Clear It with Sidney | Hillman Foundation

Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

Clear It with Sidney

#Sidney's Picks: JP Morgan Anti-Bribery Program Under Bribery Investigation

The best of the week’s news:


[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

Police Brutality Goes Unpunished in Houston

In six years, the citizens of Houston lodged 588 complaints of police brutality, all but 4 were dismissed. Emily DePrang of the Texas Observer investigates.


[Photo credit: Thomas Hawk, Creative Commons.]

What's Killing Poor White Women?


Crystal Wilson was just 38 years old when shed died in her sleep in Cave City, Arkansas last spring. Sidney-winner Monica Potts uses Wilson’s story as a prism through which to examine one of the most pressing public health mysteries of our time. Life expectacy is rising in the United States, almost across the board. The execeptions are poor white women, who are actually losing ground:

Everything about Crystal’s life was ordinary, except for her death. She is one of a demographic—white women who don’t graduate from high school—whose life expectancy has declined dramatically over the past 18 years. These women can now expect to die five years earlier than the generation before them. It is an unheard-of drop for a wealthy country in the age of modern medicine. Throughout history, technological and scientific innovation have put death off longer and longer, but the benefits of those advances have not been shared equally, especially across the race and class divides that characterize 21st–century America. Lack of access to education, medical care, good wages, and healthy food isn’t just leaving the worst-off Americans behind. It’s killing them. [Prospect]

A poor white woman’s life expectancy has fallen from nearly 79 to 73, which suggests that more women in this demographic are dying in their twenties, thirties, and forties. A five-year drop in life expectancy over the course of 20 years is alarming for both its size and its speed. Potts argues that white women in certain communities are chronically starved for education, opportunity, and social support. 


[Photo credit: Zach Stern, Creative Commons.]

#Sidney's Picks: Fast Food Strike Wave; Sweetheart Deal at FIT; Racial Justice

  • From voting rights to the school-to-prison pipeline, ProPublica compiles a reading list on racial justice for this week’s anniversary of the March on Washington.
  • Patronage alert: The husband of the Ohio governor’s chief of staff, a longtime foe of teachers’ unions, has been appointed to expand school privatization.


[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

Today: Biggest Fast Food Strike Ever

Fast food workers in over 50 U.S. cities will walk off the job today to demand a living wage of $15/hr, and Sidney-winning journalist Josh Eidelson is all over this story.

Abortion by Telemedicine Under Fire in Iowa

Illustration: Telemedicine equipment at a trade show. Telemedicine is a burgeoning field that delivers all kinds of health care, from radiology to psychiatry, not just abortions.

Anti-abortion activists in Iowa are trying to ban abortion by telemedicine in their state based on spurious concerns about patient safety. The Iowa Board of Medicine is holding a hearing today to air public comments on the proposed rule change. Since 2008, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has offered abortions by telemedicine and a study by Ibis Reproductive Health found that women who were guided through the pill abortion over video conference were as safe and as satisfied with their care as women who arranged their pill abortions in a face-to-face meeting with a doctor. 

Telemedicine makes early abortions available to the many women in rural Iowa who live far from an abortion clinic. This means that women can get the procedure done earlier, which makes it safer.

Here’s how it works: The patient gets a physical exam and an ultrasound at a clinic near her home. A doctor in another city reads the ultrasound and interviews the woman over a secure video conference line. If the doctor decides that she’s a candidate for a pill abortion, and the woman confirms that she wants to terminate her pregnancy, she is offered pills that will begin the abortion process. 

Anti-abortion activists falsely imply that telemedical clients are being sent home with no medical backup. All pill abortions, telemedical and face-to-face, unfold primarily at home. The patient takes the first set of pills at the clinic, and more medication several hours later. Like all pill abortion patients, telemed clients are sent home with instructions to come back to the clinic or go to the ER if they have complications, and all patients are scheduled for a follow-up appointment to confirm that the abortion was successful. The only difference with telemedicine is that the doctor who prescribed the pills is not physically present. That doesn’t mean the woman lacks access to a physician if she needs one. 

Once again, anti-choicers are raising spurious concerns about women’s health to restrict women’s right to choose. 

[Photo credit: Andy G. Creative Commons.]

90% of Critical Chemical Safety Data is Wrong

Disturbing revelations the state of the nation’s chemical plants from the Dallas Morning News, which combed through three quarters of a million federal records in the wake of the disastrous explosion at the West chemical plant:

Even the best national data on chemical accidents is wrong nine times out of 10.

A Dallas Morning News analysis of more than 750,000 federal records found pervasive inaccuracies and holes in data on chemical accidents, such as the one in West that killed 15 people and injured more than 300.

In fact, no one at any level of government knows how often serious chemical accidents occur each year in the United States. And there is no plan in place for federal agencies to gather more accurate information. [DMN]

In other words, nobody has any idea how many serious chemical accidents happen every year. 

[Photo credit: bulliver, Creative Commons.]

#Sidney's Picks: Payday Lender Love Fest; Cell Tower Deaths; College Loan Sleaze

The Best of the Week’s News

  • Death tolls remain high in the wireless industry: 10 cell tower workers have fallen to their deaths this year.
  • What the media won’t say about Chris Lane’s murder. (Hint: guns.)


[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

Lizards Save California from Lyme Disease

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control concludes that Lyme Disease is vastly more common than previously supposed. Yet, in California, Lyme Disease levels remain very low, despite large deer populations. California’s detox secret is the humble Western Fence Lizard, which picks up the bacteria from tics and kills the germ before it can spread:

The CDC report might lead health authorities to accelerate the research and approval of a Lyme vaccine. Promising results were found earlier this year on one vaccine under development. That would be a popular item in prime Lyme disease territory, largely the Northeast and northern Midwest states where up to 30% of deer ticks carry the infection. Almost all cases of the disease — 96% – occur in 13 states.

California isn’t among them, and one reason for that is that we have, in a sense, our own little natural vaccine program going. In this state, nymphal ticks’ favorite host is the common western fence lizard, which has a protein in it blood that kills the bacterium responsible for Lyme. As a result, few adult ticks are carriers. [LAT]

Three cheers for the Western Fence Lizard!


[Photo credit: Western Fence Lizard, K Schneider, Creative Commons.]

Fast Food Workers Call for Massive Strike on Aug. 29

In the dog days of summer, the nationwide fight for a living wage in the fast food sector is heating up:

Emboldened by an outpouring of support on social media, low-wage fast-food and retail workers from eight cities who have staged walkouts this year are calling for a national day of strikes Aug. 29.

The workers — who are backed by local community groups and national unions and have held one-day walkouts in cities such as New York, St. Louis and Detroit — say they have received pledges of support from workers in dozens of cities across the country. [WaPo]

Workers are demanding $15 an hour and the right to unionize. 


[Photo credit: avlxyz, Creative Commons.]