June 19, 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

PCIM Event

Webinar: Journalism in Times of Pandemic & Protest (The Park Center for Independent Media)

U.S. Politics

As Trump Threatens Cities, Philadelphia’s DA Prepares to Uphold the Rule of Law (The Nation)

States Are Begging for Coronavirus Relief. Trump Sent Federal Police Instead. (Mother Jones)

Trump and DeVos’s Plan to Reopen Schools Hides a Sinister Agenda (Truthout)

Racial Justice and Police Reform

Communities of Color Poised to Lose Their Homes as Eviction Moratoriums Lift (The Center for Public Integrity)

Black and Brown Students Are Organizing to Remove Police From Their Schools (Colorlines)


As the Culture Wars Flare Amid the Pandemic, a Call to Speak ‘Science to Power’ (InsideClimate News)

Stories Dooming Vaccine Hopes Overlook Immunity’s Complexity in Search of Easy Clicks (FAIR)

How to Understand COVID-19 Numbers (ProPubica)

PCIM Event
Webinar: Journalism in Times of Pandemic & Protest (The Park Center for Independent Media)

Join the Park Center for Independent Media on Wednesday July 29 for a webinar on the media environment amid the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing protests against racial injustice.

Our speakers will review the coverage of pandemic and protests by the mainstream media and discuss if recent reporting on racial justice protests represents a shift from the traditional underplaying of race in police stories. The webinar will also explore how the pandemic is affecting independent media outlets and what should we expect in the future.

Our panelists include editors at major independent media outlets, a correspondent who was arrested while covering Black Lives Matter protests, and a distinguished scholar. Panel discussion will be followed by Q&A.

WEDNESDAY, July 29, 4–5:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time

Register for the Zoom webinar HERE:


Andrew BuncombeChief US correspondent, The Independent
Tara Conley, Ed.D., Assistant Professor, Montclair State University
D.D. Guttenplan, Editor, The Nation
Amanda Silverman, Editorial Director, Mother Jones

Moderated by Raza Rumi, Director, Park Center for Independent Media

U.S. Politics
Federal Agents Cracking Down on Protesting Cities

Daily viral videos show unidentifiable law enforcement agents snatching racial injustice protesters from streets in Portland, Oregon, often when they were doing apparently nothing illegal.

Mother Jones writes that several news outlets have confirmed that the Department of Homeland Security had sent Customs and Border Patrol agents to the city, and acting DHS head Chad Wolf expressed no intention of removing them. The ensuing outrage drew thousands more to the once-dwindling crowd of Portland protesters.

Donald Trump threatened to expand the federal crackdown to other cities “run by liberal democrats,” operating on the debunked myth that blames increases in crime on protesters against police brutality. State governments are speaking out, including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who was teargassed by federal agents on Wednesday, covers The Nation.

Trump and DeVos’s School Reopening Agenda

Donald Trump and his billionaire Christian fundamentalist education secretary Betsy DeVos are both pushing agendas by threatening to withhold federal funding from schools that don’t reopen in the fall due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Despite the Trump administration’s claims, reopening schools is unsafe without expensive precautions. Schools are likely high contact zones that can’t afford regular disinfection, many students and parents may object to wearing masks and observing social distance, and children can easily pass the virus to elders. Effective health-related renovations would cost an estimated $245 billion, which Republicans refuse to provide.

Truthout details how a hasty school reopening would create an illusion of normalcy bolstering Trump’s reelection chances while draining the public school system of funds and confidence so DeVos can privatize it.

Racial Justice and Police Reform
Communities of Color Will Lose Homes as Eviction Moratoriums Lift

With the coronavirus still disproportionately ravaging the health and employment of Black and Brown Americans, eviction moratoriums, a confusing patchwork of federal and state protections, are starting to expire. The federal moratorium lifts Saturday, and expanded unemployment benefits on July 31.

While the Senate is expected to take up a new stimulus bill this week, it’s unclear if it will extend these protections. Thousands of eviction cases have been filed since late March, mostly in low-income neighborhoods in Florida and Georgia, where cases are spiking.

As The Center for Public Integrity explains, this continues a trend of affordable housing crisis and racial disparity from long before the pandemic.

Black and Brown Students Organizing against School Police

Since police officers appeared in public schools to ensure students’ safety, the school to prison pipeline has strengthened and school shootings have persisted. The 1999 Columbine shooting led to increased police presence in almost every school, but there have been 249 U.S. school shootings since then.

For years, and with renewed support after the murder of George Floyd, young Black and Brown organizers have been rallying to board meetings and the streets to fight for the removal of police from schools. Students are also protesting exorbitant police budgets diverting funds from education and the disproportionate rate of arrests of Black students, which creates an early harsh relationship with law enforcement.

Colorlines reports students in many cases, like in Milwaukee and Portland, are succeeding in severing schools’ ties with the police.

Clickbait Stories Inaccurately Doom Vaccine Hopes

FAIR criticizes overly pessimist media coverage of COVID-19 vaccines.

Forbes and other outlets ran pieces fearmongering about the short-lived antibodies in COVID-19 patients after recovery: “only 17% of Covid patients in a small study still had ‘potent’ antibodies a few months after the onset of symptoms.”

But this assessment only quotes one scientist. It also fails to take a more nuanced approach of the kind offered by the New York Times and The Atlantic, which elaborate that existing studies only look at the immune system’s B cells. We don’t yet know if a T cell response will require as many antibodies to be effective.

Moreover, if natural immunity to the virus proves suboptimal, vaccines will be crucial—so papers needn’t undermine efforts to convince a wary public to participate in a vaccination program for clickbait.

Calls to ‘Speak Science to Power’

Over a thousand National Academy of Science members have registered their personal concern with the Trump administration’s regular degradation of science, reports InsideClimate News.

The effort began in 2016 and gained support in 2018 in response to Trump’s motioning to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Trump has since continued eschewing the urgency called for by climate science with rollbacks on climate protections.

Now, as U.S. COVID-19 deaths approach 150,000 and cases continue to rise in 43 states, the white house disparages leading epidemiologists. Climate scientists call the government’s handing a “teachable moment” for leadership in the future of climate action.

David Sirota with the tweet of the week:
How to Understand COVID-19 Numbers

Leaders and laypeople alike cherry pick COVID-19 data to best serve their point, generating conflicting information across news and social media. ProPublica offers detailed tips from epidemiologists to sort through the noise for truth in numbers.

For instance, to best understand the condition of a state, observe three counts together: number of cases, case positivity rates, and number of deaths. The number of deaths tracks the virus’ ultimate impact, case count shows the general trajectory of transmission, and a case positivity rate below 5% indicates that enough tests are being conducted to provide an accurate case count.

The numbers currently show that cases and hospitalizations have been rising, there are tens of thousands of new infections every day, there are not enough tests, and each day brings the deaths of hundreds of Americans. For leaders to accomplish change, they’ll have to “stop using partial trends to tell their own narratives” and focus on the work to be done.

In Other News

1. Trump news – live: UN issues warning to US police as protests rage, and White House defends well wishes to Ghislaine Maxwell (The Independent)

2. A Vaccine Reality Check (The Atlantic)

3. How Low Can Dems Go On Unemployment Benefits? (HuffPost)

4. Christopher Columbus statues temporarily removed in Chicago (BBC)

5. Trump is using federal agents as his ‘goon squad’, says Ice’s ex-acting head (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.