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Dig Investigative nuggets from the staff of Reveal

Musk claims Tesla’s safety record is better than average, despite data

Elon Musk has a history of making claims about Tesla’s safety record that don’t match the numbers – and the CEO’s doing it again.

More from Insult to Injury

Last week, as part of Musk’s Twitter attack on journalistic credibility – and rant about Reveal – he tweeted, “Tesla factory safety has improved every year & is now better than industry avg.”

But as Reveal reported two days before, Tesla’s overall injury rate for 2017 was actually slightly worse than the industry average: Tesla had 6.3 injuries per 100 employees, compared with the average of 6.2.

That’s based on Tesla’s official numbers, which themselves are an undercount because the company hasn’t recorded all of its work injuries as required by law.

And Tesla’s official 2017 rate for serious injuries – those requiring days away from work or job restrictions – was 30 percent higher (meaning worse) than the most recent industry average, according to the company’s official injury report.

So what is Musk tweeting about? When asked, the company said he was referring to Tesla’s safety record so far for 2018. There won’t be an official tally for this year until early next year, and Tesla declined to share any actual numbers, so there’s no way to fact check them.

At... Read More >

The Hate Report: The alt-right is down, but not out

Also in this week’s roundup: The curious case of an adoption ad on a far-right podcast, a Middle Eastern conservative reflects on the Trump administration’s Islamophobia, and a country music star fights back against hate.

The alt-right, as we know it, looks to be in serious trouble.

Richard Spencer is beset on all sides by lawsuits and begging for money. Milo Yiannopoulos, who toured U.S. campuses and incited riots, has seemingly disappeared from public view. Andrew Anglin, once arguably the world’s most powerful neo-Nazi, is running from lawsuits.

It’s tempting to draw grand conclusions from the predicaments of America’s racists and bigots: The legal pressure has shut them down; campaigns to pressure social media and web hosting companies to ban the movement have worked; and the antifa’s tactics of confronting the far-right with fists, sticks and pepper spray have them running scared.

Indeed, several stories recently have pondered the future of the alt-right movement.

On March 22, Newsweek asked: “Why Is the Alt-Right Falling Apart?” A week later, the Daily Beast proclaimed “Less Than a Year After Charlottesville, the Alt-Right Is Self-Destructing.” And on April 20, The Washington Post asked: “ ‘Imploding’: Financial troubles. Lawsuits. Trailer park brawls. Has the alt-right peaked?”

The alt-right is in trouble, sure. But those who closely monitor the far-right, in all its incarnations, have a warning for anyone who thinks the broader movement is dying: The far-right is just suffering a temporary setback. It’s here for the long term and the lasting effects of the alt-right aren’t going anywhere.

Here’s... Read More >

The Hate Report: Trump’s ‘animals’ comment enlivens neo-Nazis

In this week’s roundup: How the neo-Nazis heard Trump’s comments, the news that Hitler is definitely dead and a rundown of hate crimes across the country.

During an immigration roundtable with California law enforcement officials last week, President Donald Trump made a fairly remarkable comment.

He said:

We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in – and we’re stopping a lot of them – but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.

While Trump was wrong about the rate of deportations, which are down 50 percent from five years ago under President Barack Obama, his denial of the fundamental humanity of some immigrants drew significant criticism. A few days later, the White House put out a statement doubling down on Trump’s rhetoric, but insisted he was only talking about members of the violent Central American gang MS-13.

Even so, that distinction was not what some white supremacists heard. As part of our regular reporting, we often listen to popular alt-right podcasts, paying special attention to how the president is influencing the movement.

Here’s some of what we heard there about the president’s remarks:

On the influential neo-Nazi podcast “Fash the Nation,” hosts going by the pseudonyms Jazzhands McFeels and Ethnar said Trump was at least implicating all undocumented immigrants with his comments. They felt Trump’s talk, which... Read More >

Congress sends bank regulation rollback to Trump

Nearly 10 years after Congress moved to protect the nation from spiraling into another financial crisis, the House passed a bill Tuesday that would roll back many regulations meant to keep banks in check.

