suicide bomber. We were also making explosive devices with simple parts.

We captured a lot of American weapons. The M4 is my favorite. As the fighting was on the ground, the AK-47 or M4 was the common weapon. But we also widely use our mobile phones as social media is where the real fight is. We capture an area, we upload pictures of the scene on social media, and the opponents quickly lose morale over how much land we are capturing.

Full interview here:

India tightened security in the disputed border region of Kashmir late Wednesday after the death of Muslim separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who advocated for the territory’s secession and absorption into Pakistan. Geelani was 92 and in poor health when he died. Following the announcement of his death, Indian authorities shut down internet and phone service in the Kashmir Valley and deployed thousands of troops to the region.

In an unprecedented enforcement action, the Federal Trade Commission has banned the “stalkerware” company SpyFone along with its chief executive, Scott Zuckerman, from “offering, promoting, selling, or advertising any surveillance app, service, or business” and ordered it to delete data collected illegally from victims who were unaware the app was installed on their phones. 
Read it here:

The Back Pages

Another Narrative Falls Apart: Matt Gaetz Edition

Another media narrative that started with an explosion of outrage is now falling apart with hardly a whisper of acknowledgment. Back in March, the Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz was accused of a series of lurid charges involving minors and sex trafficking. The charges lacked both specifics and credibility, but that didn’t stop numerous media outlets from amplifying them with countless headlines engineered for social media virality, like these from The Daily Beast: “Bombshell Letter: Gaetz Paid for Sex With Minor, Wingman Says” and “Rep. Matt Gaetz Recruited Women for Sex, Paid Them: Report,” or this one from The Cut, “The Matt Gaetz Scandal Keeps Getting Worse.”

Gaetz maintained that rather than being involved in a child sex ring, he was the victim of an elaborate extortion plot. It sounded ridiculous and far-fetched, but on the other hand, so did the case against him. Now new court documents back up Gaetz’s claims. A man named Stephen Alford was taken into custody Tuesday for allegedly attempting to extort Gaetz and his family to the tune of $25 million.

As you’ve figured out by now, the Gaetz scandal did not keep getting worse. What worsened was the media’s investment in impugning a Trump-aligned politician whose frat-boyish appearance and smarmy demeanor made him easy to dislike. That was apparently sufficient grounds to disregard established standards of evidence and skepticism and go along with a political hit job.

Covering the case for The Scroll on April 1, I wrote that “if one-hundredth of what Gaetz is accusing his accusers of is true, it would suggest that political assassinations run through a coordinated state bureaucracy—with the help of a complicit media—are now an accepted part of American society.”

Now we know.

Tablet’s afternoon newsletter edited by Jacob Siegel.

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