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Dig Investigative nuggets from the staff of Reveal

We got the government to reverse its longtime policy to get Silicon Valley diversity data

Federal labor officials have decided to reverse their longtime policy and release diversity numbers for government contractors such as Oracle and Palantir Technologies in response to a lawsuit filed by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Reveal submitted Freedom of Information Act requests for the workplace statistics of those and other tech companies as part of a project analyzing the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley. We requested the companies’ official EEO-1 reports, which show the race and gender numbers for total U.S. employees grouped by broad job categories.

But five companies – Oracle, Palantir, Pandora Media, Gilead Sciences and Splunk – objected to the requests, claiming that the diversity data is a trade secret. In each case, the U.S. Department of Labor initially agreed with the companies and denied Reveal’s FOIA requests.

For many years, the Labor Department has allowed federal contractors to block public records requests for their demographics by calling them trade secrets.

We filed a lawsuit in April, alleging that the Labor Department was violating the Freedom of Information Act. The lawsuit calls the trade secret argument unjustified and asks for an injunction requiring the Labor Department to “promptly release the withheld records.”

On Oct. 30, the Labor Department notified the five government contractors that it would disclose their diversity numbers over their objections. Citing the lawsuit, the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs told the companies that it has “undertaken a supplemental review” and “will initiate disclosure.” The companies have until Nov. 19 to take legal action... Read More >

A user’s guide to Tesla’s worker safety problems

As Tesla races to revolutionize the automobile industry and build a more sustainable future, it has left its factory workers in the past, still painfully vulnerable to the dangers of manufacturing.

It’s a story we’ve been covering closely.

Last week, we published our newest investigation into the working conditions at CEO Elon Musk’s factory.

We found that:

  • Even as Tesla pushed back against our previous reporting, it doubled down on its efforts to hide injuries from the government and public.
  • The Tesla factory’s medical clinic has failed to properly care for injured workers as part of a strategy to lower the company’s injury count.
  • By calling work injuries non-occupational, denying medical treatment to those who need it and sending seriously injured workers back to the production line with no work modifications, Tesla avoided counting those injuries and made its safety record look better than it actually is.
  • Tesla’s contract doctors tell staff to send injured workers to the emergency room in a Lyft instead of an ambulance.

This is the latest revelation in a story has unfolded over the last couple of years. Here’s a quick guide to get you up to speed:

May 2017: Tesla workers are under intense pressure, and the company’s injury rate is higher than average

The Guardian reported that Tesla workers endured long hours, injuries and intense pressure to meet Musk’s production goals – and cited 911 calls for fainting spells, dizziness, seizures, abnormal breathing and chest pains. Also, the advocacy organization Worksafe issued a report that Tesla’s injury rate was... Read More >

Texas’ voter ID law is confusing voters into disenfranchising themselves

In 2016, Texas’ most important congressional race could have turned on a simple question: Am I allowed to vote?

Nearly 15 percent of the people who didn’t vote in Texas’ 23rd Congressional district that year told researchers at Rice University and the University of Houston that a major reason they didn’t cast a ballot was that they didn’t have an ID.

Here’s the thing: Nearly every single one of those non-voters — around 98 percent — actually had the proper ID to vote.

Latinos, who make up the majority of the district’s population, were significantly more likely than white voters to say that the state’s voter ID law was more restrictive than it actually was. That has created an advantage for Republicans, who attract the lion’s share of the district’s white vote.

In the end, Republican Will Hurd beat Democrat Pete Gallego by a mere 1.3 percent of the vote.

“You can make a pretty good case that, had voter ID legislation not existed, Pete Gallego may very well have defeated Will Hurd,” said Mark Jones, the Rice professor who conducted the study.

With Texas voters ready to go to the polls tomorrow, it remains an open question how confused voters remain over the state’s law. And it remains secret just how much Texas officials have done to educate voters about the law.

Texas’ 2011 voter ID law is perhaps the most famous of the widespread voter restrictions created in the wake of President Barack Obama’s 2008 election. It mandated that anyone... Read More >

The Hate Report: Gab got shut down, but only after 11 people died

In this week’s roundup: Tech companies severed support with alt-right social media site Gab this week, but the site’s hateful content was well-known before the Pittsburgh massacre; how President Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories help confuse and radicalize terrorists; and how to help victims of hate.

