Inadequate hate crime statistics

For ProPublica, Ken Schwencke reports on a poor data system that relies on local law enforcement to voluntarily enter data:

Local law enforcement agencies reported a total of 6,121 hate crimes in 2016 to the FBI, but estimates from the National Crime Victimization Survey, conducted by the federal government, pin the number of potential hate crimes at almost 250,000 a year — one indication of the inadequacy of the FBI’s data.

“The current statistics are a complete and utter joke,” said Roy Austin, former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s civil rights division. Austin also worked at the White House on data and civil rights and helped develop an open data plan for police data.

Garbage in, garbage out.

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Parler video feed of the mob at the Capitol

As you probably know, there was a big Parler data scrape before the app and site went down. ProPublica spliced Parler video posts, sorting them by time and location. The result is basically a TikTok-style video feed of what happened.

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Mapping disappearing beaches in Hawaii

Ash Ngu for ProPublica and Sophie Cocke for Honolulu Star-Advertiser show the harm of building seawalls on Hawaii’s beaches. The walls protect luxury beachfront properties, but they have been built through administrative loopholes and destroy beaches, which are owned by the public.

I like the combination of video footage and map, providing a scroll along the coastline. It provides an anchor for where you are and what you’re looking at.

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Long-term timelines for judicial appointments

Federal judge appointments are for a lifetime, so the younger a judge is appointed, the more potential years they can serve. For ProPublica, Moiz Syed charted age, time of appointment, and average retirement age to show how current appointments can make impact for decades.

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More fire weather days coming

It’s been smoky this season. Based on research from Michael Goss et al., Al Shaw and Elizabeth Weil for ProPublica look at the current fire situation in California and what that might mean for the future and the rest of the country.

In wildfires, as with flooding and heat, climate change doesn’t create novel problems; it exacerbates existing problems and compounds risks. So there is no precise way to measure how much of all this increased wildfire activity is due to climate change. An educated guess is about half, experts say. Its role, however, is growing fast. Within 20 years, climate change promises to be the dominant factor driving larger and more frequent megafires — not only in California, but across the country.

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Tracking what happens to police after use of force on protestors

You’ve probably seen the videos. ProPublica is tracking to see what happens after:

ProPublica wanted to find out what happens after these moments are caught on tape. We culled hundreds of videos to find those with the clearest examples of officers apparently using a disproportionate level of force against protesters and reached out to 40 law enforcement agencies about the 68 incidents below. For each incident, we inquired about any disciplinary action, investigations and whether the department would disclose the officer or officers involved. While some departments provided details or relevant public records, others leaned on state laws to withhold information.

See also ProPublica’s recent release of NYPD civilian complaints against police officers.

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Understanding Covid-19 statistics

For ProPublica, Caroline Chen, with graphics by Ash Ngu, provides a guide on how to understand Covid-19 statistics. The guide offers advice on interpreting daily changes, spotting patterns over longer time frames, and finding trusted sources.

Most importantly:

Even if the data is imperfect, when you zoom out enough, you can see the following trends pretty clearly. Since the middle of June, daily cases and hospitalizations have been rising in tandem. Since the beginning of July, daily deaths have also stopped falling (remember, they lag cases) and reversed course.

I fear that our eyes have glazed over with so many numbers being thrown around, that we’ve forgotten this: Every day, hundreds of Americans are dying from COVID-19. Some days, the number of recorded deaths has reached more than 1,000. Yes, the number recorded every day is not absolutely precise — that’s impossible — but the order of magnitude can’t be lost on us. It’s hundreds a day.

Cherrypicking statistics is at an all-time high. Don’t fall for it.

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Unemployment for different groups

Unemployment has hit the United States hard over the past several months, for some harder than others. Lena Groeger reporting for ProPublica:

Part of the reason for this disparity is that many workers of color, especially Black workers, didn’t come into the crisis on equal footing. At the beginning of 2020, when the U.S. was at what most would have considered peak economic prosperity, the unemployment rate for Black workers was more than double that of their white counterparts. “The classic fact about Black unemployment,” said William Darity Jr., an economist at Duke University who studies racial inequality, “is that it’s been two times the white rate since we started measuring it.”

Each line represents a different subpopulation, so you can scroll over specific lines or select specific groups with the buttons. It’s similar to this New York Times interactive from 2009.

But this is 2020, so Groeger uses the overview as the initial view and then it shifts into scrollytelling. Groups highlight and the time frame expands as you read. This eventually takes you back to the initial view, where you’re invited to explore the data.

The overview first provides an opportunity for the reader to set a baseline as it relates to their own demographic. Then you see how specific groups are different or similar to that baseline. At the end, with a different baseline set, you can compare one more time.

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Increased case counts not just from increased testing

Some attribute increased Covid-19 case counts to increased testing. While that is certainly part of the reason, it doesn’t explain it all when you compare testing rates against the increase in positives.

Charles Ornstein and Ash Ngu for ProPublica:

In other states, including Arizona, Texas and Florida, which did not see a wave of early cases and deaths, the increase in positive results has far surpassed testing growth. In Florida, testing has even decreased a bit comparing the seven days through Tuesday to the same period before Memorial Day. (Florida recorded an abnormally high number of new tests on May 20, which may have inflated the rolling average on May 25.)

But what about decreased virus-related deaths? Death doesn’t come right after a positive test, which means death rate doesn’t increase at the same time that cases increase. There’s a lag. So we’re not in the clear yet.

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What the federal government has been buying and where from

The Federal Procurement Data System tracks federal contracts of $10,000 or more. For ProPublica, Moiz Syed and Derek Willis made the data for coronavirus-related contracts more accessible with a searchable database. Browse the items, the companies, and the amounts. Somehow it seems like so much, and yet so not enough.

See also the accompanying article highlighting some of the more questionable contracts.

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