Business dreams deferred; UW campus life transformed; Black, brown people get longer sentences; Foxconn flounders; WI Sen. Ron Johnson pushes antifa lie


Of note: This week we highlight reporting by former Wisconsin Watch intern Natalie Yahr, whose Cap Times story details the hurdles business owners of color in the Madison area have faced during the nearly yearlong pandemic. “While the pandemic has turned much of the economy upside down, its toll on businesses has been far from evenly distributed,” Yahr writes. “Much as people of color make up a disproportionate share of those hospitalized and killed by the virus … many business owners of color were already operating with little room for error, enjoying less generational wealth, less access to bank loans and less help from professional accountants or lawyers than their white counterparts.”

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Tamaleria El Poblano employees Erika Merino, Jaime Gonzalez Torres, Pascual Flores Gonzalez and Rosa Pineda assemble fresh tamales at the Tamaleria El Poblano kitchen on the east side of Madison. Credit: Ruthie Hauge

Dreams on the line: Many business owners of color were already operating with little room for error. And then the pandemic hit.

Cap Times — March 3, 2021

The pandemic hit China Moon Crowell early — and hard. In February 2020, when public health authorities still mistakenly believed the only people contracting the novel coronavirus were those who had traveled abroad, Crowell got sick. Too weak to climb into her bed, she spent five weeks sleeping on her couch. She was living alone, and her breathing was so labored she asked her mom to stop by if she didn’t hear from her every six hours. “I was diagnosed with the flu,” Crowell said. “And I’m like, ‘This is not the flu.’ ” After more than a month, her body recovered from what she’s sure was the coronavirus. But the damage to her business was only beginning.

Study shows sharply different sentencing outcomes by race in Kenosha, Racine, Walworth counties

Kenosha News — February 28, 2021

In the Wisconsin judicial district made up of Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties, Black men are more than 50 percent more likely to be sentenced to prison than white men accused of similar crimes, a study shows. According to data included in a draft report for the Wisconsin Court System, the three-county Second Circuit District has among the state’s worst disparities in sentencing outcomes when comparing white men charged with crimes to Black and Hispanic men.

Azul Kothari, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is seen in front of Sellery Residence Hall, where he lives and works a house fellow, on Feb. 27, 2021. Credit: Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch

‘I’ve been very fortunate’: Living on campus, Azul Kothari hopes UW-Madison will prevent COVID-19 outbreaks with new testing protocols.

Wisconsin Watch/WPR — March 3, 2021

University of Wisconsin-Madison third-year student Azul Kothari describes how he and others navigate the campus during the pandemic. New this semester: Required spit-based COVID-19 tests every few days. “Saliva testing is something that feels really weird to do,” Kothari said. “It’s literally the grossest thing.”

Read and listen to more from the Outbreak Wisconsin collaboration here.

How pro-Trump forces pushed a lie about Antifa at the Capitol riot

The New York Times — March 1, 2021

This story traces how former President Donald Trump pushed weeks of fiction to his millions of supporters that set the stage for a new and equally false iteration: that left-wing agitators were responsible for the attack on the Capitol. In fact, the rioters breaking into the citadel of American democracy that day were acolytes of Trump, intent on stopping Congress from certifying his electoral defeat. Among the prominent sowers of disinformation in the riot’s aftermath: U.S. Sen.  Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, who repeated the falsehood that “fake Trump protesters” fomented the violence.

Light shines in to a vacant space on the first floor of Haymarket Landing on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Eau Claire, Wis. Credit: Angela Major / WPR

Failed partnerships and vacant buildings: Foxconn’s Wisconsin commitment remains at a standstill

WPR — March 2, 2021

In late February, Foxconn executives announced plans to begin manufacturing electric vehicles for California-based start-up Fisker Inc. Both companies said the collaboration will “revolutionize the automotive industry.” They compared their work to the scientific discoveries of Isaac Newton. And hinted they could even manufacture the cars here in Wisconsin. The partnership announcement is the latest for the Taiwanese mega-manufacturer. It follows a string of high-profile announcements that have been abandoned by Foxconn or that have severely underperformed the company’s promises.

Related story from Wisconsin Watch: Property owners near Foxconn say they were misled. Now their homes are gone.

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.