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Dig Investigative nuggets from the staff of Reveal

Palo Alto Networks avoids disclosing diversity data despite shareholder vote

Palo Alto Networks really, really doesn’t want to share its workplace demographics.

When an investment firm asked the cybersecurity company to disclose its diversity numbers, Palo Alto Networks – which has 11 men and one woman on its management team – refused.

When the investment firm, Trillium Asset Management, put it to a shareholder vote, Palo Alto Networks’ board – made up of 10 men and one woman – officially opposed it.

Then, earlier this month, the tech company’s shareholders voted. There were more than 30 million votes in favor of disclosure, and just over 29 million votes against. It was a rare majority for a shareholder resolution facing company opposition.

But Palo Alto Networks didn’t see it that way. By counting nearly 2 million abstentions as votes against the proposal, the tech firm proclaimed that the resolution failed, with 49 percent in favor.

Palo Alto Networks didn’t respond to requests for comment. Susan Baker, Trillium’s vice president of shareholder advocacy, called the company’s approach short-sighted.

“Palo Alto Networks shareholders sent a strong message,” she said. “It’s time to stop making excuses.”

Tech firms are facing pressure to disclose the race and gender breakdown of their employees as a way of being held accountable for diversity efforts. All companies with 100 or more employees already provide the data to the government each year in what’s called an EEO-1 report.

This year, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting surveyed 211 of the top tech companies in Silicon Valley, asking them to provide their EEO-1 reports. Only 23 released them.

Members... Read More >

The Hate Report: The year of hate

Hate in America always has existed. But for decades, its most obvious and blatant forms largely lay dormant. Now, with reports of hate crimes on the rise, neo-Nazis proudly marching on the streets and the president serving as inspiration for some of them, the country seems to be at an inflection point.

How did we get here?

The most important reporting about hate in America attempted to answer this question. It looked at the people driving the movement and the institutions that abetted it, whether tacitly or explicitly. These stories helped us look into white supremacy’s recent past and, hopefully, provided a glimpse of its future.

To recap the year, we’ve put together a list of our top five stories and our favorite stories from other journalists:

Street fight: A new wave of political violence

Waves of far-right protests swept across the country this year, often met with counterprotests. This podcast breaks down the moment when one of these protests turned ugly and our journalists landed in the middle of it all.

Where in the world is America’s leading neo-Nazi troll?

Andrew Anglin, perhaps the best-known neo-Nazi in America, is being sued for leading a targeted harassment campaign against a Jewish family. The case could have far-reaching implications for the limits of freedom of speech on the internet. But it’s been complicated by the fact that Anglin has disappeared. Where in the world is he? We don’t know, but we exposed his claim of being in Nigeria as mighty thin.

An ancient Nordic religion is... Read More >

Amplify: Deepening relationships with podcast listeners through SMS

In January, Reveal began exploring ways to connect more deeply with our podcast listeners and help them discover our content beyond what they were hearing each week.

During an intensive 10-week design sprint with Stanford University’s d.school, we came up with  Amplify, an SMS technology that allows Reveal listeners to request additional information by text – photos, data, video, graphics, etc. – and to receive that information immediately on their phones. We chose SMS because we wanted the experience to meet users where many of them already are when they are listening to a podcast (i.e., their cellphones).

Amplify prototypeCredit: Sam Ward/Reveal

In contrast with text messages that push headlines to users, Amplify empowers users to take control of their experience. It starts with a prompt from our host, Al Letson, at the beginning of an episode, inviting listeners to text us to opt in to the experience. Throughout the show, Letson or one of the reporters on the show invites listeners to text again when there is something for them to see, such as photos of people, key data points or excerpts of documents mentioned in the audio story.

We launched Amplify on three podcasts this year: Misconceptions, Street fight and Inside Trump’s immigration crackdown. With support from the Lenfest Institute, we also partnered with WHYY in Philadelphia – one of 450 public radio stations that carry Reveal – to launch Amplify to its broadcast audience. In total, we’ve sent nearly 30,000 messages to 7,500 users.

