Smithsonian Targeted D.C.’s Vulnerable to Build Its Brain Collection

Nicole Dungca and Claire Healy, The Washington Post, Smithsonian Targeted D.C.’s Vulnerable to Build Its Brain Collection, Thursday, 14 December 2023: “A 59-year-old Black woman died of epilepsy in October 1903 at the Washington Asylum Hospital, an institution that housed the District’s indigent. Almost five months later, tuberculosis killed a 21-month-old Black toddler at Children’s Hospital in D.C. The next month, an 11-year-old White boy died of a lung condition at Children’s. Upon their deaths, one of the Smithsonian Institution’s top anthropologists, Ales Hrdlicka, enlisted the local institutions and doctors to help him remove their brains to build a ‘racial brain collection.’ Hrdlicka, who sought brains and other body parts to prove now-debunked theories on racial differences, was taking advantage of the District’s most vulnerable residents, records show. The Smithsonian would eventually acquire more than 280 brains from around the world. More than a quarter — 74 — of the brains still held by the Smithsonian were from local people, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post. Of those, 48 were Black. At least 19 of the brains are described in documents as having been removed from fetuses, including one following an abortion. Seventeen came from children. Three were taken from people who died in the hospital that served the city’s almshouse. One was taken from a deaf and mute man…. In August, The Post published the most extensive accounting to date of the brains and more than 30,000 other body parts gathered largely at Hrdlicka’s direction, revealing that the institution’s National Museum of Natural History has not returned the vast majority of the remains in its possession, even though most appear to have been taken without consent.”

The Judiciary Has Policed Itself for Decades. It Doesn’t Work.

Brett Murphy and Kirsten Berg, ProPublica, The Judiciary Has Policed Itself for Decades. It Doesn’t Work. The secretive Judicial Conference is tasked with self-governance. The group, led by the Supreme Court’s chief justice, has spent decades preserving perks, defending judges, and thwarting outside oversight. Wednesday, 13 December 2023: “For decades, judges have relied on a select group to make sure the judiciary adheres to the highest ethical standards: themselves. The Judicial Conference, a secretive, century-old council of federal judges led by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, oversees the ethics and financial disclosures for more than 1,700 federal judges, including the nine justices of the high court. Those financial disclosures, submitted yearly as a list of assets and gifts, are often the only window into whether judges with lifetime appointments have conflicts of interest as they rule on the country’s most consequential legal cases. The judiciary’s leaders argue that the conference has been an effective watchdog over America’s third branch of government. The conference’s authority plays an important role in judicial controversies and has been at the center of some defenses of the court following ProPublica’s reporting on possible ethical breaches. With its ‘sound structure of self-governance,’ Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2021, ‘the Judicial Conference has been an enduring success.’ In reality, the Judicial Conference has instead often protected, not policed, the judiciary, according to interviews and previously undisclosed internal documents. For decades, conference officials have repeatedly worked to preserve judges’ most coveted perks while thwarting congressional oversight and targeting ‘disloyal’ figures in the judiciary who argued for reforms.”

The Native American Boarding School System: ‘War Against the Children’

