propublica

This is very long but very worth the read.
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Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater i, according to a ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings.

The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.

One way of appreciating that stark disparity, ProPublica’s analysis shows, is to calculate how many more whites over those three years would have had to have been killed for them to have been at equal risk. The number is jarring – 185, more than one per week.

ProPublica’s risk analysis on young males killed by police certainly seems to support what has been an article of faith in the African American community for decades: Blacks are being killed at disturbing rates when set against the rest of the American population.

Our examination involved detailed accounts of more than 12,000 police homicides stretching from 1980 to 2012 contained in the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report. The data, annually self-reported by hundreds of police departments across the country, confirms some assumptions, runs counter to others, and adds nuance to a wide range of questions about the use of deadly police force.

Colin Loftin, University at Albany professor and co-director of the Violence Research Group, said the FBI data is a minimum count of homicides by police, and that it is impossible to precisely measure what puts people at risk of homicide by police without more and better records. Still, what the data shows about the race of victims and officers, and the circumstances of killings, are “certainly relevant,” Loftin said.

"No question, there are all kinds of racial disparities across our criminal justice system," he said. "This is one example."

The FBI’s data has appeared in news accounts over the years, and surfaced again with the August killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. To a great degree, observers and experts lamented the limited nature of the FBI’s reports. Their shortcomings are inarguable.

The data, for instance, is terribly incomplete. Vast numbers of the country’s 17,000 police departments don’t file fatal police shooting reports at all, and many have filed reports for some years but not others. Florida departments haven’t filed reports since 1997 and New York City last reported in 2007. Information contained in the individual reports can also be flawed. Still, lots of the reporting police departments are in larger cities, and at least 1000 police departments filed a report or reports over the 33 years.

There is, then, value in what the data can show while accepting, and accounting for, its limitations. Indeed, while the absolute numbers are problematic, a comparison between white and black victims shows important trends. Our analysis included dividing the number of people of each race killed by police by the number of people of that race living in the country at the time, to produce two different rates: the risk of getting killed by police if you are white and if you are black.

David Klinger, a University of Missouri-St. Louis professor and expert on police use of deadly force, said racial disparities in the data could result from “measurement error,” meaning that the unreported killings could alter ProPublica’s findings.

However, he said the disparity between black and white teenage boys is so wide, “I doubt the measurement error would account for that.”

ProPublica spent weeks digging into the many rich categories of information the reports hold: the race of the officers involved; the circumstances cited for the use of deadly force; the age of those killed.

Who Gets Killed?

The finding that young black men are 21 times as likely as their white peers to be killed by police is drawn from reports filed for the years 2010 to 2012, the three most recent years for which FBI numbers are available.

(Jonathan Stray/ProPublica)

 

The black boys killed can be disturbingly young. There were 41 teens 14 years or younger reported killed by police from 1980 to 2012 ii27 of them were black iii8were white ivwere Hispanic v and 1 was Asian vi.

That’s not to say officers weren’t killing white people. Indeed, some 44 percent of all those killed by police across the 33 years were white.

White or black, though, those slain by police tended to be roughly the same age. The average age of blacks killed by police was 30. The average age of whites was 35.

Who is killing all those black men and boys?

Mostly white officers. But in hundreds of instances, black officers, too. Black officers account for a little more than 10 percent of all fatal police shootings. Of those they kill, though, 78 percent were black.

White officers, given their great numbers in so many of the country’s police departments, are well represented in all categories of police killings. White officers killed91 percent of the whites who died at the hands of police. And they were responsible for 68 percent of the people of color killed. Those people of color represented 46 percent of all those killed by white officers.

What were the circumstances surrounding all these fatal encounters?

There were 151 instances in which police noted that teens they had shot dead had been fleeing or resisting arrest at the time of the encounter. 67 percent of those killed in such circumstances were black. That disparity was even starker in the last couple of years: of the 15 teens shot fleeing arrest from 2010 to 2012, 14 were black.

Did police always list the circumstances of the killings? No, actually, there were many deadly shooting where the circumstances were listed as “undetermined.” 77 percent of those killed in such instances were black.