Bill S2155, also known as the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, would ease federal oversight and regulations for small banks. Proponents say the bill, which has bipartisan support, tailors regulations to the size of the bank.

The bill is seen as a win for smaller community banks. But some argue that it goes too far, unraveling portions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.

“I’m all for helping community banks and credit unions, but this bill goes way beyond that and includes massive giveaways to Wall Street that will open the door to another financial crisis,” Rep. Maxine Waters of California said in a statement.

Waters, a Democrat and the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, was one of 159 representatives who voted against the bill. But 258 of their colleagues, including 33 Democrats, voted for it.

Passage of the bill follows publication of a yearlong investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting that found that people of color were significantly more likely to be denied a conventional mortgage than their white counterparts in 61 metropolitan areas across the country.

Reveal’s analysis was based on publicly available data released through the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The data detailed nearly every time someone tried to buy a home in 2015 and 2016. But the bill could make similar analyses more difficult.

Some... Read More >

Severely injured worker sues Tesla: ‘I’m not who I used to be’

A man severely burned in an electrical explosion at Tesla’s car factory is suing the automaker for allegedly putting him in harm’s way “in order to increase productivity at the expense of human lives.”

Son Nguyen was working as a contractor at the Fremont, California, factory on June 5, 2017, when an explosion called an arc flash threw him back 15 to 20 feet and engulfed him in flames.

More from Insult to Injury

Nguyen’s lawsuit says Tesla should have cut electricity to the equipment he was working on, but refused to because the company didn’t want to temporarily stop production.

Nearly a year later, he is in constant pain and covered in scars and skin grafts, his pinky finger amputated, a compression garment covering him from head to knees. Nerve pain, which he says feels like “thousands of pins and needles poking you,” keeps him up at night. He struggles with basic tasks and dreads the surgeries to come.

“I don’t want anybody to go through what I went through,” said Nguyen, 37, in an interview with Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting at his sister’s house in San Leandro, California. “I just want Tesla to have a safer workplace for everyone.”

Son Nguyen was working as a contractor at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., factory when he was burned in an electrical explosion in June 2017. He is suing Tesla. Credit: Paul Kuroda for Reveal

Tesla, in a statement, blamed Nguyen’s employer, Mark III Construction, for having “not followed proper safety protocols and regulations.”

“We have... Read More >

Response to NC rehab investigation: ‘This is a horrific scheme that preys on people at their lowest’

Note: This post is being regularly updated with responses.

For years, North Carolina officials looked the other way while a rogue drug rehab program exploited people struggling with addiction and put disabled patients at risk, according to our new investigation.

More from All Work. No Pay.

Recovery Connections Community, a two-year rehab program near Asheville, sent participants to work as unpaid caregivers at adult care homes throughout the state. Participants got little addiction help, but were ordered to work 16-hour days caring for elderly and disabled patients, often with disastrous results.

As we began questioning public officials about their inaction, things began to change.

Here’s a rundown so far of response to Reveal’s reporting:

North Carolina’s governor called Recovery Connections a “horrific scheme” and ordered a crackdown.

Here’s Gov. Roy Cooper:

This is a horrific scheme that preys on people at their lowest.  State mental health and probation/parole officials are no longer referring people to this program and I’ve directed the departments of Health and Human Services and Public Safety to continue to find ways to stop this scheme from happening again and enlist other state agencies to do the same.  Schemes like this one give a bad name to other legitimate groups that provide substance abuse help. People working to recover from addiction need better access to real treatment and that’s why my proposed budget includes more money for effective treatment and recovery supports.

The state’s top law enforcement officer launched a criminal investigation into Recovery Connections.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said  his office is... Read More >

Tell us about your experience at a work-based rehab

This week, Reveal reporters Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter broke new ground in All Work. No Pay, their award-winning investigation into exploitative work-based rehabs.

They’ve now dug deep into programs in Oklahoma and North Carolina. And they’ve gotten tips on about 60 altogether.

There are more rehabs like this out there. But no one knows exactly how many – or where they are. That’s why we’re looking for your stories in the form below.

