Facebook’s political ad ban also threatens ability to spread accurate information on how to vote

Facebook this week said it would bar political ads in the seven days before the presidential election. That could prevent dirty tricks or an “October surprise” and give watchdogs time to fact-check statements. But rather than responding with glee, election officials say the move leaves them worried.

Included in the ban are ads purchased by election officials — secretaries of state and boards of elections — who use Facebook to inform voters about how voting will work. The move effectively removes a key communication channel just as millions of Americans will begin to navigate a voting process different from any they’ve experienced before.

“Every state’s elections office has a very small communications office that is doing everything that they can to get the word out about the election,” said Gabe Rosenberg, the communications director for Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill (who is not related to this reporter). “This just makes it a little bit harder, for, as far as I can see, no real gain.”

They know how to prevent megafires. Why won’t anybody listen?

What a week. Rough for all Californians. Exhausting for the firefighters on the front lines. Heart-shattering for those who lost homes and loved ones. But a special “Truman Show” kind of hell for the cadre of men and women who’ve not just watched California burn, fire ax in hand, for the past two or three or five decades, but who’ve also fully understood the fire policy that created the landscape that is now up in flames.

“What’s it like?” Tim Ingalsbee repeated back to me, wearily, when I asked him what it was like to watch California this past week. In 1980, Ingalsbee started working as a wildland firefighter. In 1995, he earned a doctorate in environmental sociology. And in 2005, frustrated by the huge gap between what he was learning about fire management and seeing on the fire line, he started Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology. Since then FUSEE has been lobbying Congress, and trying to educate anybody who will listen, about the misguided fire policy that is leading to the megafires we are seeing today.

ICE guards “Systematically” sexually assault detainees in an El Paso detention center, lawyers say

Guards in an immigrant detention center in El Paso sexually assaulted and harassed inmates in a “pattern and practice” of abuse, according to a complaint filed by a Texas advocacy group urging the local district attorney and federal prosecutors to conduct a criminal investigation.

The allegations, detailed in a filing first obtained by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune, maintain that guards systematically assaulted at least three people in a facility overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement — often in areas of the detention center not visible to security cameras. The guards told victims that no one would believe them because footage did not exist and the harassment involved officers as high-ranking as a lieutenant.

State investigating hospital with coronavirus policy that profiled pregnant Native American mothers and separated them from newborns

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. This story originally appeared at ProPublica and New Mexico In Depth and is republished with permisssion. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Twitter Saturday that state officials would investigate allegations of racial profiling of pregnant Native American women at a top hospital in Albuquerque. Lujan Grisham was reacting to a story published Saturday by New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica revealing that Lovelace Women’s Hospital had a secret policy for screening Native American women for coronavirus based on their appearance and home ZIP code, according to several clinicians who work there.

Masks sold by former White House official to Navajo hospitals don’t meet FDA standards

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. The Indian Health Service acknowledged on Wednesday that 1 million respirator masks it purchased from a former Trump White House official do not meet Food and Drug Administration standards for “use in healthcare settings by health care providers.”

The IHS statement calls into question why the agency purchased expensive medical gear that it now cannot use as intended. The masks were purchased as part of a frantic agency push to supply Navajo hospitals with desperately needed protective equipment in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. ProPublica revealed last week that Zach Fuentes, President Donald Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, formed a company in early April and 11 days later won a $3 million contract with IHS to provide specialized respirator masks to the agency for use in Navajo hospitals.

You don’t need invasive tech for successful contact tracing. Here’s how it works.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. I want you to mentally prepare yourself for a phone call that you could receive sometime over the course of this pandemic: in the next few months or year. Your phone might ring, and when you pick it up, you may hear someone say, “Hi, I’m calling from the health department.” After verifying your identity, the person may say something like, “I’m afraid we have information that you were in close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.”

The person calling is what’s known as a contact tracer. As most states begin to lift restrictions on movement and people once more start to eat in restaurants, work in offices and get on public transit, these phone calls will become more frequent.

COVID-19 cases at one Texas immigration detention center soared in a matter of days. Now, town leaders want answers.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. It was a historic occasion for the South Texas town of Pearsall when officials broke ground in 2004 on what would become one of the country’s largest immigration detention centers. Not only would it help improve border security, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said then, it would also bring employment to the small rural community, about 60 miles from San Antonio. Hundreds of good jobs for a region that desperately needed them.

The TSA hoarded 1.3 million N95 masks even though airports are empty and it doesn’t need them

The Transportation Security Administration ignored guidance from the Department of Homeland Security and internal pushback from two agency officials when it stockpiled more than 1.3 million N95 respirator masks instead of donating them to hospitals, internal records and interviews show.

Trump hasn’t released funds that help families of COVID-19 victims pay for burials. Members of Congress want to change that.

Democratic members of Congress are urging President Donald Trump to authorize FEMA to reimburse funeral expenses for victims of the coronavirus pandemic, citing ProPublica’s reporting about the administration’s policies.

A conservative legal group significantly miscalculated data in a report on mail-in voting

In an April report that warns of the risks of fraud in mail-in voting, a conservative legal group significantly inflated a key statistic, a ProPublica analysis found. The Public Interest Legal Foundation reported that more than 1 million ballots sent out to voters in 2018 were returned as undeliverable. Taken at face value, that would represent a 91% increase over the number of undeliverable mail ballots in 2016, a sign that a vote-by-mail system would be a “catastrophe” for elections, the group argued.