On Saturday morning, a man walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and opened fire. After about 20 minutes of shooting, he had killed 11 people, mostly elderly worshippers, in the worst anti-Semitic attack in the nation’s history. When SWAT teams arrived, the suspect — who police have identified as 46-year-old Robert Bowers — returned fire before surrendering to police.

In the minutes before the attack, Bowers had posted three chilling words on his Gab account:

“I’m going in”

That Bowers chose Gab to announce his intention to attack Jews shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The alt-right social network, which we have been reporting on for almost a year, has managed to thrive by courting racists from across the world who were getting kicked off of Twitter and Facebook. Branding itself as a free speech haven, Gab has for months run a propaganda campaign aimed at attracting people exactly like Bowers.

By Tuesday, Gab had stopped functioning. The site’s hosting provider, Joyent, booted the site, as did payment processors PayPal and Stripe. On Sunday, Gab’s chief technology officer announced he was quitting the company. But the site’s founder, Andrew Torba, vowed to fight on: “GAB IS NOT GOING ANYWHERE,” he wrote... Read More >

Pipe bombing suspect would just be the latest Trump fan to direct anger at his enemies

A picture is emerging of the prime suspect in a string of incidents where pipe bombs were sent to prominent Democrats and opponents of President Donald Trump.

This morning, authorities arrested 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc, a Florida resident, and seized Sayoc’s white van. Journalists quickly revealed that Sayoc appeared to be a rampant Trump fan: His van was festooned with Trump stickers and memes, he posted photos and videos of himself at Trump rallies on social media, and two Twitter feeds he is believed to have run were full of Trump slogans and threats to opponents of the president.

As we’ve previously reported, people across America have been attacking people and punctuating their attacks with Trump’s name since the president took office.

Last year, we interviewed more than 80 people who were attacked, physically or verbally, by Trump supporters who specifically mentioned the president during their attacks. And we confirmed another 70 reports that were made to the Documenting Hate database, an effort run by ProPublica. Our project, Trumping Hate, lays out what we found:

Interviews with the targets of and witnesses to these incidents showed a striking pattern. The abusers had a clear message: Trump’s going to take care of a problem – and that problem is you.

This pattern extended across races, religions and sexual orientation. Two days after the presidential election, a gay man in Michigan heard a taunt from a group of men: “Trump is going to get rid of people like you.” A week later, a Jewish woman in Austin,... Read More >

We exposed modern-day redlining in 61 cities. Find out what’s happened since

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro launched a fresh push in his investigation of modern-day redlining Tuesday, calling on home loan applicants in Philadelphia to file complaints with his office if they believe they have faced discrimination or experienced irregularities when trying to take out a mortgage.

“Redlining represents institutional racism,” he said. “It sets city blocks and whole neighborhoods back. … We need to hear from consumers who believe they’ve been victimized in the home lending and banking industries so we can hold those responsible accountable.”

Pennsylvania is one of five states, along with the District of Columbia, whose attorneys general have launched investigations following a February expose from Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. We found that in 61 cities – including Atlanta, Detroit and Washington, D.C. – people of color were far more likely to be turned down for a home loan than their white counterparts. This troubling pattern of denial occurred even when people of color made the same amount of money as whites, tried to take out the same size loan, and buy in the same neighborhood.

The report drew strong condemnations in Washington. “Racial discrimination in mortgage lending and in any kind of lending is unacceptable,” Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, told a House committee. “Wherever we have authority, we will use it to stop that from happening and punish it when it does happen.”

Lawmakers took to the floors of the House and Senate to condemn the practice, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren,... Read More >

Immigrant children still being drugged at shelter despite judge’s order, lawyers say

The government is violating a federal judge’s order to stop medicating immigrant children held at a troubled Texas shelter without proper consent and to move the children to other housing, attorneys for the children allege in new court filings.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ordered July 30 that immigrant children held at Shiloh Treatment Center could no longer be medicated with psychiatric drugs without the consent of a parent or court authorization and that any children not deemed a danger to themselves or others be moved to less restrictive housing. Gee also found the children should be allowed access to private phone calls.

After a court filing in a separate case noted that the children still had not been evaluated to determine whether they should be moved, Gee appointed a private attorney to oversee the government’s compliance with the order. Government lawyers recently filed a motion requesting that the judge reconsider her decision because the Office of Refugee Resettlement “has been provided no opportunity to develop evidence,” records state.

