Show Your Work: Malarkey!

First up: WBEZ has found that the suburb of Ford Heights has collected more than $100,000 in taxpayer money for a library that hasn’t existed for 30 years.

The station requested records that showed the public library district has received more than $121,000 from property taxes as distributed by Cook County. That’s a surprise to the all-volunteer Ford Heights Library Board, which operates out of a temporary space in a community center since its building failed to meet codes and has never received the collected funds. And because the library district exists, the residents of the majority-Black high-poverty suburb can’t get full-access cards at other libraries.

The story has been picked up by the Chicago Sun-Times. Shockingly enough, officials have not returned calls requesting disclosure of where the money has gone.

Meanwhile, a New York Times analysis of the Alaska Airlines incident where a door flew off the plane found that the door plug relied on two pairs of bolts and metal pins to stay in place, and it’s likely a manufacturing lapse in the bolts caused the door to fly off. A door plug, by the way, is basically a replacement for the emergency door that was removed because the plane didn’t have enough seats. By the way, they’ve found loose bolts on many other Boeing Max 9 planes. Happy flying!

Also, Reuters found that North Korea is developing artificial intelligence for pandemic response and … wait for it… wargaming simulations. Okay, it wasn’t much of an investigation – they found the study – but still. Shall we play a game?

And This Week in Total Bullshit:

• President Biden did not record a robocall telling New Hampshire Democrats to “save their votes for November.” Dubbed “malarkey” by Politifact, a faked recording filled voicemails telling them to skip the primary, and gave a number for them to be removed from the call list that goes to the cell phone of the former chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. The state attorney general is now investigating the case, as it is a felony to use fraudulent information to deter someone from voting. Side note: Politifact has dug up the various ways that AI can be used by overseas operators to disrupt the political process. Of course, we do a great job of that on our own without AI “help.”

• A pro-Trump ad aimed at GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley misrepresented her comments on immigration, amnesty and “criminals.”

• And what was not total bullshit? No-longer-candidate Ron DeSantis said as president, Trump deported fewer undocumented immigrants than former President Barack Obama, and he was right.

However, in his farewell speech posted on the Artist Formerly Known as Twitter, DeSantis quoted Winston Churchill as saying, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Very nice words, except Churchill never said that, according to the International Churchill Society, the Churchill Project at Hillsdale College and a Churchill historian, as researched by Politifact.

Light week! See something you think I should include? Feel free to send it to us.

Show Your Work: Snow truth to it (sorry)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger did a background run on the drone company user who decided he was going to solve St. Louis crime with drones, never mind laws or the wishes of the actual residents of this city. Funny enough: the drone guy has two corporate addresses, neither of which has an office from him.

• ProPublica found that Walmart financial services have been used by scammers to bilk consumers out of more than $1 billion by exploiting Walmart’s lax security. Apparently as people were being scammed, Walmart has resisted enforcement, broken promises to regulators and avoided tougher training. Apparently it makes more money with the scammer transactions than it would by enforcing only legitimate transactions. The FTC has sued Walmart over this practice.

• Who broke the story of former Harvard president Claudine Gay’s battle? The student journalists of the Harvard Crimson, who had a series of exclusives on that particular mess and scooped the national press several times. Go kids.

• The Chronicle of Higher Education found that Liberty University has systematically failed to adhere to federal crime disclosure laws and is now on notice with the U.S. Department of Education. There were at least 12 violations of the Jeanne Clery Act, which requires colleges to publicize campus crime statistics and notify students and employees of threats to their safety. Violations included destroying records of sexual assault investigations, forbidding police from issuing timely crime alerts, punishing survivors of sexual assault for reporting, and more.

