October 9, 2020

The Park Center for Independent Media circulates the Indy Brief, a weekly selection of news stories from journalism outlets operating outside traditional corporate systems and news organizations.

The Headlines

Our Stories

SAVE THE DATE: PCIM To Host the 2020 Izzy Award Ceremony on Oct. 28 (Park Center for Independent Media)

U.S. Voting Rights

Texas Voter Suppression  Tactics Recall the Jim Crow Era (The Intercept)

COVID-19 and Education
As Schools Reopen, Teachers and Staff Aren’t Being Consulted (The Progressive)


The Unprecedented and Illegal Campaign to Eliminate Julian Assange (The Intercept)
‘Outright Genocidal’: Even as Iran Reels From Covid-19 Pandemic, Trump to Unveil Punishing New Sanctions (Common Dreams)
19 Years After US Invasion, Afghanistan’s Civil War Rages Despite Peace Talks (Truthout)

Corporate Power

‘Big Tech Must Be Broken Up’: House Report on Silicon Valley Monopolies Bolsters Call for Far-Reaching Antitrust Measures (Common Dreams)
What Big Business Said in All Those Anti-Racism Statements: Not Much, Says Our Analysis (Colorlines)

Amazon Expects Its Employees to Operate Like Fast-Moving Machines. This Amazon Picker Is Fighting Back. (In These Times)

The Amazon Delivery Service Worker Who’d Finally Seen Enough (In These Times)

This Amazon Grocery Runner Has Risked Her Job to Fight for Better Safety Measures (In These Times)

Climate Crisis 

We Can’t Trust Oil Companies to Regulate Themselves (Jacobin)

Our Stories
PCIM To Host the 2020 Izzy Award Ceremony on Oct. 28 (Park Center for Independent Media)The Park Center for Independent Media will host the 12th Izzy Award ceremony on October 28 at 6:00 p.m. Named after I. F. “Izzy” Stone, the legendary 20th century journalist, this award recognizes outstanding achievement in independent media—journalism created outside traditional corporate structures. 

This year’s awards honor Matt Taibbi for his exceptional stories written throughout 2019 tackling media bias and government misconduct that culminated in his book “Hate Inc.”

The 2019 publication conceived by Lawrence Bartley and published by The Marshall Project, “News Inside,” will receive an Izzy for delivering quality, curated criminal justice stories to people in prisons and jails.

And Puerto Rico’s Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI) will be awarded for its impactful 2019 public interest reporting that revealed the government’s negligent disaster preparedness policies and sparked protests that brought down the governor. 

Register for the ceremony here.

U.S. Voting Rights
Texas Voter Suppression Tactics Recall the Jim Crow Era

Early last week, the election administer in Fort Bend County, Texas, had decided to add four locations where voters could hand-deliver absentee ballots.

But by Thursday afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had invalidated the county’s decision with a statewide proclamation that limited each of the state’s 254 counties to one drop-off location, reports The Intercept.

Several organizations sued the governor for the change by the end of the day, citing the increased strains of further travel, longer waits, and greater risks of COVID-19. Texas remains one of five states where voters concerned about coronavirus exposure will not be allowed to vote by mail. Further, Black and Hispanic voters who vote by absentee ballot are much more likely than white people to have their votes rejected.

COVID-19 and Education
As Schools Reopen, Teachers and Staff Aren’t Being Consulted

Pressure is mounting on local and national officials to get kids back in schools even as the pandemic persists. The Republican-controlled Minnesota state senate has refused to provide enough resources for schools to reopen safely, but still insist that Democratic governor Tim Walz reopen them.

This is consistent with the Trump administration’s plans; this summer, it pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to play down the risk of sending children back to school.”

Educators nationwide are now pushing for “stringent safety precautions” for any in-person school openings. The Progressive covers educators’ September 30 protests for the safety of themselves and their students.

The Campaign to Eliminate Julian Assange 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s 17-day extradition hearing in London has proved “both crimes and conspiracy,” though the culprit was not Assange.

“Instead, the lawbreakers and conspirators turned out to be the British and American governments. Witness after witness detailed illegal measures to violate Assange’s right to a fair trial, destroy his health, assassinate his character, and imprison him in solitary confinement for the rest of his life.”

Since 2006, WikiLeaks attracted sources around the world to entrust them with documents exposing state crimes, with the public as its audience. “An impartial tribunal would have no option but to exonerate Assange,” but The Intercept details how the prosecution has stacked the deck against him.

Punishing New Sanctions as Iran Reels from Pandemic

On Thursday, the Trump administration imposed punishing new sanctions on the Iranian financial sector, reportedly at the behest of Republican warmongers, Israeli officials, and hawkish U.S. advocacy organizations, reports Common Dreams.

This comes as the pandemic still ravages Iran and could restrict the country’s access to food and medicine. These new and existing sanctions “only hurt the Iranian citizens and should be considered a crime against humanity,” says Medea Benjamin, co-founder of anti-war group CodePink.