Screenshot of Amplify interaction during our Street... Read More >

Rehab featured in Reveal story being investigated for food stamp fraud

A drug rehabilitation program founded by a celebrated Oklahoma judge is now under investigation for food stamp fraud, according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

The program, Southern Oklahoma Addiction Recovery, received defendants from drug courts and other diversion programs who are struggling with addiction and often unable to afford traditional  residential rehab. SOAR sent them to work unpaid at a Coca-Cola bottling plant, a roofing company, a pregnancy pillow factory and other local businesses. The program also sent men to do the judge’s yard work.

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that the program required defendants to sign up for food stamps and then confiscated the cards. Officials at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services said that is against the law.

Debra Martin, a department spokeswoman, said the probe into SOAR’s use of food stamps could lead to criminal charges.

In an op-ed in the hometown paper The Ada News last week, SOAR’s board of directors said there had been a communication breakdown with state regulators.

“The former executive director of SOAR met with the local DHS office on several occasions to make sure that SOAR was in compliance with their rules,” the statement said. “SOAR staff left these meetings with the impression that if each participant used the card to make a purchase, that SOAR would be in compliance.”

Former SOAR participants said they were coached by SOAR employees about what to say to qualify for the cards and were forced to buy food for the entire program,... Read More >

Reveal exposé of Navy shipbuilders sparks law requiring Pentagon study

Dangerous Navy shipbuilders will receive heavy scrutiny under a new law included in the 2018 defense policy bill recently signed by President Donald Trump.

The measure requires the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ auditing arm, to examine how the Pentagon monitors and evaluates workplace safety violations among defense contractors.

The legislation came in response to an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, which found that major private shipbuilders for the Navy and Coast Guard dodge accountability for worker safety – even when their workers die. These companies have received more than $100 billion in public money despite serious safety lapses that have endangered, injured and killed workers. The Navy declined to take responsibility, saying, “We are not the overlords of private shipyards when it comes to workplace safety.”

The investigation was published on Revealnews.org and Politico Magazine and aired on PBS NewsHour and the radio program “Reveal.”

After reading the investigation, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., pushed for the new law.

“These disturbing reports shined a light on defense contractors putting their workers at risk but still racking up millions of dollars in contracts from the federal government,” Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in an email.

“To hold them accountable, I fought for the inclusion of a GAO study on how the Pentagon tracks and responds to workplace safety violations committed by defense contractors in the (defense policy bill). If federal contractors can’t keep workers safe, they shouldn’t be able to stuff their pockets with taxpayer money.”

A spokeswoman... Read More >

The best of Reveal in 2017

2017 was a year of political crises and frenetic social upheavals. It also was a year of groundbreaking investigative reporting.

Our work spanned a wide range of topics, from a suite of hard-hitting stories about rehab work camps to a stark glimpse at Goodyear’s troubled safety record. We explained how the #MeToo movement often excludes low-income workers. And as President Donald Trump rolled back one Obama-era regulation after another, we documented his policies’ impacts – on teen pregnancy prevention, workers’ rights and much more.   

Our radio show and podcast investigated the rise of Germany’s far-right movement, dissected the viral “Pizzagate” hoax and examined Trump’s promise to build a border wall. The work earned several awards, including a duPont, along the way.

Some of our stories, such as an exposé of nude-photo sharing among Marines, burst into national headlines. Others rocked local communities, caught the attention of lawmakers and kicked off investigations.

We’re proud of them all. But we also want to hear from you. What were your favorite Reveal moments of 2017? Submit your answers using the form below, and we’ll create a playlist based on your selections.

L.A. transit agency must show if Canadian firm created jobs

Four years after Los Angeles’ public transit authority signed a $500 million deal with New Flyer, a Canadian bus manufacturer that committed to creating local jobs and paying a living wage, the public finally will find out if the company kept its promises.

A key ruling by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel is forcing the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority to give the public detailed information about job creation and wages. The October ruling already has led to changes in agency practices.

David Sotero, a spokesman for the MTA, said the agency now automatically discloses job and wage data in contract compliance documents when a member of the public requests that information. The information no longer will be considered a “trade secret,” exempt from disclosure under California law.

In seeking the contract to manufacture 900 compressed natural gas buses, New Flyer earned points in its 2013 bid for promising to create new jobs in California and elsewhere in the United States. The company said it would pay these employees living wages and competitive benefits.