Certainly, there were instances where police truly feared for their lives.

Of course, although the data show that police reported that as the cause of their actions in far greater numbers after the 1985 Supreme Court decision that said police could only justify using deadly force if the suspects posed a threat to the officer or others. From 1980 to 1984, “officer under attack” was listed as the cause for 33 percent of the deadly shootings. Twenty years later, looking at data from 2005 to 2009, “officer under attack” was cited in 62 percent xxxvii of police killings.

Does the data include cases where police killed people with something other than a standard service handgun?

Yes, and the Los Angeles Police Department stood out in its use of shotguns. Most police killings involve officers firing handguns xl. But from 1980 to 2012714 involved the use of a shotgun xli. The Los Angeles Police Department has a special claim on that category. It accounted for 47 cases xlii in which an officer used a shotgun. The next highest total came from the Dallas Police Department: 14 xliii.

For more civil rights coverage, read Segregation Now, the resegregation of America’s schools, and Living Apart, how the government beytrayed a landmark civil rights law

Update (Dec. 23, 2014): ProPublica shared its findings and methodology with Prof. David Klinger before this story appeared. In two interviews with reporters, he noted that the FBI data has serious shortcomings . But he also said the disparity ProPublica had found between black and white victims was so large, it was unlikely to have resulted solely from omissions in the FBI statistics. After the story appeared, Klinger said flaws in the FBI data made it unusable. ProPublica contacted Klinger and asked him to elaborate, but he declined to comment further. We stand by the analysis. A full response to the arguments Klinger and another critic have raised is here.


i ProPublica calculated a statistical figure called a risk ratio by dividing the rate of black homicide victims by the rate of white victims. This ratio, commonly used in epidemiology, gives an estimate for how much more at risk black teenagers were to be killed by police officers.Risk ratios can have varying levels of precision, depending on a variety of mathematical factors. In this case, because such shootings are rare from a statistical perspective, a 95 percent confidence interval indicates that black teenagers are at between 10 and 40 times greater risk of being killed by a police officer. The calculation used 2010-2012 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

ii https://www.propublica.org/documents/item/1307015-victims-14under-byraceanddecade-spssoutput.html#document/p1/a179431

iii https://www.propublica.org/documents/item/1307015-victims-14under-byraceanddecade-spssoutput.html#document/p1/a179432

iv https://www.propublica.org/documents/item/1307015-victims-14under-byraceanddecade-spssoutput.html#document/p1/a179433

v https://www.propublica.org/documents/item/1307015-victims-14under-byraceanddecade-spssoutput.html#document/p1/a179434

vi https://www.propublica.org/documents/item/1307015-victims-14under-byraceanddecade-spssoutput.html#document/p1/a179435

xxxvii https://www.propublica.org/documents/item/1307298-circumstances-yearcats-spssoutput.html#document/p1/a179463

xl Calculated from the “Weapon Used by Offender” variable. Ranked based on frequency of reported shotgun homicides by police agencies.

xli https://www.propublica.org/documents/item/1307312-offweapon-bystate-spssoutput.html#document/p3/a179466

xlii https://www.propublica.org/documents/item/1307313-offweapon-lapd-spssoutput.html#document/p1/a179467

xliii https://www.propublica.org/documents/item/1307316-offweapon-dallas-spssoutput.html#document/p1/a179468

Source

These Journalists Spent Two Years and $750,000 Covering One Story

In recent weeks, ProPublica has published a major—and scathing—investigative series on the dangers of Tylenol’s main active ingredient, acetaminophen. Two years in the making, this series shows yet again the essential role of investigative journalism in providing public information that can literally save lives. 

On the chance that the impact of the revelations has already been overtaken by other news, here again is the gist of the stories. Tylenol’s marketing has long emphasized its safety. Among the more memorable of its advertisements was that Tylenol was the pain reliever “hospitals use most” and packages asserted that the pills provided “safe, fast pain relief.” It turns out that these claims were dangerously misleading, and were known to be so by both the pharmaceutical manufacturer and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. To expand the reach of its findings to millions of radio listeners, ProPublica, brought in public radio’s This American Life as a collaborator which incisively summarized ProPublica’s evidence of the dangers of acetaminophen. “During the last decade,” the first ProPublica piece begins, “more than 1,500 Americans died after taking too much of a drug renowned for its safety.” Moreover, the series and broadcast showed that the FDA has known for decades about the scale of the problem, but has failed to fully implement a succession of recommendations and warnings.

