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Dig Investigative nuggets from the staff of Reveal

More judges order administration to restore pregnancy prevention funds

Two more federal judges have ordered the Trump administration to restore funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs that were abruptly eliminated.

U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake ruled Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ decision was “arbitrary and capricious” when it axed $5 million in funding for the city of Baltimore and the Baltimore nonprofit Healthy Teen Network.

Another federal judge issued a similar order last week, ruling that the Department of Health and Human Services unlawfully cut the funding of four other programs. And on Tuesday, a judge ordered the department to restore the funding of three Planned Parenthood teen pregnancy programs that had filed suit.

In July, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting reported that after the high-level appointment of Valerie Huber, an abstinence-only advocate, the administration axed $213.6 million nationwide for the last two years of five-year grants.

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants had been awarded to 81 institutions and groups that target many high-risk teens. Some 1.2 million teenagers in 39 states received education and services, mainly through public schools.

In her ruling, Blake wrote, “HHS may have had a sufficient, lawful reason, for terminating the plaintiffs’ project period early, but because it failed to provide a reason in this case, or to meaningfully explain the factors it considered relevant to its decision, it is impossible to determine what was motivating the agency and whether that motivation was relevant at all. HHS’s decision was, therefore, arbitrary and capricious.”

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen said... Read More >

ICE isn’t following its own handbook on how to deport kids

An internal federal immigration handbook’s regulations outlining how minors “aging out” of custody are supposed to be treated contrasts starkly with realities on the ground, according to immigration advocates and a federal judge’s ruling.

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found the handbook in the court files of a lawsuit brought by the National Immigrant Justice Center on behalf of a group of teenagers in Washington, D.C., last month. The handbook was published in September 2017 and addresses how ICE manages, processes and deports immigrant minors.

The teens accuse U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of breaking a federal law requiring the agency to consider the “least restrictive setting” for unaccompanied minors who turn 18 in juvenile custody. They argue that ICE is automatically placing them in immigrant detention centers with adults instead of considering releasing them to a sponsor, a shelter or on their own recognizance.

The judge’s recent ruling in that case deals solely with ICE’s failure to follow federal law on holding immigrants who turn 18. But it’s not the only place the 63-page Juvenile and Family Residential Management Unit Field Office Juvenile Coordinator Handbook conflicts with what advocates say children are experiencing.

For example, it says immigration officers should use “multiple forms of evidence” when trying to determine the age of unaccompanied minors. Evidence listed includes birth certificates and other official records as well as statements by the child, his or her parents or others.  

“As a last resort,” page 22 of the handbook adds: “age assessment procedures (e.g., dental... Read More >

Tesla fan: Autopilot glitches brought peril to road trip

As You You Xue completed a whirlwind cross-country trip in his brand-new Tesla Model 3 earlier this year, the 20-year-old Californian racked up some impressive statistics.

In 21 days, he drove about 13,000 miles, through 36 states and three Canadian provinces. He gave test drives to around 450 people and let thousands of others ride along, getting their first taste of Tesla’s newest electric car.

But along the journey – which drew a fan following on Facebook – Xue also had problems with the Autopilot feature, which since has come under scrutiny because of a fatal crash in March.

“On multiple occasions, we came within half a second, maybe, of either crashing into another car, rear-ending another car, T-boning someone, running off the road or hitting a guardrail,” Xue told Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting in a January interview at the end of his trip. “And that happened probably about a dozen times within the first thousand miles of driving.”

The Autopilot system seemed to have trouble getting calibrated, he said, and improved as the trip went on.

“But for the first thousand miles, I would say definitely, we were in a very perilous situation,” said Xue, who is currently on another road trip with his Tesla in Europe. “I was definitely freaked out.”

Tesla responded to Reveal’s inquiries with its standard explanation about the technology – that drivers must be alert and engaged at all times and that they’re reminded of that before going into partial self-driving mode.

In March, a Tesla... Read More >

Bus company to pay legal fees in LA public records case

A nonprofit organization will be repaid for legal fees it incurred to defend the public’s right to public records about a Los Angeles transit authority contract with a Canadian bus manufacturer.

Jobs to Move America, which urges state and local governments to do business with companies that hire locally and pay livable wages, had requested data to determine whether the company, New Flyer, was living up to its hiring and wage commitments.

