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Dig Investigative nuggets from the staff of Reveal

Reveal wins ONA’s public service award

The Online News Association has honored Reveal with the Knight Award for Public Service for its All Work. No Pay. project.

The investigation from reporters Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter found that under the guise of criminal justice reform, judges, big business and rehab operators have turned people with addiction into a new class of workers, one that enjoys no rights and receives no pay.

“This project exposed something many people weren’t aware of, capturing an unholy alliance between government and private industry, unjustly taking advantage of a defenseless group,” the award judges said. “It had measurable impact across multiple states and changed business practices. Truly impeccable work.”

Many of the rehab participants never have been convicted of a crime. They are sent to a work camp, forced to slaughter chickens, care for the elderly and disabled, or endure other hard labor for free, under the threat of prison. Grueling, dangerous labor is just about all the addiction treatment they get. The beneficiaries of this new brand of indentured servitude stretch from high levels of political power to Fortune 500 companies such as Coca-Cola and Walmart.

The system operated across the country, without scrutiny, until Harris and Walter stepped in. Their project also won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

The other finalists for the Knight Award for Public Service were:

You can read Reveal’s full All... Read More >

The Hate Report: LGBTQ couple told to ‘move or die’

In this week’s roundup: more hate-fueled attacks on LGBTQ victims, Trump’s biggest mistake and the Hate Sleuths are up and running.

In Albany, New York, 37-year-old Hubert Dabbs is accused of attacking a man earlier this month and stomping repeatedly on his head, almost killing him, according to police. The attack was so vicious that it left behind a bloody footprint.

Dabbs allegedly attacked the man because of the victim’s sexual orientation, police say.

Dabbs is charged with attempted murder as a hate crime. The victim is recovering from his wounds, and he reportedly lost one of his ears in the attack.

This is just the latest in a string of violent attacks on the LGBTQ community this year.

In Missouri last month, 22-year-old Allen Loftis attacked three men in a bar, allegedly because he believed they were gay because they were flamboyantly dressed. Loftis, who punched at least one man and pulled a wig off another man’s head, told a sheriff’s deputy who responded to the fight that he “does not let gay stuff go on,” The Kansas City Star reported.

“Allen stated he was not going to allow gay behavior going on around him and this is why he pulled the wig from (the victim),” court records noted. “Allen’s assaults were unprovoked and motivated because of his belief the victim was homosexual.”

Loftis has been charged with three felony counts of third-degree assault motivated by discrimination, a hate crime.

In Washington, D.C., in April, two gay men were beaten so badly that one was left... Read More >

Labor Department officials told her to start paying workers. She ignored them, and they let her get away with it

For years, Jennifer Warren openly flouted federal labor law. She forced patients in her drug rehab program to work 80 hour weeks for free as caregivers in assisted living facilities across North Carolina.

Then in 2013, a reckoning came. The federal Department of Labor told Warren she was breaking the law and ordered her to pay her patients minimum wage and overtime for their work. Warren promised to comply in the future.

But that never happened, according to federal records obtained by Reveal. For at least five more years, Warren ignored labor laws and forced her patients to work for free to fund her lavish lifestyle. The records show no indication that the Department of Labor ever followed up.

The Department of Labor’s botched crackdown is yet another example of how Warren has managed to dodge accountability, despite years of abuse and numerous attempts by state and federal authorities to reel her in. Each time, the investigations largely went nowhere, and Warren escaped unscathed.

A recent investigation by Reveal found Warren regularly worked her rehab clients at Recovery Connections Community more than 80 hours per week without pay, while using the rehab program to enrich herself. Because of Reveal’s reporting, Warren and Recovery Connections Community are now the subject of more than 10 regulatory and criminal investigations in North Carolina.

Even with the spotlight on her, Warren has continued to escape accountability. In May, the state demanded that... Read More >

The Hate Report: Police vs. antifa

In this week’s roundup: Cops in Louisiana search for antifa with the help of neo-Nazis, Gab is big in Brazil and sometimes OK is not OK.

High-level officials with the Louisiana State Police emailed around a fake list of purported antifa activists that originated on the conspiracy theory website 8Chan and was shared widely by neo-Nazis, according to a lawsuit filed this week on behalf of a New Orleans lawyer.