Read more. [Image: ProPublica/Flickr]

APRIL 20, 2010: Deepwater Horizon Explosion

Two years ago today, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused a massive oil spill that would last for months in the Gulf of Mexico.

Soon after the spill, FRONTLINE and ProPublica set out to joint investigate the trail of problems that led to the disaster, including deadly accidents and countless safety violations which long troubled the oil giant, BP.

Could the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico have been prevented?

Watch "The Spill" right here and read Azmat Khan’s “Do We Need a ‘Death Penalty’ for Negligent Oil Companies?

(via Joaquin Sapien: Mass Shootings Do Little to Change State Gun Laws - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics)

Following the mass shooting in Connecticut, the Obama administration and lawmakers around the country have promised to re-examine gun control in America.

ProPublica decided to take a look at what’s happened legislatively in states where some of theworst shootings in recent U.S. history have occurred to see what effect, if any, those events had on gun laws:

This past year the Virginia state legislature repealed a law that had barred people from buying more than one handgun per month—a law put in place because so many guns purchased in Virginia were later used in crimes committed in states with more restrictions.

The legislature also has made several changes to its gun permitting process. In March, the stateeliminated municipalities’ ability to require fingerprints as part of a concealed weapon permit application. The state used to require gun owners to undergo training with a certified instructor in order to get permits, but in 2009 it adopted a law allowing people to take an hour-long online test instead. Since Virginia adopted the law, the number of concealed handgun permits the state has issued increased dramatically and many of the permits were issued to people who live in other states where Virginia permits are accepted.

In 2010, Virginia became one of five states to allow permit holders to carry concealed and loaded weapons into bars and restaurants.

Read more Guernica Daily

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How Secure is Your Messaging App?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Propublica and the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy have teamed up to explore the security of common messaging apps.

Via EFF:

The Secure Messaging Scorecard examines dozens of messaging technologies and rates each of them on a range of security best practices. Our campaign is focused on communication technologies — including chat clients, text messaging apps, email applications, and video calling technologies. These are the tools everyday users need to communicate with friends, family members, and colleagues, and we need secure solutions for them.

We chose technologies that have a large user base—and thus a great deal of sensitive user communications—in addition to smaller companies that are pioneering advanced security practices. We’re hoping our scorecard will serve as a race-to-the-top, spurring innovation around strong crypto for digital communications.

Takeaway: choose or change the messaging app you use to maximize communication security but remember this caveat from Propublica’s Julia Angwin:

Keep in mind, even an unbreakable encryption tool can be circumvented by hackers or spies that secretly install software on a computer or phone that hijacks communications before it is encrypted.

And even the best encryption tools still don’t do enough. All the tools require both people communicating to install software. And few tools provide much anonymity – so even if your messages are unreadable by anyone but you, your contact list could still be exposed. And many of the tools are run by rag-tag teams of volunteers, which could mean that they won’t last.

Images: Secure Messaging Scorecard, via EFF. Select to embiggen.

Ty Inc. became one of the world’s largest manufacturers of stuffed animals thanks to the Beanie Babies craze in the 1990s.

But it has stayed on top partly by using an underworld of labor brokers known as raiteros, who pick up workers from Chicago’s street corners and shuttle them to Ty’s warehouse on behalf of one of the nation’s largest temp agencies.

The system provides just-in-time labor at the lowest possible cost to large companies—but also effectively pushes workers’ pay far below the minimum wage.

Temp agencies use similar van networks in other labor markets. But in Chicago’s Little Village, the largest Mexican community in the midwest, the raiteros have melded with temp agencies and their corporate clients in a way that might be unparalleled anywhere in America—and could violate Illinois’s wage laws.