In a ruling late last month, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel awarded $170,000 in legal fees to Jobs to Move America, to be paid by New Flyer, which had sued the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority. The bus company was trying to block public release of data about the company’s compliance with hiring and wage commitments it made when it signed a $500 million deal in 2013 to sell buses to the transit agency.

The transit agency did not oppose the company’s move to block the release of the records. So Jobs to Move America stepped in to try to enforce the law.

The fee award came in what is known as a reverse Freedom of Information Act case. It followed Strobel’s October ruling that the transit agency was required to give the public detailed information about job creation and wages, despite objections from New Flyer, which claimed the data were proprietary and trade secrets.

The judge then determined in March that Jobs to Move America was entitled to legal fees for, in essence, acting as a... Read More >

Warren calls out ‘disturbing pattern’ of fair housing changes

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent letters Tuesday to federal banking regulators and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, accusing them of rolling back anti-discrimination protections for people of color in the face of a wave of modern-day redlining.

“Over the past year, HUD has taken a number of steps that threaten to undermine existing fair housing laws and regulations,” she wrote, accusing the housing secretary of a “disturbing pattern of undermining and failing to enforce housing and lending laws.”

The letters were the latest salvo from the Massachusetts senator, who has taken up the issue of redlining in the wake of a February investigation from Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, which found that in 61 metro areas across America, people of color were far more likely to be denied a home loan than their white counterparts, even when they made the same amount of money and wanted to take on the same size loan and buy in the same neighborhood.

Since taking office, Carson has delayed implementation of fair housing rules promulgated under President Barack Obama, nixed his department’s prosecution of major anti-discrimination cases and proposed removing the words “free from discrimination” from the agency’s mission.

“Housing discrimination remains a serious problem in the United States,” Warren said in her letter to the nation’s top bank regulator, Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting, citing Reveal’s report.

In her letter to Otting, she expressed concern that his office had “taken steps to undermine” the Community Reinvestment Act, “a law enacted to curb... Read More >

Judge rules Trump officials broke law when axing teen pregnancy program

UPDATE, April 19, 2018: This story has been updated with the Department of Health and Human Services’ response.

A federal judge ruled today that the Trump administration unlawfully axed the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and must restore funding.

Begun under the Obama administration, the program provided more than $100 million a year to 81 groups and institutions serving about 1.2 million teens.

In July, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting reported that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services abruptly ended the program two years earlier than previously authorized under federal contracts. The defunding shocked grant holders, which include the Chicago Department of Public Health, University of Southern California and Johns Hopkins University.

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson issued a summary judgment in favor of four grant holders that had filed suit.

“Further ordered that HHS’s decision to shorten the project period for Plaintiffs’ projects is vacated and that HHS shall accept and process Plaintiffs’ applications as if it had not terminated” the funding, according to the judge’s ruling. The order is effective April 26.

The only programs directly affected by the decision are the four operated by the plaintiffs: the Policy & Research Group LLC, a New Orleans and Seattle consulting group; Project Vida Health Center in El Paso, Texas; Sexual Health Initiatives for Teens in North Carolina; and the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, represented by the nonprofit Public Citizen Litigation Group.

However, the lawsuit is one of four filed earlier this year claiming that the grants were terminated illegally. Kings County... Read More >

Chase announces major expansion in DC

The biggest bank in America announced a major expansion into the nation’s capital Wednesday, promising to open 70 new branches and committing to make $4 billion in home mortgage and small-business loans in the area over the next five years.

We go in with philanthropy, small-business lending, lower- and middle-income mortgage lending, affordable housing,” Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s  chairman and CEO, told “CBS Evening News.” “So it’s the full face and force of JPMorgan, hopefully, helping these communities.”

Chase’s announcement came a month after Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting showed how the bank was not bound by provisions of the 41-year-old Community Reinvestment Act simply because it did not maintain brick-and-mortar branches in the Washington area.

The bank did maintain one office, across the street from the White House, that specialized in providing services to the wealthy, with “an emphasis on structuring large and complex loans.” Because that office did not take deposits, Reveal reported, it did not trigger enforcement under the Community Reinvestment Act.