As BuzzFeed reported last year, a group of trolls spent months creating a sprawling list of the personal information of people on the political left. They scraped sources like a petition condemning the Trump administration and the personal Facebook pages of people associated with the pro-immigrant group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN. Then they released the document on 8Chan, claiming it was a “full list of antifa members.”

That list was quickly spread on white supremacist and neo-Nazi websites including Stormfront, claims the lawsuit, filed by Harvard Law School lecturer Thomas Frampton on behalf of New Orleans civil rights attorney William Most. And from there it apparently made its way into the hands of Louisiana State Police.

Most is suing to force the Louisiana State Police to release a copy of the document. He learned of the document after seeing it was an attachment in department emails he received in a public records request.

“These citizens have been victimized once by Neo-Nazis; are they now being victimized again by law enforcement?” Most wrote in an email.

The lawsuit echoes recent instances around the... Read More >

Proposed changes to anti-redlining law would gut its intended purpose, advocates say

The Trump administration unveiled its vision to overhaul the federal law that regulates how banks lend to poor and working-class neighborhoods.

But housing advocates say those potential changes would lower the bar for banks lending in these communities.

Few of the proposed changes address the issues Reveal found in its “Kept Out” series.

The Community Reinvestment Act, signed in 1977, was designed to fight the effects of government-sanctioned housing discrimination, known as redlining, by requiring banks to make an effort to lend to all types of neighborhoods.

These proposed changes would water down the law’s intended purposes, said Lisa Rice, the president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “It will be a detriment to families and our nation if changes to the CRA fail to guarantee that banks are meeting the credit needs of people in the communities where they are located.”

The 25-page report, drafted by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the federal agency that regulates all banks, outlines new ways banks could claim federal credit for lending to poor and working-class neighborhoods.

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency spokesman Bryan Hubbard said the draft is in its early stages and is waiting for public comment before changes are actually proposed.

The public has until late November to submit their comments regarding the proposed changes to the Community Reinvestment Act. After that, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency reviews the public comments with the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Joseph Otting, the former president and CEO... Read More >

The Hate Report: Sikh Americans continue being targeted in hate crimes

In this week’s roundup: Two attacks on American Sikhs this month stir up memories of decades of hate, more Trump administration staff connected to white nationalists, and understanding farm murders in South Africa.  

In the space of three days earlier this month, two Sikh American men were attacked and beaten in California’s Central Valley in seemingly random hate-fueled attacks.

Surjit Singh Malhi said two men grabbed him from behind as he was putting up political signs in his neighborhood. They threw sand in his eyes, he told The New York Times. And, Malhi said, they hit him with a stick and a belt in the head and back.

“You don’t belong here,” the men screamed at him, he said.

The very thing that drew the attackers attention — his turban — ended up protecting him from the beating, Malhi said.

Malhi later found that his truck had been vandalized with what’s become a regular anthem of hate: “Go back to your country.”

Thirty miles or so northeast, and a couple of days later, 71-year-old Sahib Singh said he was enjoying his daily walk around his neighborhood in Manteca when two teenage boys approached him and allegedly asked him for money. During the attack, which was caught on video, the boys shouted at Singh, knocked him to the ground and kicked him. In the video, one then appears to spit on him while he’s lying on the floor. One of the assailants was the 18-year-old son of the local police chief.

The... Read More >

More workers than ever are independent contractors. Gig companies want to keep it that way

Some employers don’t want to call their workers employees anymore.

At least 11 states have considered laws enabling most online platforms for goods and services to turn many workers into independent contractors. And the fight isn’t over. Gig economy companies are seeking to suspend or overturn a California Supreme Court ruling that would make it much more difficult to classify employees as independent contractors.

Deeming workers independent contractors allows gig economy companies to avoid paying payroll taxes and health benefits and means they don’t have to comply with certain labor laws. Independent contractors are not protected by state and federal laws that provide employees with minimum wage, discrimination and sexual harassment protections, for example. But gig economy companies argue the new legislation clarifies their role. The sharing economy has spawned a string of lawsuits over worker classification.

Behind the legislative push in many of these states is the online platform Handy, which connects users with home service providers such as cleaners and someone to mount your TV, said Rebecca Smith, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project. This effort was the focus of a Quartz article in March.