Zach Levitt, Yiliya Parshina-Kottas, Simon Romero, and Tim Wallace, The New York Times, The Native American Boarding School System: ‘War Against the Children.’ The Native American boarding school system–a decades-long effort to assimilate Indigenous people before they ever reached adulthood–robbed children of their culture, family bonds, and sometimes their lives. Wednesday, 20 August 2023:  “The Native American boarding school system was vast and entrenched, ranging from small shacks in remote Alaskan outposts to refurbished military barracks in the Deep South to large institutions up and down both the West and East coasts. Until recently, incomplete records and scant federal attention kept even the number of schools — let alone more details about how they functioned — unknown. The 523 schools represented here constitute the most comprehensive accounting to date of institutions involved in the system. This data was compiled over the course of several years by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy and research organization. It reflects the efforts of historians, researchers, activists and survivors who have filled in many of the blanks in this dark chapter of American history. The first school opened in 1801, and hundreds were eventually established or supported by federal agencies such as the Interior Department and the Defense Department. Congress enacted laws to coerce Native American parents to send their children to the schools, including authorizing Interior Department officials to withhold treaty-guaranteed food rations to families who resisted. Congress also funded schools through annual appropriations and with money from the sale of lands held by tribes. In addition, the government hired Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Congregationalist associations to run schools, regardless of whether they had experience in education, paying them an amount for each student. Beyond the vast federal system, this new list also sheds light on boarding schools that operated without federal support. Religious organizations ran at least 105 schools; many were Catholic, Presbyterian or Episcopalian, but smaller congregations such as the Quakers ran schools of their own. Wherever they were located or whoever ran them, the schools largely shared the mission of assimilating Indigenous students by erasing their culture. Children’s hair was cut off; their clothes were burned; they were given new, English names and were required to attend Christian religious services; and they were forced to perform manual labor, both on school premises and on surrounding farms. Those who dared to keep speaking their ancestral languages or observing their religious practices were often beaten. While the boarding school era might seem like distant history, aging survivors, many in their 70s and 80s, are striving to ensure the harm that was done is remembered.” See also, Dana Hedgpeth and Emmanuel Martinez, The Washington Post,  More schools that forced American Indian children to assimilate revealed, Wednesday, 30 August 2023: “A nonprofit group has identified 115 more Indian boarding schools than has been previously reported, offering new insight into the role of religious institutions in the long-standing federal policy to eradicate Native Americans’ culture through their children. For more than a century, generations of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian children were forced or coerced from their homes and communities and sent to live at schools where they were beaten, starved and made to abandon their Native languages and culture. The U.S. Department of the Interior announced last year that the federal government ran or supported 408 such schools in 37 states, including 21 schools in Alaska and seven in Hawaii, from 1819 to 1969. The new list released Wednesday by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition uses a different criteria, bringing the number of known Indian boarding schools in the country to 523 in 38 states. In addition to the federally supported schools tallied by the Interior Department, the coalition identified 115 more institutions that operated beginning in 1801, most of them run by religious groups and churches.”

What We Know About the Smithsonian’s Human Remains

Nicole Dungca, Claire Healy, and Andrew Ba Tran, The Washington Post, What We Know About the Smithsonian’s Human Remains. Brains and other body parts, mostly from people of color, were taken without consent. As The Washington Post investigated, the museum took action. Monday, 14 August 2023:  “The Washington Post spent a year examining the Smithsonian’s collection of human remains, including 255 brains. Reporters reviewed thousands of documents, including studies, field notes and personal correspondence, and interviewed experts, Smithsonian officials, and descendants and members of communities whose remains were targeted for collection. The Post also obtained from the National Museum of Natural History an inventory of all human remains in its possession, which allowed reporters to publish the most extensive analysis of the collection to date. Read the first story now: Revealing the Smithsonian’s ‘racial brain collection.’” See also, Joy Sharon Yi, The Washington Post, The Collection: How The Washington Post Reported on the Smithsonian’s Human Remains, Thursday, 17 August 2023: “The story began in a St. Louis cemetery, where at least six Filipinos are buried. They had come from the Philippines to be put on display at the 1904 World’s Fair, living in model villages for onlookers to gawk at their customs. They never returned home. A few years ago, a Filipino American activist and artist, Janna Añonuevo Langholz, learned about their stories and went looking for them, marking their graves and leading tours of the site of the Philippine Exhibition. She also made a startling discovery: The brains of four Filipino people had been removed and sent to the Smithsonian’s U.S. National Museum, the precursor to the National Museum of Natural History. Claire Healy, a copy aide at The Washington Post and a freelance writer, learned about Langholz’s work and probed further. ‘I asked the Smithsonian, “How many brains do you have and why?” And they sent me a spreadsheet,’ she said. Healy partnered with investigative reporter Nicole Dungca to keep digging. ‘There were children in the collection,’ Dungca said. ‘There were men and women and then fetuses. Many of them were Indigenous people, other people of color. And many of them didn’t have their identities actually recorded, partly because they were looked at as specimens.’ Senior video editor Joy Sharon Yi traveled to St. Louis to interview Langholz, and filmed Healy and Dungca as they pieced together the final parts of the story.”

Pandora Papers, A Global Investigation: Billions Hidden Beyond Reach. A trove of secret files details opaque financial universe where global elite shield riches from taxes, investigations, and accountability.