• In 2022, a Texas school superintendent called a meeting with the school librarians. He told them that the city was very conservative and anyone who had different political beliefs “better hide it.” This was his preamble for ordering them to remove any books he considered explicitly sexual, which included any mention of LGBTQ people, even if those books did not include sex. He also stated that “there are two genders. There’s male and there’s female… I don’t have issues with what people want to believe, but there’s no place for it in our libraries.” When someone asked if books on racism were acceptable, he said books on different cultures were great but anything about trans or LGBTQ people was out. This was investigated by the Texas Tribune via a recording obtained by the Tribune, ProPublica and NBC News, and on the basis of that analysis, the ACLU filed suit. What’s new: now the U.S. Department of Education is opening its own investigation under the office for civil rights.

• WABE and ProPublica found that in more than 700 cases over five years, the state of Georgia took children from their unhoused parents even though it would be cheaper to help the families get housing than put the children in foster care.

• Last week we talked about the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s investigation on the FDA’s failure to issue warnings about Philips breathing machines; this week the GAO will launch an inquiry under the direction of U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

This Week in Total Bullshit:

• I’m a tad concerned that there were a grand total of two journalists attending Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ town hall in New Hampshire, and both were Politifact fact-checkers. I know it’s snowy and the last debate was canceled, but where was the rest of the road crew? Anyway, they fact-checked all of DeSantis’ claims.

• Somehow 25 percent of U.S. adults still believe the FBI organized the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. This week the House committee investigating it detailed yet again that it’s TB, and yet. If you need details, here they are. Oh, one of those U.S. adults is U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), who made the claim during a committee hearing.

• Birther claims have a new target: GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley. Allegations are circulating on social media that Haley’s parents weren’t citizens when she was born, which has absolutely no basis in fact, not that that ever stops social media. She was born in South Carolina. It’s been circulated in a couple of conservative news websites and former President Trump shared it on Truth Social. So Haley joins the Birther Target Club whose members include former President Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and the late U.S. Sen. John McCain.

• German highways did not get blocked by electric cars running out of charge in the cold. The picture in that viral post was Chicago, not Germany; 2011, not this week; and there’s no evidence that the vehicles are electric. The 2011 snowfall was two feet of snow and the vehicles were abandoned after collisions between a city bus and other vehicles blocked the lanes.

• The Times Square billboard reading “Ceasefires are anti-semitic” is not only misspelled, but never appeared in Times Square as alleged. The Israeli-American Council paid for billboards that read “Be human. Stand for Israel.”

• No, Tom Hanks did not flee to Israel after the release of the Epstein documents. Seriously? HANKS? You have to be kidding, liars. He’s one of the few saintly humans we have left. Also, he hasn’t converted to Judaism that we know of, not that that would matter.

• As referenced in this piece about A.I. girlfriends, it is NOT true that Elon Musk is creating Stepford-type robot wives for lonely incels. The image of Musk kissing a robot woman were digital AI creations by the same guy that created an image of Pope Francis wearing a Balenciaga coat. (The reason for such creations is an exercise left for the reader.) A.I. girlfriends, however, do exist…

• Lil Nas X was not accepted into Liberty University’s Biblical studies program. Seriously?

• And finally, what was NOT total bullshit? Yes, Mississippi and Alabama still celebrate Robert E. Lee Day on the day the rest of us celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. President Reagan declared it a national holiday in 1983, but Mississippi held on to Lee Day as it had celebrated since 1910. Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Louisiana and Alabama also had Lee Day or Lee-King Day, but the others have finally dropped it from their official calendars. In 2018 and 2023, a Mississippi state legislator introduced bills to separate MLK and Lee. The bill died in committee. In Alabama, a bill to eliminate Lee Day was introduced and died the same day – this year. Note: As late as 1997, my first husband was attending a community college in northern Mississippi that still had “Robert E. Lee Day” listed on its calendar as a day off school.

Whew. This is just one week, folks. It’s gonna be a long election year.

Show Your Work: It’s not like they didn’t know the schools were falling down

Show Your Work is a regular feature on Donald Media highlighting stories where journalists uncovered badness, shining the light in darkness; and where we have debunked the total bullshit you see online.