“These companies are trying to shift the cost of doing business onto taxpayers and low-wage workers,” Smith said. “And that will engender a race to the bottom in service industries.”

A spokesperson for Handy did not respond to an email requesting comment.

A 2016 study by two leading economists, Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger, found that workers in “alternative work arrangements” jumped by more than... Read More >

A judge ordered immigrant children removed from troubled Texas facility. They’re still there.

Immigrant children still are being held at a troubled Texas facility nearly a month after a federal judge ruled they should be moved to other housing, court documents show.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee also previously ordered that children at the facility could no longer be injected with psychiatric drugs without proper consent. But while lawyers for the children and a doctor visited Shiloh Treatment Center last week, program director Douglas Plaeger told them that children still are being medicated “without parental consent or court authorization,” court records filed Monday state. 

Dr. Amy Cohen visited Shiloh late last week to evaluate the 25 children on behalf of lawyers representing them in federal court. She also evaluated a boy named Lucas, who is a plaintiff in a separate case seeking the release of children in the government’s custody to family or friends willing to care for them. The facility – which has a troubled past, including deaths of children from restraints – is a collection of trailers on rural land south of Houston. 

Cohen concluded that their treatment “continues to fall far short of both accepted mental health care standards and the ‘risk of harm’ and informed consent standards set out in the Court’s order of July 30.”

Reveal reported earlier this summer on federal court filings claiming that immigrant children at Shiloh were being held down and injected with psychiatric drugs that triggered serious side effects, including dizziness and weight... Read More >

Working together 101: How academics and journalists can collaborate

[Cross-posted with Source]

Academics bring deep knowledge and expertise in their area of study, and journalists have mastered the art of telling stories. When academics and journalists collaborate, they can combine their skills to tackle complex questions and communicate the answers in ways that can have a huge impact on society. That’s why we’re working to foster these collaborations. At this year’s SRCCON, we facilitated a session about how to make this all happen.

We’re also excited to announce that we’re building a handbook to make it easier to work across disciplines, no matter your role. You can contribute examples and information about your experiences here!

A few basics about academia and journalism

Why should academics and journalists collaborate? What are some good examples of collaborations?

Sinduja Rangarajan: The Chicago Tribune’s collaboration with scientists at Columbia University to study fatal drug interactions is an example of a collaboration that made a big impact. Sam Roe, a veteran investigative journalist, brought together a team of scientists, academics and experts from the Columbia University Medical Center and University of Arizona medical school to answer questions about potentially fatal drug combinations that never had been studied before. His ideas, questions and knowledge of scientists and their work came from deep reporting that he’d done on the topic over many years. As a journalist, Roe was key to making this original research happen by bringing together academics from different institutions and managing this massive project with many partners over multiple years.

In another large-scale collaboration called the Open Policing Project,... Read More >

The Hate Report: The story behind Trump’s South Africa tweet

There’s a haunting photo of mass murderer Dylann Roof, who gunned down nine African American worshippers in an unapologetically racist massacre in South Carolina in 2015. In it, Roof stares, vacantly into the camera, his empty eyes ringed with black below his bowl-shaped haircut.

Scan down, and you’ll see Roof has affixed two flags to the breast of his black jacket. One is the flag of Rhodesia, the former British colony that is now Zimbabwe. The other is the flag that South Africa flew over decades of apartheid.

Roof, like many white nationalists, identified with a long-lived trope: that white South Africans — especially farmers — are being slaughtered. And that Rhodesia and South Africa were simply better places under their racist colonial caste systems.

On Wednesday night, a new supporter for at least the first of these talking points emerged: President Donald Trump.

Trump tweeted:

The tweet was just further evidence of the influence of the white nationalist propaganda pipeline, leading directly from old-school white supremacist thinking, and new-school hate forums like 4Chan, to Fox News and then directly to the president’s brain.

These narratives often portray the treatment of South African whites as a critical front in a global fight against white people.

If whites in South Africa are treated so poorly after handing over power to the country’s black majority, the story goes, it’s just a preview of what could happen in the rest of the world as more diverse voices are allowed into the political conversation. This fear has been given a... Read More >

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