The raiteros don’t just transport workers. They also recruit them, decide who works and who doesn’t, and distribute paychecks.

And it’s the low-wage workers—not the temp agencies or their clients, corporate giants like Ty—who bear the cost. Officially, the raiteros’ fee, usually $8 a day, is for transportation. But, workers say, anyone who doesn’t pay doesn’t get work.

Read the rest of ProPublica’s look at the underbelly of low-wage work in Chicago.

The intelligence community has worried about ‘going dark’ forever, but today they are conducting instant, total invasion of privacy with limited effort. This is the golden age of spying.
— 

Paul Kocher, president and chief scientist of Cryptography Research, in an interview about the NSA’s ability to crack mobile and Internet encryption technologies in order to eavesdrop on online communications and other activities. ProPublica, Revealed: The NSA’s Secret Campaign to Crack, Undermine Internet Security.

The News: The Guardian, The New York Times and ProPublica have partnered on the Edward Snowden NSA leaks to reveal that “the NSA has secretly and successfully worked to break many types of encryption, the widely used technology that is supposed to make it impossible to read intercepted communications.”

Key Takeaway, Part 01: “For the past decade, NSA has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies… [Now] vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.”

Key Takeaway, Part 02: “Some of the agency’s most intensive efforts have focused on the encryption in universal use in the United States, including Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL; virtual private networks, or VPNs; and the protection used on fourth-generation, or 4G, smartphones.”

Key Takeaway, Part 03: “Beginning in 2000, as encryption tools were gradually blanketing the Web, the NSA invested billions of dollars in a clandestine campaign to preserve its ability to eavesdrop. Having lost a public battle in the 1990s to insert its own “back door” in all encryption, it set out to accomplish the same goal by stealth.”

FJP: “Stealth” is an interesting word choice here. The reason for that is that back in the 90s, the NSA wanted backdoor access to encryption technologies via what it called the Clipper Chip. Proposed during the Clinton administration, and debated publicly, the effort went nowhere with critics pointing out the obvious privacy concerns as well as the economic concerns of US companies being required to allow intelligence agencies access to its encryption technologies. (Read: why would any foreign entity — government, business, individual or otherwise — choose a US technology solution that it knew wasn’t secure?)

As Techdirt notes, “That fight ended with the NSA losing… and now it appears that they just ignored that and effectively spent the past few decades doing the same exact thing, but in secret.”

Very Interesting Aside, Part 01: “Intelligence officials asked The Times and ProPublica not to publish this article, saying that it might prompt foreign targets to switch to new forms of encryption or communications that would be harder to collect or read. The news organizations removed some specific facts but decided to publish the article because of the value of a public debate about government actions that weaken the most powerful tools for protecting the privacy of Americans and others.”

Very Interesting Aside, Part 02: ProPublica explains why it published the story.

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“Blacks are being killed at disturbing rates when set against the rest of the American population”

“A ProPublica analysis of killings by police shows outsize risk for young black males. Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater, according to a ProPublica analysis”: http://bit.ly/1tlepIt

In the coming weeks, Blackout for Human Rights will be compiling and analyzing current research on the influence of race in America across all major institutions.

In almost every recession and economic downturn that we have had in this country, some stimulus effort in some way was tried. And the idea is the government has the ability that maybe the private sector doesn’t have: to borrow money and stimulate the economy. You spend money on food stamps and infrastructure projects, and that will pay off because people now have money in their pockets that they can spend somewhere else. So you get this multiplier effect, that one dollar creates more economic output.
—  ProPublica investigative reporter Michael Grabell on the 2009 stimulus, the biggest economic recovery plan in history.

I walked through clouds of marijuana smoke Friday night to get to the Denver Nuggets basketball game. The sweet smell lingering in the air reminded me less of a family event and more of the time I saw AC/DC on “The Razor’s Edge” tour at the old McNichols Sports Arena. I grew up in Colorado, but it’s been a while since I lived in the state.

When I returned for a recent conference, I found that a place settled by the Gold Rush is now mad about reefer. In 2012, Colorado voters became the first in the nation to approve recreational pot use. The good times rolled out Jan. 1, when stores started selling it.