At minimum, the company appeared to have promised 69 new jobs in California, and as many as 180 more elsewhere in the United States, said Madeline Janis, executive director of Jobs to Move America, a coalition of labor, civil rights, community and faith-based organizations, which wanted the job and wage data.

In early 2016, Jobs to Move America asked the Los Angeles transit authority to provide data on whether New Flyer was keeping its part of the... Read More >

Senators want to examine military contracts with for-profit schools

Two U.S. senators have asked the Pentagon to hand over five years of sponsorship contracts between military bases and for-profit colleges, citing an exposé by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. Records obtained by Reveal show the senators are on the right track.

In September, Reveal wrote about an agreement between the for-profit University of Phoenix and garrison commanders at Fort Campbell along the Tennessee-Kentucky border. The contract – released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed in 2015 – allowed representatives of the University of Phoenix to fly banners advertising the for-profit college on one of America’s largest military bases and place promotional materials in high-traffic areas on the post.

The document also showed that recruiters from the proprietary college were allowed to give gifts to the troops and insert marketing materials into official military welcome packets for newly arrived soldiers – all in exchange for cash.

“Given what has been revealed in this single contract, we are deeply concerned about the extent to which Fort Campbell and other military installations may have entered into similar contracts with the University of Phoenix and other for-profit colleges,” Sens. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Richard Durbin of Illinois wrote to Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

In their letter, Reed – the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Armed Services – and Durbin, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense, asked for copies of all contracts between base commanders and for-profit colleges since 2012. The senators... Read More >

Watchdog agency criticizes immigrant detention conditions

Surprise inspections at six immigrant detention facilities revealed that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is subjecting people in its custody to dangerous and harmful conditions that violate its own rules, according to a new report.

The inspectors made unannounced visits to the detention centers in response to complaints from immigrant rights advocates and people being held at the facilities. The problems they found, inspectors wrote, “undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.”

The report was released this week by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general’s office and documented the following problems:

  • Dangerous detainees were housed with people classified as low risk.
  • Detainees were subjected to mandatory, universal strip searches.
  • Detainees were not treated “respectfully and professionally.”
  • Detainees weren’t given access to translation during booking and medical visits.
  • Staff threatened detainees who tried to file formal grievances.
  • Some facilities may have improperly placed detainees in solitary confinement.
  • Detainees faced long waits for medical care.

ICE detention is a civil, not criminal, arrangement, but ICE contracts with either county jails or private prison operators to hold its detainees. Under President Barack Obama, ICE began designing a new detention model that would grant more freedom to people in custody. But that initiative is apparently on hold, and the Trump administration said earlier this year that it would close the office handling that project.

Three sets of standards guide detainee care across the ICE detention network, depending on when the facility first contracted with ICE. President Donald Trump has considered rolling back those... Read More >

Goodyear statement: ‘We fell short’ on safety at plants

A spokeswoman for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has acknowledged an “unacceptable” safety record after a string of deadly accidents in its plants, but said the publicly traded company is committed to “worker safety and product quality.”

Over the past two years, we fell short of our own expectations for safety, and we mourn the loss of valued coworkers at two of our U.S. manufacturing plants,” Barbara Hatala, Goodyear’s communications manager for the Americas Operations, said in a written statement Thursday. “This is unacceptable.”

Goodyear’s statement came in response to an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, which found that the company ranked among the top five manufacturers for worker deaths since 2009. Since August 2015, five Goodyear workers have been killed – four at its Virginia plant in one year alone.

Production demands and leaky roofs at Goodyear plants in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Danville, Virginia, endangered both workers and consumers, Reveal’s investigation found.

This photo of a pit at Goodyear’s Danville, Va., plant was taken by police during their investigation of Charles “Greg” Cooper’s death. Cooper was found dead in a pit of wastewater at the plant.Credit: Courtesy of Danville Police Department

Tires involved in three fatal motor vehicle accidents since 2011 were made in North Carolina and Virginia. Police say a tire from the North Carolina plant caused a crash that killed two people in Texas, including 18-year-old Kerrybeth Hall, who was about to start college. Goodyear recalled that tire and over 40,000 like it, saying treads could separate... Read More >

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