But lawyers representing the children held at Shiloh allege in the new court filings that the government is failing to comply with the order. As recently as this week, attorneys interviewed some of the immigrant children at Shiloh. The facility, about 20 miles south of Houston, has been under investigation in the past following the deaths of several teenagers in its care.

“Child after child reported that the Court’s order has had little impact on ORR’s placing children at Shiloh or on the treatment they... Read More >

The Hate Report: Clashes erupt again between alt-right and antifa

In this week’s report: Fights flare up again between the alt-right and antifa, why aren’t anti-Native American groups considered hate groups, and hate on the rise internationally.

After months of relative calm, violence erupted on both coasts this week between members of the alt-right and antifa protesters.

A brawl erupted outside the Metropolitan Republican Club a week ago in Manhattan, where Gavin McInnes, founder of the alt-right fight club the Proud Boys, had been giving a speech. A group of Proud Boys, decked out in their trademark black-and-yellow polo shirts, attacked a protester, punching and kicking him. At least one of the attackers shouted a homophobic slur  during the attack.

The New York Police Department arrested three apparent antifa protesters that night. No Proud Boys were arrested, inspiring Democratic lawmakers in New York to call on police clamp down on the group. The department has said it is seeking nine Proud Boys for charges. A spokesman for the department said investigators are still working to identify the assailants.

Founded in 2016 by McInnes, the Proud Boys describe themselves as “Western chauvinists” and practice a bizarre collection of rituals including being “beaten in” by other members while reciting the names of cereal brands. They are also famously supposed to refrain from masturbation. The gang, which promotes violence, has been providing official and unofficial security for right-wing speakers and protests for at least a year. (Vox has a deeper explainer on the group here.)

As Kelly Weill and Will Sommer of the Daily Beast explained... Read More >

Trump administration agreed to new asylum hearings, but families face another month in detention

Families separated by border officials earlier this year won a second chance to ask for asylum under an agreement reached in federal court last month, and a Justice Department lawyer said those interviews would get underway soon.

But lawyers for the families say the government has backed off that pledge and now plans to delay those asylum screenings until at least mid-November.

The families covered by the settlement include parents who failed their initial asylum screenings while they were separated from their children earlier this year and forced to make their case in the midst of extreme trauma.

As part of an agreement to close legal challenges from these families, the government agreed to grant them new interviews now that they’ve been reunited. Now it wants them to wait. For some, that means spending another month in detention.

Many of the families are free on bond, but at least 60 of the parents and children remain in detention after months. If they want a second chance at asylum, they’ll have to spend more weeks locked up, waiting for the government to act on a deal it agreed to in September.

When lawyers on both sides first presented the settlement, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw asked whether they’d be willing to act on the agreement right away. Justice Department attorney Scott Stewart said yes.

“Our point of view is we can get moving on this,” Stewart said. “The government is looking to make sure, wherever it can, to make things go swiftly.”

The settlement won’t be final... Read More >

The Hate Report: The federal government hasn’t abandoned fighting white supremacist terror

In the early months of President Donald Trump’s administration, there was a lot of controversy surrounding a Department of Homeland Security program called Countering Violent Extremism.

Now, almost two years later, we decided to check on the program to see how things have panned out.

First, some background: Last year, we showed how anti-hate groups had been stiffed out of millions of dollars by the program, which issues about $10 million in grants for grassroots organizations that work to deter people from joining extremist organizations, under the Trump administration.

Trump planned to rename the effort “Countering Islamic Extremism,” a move that mirrored the president and his closest advisers’ fiery rhetoric on Islam.

In response, in February 2017, a dozen Democratic senators expressed dismay at the changing direction of the program. They worried that taking the focus away from white supremacists and other homegrown extremists “would severely damage our credibility with foreign allies and partners as an honest broker in the fight against violent extremism, and prove divisive in communities across our country,” the senators wrote.

So what does the program look like now?

First, the program still is called Countering Violent Extremism. No name change. And the fear that the program would become exclusively obsessed with Islamic extremism doesn’t seem to have panned out.

Three recent Department of Homeland Security reports on the program stressed that many of the organizations that received grants target “all forms of violent extremism.” The reports also singled out two programs in Denver and Dearborn, Michigan, that... Read More >

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