Wandering Eye: Troubles for the Red Cross, perception vs. reality, and David Simon reveals details of his next miniseries

Is America's best-known relief agency a disaster pimp? Some of the Red Cross' employees are saying so, with documentation to back it up, according to a joint investigation by NPR and ProPublica. During the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, "40 percent of available trucks were assigned to serve as backdrops for news conferences," the news outlets say. The story says aid was "politically-driven," lots of food was wasted, and—holy what?—sex offenders were housed with kids. "It was just clear to me that they weren't interested in doing mass care; they were interested in the illusion of mass care," says Richard Rieckenberg, who helped lead the Red Cross' response to Sandy and Hurricane Isaac. This is of course shocking. Except it is also kind of normal. The organization was fined $9.6 million in 2009 for violations of blood safety rules. It was criticized after Hurrican Katrina and 9/11, when the organization handed out money to folks who arguably didn't need it and diverted some $200 million of donations to administration and long-term goals. Back in 1993 there was a consent decree with the FDA over blood safety, which have led to millions of dollars of fines ever since. The Red Cross is, arguably, Exhibit A for the late Chris Hitchens' proposition that some organizations' actions are too often judged according to their reputation, instead of the other way around. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Thanks to U.K.'s Ipsos MORI for pointing out how removed from reality people's perceptions are. Released today and entitled "Perceptions are not reality," the project surveyed people in 14 countries, and the results from the U.S.—the second most ignorant country in the survey, behind Italy—are revealing. A few examples: Though 3 percent of U.S. girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year, people think the rate is 24 percent; though immigrants make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, people think the proportion is 32 percent; and though 6 percent of working-age people looking for work don't have a job, people think the rate is 32 percent. Ipsos MORI's Bobby Duffy concludes the obvious, writing that "these misperceptions present clear issues for informed public debate and policy-making," since, for example, "public priorities may well be different if we had a clearer view of the scale of immigration and the real incidence of teenage mothers." (Van Smith)

 

After a "a one-day, TED-like collection of thought-provoking talks held at London's Barbican Centre on Oct. 12," David Simon talked with Slate about his new HBO miniseries "Show Me a Hero," which, like "The Wire" and "Treme," focuses on the fate and role of the American city. "It's really kind of terrifying how controversial the notion of a shared future now is," he said in the talk. "We're either going to figure it out together or there will be two Americas. There'll be an America with its own private police force behind a gated community and there will be the Americans who didn't catch the wave, and the future going's to become a lot more brutish and a lot more cruel." In the interview, he calls Mark Puente's investigation into Baltimore police corruption a "great story," floats a theory about how much police violence is actually due to class and so can come from African-American officers, talks about the pitfalls of making his shows seem "too real," and expounds on the brilliance of "Huck Finn."

While elsewhere on Slate, we found a discussion with Stephanie Barber, our "Best Artist" this year, about her 2013 book "Night Moves." You can also read our wide-ranging interview with Barber here. (Baynard Woods)

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