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Clear it with SidneyHow our blog got its name >

 
Notes on journalism for the common good
by Lindsay Beyerstein

Clear It With Sidney

Wed, Dec 17, 2014

Richard C. Hottelet, a war correspondent who covered the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge for CBS, has died at the age of 97.

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Richard C. Hottelet, a war correspondent who covered the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge for CBS, has died at the age of 97.

Hottelet was the last surviving member of the "Murrow Boys," a team of correspondents originally assembled by Edward R. Murrow before the Second World War. Hottelet joined the team in 1944 to cover the invasion of Normandy. 

 

[Photo credit: Peter Willows/AP, Creative Commons via wikipedia.]

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Tue, Dec 16, 2014

One of the first women arrested under Tennessee's new law that criminalizes women who give birth to babies with drugs in their systems took her own life last month, Rosa Goldensohn and Rachael Levy report in the Nation:

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One of the first women arrested under Tennessee's new law that criminalizes women who give birth to babies with drugs in their systems took her own life last month, Rosa Goldensohn and Rachael Levy report in the Nation:

At around midnight on November 13, Tonya Martin slipped out into the yard that separated her trailer from the one in which her grandparents live on a lot in the eastern hills of Tennessee. Just two months earlier, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department arrested Martin after she gave birth to a son. Her crime: delivering a child at Sweetwater Hospital with drugs—some kind of opioid—in his system.

Martin couldn’t shake her addiction or the depression that plagued her. The 34-year-old mother gave up the newborn for adoption. Not long after, Martin’s boyfriend found her dangling from the clothesline pole in her grandmother’s yard. He tried to resuscitate her, but it was too late. [The Nation]

The law was billed as an incentive for pregnant drug users to get treatment for their addictions before their babies were born, but because of Tennessee's overcrowded, underfunded treatment system, many pregnant women who want help are being turned away. One woman who was denied drug treatment ultimately gave birth to her daughter in a car by the side of the road Goldensohn and Levy report. A doctor who works with pregnant addicts said that he knows some of his patients have fled the state to deliver and others have told him they're going into hiding. 

A bill that was touted as an incentive for healthy behavior is turning into a public health nightmare for women, their babies, and the community. 

[Photo credit: Mahalie Stackpole, Creative Commons.]

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Fri, Dec 12, 2014

The Best of the Week's News

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The Best of the Week's News

  • We missed this when it came out, but it's a must read: Young black men are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than their white counterparts.
  • See photos from Geoffrey Hiller's new book, "Daybreak in Myanmar," a work 27 years in the making.

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Wed, Dec 10, 2014

Greg Palast wins the December Sidney Award for “Jim Crow Returns,” and “Challenging Crosscheck,” a two-part Al Jazeera America exposé that shows how millions of innocent people were flagged as suspected vote fraudsters just because they have the same first and last name as someone in another state.

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Greg Palast wins the December Sidney Award for “Jim Crow Returns,” and “Challenging Crosscheck,” a two-part Al Jazeera America exposé that shows how millions of innocent people were flagged as suspected vote fraudsters just because they have the same first and last name as someone in another state.

On the eve of the 2014 elections, officials had begun to purge voters based upon Interstate Crosscheck, voter fraud prevention software. More than 40,000 voters were dropped from the rolls in Virginia alone.

As Palast and I discuss in our Backstory interview, Crosscheck-induced purges may have already tipped the balance of power in some closely-fought senate races this election cycle, and the purging is only just beginning. Expect it to be even further along by 2016.

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Tue, Dec 9, 2014

What is it like to serve on a grand jury? Lots of people are suddenly curious after grand juries in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY failed to indict police officers for killing unarmed black men.

Misha Leptic of 3QuarksDaily recalls his experiences as a grand juror in New York City:

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What is it like to serve on a grand jury? Lots of people are suddenly curious after grand juries in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY failed to indict police officers for killing unarmed black men.

Misha Leptic of 3QuarksDaily recalls his experiences as a grand juror in New York City:

Eventually, in the course of our daily proceedings a curiously adversarial dynamic developed. As a jury, we did our best to establish a solid understanding of what transpired for any given case. But much of it felt like being in Plato's cave. We only saw what the prosecutors and police wanted us to see, and would further guide us, as much as possible, in how to see it. Due to the confidential nature of the proceedings, note-taking was prohibited. And without the counterbalancing presence of a defense counsel, or of the salutary effects of cross-examination, the end result was, more often than not, a shrug of the shoulders and a vote to indict. [3QD]

Leptic concludes that, "[i]f the purpose of the system is to generate indictments, then the system works really well. Hence the well-known quote from chief justice Wachtler about the indictability of ham sandwiches."

