This piece, an occasional feature, was originally published on Reuters.com.
1. What happened to Dasani?
Remember Dasani Coates?
She’s the homeless Brooklyn girl whose plight The New York Times’ Andrea Elliott chronicled in a moving series of features last December. The last we heard about Dasani in the Times was this February 21 follow-up by Elliott and Rebecca R. Ruiz. They reported that New York City officials had decided to move 400 families, including Dasani’s, out of the squalid shelter where she had been living and into rent-supported apartments.
What’s happened since? One would think that with all the attention Dasani received — much of it focused on how intelligent, articulate, and determined she was in the face of unspeakable adversity — that she might have been recruited by now into a prestige private school or otherwise showered with attention and even donations that would have dramatically improved her circumstances.
Is that true? What about her parents and siblings? And what about the trust fund established for the family following Elliott’s series?
2. Credit Suisse and corporate guilty pleas:
I’ve never been able to understand how corporations can be convicted or allowed to plead guilty to a crime. Corporations don’t do good things or bad things. People, including people running corporations, do.
And the fundamental purposes of a criminal justice system are deterrence and punishment. Only people, not corporate seals or buildings, can be deterred. And the only people punished when a corporation is fined are the shareholders — who presumably had nothing to do with the crime
At least in the case of Credit Suisse and its guilty plea last week on charges of abetting tax evasion, the government also indicted several mid-level executives.
But if the bank’s crimes were as widespread as the government charged, and involved so many people, how could the top executives not be implicated?
Here’s what Attorney General Eric Holder said last week about the crime:
Credit Suisse not only knew about this illegal, cross-border banking activity; they willfully aided and abetted it. Hundreds of Credit Suisse employees, including at the manager level, conspired to help tax cheats dodge US taxes.
When Holder says that Credit Suisse “knew” about the scheme, who is he talking about? When he reports that “hundreds of employees” were involved, why doesn’t that implicate the executives at the top? Aren’t they supposed to know what “hundreds” of their employees are doing? Or is the bank too big for them to manage?
I’d like to see reporters ask Holder and Credit Suisse Chief Executive Officer Brady Dougan that question, for starters.
It would also be great to read a story describing how other countries deal with executives whose companies are caught in big-time criminal plots.
3. How Hollywood bows to the Chinese:
Here’s an intriguing paragraph near the end of Keith Bradsher’s smart report in The New York Times last week about how US companies that get into trade disputes with China face retaliation that now includes cyber-thefts.
Although it was parenthetical to the core of Bradsher’s story, it should stir assignment editors:
And with China now the world’s second-largest movie market, some Hollywood studios have begun making presentations to Chinese censors early in the production process for movies. They have also entered into joint ventures with Chinese state-controlled enterprises and have even invited Chinese officials to participate in creative decisions at some filming locations to ensure that movies will not be barred from the country’s theaters.
Please, someone tell us more about how America’s self-described “creative community” is participating in these “creative decisions” with Chinese censors. Make us a fly on the wall for some of those story pitches and editing sessions.Steven Brill , the author of Class Warfare: Inside the Fight To Fix America’s Schools, has written for magazines including New York, The New Yorker, Time, Harper's, and The New York Times Magazine. He founded and ran Court TV, The American Lawyer magazine, ten regional legal newspapers, and Brill's Content magazine. He also teaches journalism at Yale, where he founded the Yale Journalism Initiative.