The result: Even though people of color make up a majority of the region’s population, government lending records analyzed by Reveal showed African Americans received just 23 of the 1,119 conventional home purchase loans Chase made there in 2015 and 2016. Latino borrowers received 35 loans. Reveal’s analysis also found Chase’s lending patterns in the Washington area skewed whiter and richer than other banks, which maintained large numbers of branches in the area.

With Chase opening branches in the region, the bank now will be... Read More >

Tesla hit by government investigation after Reveal story

California’s workplace safety agency opened an investigation of Tesla Inc. on Tuesday, the day after Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting published an investigation of safety problems and unreported injuries at the carmaker’s Fremont factory.

Reveal found that Tesla did not count all of its work injuries as required by law, making its safety record look better than it actually is. Tesla maintains it records injuries accurately.

“Cal/OSHA takes seriously reports of workplace hazards and allegations of employers’ underreporting recordable work-related injuries and illnesses,” said Erika Monterroza, spokeswoman for the state Department of Industrial Relations, which includes the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA.

Monterroza said “that statement is not made lightly,” but she could not disclose details of the investigation or what triggered it. She said it was not related to a specific industrial accident.

Generally, she said, investigators look at multiple issues, including whether an employer is recording injuries and “things which may have been brought to the attention of the division.”

“They will look at all aspects to determine if the employer is following workplace safety and health regulations,” she said.

Tesla, in a statement, said that it cares deeply about its employees, that the claims prompting the investigation are baseless and that it will cooperate with regulators. It said Cal/OSHA did an investigation regarding Tesla’s injury records last year without finding any violations.

“In fact,” the statement said, “unlike other automakers who in the past have been cited by OSHA for record-keeping violations, we have never in... Read More >

Slack releases official diversity numbers for the first time

The popular messaging company Slack released updated diversity statistics today, showing above-average numbers for women and minorities in its overall workforce, but poor racial diversity on its executive rung.

The release included a federally mandated report that Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has been pressuring Silicon Valley companies to make public. It was the first time the company, valued at $5.1 billion, had made its EEO-1 report information public, after Reveal pointed out flaws in its diversity reporting last year.

Almost half of Slack’s workforce – 44 percent – were women. That’s much higher than the average for large tech companies in Silicon Valley, which was 30 percent in 2016, according to Reveal’s analysis. In 2017, 12.9 percent of Slack’s professionals, managers and executives were either black or Latino, much higher than its Silicon Valley peers at 7.8 percent in 2016.

But the report shows that the company has work to do when it comes to racial diversity in its executive ranks. Four out of eight executives there were white men, two were white women and two were Asian men. There are no Asian, black, Latina or biracial women in leadership, according to Slack’s report.

A Slack spokesman said in a statement that the company decided to release its EEO-1 report in addition to other diversity metrics as part of its efforts to improve.

“We are a young, growing company and are working to put the rigor, discipline and processes in place to be able to track, analyze and report consistently every year,”... Read More >

The sound of disparity: Data directed Silicon Valley diversity choir

We wanted to use sound to tell the story of racial and gender disparities in the San Francisco Bay Area’s tech sector. The result, featured in this episode of Reveal, is the Silicon Valley diversity choir. The historic First Unitarian Church of Oakland in California agreed to host our experiment, and we invited Reveal fans and friends to lend their voices to investigative reporting for an evening.

Reveal host Al Letson plays along with the Silicon Valley diversity choir at First Unitarian Church of Oakland. Credit: Byard Duncan/Reveal

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting obtained never-before-released diversity data for 177 large tech companies headquartered in the Bay Area. Perhaps it won’t surprise many listeners that people of color and women are underrepresented in Silicon Valley, but the scale of the diversity is stark.

For example, in 2016, 73.2 percent of all executives and senior managers in these 177 large tech companies were white, 21 percent were Asian, 3 percent were Latino and 1.4 percent were black, according to data obtained by Reveal.

To get this data, Reveal collaborated with professor Donald Tomaskovic-Devey and his team at the Center for Employment Equity at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Companies are required to provide information about their racial and gender representation through annual EEO-1 reports sent to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The government won’t release those records to the public. So Tomaskovic-Devey and his team took criteria we provided and compiled anonymized data. That information allowed us to calculate percentages for the largest... Read More >

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