We’re also building a network of reporters across the country to investigate this issue. Are you a journalist interested in digging in locally? Get in touch with Byard Duncan, Reveal’s engagement reporter, at bduncan@revealnews.org.

National parks report on climate change finally released, uncensored

Backing away from attempts at censorship, the National Park Service today released a report charting the risks to national parks from sea level rise and storms.

Drafts of the report obtained earlier this year by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting showed park service officials had deleted every mention of humans causing climate change. But the long-delayed report, published today without fanfare on the agency’s website, restored those references.

The scientific report is designed to help 118 coastal parks plan for protecting natural resources and historic treasures from the changing climate. Maria Caffrey, the study’s lead scientist, said she was “extremely happy” that it was released intact.

“The fight probably destroyed my career with the (National Park Service), but it will be worth it if we can uphold the truth and ensure that scientific integrity of other scientists won’t be challenged so easily in the future,” said Caffrey, a University of Colorado  research assistant who had worked on the report for five years.

The Reveal story, published in April, prompted some Democrats in Congress to seek an investigation of scientific integrity at the park service to see whether Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke or President Donald Trump’s other political appointees are censoring science. Zinke said at a House subcommittee hearing that he had been unaware of the changes, which Reveal uncovered shortly after he told Congress that he never would change a scientific report. The Interior Department’s office of inspector general has launched an initial review, according to Nancy DiPaolo, the office’s director of external... Read More >

The Hate Report: Targeted for being straight? Nope

In this week’s roundup: Police across the country are reporting anti-heterosexual hate crimes, but there’s no evidence such crimes exist; a rabid anti-Semite running for senator in California and investigating hate crimes in online gaming.

It has long been known that police departments across the country do a horrible job of reporting hate crime statistics. A federal agency estimates that there are at least 250,000 hate crimes in the United States every year, but official FBI statistics hover at about 6,000.

Now, ProPublica has uncovered another fallacy in the stats saga: Police are reporting anti-heterosexual hate crimes when there is little evidence such crimes are happening.

In 2016, police departments reported a total of 148 anti-heterosexual hate crimes to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. Since 2010, for example, the Columbus, Ohio Police Department has reported six incidents of anti-straight hate crimes, ProPublica reported.

ProPublica requested records from every law enforcement agency that reported an anti-heterosexual hate crime in 2016. It received records for 58 of the crimes reported that year. None of those was legitimately anti-heterosexual, ProPublica found.

About half were actually anti-gay or anti-bisexual crimes that were miscategorized. Seven cases appeared to reflect other types of bias, with victims targeted because they were Jewish or black or women. Some 18 cases don’t seem to have been hate crimes at all, containing no discernible bias element.

People across the country are still being targeted on a regular basis because of their sexual orientation. Here are three reported anti-LGBT hate crimes we saw over just... Read More >

The steps Trump has taken to undermine student debt reform

In the 16 months since President Donald Trump took office, the nation’s student debt burden has soared by $110 billion, to an astonishing $1.41 trillion.

The number of student debtors has continued to grow as well – to 45 million Americans, up 2 million since Trump’s inauguration.

And last week, the administration began what reformers fear is the dismantling of an Obama-era initiative to crack down on lending abuses – an effort that in 18 months had forced the student loan industry to give back $750 million for alleged unfair and abusive marketing and collection practices.

The administration insists its reorganization of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s student loan office was routine: There was “no functional or even practical change” to the unit’s mission of protecting and informing students, an agency spokesman said.

But critics said it was a worrisome sign that Trump has little interest in addressing the nation’s student debt crisis.

“The Trump Administration’s message to families ripped off by student loan fraud: ‘Stop whining,’ ” Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said in a statement. He accused the administration of moving to dismantle the student debt office’s watchdog function.

Jennifer Wang, Washington director for The Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit that monitors student debt issues, also said the administration seems set on taking apart the office.

The office “has a lengthy history of getting real results and real outcomes for student loan borrowers,” she said. “We feel this move to dismantle it is devastating.”

The student loan office was set up... Read More >

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