Meanwhile in the U.S., the Trump administration plans to promise “$200 prescription drug discount cards to nearly 40 million Medicare recipients—an $8 billion plan that would be financed by dipping into the Medicare trust fund.”

19 Years After US Invasion, Afghanistan’s Civil War Rages Despite Peace Talks

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan 19 years ago Wednesday, “sparking the nation’s longest-running war that has cost tens of thousands of lives and the U.S. about $2 trillion.” Truthout writes the U.S. originally ousted the Taliban in a broader anti-terrorism campaign, but over the past two decades, “the Taliban and other militants have waged a bloody and arguably successful insurgency.”

Now, Afghans continue to endure a bloody civil war as even as the Taliban meet with the Western-backed government for historic peace talks in Qatar. Airstrikes and bombings have continued, including a Monday suicide bombing that killed eight people in an attempt on the life of a governor.

Civilian casualties peaked in the years after the U.S. invasion, with more than 10,000 civilians killed or injured each year since 2013, including hundreds killed in U.S. airstrikes. And the U.S. occupation, despite the bloodshed, has not come close to toppling the Taliban. Truthout questions what trillions of dollars siphoned from U.S. social services and tens of thousands of lives has bought us.

Corporate Power
House Report on Silicon Valley Monopolies Bolsters Call for Far-Reaching Antitrust Measures

On Tuesday, House Democrats released a major report calling on Congress to overhaul U.S. antitrust law and take action to curtail the power of tech titans Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, reports Common Dreams.

After a 16-month investigation of Big Tech, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust issued a 450-page report that found the four companies wield abusive monopoly power recalling “the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons.”

The investigation found that each corporation gatekeeps “a key channel of distribution,” that each’s monopoly power “diminished consumer choice” and “eroded innovation,” and that through their multi-industry reach, all undercut competition in other areas.

Big Business, Empty Words

Accompanying large-scale grassroots uprisings following George Floyd’s murder in May was a “deluge of corporate anti-racist solidarity statements that overtook the internet.”

Colorlines, with data journalist John Keefe, ran 88 of these public-facing statements through a natural-language algorithm, called the Universal Sentence Encoder, which uses a scoring system to denote similar syntax.

“Not surprisingly, the statements are constructed from the same limited vocabulary of vetted corporate jargon, which hyped their respective companies as bastions of integrity and equality.” None addressed their company’s history of racial inequality, instead issuing vows to continue the elimination of discrimination and promote “diversity and respect” in “thinly veiled self congratulatory statements.”

Amazon Workers Speak out against Increasingly Poor Conditions

This week, In These Times published a series of accounts from Amazon workers, including in deliverywarehouse picking, and grocery running, who are fighting against the corporation’s negligence of its employees.

A recent college graduate working delivery describes a massive increase in the number of his shifts’ stops and packages since the pandemic. The “last mile” crunch to get packages delivered is expensive and dangerous, but Amazon isn’t directly liable for any trouble incurred.

Another worker shares his attempts to humanize the machine-like work environment back at his fulfillment center, where he enjoyed a “honeymoon period” before realizing that the company could make many improvements to prevent so many injuries and lasting damage.

Courtney Brown describes her work as a grocery runner at the Ama­zon Fresh unit in a Newark, New Jer­sey as “hell.” She has to navigate a “foot­ball-field-sized maze of nar­row aisles and refrig­er­at­ed enclaves” wearing winter clothes. She says since the pandemic, every day breaks the previous day’s record of orders. She is organizing action against Amazon’s employee surveillance and fear tactics.

Aaron Maté with the tweet of the week:
Climate Crisis
We Can’t Trust Oil Companies to Regulate Themselves

Eight years ago, twenty governments from around the world commissioned a report on the potential death toll of unmitigated climate change. It projected that by 2030, climate change effects including hunger, heat, and disease would kill 700,000 people annually, with hundreds of millions more affected by sea-level rise, extreme weather, and desertification.

Despite this, the U.S., the world’s largest producer of petroleum and natural gas, is rolling back regulations. And while handfuls of U.S. oil companies have promised to take climate change seriously, Jacobin argues that these assurances exist only to lower political barriers to maximum profit.

ExxonMobil, for example, knew about the threat of climate change since 1970, lied about it, and “continued its devastating operations for decades.”

In Other News

1.$10m bail set for militia members accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer (The Independent)

2. Republicans Are Suddenly Afraid of Democracy (The Atlantic)

3. Pelosi Unveils 25th Amendment Bill To Clarify How To Remove Presidents From Office (HuffPost)

4. Coronavirus: Why are infections rising again in US? (BBC)

5. How the domestic terror plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor unravelled (The Guardian

Read previous Briefs and more from independent media on the PCIM website, and follow PCIM on social media: Facebook | Twitter

The Indy Brief is edited by Jeremy Lovelett. 

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