I’ve never tried pot, but I graduated from the University of Colorado — Boulder, which is famous for its annual “4/20” public pot parties. At CU, you can practically get a contact high walking to class.

But I saw more public pot use in my two-day visit to Lower Downtown Denver than in years spent at Boulder. It’s supposed to be illegal to smoke or consume pot in public.

But then the day after the game, while jogging down the Speer Boulevard bike path, I passed a guy lounging under a tree lavishing his affections on a joint.

Anyone over 21 can walk into a dispensary and load up on bud, marijuana baked goods and candy. The presence of legal pot right outside our hotel made people giddy at the conference I attended — a meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

At a reception, one woman passed a friend gummy bears infused with THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive ingredient in pot. And then there was a friend of mine at the conference — I’ll call him “Dude” because he shared his story on condition I didn’t name him. He had a bad reaction after eating too many marijuana gummy bears.

Rocky Mountain High or Reefer Madness? Legal Pot in Colorado Comes with Risks - ProPublica

Conservatives Who Helped A Shady "Pro-Troop" Charity Raise Money

Well this is shameful: 

In an exposé for ProPublica and The Daily Beast, reporter Kim Barker lays out how Move America Forward (MAF), a charity that collects millions of dollars purportedly to send care packages to troops overseas, “has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms.”

Some conservative figures who supported this “pro-troop” charity that funneled money to GOP consultants who ran it: 

See the full list.

ODNI STATEMENT on the Unauthorized Disclosure of NSA Cryptological Capabilities

September 6, 2013

It should hardly be surprising that our intelligence agencies seek ways to counteract our adversaries’ use of encryption.  Throughout history, nations have used encryption to protect their secrets, and today, terrorists, cybercriminals, human traffickers and others also use code to hide their activities.  Our intelligence community would not be doing its job if we did not try to counter that. 

While the specifics of how our intelligence agencies carry out this cryptanalytic mission have been kept secret, the fact that NSA’s mission includes deciphering enciphered communications is not a secret, and is not news. Indeed, NSA’s public website states that its mission includes leading “the U.S. Government in cryptology … in order to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies.”

The stories published yesterday, however, reveal specific and classified details about how we conduct this critical intelligence activity. Anything that yesterday’s disclosures add to the ongoing public debate is outweighed by the road map they give to our adversaries about the specific techniques we are using to try to intercept their communications in our attempts to keep America and our allies safe and to provide our leaders with the information they need to make difficult and critical national security decisions.  

Right now, if you want to read the published results of the biomedical research that your own tax dollars paid for, all you have to do is visit the digital archive of the National Institutes of Health. There you’ll find thousands of articles on the latest discoveries in medicine and disease, all free of charge.

A new bill in Congress wants to make you pay for that, thank you very much. The Research Works Act would prohibit the NIH from requiring scientists to submit their articles to the online database. Taxpayers would have to shell out $15 to $35 to get behind a publisher’s paid site to read the full research results. A Scientific American blog said it amounts to paying twice.

In detective novels and television crime dramas like CSI the nation’s morgues are staffed by highly trained medical professionals equipped with the most sophisticated tools of 21st-century science. Operating at the nexus of medicine and criminal justice, these death detectives thoroughly investigate each and every suspicious fatality.

The reality, though, is far different. In a joint reporting effort, ProPublica, PBS Frontline and NPR spent a year looking at the nation’s 2,300 coroner and medical examiner offices and found a deeply dysfunctional system that quite literally buries its mistakes.

See For Yourself How Many Animals Are Close To Extinction

Mass extinctions have happened before in Earth’s history, for example when an enormous meteorite slammed into our planet and (likely) wiped out the dinosaurs. But we are now in the midst of one caused by, you guessed it, human beings—with species going extinct between 100 to 1,000 times the natural “background” level. But these numbers are a bit hard to picture. Thankfully, the online journalism outfit ProPublica has created an amazing visualization called “A Disappearing Planet" that tells the story very well through data."

Learn more from popsci