• The Idaho Journal-Statesman partnered with ProPublica to investigate how restrictive school funding led to massive disrepair in hundreds of schools. The state actually stopped inspecting the schools, so it fell to the journalists and the students themselves to evaluate the state of their schools for the first time in 30 years. Bad roofs, freezing cold classrooms, lack of disability access, poor security, dilapidated bathrooms, holes in the walls with exposed wiring, flooding and more.

This week, the Idaho governor announced $2 billion in funding over the next 10 years to repair the schools, citing the journalists’ investigation as the impetus for the biggest investment in school infrastructure in the state’s history. Of course, it was pretty clear everyone involved knew the schools were falling down. But once the light shines on it, they can’t ignore it anymore.

• Also in the category of “it took a journalist to make it happen,” Illinois has closed a juvenile detention center exposed by Capital News and ProPublica for multiple violations of its own standards: leaving kids locked up for 24 hours or more, ignoring medical needs, etc. In the key incident, the undertrained and underpaid staff called in deputies when two inmates yelled at each other, and they broke one of the boys’ arms. He was then left in his cell to suffer, his arm untreated and handcuffed, for hours. Kids were denied access to medication, tased and beaten, and given little to no education despite laws requiring it. The country tried throwing money at it, but a judge has ordered closure of the facility. Note: staff was being paid $28,000 a year. No wonder they were understaffed. A lawsuit is pending from the ACLU.

The Trace and ProPublica obtained audio recordings of the NRA’s CEO discussing a plan to conceal his luxury expenses, including private jets and stays at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The New York Attorney General was unaware of the recording, though they are currently investigating the NRA for financial malfeasance.

• Technically they’re not journalists, but PEN America is a First Amendment advocacy group that has often stood with journalists and as we have often said, an act of journalism can come from anyone. PEN America found that when Florida removed 1,600 books from its schools, they also removed five variations of the dictionary as well as the World Book Encyclopedia. As soon as they posted the list, of course, Florida hastened to say that the dictionary wasn’t banned, no, of course not, and then it disappeared from the list.

And a few weeks ago, the Washington Post reviewed 1,000 book challenges and found what was blindingly obvious but people still won’t believe it until there’s a study: They’re banning mostly sexual, LGBTQ or racial content while claiming it’s not about racism or homophobia; the majority of 1,000 challenges were filed by 11 people; and LGBTQ books are not only likely to be challenged, but most likely to be banned after review. even more than books by or about people of color.

And now, for This Week in Total Bullshit:

• The Fort Worth hotel explosion was caused by a gas leak, according to the actual officials investigating it. That Facebook post circulating blaming it on “Sahil Omar” is TB. The same name has circulated blaming him the Rainbow Bridge catastrophe in Canada and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas shooting.

• I can’t believe it’s circulating again, but no, Facebook/Zuckerberg have not forbidden posting The Lord’s Prayer on the site. It’s been shared more than 500,000 times from a 2022 post of a 2020 rumor and it’s still not frigging true.

• Tucker Carlson interviewed a podcaster who declared that the COVID-19 vaccine has killed 17 million people. It should be blindingly obvious that this is TB, but just in case, Annenberg debunked it. Sadly, they’ve found that the Americans who believe the vaccine is deadline is now up to 34 percent, up from 22 percent two years ago.

• That video of people fleeing is not Chinese migrants fleeing Russia to avoid being forced into the war. Reuters dug into what it’s really about.

• Annenberg also went into all the claims from former President Trump’s town hall and the last GOP debate.

And, oddly, what was NOT total bullshit: The circulating meme on kids leaving bottles with drano and aluminum foil that can explode. Yes, that’s actually a thing. Snopes checked it years ago.

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Show Your Work: January is off to a banging start

A long, long time ago in a social medium far far away, I did a daily Linkspam post that covered all the major headlines of the day with my own particular snark. It eventually morphed into an annual Show Your Work post, in which I would highlight the best journalism of the year. Problem: Life gets busy, I get distracted by shiny objects, and I was always forgetting to add to my Show Your Work list, so it generally fell to the award winners.

