October 2, 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

“There Was No Debate”—Trump & Biden in Indy Media (Park Center for Independent Media)
An Evening with Misha Euceph (Park Center for Independent Media)

U.S. Voting Rights

National Data Release Sheds Light on Past Polling Place Changes (The Center for Public Integrity)

After Trump and RNC Fail to Cite ‘Single Instance’ of Fraud, Federal Judge Rejects Effort to Block Mail-In Voting in Montana  (Common Dreams)

Prison Reform 
Ring of Snitches: How Detroit Police Slapped False Murder Convictions on Young Black Men (Truthout)


How to Tell a Political Stunt From a Real Vaccine (ProPublica)

‘Not a Tragic Accident—A Crime Scene’: Critics Say Trump Covid Diagnosis a ‘Culmination’ of His Deadly Pandemic Response (Common Dreams)

Pandemic of Repression: Modi Government Crushes Dissent While Ignoring India’s 6 Million COVID Cases (Democracy Now!)

We analyzed 9,722 fact checks to tell the story of Covid-19 misinformation (Nieman Lab)

Climate Crisis 

Inside Clean Energy: Net Zero by 2050 Has Quickly Become the New Normal for the Largest U.S. Utilities (InsideClimate News)

New Study Shows a Vicious Circle of Climate Change Building on Thickening Layers of Warm Ocean Water (InsideClimate News)

As Polls Show Climate Action Winning Issue, Green Campaigners Mobilize for Democrats in Key Senate and House Races (Common Dreams)

Our Stories
“There Was No Debate”—Trump & Biden in Indy Media Tuesday’s presidential debate disintegrated into bitter chaos after a handful of minutes. President Donald Trump fostered fear and lies about violence and voting, often trampling past his time allotment to pepper insults at former Vice President Joe Biden, who generally maintained a baseline of decorum. Fox News moderator Chris Wallace failed to temper the evening’s cascading verbiage. He allowed Trump to talk over his own questions and heckle Biden almost constantly. 

CNN’s Dana Bash accurately characterized the evening as a “shit show.” Not only in conduct, but in content as well, as the candidates’ talking points often failed to fully address the need for improved policy or downright encouraged violence and extremism.

Read more of indy media’s debate takes in PCIM’s piece.

An Evening with Misha Euceph

Misha Euceph, executive producer of the “The Michelle Obama Podcast” and founder of Dustlight Productions, spoke with The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Park Center for Independent Media, and the Muslim Chaplaincy at Cornell about how podcasts lift up stories of intersecting identities, defining moments, relationships with faith/spirituality, and activism. She explored “vulnerability as the antidote to hate and why it’s important to let people witness our emotional and intellectual struggles.” PCIM Director Raza Rumi moderated the September 30 event.

Watch the event recording here.

U.S. Voting Rights
National Data Release Sheds Light on Past Polling Place Changes

On Tuesday, the first installment of a new national data package was released that will help journalists and researchers analyze polling place accessibility. This information includes polling place locations and addresses for 30 states over the past decade and could help reporting on the impact that polling place closure and change could have on the 2020 election.

As The Center for Public Integrity reports, “Polling place reductions and changes can lower turnout by creating confusion and barriers for voters, potentially disenfranchising them. There is no national public dataset of polling place locations and addresses for past federal elections.”

Compiling information on large-scale voter suppression is all the more relevant in an election cycle with a president falsely calling legitimate means of voting, such as mail-in ballots, fraudulent.

Prison Reform
Ring of Snitches: How Detroit Police Convicted Young Black Men

In 2015, Truthout published a story on Lacio Hamilton’s imprisonment in 1994. The man had been sentenced to 80 years in prison for the murder of his foster mother—a murder to which another man reportedly confessed.

“Hamilton’s murder conviction hinged on two pieces of evidence: a coerced statement, and testimony from a jailhouse informant claiming that Hamilton confessed to the murder while awaiting trial in his jail cell.” But according to multiple sources, the long-deceased informant may have been part of a ring of jailhouse “snitches” who received rewards for making statements against prisoners eventually convicted of murder.

Now, a petition is gaining traction and raising awareness of the unjust case. Read more on Hamilton’s case and sign.

How to Tell a Political Stunt From a Real Vaccine

Donald Trump has tested positive for COVID-19, in the “culmination of six months of recklessness and failure,” as Alex Shepard wrote. Common Dreams covers more voices in media on the president’s diagnosis. Trump ignored proper guidelines for himself and the country, and it’s highly unlikely a vaccine will be fit for market within the month.

Given the “slew of scientific and bureaucratic hurdles” a vaccine must clear to be approved, ProPublica reminds that an “October Surprise” vaccine, as Trump had promised,  “would take a miracle.” A safe vaccine would require a robust clinical trial, full approval by the Food and Drug Administration, and the FDA’s go-ahead to put the vaccine on the market.

Dr. Mark McClellan, who led the FDA from 2002 to 2004, says, “All of this put together makes it more likely that it’ll be a late 2020 availability.”

ProPublica’s detailed analysis of the FDA vaccine approval process looks at Pfizer’s trial, which is currently furthest along.

India’s Pandemic of Repression

As India becomes just the second country to hit 6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, Democracy Now! speaks to journalist and Washington Post global opinions writer Rana Ayyub in Mumbai, who was recently hospitalized after testing positive for the disease.

India’s lead pandemic agency says an antibody study suggests more than 60 million people in the country have already been infected with the coronavirus—10 times the official count but still a small fraction of its population of 1.3 billion.

Ayyub says, “It doesn’t feel like India is even talking about the pandemic,” but people fear mass unemployment and going without food.

COVID-19 Misinformation in 9,722 Fact Checks

Nieman Lab has collected 9,722 fact checks from members of the International Fact Checking Network, organizations using Claim Review, and Full Fact’s API. The lab sorted and analyzed false claims about the virus and their corrections.

The account provides a six-month play-by-play of how falsehoods circulated on social media and the news, including bizarre home remedies in March and inside information on lockdowns.

Naomi Klein with the tweet of the week:
Climate Crisis
U.S. Utilities to Go Net Zero by 2050

In 2018, Xcel Energy became the first large U.S. utility to pledge reaching net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. Recently, more utilities, including Ameren and Entergy, have issued plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

These corporate announcements for the transition to clean energy are accelerating. InsideClimate News writes, “Taken together, they make clear that we are in the middle of great change in the energy economy in which electricity producers have concluded that they can save money and reduce risks by investing in wind, solar and energy storage, and by closing fossil fuel plants.”

Corporate action to curb climate change grows increasingly urgent as scientists find more evidence of global warming’s devastation, such as the ocean stratification that can “intensify tropical storms, disrupt fisheries, interfere with the ocean absorption of carbon and deplete oxygen.”

Green Campaigners Mobilize for Climate Action

On Friday, five national organizations launched the “Green Wave 2020” initiative, a multimillion-dollar effort to elect Democratic candidates in competitive House and Senate races to “fight for the climate action that an increasing majority of the American public demands.”

Common Dreams reports organizations including the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters are acting on what multiple polls and surveys show majorities of voters in key states want the federal government to invest in: climate policies allowing for a 2035 transition to a renewable energy economy.

In Other News

1.QAnon followers bizarrely celebrate Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis (The Independent)

2. Don’t Expect Trump’s Diagnosis to Change the Minds of Pandemic Skeptics (The Atlantic)

3. 17 GOP Congressmen Vote No On Resolution Condemning QAnon (HuffPost)

4. Breonna Taylor grand jury recordings released (BBC)

5. Syrian recruit describes role of foreign fighters in Nagorno-Karabakh (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.