Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

Sidney's Picks: Strip Mall Courts, Nail Salon Sweeps, and More

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Origami gavel, Glenn Sapaden, Creative Commons.

The Best of the Week’s News

Sidney's Picks: ISIS Invents Theology of Rape

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Territory controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as of October, 2014. Karl-Ludwig Poggemann, VICE, Creative Commons. 

  • ISIS invents a theology of rape to justify sexually assaulting its prisoners. 
  • Rukmini Callimachi, the reporter who broke the news of ISIS’s theology of rape, explains how she reported the story. 
  • The federal government asserts that it’s unconstitutional to ban the homeless from sleeping outdoors.
  • Remembering Sandra Bland.
  • Bumble Bee Foods to pay a $6 million fine for accidentally cooking a worker to death. 

Chemical Warehouse Blasts Kill 50, Injure 500 in China

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Photo of chemical storage facility, 2012, for illustration only. XericX, Creative Commons. 

Two huge explosions rocked the Chinese city of Tianjin on Wednesday night. At least 50 people are dead and more that 500 are injured in what appears to have been a devastating industrial accident:

The blasts, at a company licensed to store a witches’ brew of hazardous chemicals, left more than 500 people injured, 52 of them critically, and produced shock waves felt for miles. [NYT]

At least twelve of the dead are firefighters who responded to an earlier call from Ruihai International Logistics, a company that manages hazardous cargo.

BuzzFeed News Wins August Sidney for Exposing Rampant Abuse of Guest Workers

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Jessica Garrison, BuzzFeed News.


BuzzFeed News wins the August Sidney Award for their sweeping investigation into abuses of guest workers under the H2 visa program. H2 visas exist to supply short-term labor for jobs that Americans supposedly won’t do. H2 jobs run the gamut from crayfish shelling in Louisiana to running carnival rides in Vermont. The program attracts workers from Indian, Mexico, Guatemala, and elsewhere. Unfortunately, as BuzzFeed News discovered, the structure of the program invites abuse. Workers are tied to a single employer. If they are unsatisfied with their pay or working conditions, they have no recourse. BuzzFeed found that thousands of H2 workers complained of abuses ranging from wage theft and false imprisonment to sexual abuse. 

The winning story is the work of investigative reporter Jason Bensinger, senior investigative editor Jessica Garrison, and data editor Jeremy Singer-Vine. 

Find out how BuzzFeed News got the winning story in The Backstory

Sidney’s Picks: Between the World and Me

The Best of the Week’s News

An Interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Courtesy of Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Hillman judge Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses his acclaimed new book, “Between the World and Me,” with Lindsay Beyerstein on the Center for Inquiry’s radio show and podcast, Point of Inquiry.

Sidney’s Picks: The Death of a Young Black Journalist

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Hades2K, Creative Commons

The Best of the Week’s News

Sidney’s Picks: New York Fast Food Workers Win Fight for Fifteen!

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Diacritical, Creative Commons.

The Best of the Week’s News

Larry Lessig on Fixing Campaign Finance

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Thomas Hawk, Creative Commons.

Harvard law professor Larry Lessig explains why we shouldn’t pin our hopes for campaign finance reform on a constitutional amendment, as desirable as useful as such an amendment might be.

Instead, Lessig argues, we should focus on increasing the percentage of campaign donations funded by small-dollar contributors. Attracting small donations could shift the balance of power away from large monied interests, towards ordinary citizens. He points out that it’s much easier to incentivize small contributions than it is to change the constitution to limit large ones. 

Sidney’s Picks: CA Judge Shutters Uber

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London taxi drivers protesting Uber, David Holt London, Creative Commons.

The Best of the Week’s News