But there’s a whole lot of journalism that flies under the national radar, the kind of serious, important work being done by the reporters right around the corner from you, and they never get the credit they deserve for shining the light on the badness. They get angry emails and they get death threats on Twitter – excuse me, X – and when bad guys are finally brought to justice, no one remembers that the scandal started when a journalist got curious.

More to the point: I am furious beyond the reaches of metaphor at the number of people from all political and socioeconomic backgrounds who whine that “the media” is a giant Borg hive-mind of automatons spitting out what corporate masters tell us to say, and other highly offensive nonsense that clearly shows the person saying it has never set foot in a newsroom. Show Your Work was intended to collect all the best of us in one place as a metaphorical shotgun blast to open people’s minds to the work being done in their local and national newsrooms, which has little to do with hairdos bloviating on cable news networks.

So I’m bringing it back, as a regular feature on this too-quiet blog.

What do I look for in Show Your Work? Basically, I’m looking at pieces where journalists step in to do the work that regulatory agencies and law enforcement should be doing, highlighting injustice and malfeasance that would not come to light without the work of the media, and especially those that made an actual difference. Accompanying that will be “This Week in Total Bullshit,” because if I see people reposting that copypaste paragraph that will totally cut off your Facebook ads and eliminate their primary revenue, my head may spin around and fly around the room.

So this will be a recurring feature, to the point that I can manage it. I want to promise a weekly post, but let’s be real: Advocating for my profession and the ethical practice thereof is my passion, but not work I get paid to do. Rent is due. So… as much as I can?

• First up we have the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Riverfront Times, both of which published photos this week taken by an attorney inside the St. Louis Jail, which has had enormous problems and allegations of misconduct and there’s a bunch else we reporters and the lawyers in this city could tell you if we were free to do so. Apparently Kevin O’Schaughnessy is being held in the jail and has developed a hernia the size of a cantaloupe, which allegedly is not being treated. The attorney took the photo as evidence, and in response they… outlawed cell phones by attorneys. O’Shaughnessy, by the way, was shot by police multiple times while having a mental breakdown, is partially paralyzed with a traumatic brain injury, and is being held in the jail without a wheelchair and little access to clean clothes or a shower.

• Former president Donald Trump did not sign an oath of loyalty promising not to overthrow the government when he filed for election in Illinois. The oath dates back to the McCarthy era and can’t be formally required because it would be unconstitutional, but Trump had no problem signing it in 2016 and 2020. This was discovered by a joint analysis of candidate petitions conducted by WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times. President Joe Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the oath with their petitions.

And this week in Total Bullshit….

No, Florida is not removing Democrats from voter rolls. Approximately 1 million people were removed, half of them were Democrats, and you get removed from the rolls if you have two election cycles of inactivity.

No, T-Mobile is not fining its customers $3,500 for text messages involving sex, hate, alcohol and tobacco. Which, by the way, the TikTokkers blame on Biden, who I guess is running T-Mobile in his spare time. The prohibition applies to commercial advertising via text messages and they are not reading your secret texts to your side piece, dudes.

• Duh, Jimmy Kimmel was NOT on Jeffrey Epstein’s lists, and he may be suing football player Aaron Rodgers for making the claim with no evidence on an ESPN show. Then the internet was off and running with fake documents on iFunny (seriously, people, check your sources) and none of it is in the actual court documents. For what it’s worth, the “big release” turned out to be mostly a nothing burger, with names named that everyone already knew.

• Do I need to say that the social media brigade declaring that the shooting in Perry, Iowa was faked are totally full of it and their “false flag” claims are pathological and damaging? Fine then, (which is operated by the Annenberg Public Policy Center) confirmed it.

• Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo announced this week that we should stop using the COVID vaccines because *checks notes* they will alter our DNA into frogs or something. Annenberg has assembled approximately a gazillion experts saying it’s nonsense. Who you gonna believe, your doctor or a TikTok scare video? (Don’t answer that, Florida.)

And finally…. my favorite meme pile-on of the week, because it’s just that hysterical. I tried to pick just one and I couldn’t. Paging Gene Roddenberry circa 1966…

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