Greg Miller, Debbie Cenziper, and Peter Whoriskey, Pandora Papers, A Global Investigation: Billions Hidden Beyond Reach. The Washington Post, Sunday, 3 October 2021. “A massive trove of private financial records shared with The Washington Post exposes vast reaches of the secretive offshore system used to hide billions of dollars from tax authorities, creditors, criminal investigators and — in 14 cases involving current country leaders — citizens around the world. The revelations include more than $100 million spent by King Abdullah II of Jordan on luxury homes in Malibu, Calif., and other locations; millions of dollars in property and cash secretly owned by the leaders of the Czech Republic, Kenya, Ecuador and other countries; and a waterfront home in Monaco acquired by a Russian woman who gained considerable wealth after she reportedly had a child with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Other disclosures hit closer to home for U.S. officials and other Western leaders who frequently condemn smaller countries whose permissive banking systems have been exploited for decades by looters of assets and launderers of dirty money. The files provide substantial new evidence, for example, that South Dakota now rivals notoriously opaque jurisdictions in Europe and the Caribbean in financial secrecy. Tens of millions of dollars from outside the United States are now sheltered by trust companies in Sioux Falls, some of it tied to people and companies accused of human rights abuses and other wrongdoing. The details are contained in more than 11.9 million financial records that were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and examined by The Post and other partner news organizations. The files include private emails, secret spreadsheets, clandestine contracts and other records that unlock otherwise impenetrable financial schemes and identify the individuals behind them. The trove, dubbed the Pandora Papers, exceeds the dimensions of the leak that was at the center of the Panama Papers investigation five years ago. That data was drawn from a single law firm, but the new material encompasses records from 14 separate financial-services entities operating in countries and territories including Switzerland, Singapore, Cyprus, Belize and the British Virgin Islands. The files detail more than 29,000 offshore accounts, more than double the number identified in the Panama Papers. Among the account owners are more than 130 people listed as billionaires by Forbes magazine and more than 330 public officials in more than 90 countries and territories, twice the number found in the Panama documents.” See also, Key findings from the Pandora Papers investigation, The Washington Post, Washington Post Staff, published on Tuesday, 5 October 2021.

The Facebook Files: A Wall Street Journal Investigation

Jeff Horwitz, Georgia Wells, Deepa Seetharaman, Keach Hagey, Justin Scheck, Newley Purnell, Sam Schechner, Emily Glazer, Wall Street Journal Staff, Stephanie Stamm, John West, The Facebook Files: A Wall Street Journal Investigation. The Wall Street Journal, a series of articles beginning on Monday, 13 September 2021. “Facebook Inc. knows, in acute detail, that its platforms are riddled with flaws that cause harm, often in ways only the company fully understands. That is the central finding of a Wall Street Journal series, based on a review of internal Facebook documents, including research reports, online employee discussions, and drafts of presentations to senior management. Time and again, the documents show, Facebook’s researchers have identified the platform’s ill effects. Time and again, despite congressional hearings, its own pledges, and numerous media exposés, the company didn’t fix them. The documents offer perhaps the clearest picture thus far of how broadly Facebook’s problems are known inside the company, up to the chief executive himself.”

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Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades, The Times Found

David Barstow, Susanne Craig, Russ Buettner and Megan Twohey, Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades, The Times Found. The New York Times, 1 October 2016.

Donald J. Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, records obtained by The New York Times show. The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.”

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Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems

David A. Fahrenthold, Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems. The Washington Post, 20 September 2016. The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold explains the latest revelations about how Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may have violated the IRS’s rules regarding charitable funds.

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How Donald Trump retooled his charity to spend other people’s money

David A. Fahrenthold, How Donald Trump retooled his charity to spend other people’s money. The Washington Post, 10 September 2016. “The Donald J. Trump Foundation is not like other charities. An investigation of the foundation — including examinations of 17 years of tax filings and interviews with more than 200 individuals or groups listed as donors or beneficiaries — found that it collects and spends money in a very unusual manner. For one thing, nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump. In tax records, the last gift from Trump was in 2008. Since then, all of the donations have been other people’s money — an arrangement that experts say is almost unheard of for a family foundation. Trump then takes that money and generally does with it as he pleases. In many cases, he passes it on to other charities, which often are under the impression that it is Trump’s own money.”

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How Elizabeth Holmes’s House of Cards [Theranos] Came Tumbling Down

Nick Bilton, How Elizabeth Holmes’s House of Cards Came Tumbling Down. Vanity Fair, 6 September 2016. “In a searing investigation into the once lauded biotech start-up Theranos, Nick Bilton discovers that its precocious founder defied medical experts–even her own chief scientist–about the veracity of its now discredited blood-testing technology. She built a corporation based on secrecy in the hope that she could still pull it off. Then, it all fell apart.”

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