If it's that easy for a semi-motivated prosecutor to get an indictment at a low standard of proof in an unopposed proceeding, it really makes you wonder why the police officer who choked Eric Garner walked free and the guy who filmed the attack got indicted on an ostensibly unrelated charge. It's all about priorities.

 

[Photo credit: Indict! Indict! Indict! Jeffreyw, Creative Commons.]

 

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Fri, Dec 5, 2014

 

  • ALEC is setting its sights on city governments, reports Sidney-winner Moshe Z. Marvit.
  • Where do dictators, and money launderers get the shell companies they need to hide their crimes? From this law firm.
  • Distinguished and dedicated New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse is taking a buyout.

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Wed, Dec 3, 2014

The history of coal mining is full of disasters and deaths caused by management negligence, but former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is the first U.S. coal executive to face criminal charges for his role in the deaths of miners:

Legal experts call the case against Mr. Blankenship, a figure both feared and renowned for his power in West Virginia, a turning point after a century in which the power of coal barons over politicians, courts and the economy protected them.

“Those responsible for managing mines in a way that caused multiple deaths were never held responsible,” said Patrick McGinley, a law professor at West Virginia University.

“It shocks the conscience.” The Charleston Gazette, a newspaper with a history of reporting on coal’s costs to the state, said simply, “This indictment is momentous.” [NYT]

This could be a watershed moment in labor history.

[Photo credit: Wendy Cooper, Creative Commons.]

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Mon, Dec 1, 2014

Peggy Young, an ex-driver for United Parcel Service, is suing her former employer for placing her on unpaid leave during her pregnancy after her doctor told her that she couldn't lift anything heavy. The Supreme Court will hear her case on Wednesday. UPS has announced that it will institute light duty for pregnant workers starting in January, but this case will determine whether UPS's old rule broke the law. Adam Liptak of the New York Times expects that Young's case will be a much-needed victory for women's rights advocates before the high court, who have suffered setbacks on contraception, abortion, equal pay, and medical leave in recent months. 

 

[Photo credit: Shameless Photography.]

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Tue, Nov 25, 2014

CNN legal analyst Jeff Toobin raises an important question: Why did authorities in Ferguson wait until 8:30pm CST to announce that the grand jury had declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown? The grand jury reached a decision around lunchtime and the news went out shortly thereafter. At first, the authorities said that the results would be announced at 4pm local time, but 4pm came and went with no announcement. 

It's not like the authorities were caught off-guard. Everyone knew the decision was coming any day, and security preparations were already in place. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon had issued a state of emergency the previous Monday, in anticipation of the grand jury's verdict.

So, what took them so long? Were they hoping to stifle protests by waiting until after dark? If so, that was a dubious decision. Everyone knew there would be protests. However, as Toobin points out, crowd control is more difficult at night.

I would add that waiting until after dark on a freezing November night is more likely to deter families with children and seniors--people who tend to have a moderating effect on protests. 

Now, the St. Louis County police chief is basically dismissing all the Ferguson protesters as violent:

“I really don’t have any hesitation in telling you that I didn’t see a lot of peaceful protest out there tonight, and I’m disappointed about that,” Jon Belmar, the St. Louis County police chief, said early Tuesday at a news conference. “I’m not saying there weren’t folks out there that were out there for the right reason — I’m not saying that wasn’t the case — but I am saying that, unfortunately, this spun out of control.” [NYT]

Well, what did he expect? By announcing at night, the authorities created conditions that would specifically suppress turnout by peaceful protesters and provide cover for others intent on committing violence.

Keeping the community waiting for hours for no apparent reason was a provocation in itself.

 

[Photo credit: Hourglass, Creative Commons.]

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Mon, Nov 24, 2014

Officer Darren Wilson will face no criminal charges for killing Mike Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Authorities announced Monday that a grand jury had declined to criminally indict Wilson. However, as Simone Weichselbaum reports for the Marshall Project, Brown's family might still be able to sue Wilson for damages in civil court. 

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