Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Your Cart   |   Sign In   |   Register
Community Search
Watchdog Reporting

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK

 Arizona Republic: Sky Harbor jet noise riles Phoenix neighborhoods

The Arizona Republic reports that it has been almost a year since the Federal Aviation Administration began directing concentrated air traffic over Megan Comstock’s neighborhood, Phoenix’s Woodland Historic District. But the air traffic still disrupts her sleeping patterns, hampers front porch conversations and drives her to call the city to log complaints. The FAA altered flight routes last September as part of a nationwide program aimed at boosting safety and reducing emissions. The biggest change, and the one that has drawn the most ire, directs westbound planes leaving Phoenix over historic downtown neighborhoods including F.Q. Story, Willo and Roosevelt. This surprised residents and ignited a fury that has sent politicians from City Council to Congress on a quest to quell the noise. Residents of about 500 households in ZIP codes including those areas filed more than 6,300 complaints from September through May. … But a city-commissioned noise monitoring study, and testing completed by The Arizona Republic, shows noise in tested neighborhoods seldom registered loud enough to technically interfere with conversation on an industry-standard decibel scale.

Read more:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/investigations/2015/08/29/phoenix-sky-harbor-flight-path-noise/71334238/

Los Angeles Times: City services vary depending on locale

Improving basic city services has become a top priority at Los Angeles City Hall. But how promptly municipal agencies respond to Angelenos' complaints depends largely on where they live, a Los Angeles Times analysis found. An examination of more than 1.4 million service requests since 2010 showed vast disparities across the city in how long it took to patch a pothole, pick up a broken-down sofa or paint over graffiti. City crews took four weeks to fill potholes in Hollywood Hills West, but just four and half days in Chinatown. In West Los Angeles, bulky items were picked up by the next scheduled trash collection day more than 97 percent of the time. In Wilmington, it was less than 40 percent of the time. And when residents in Mid-Wilshire called for graffiti removal, they waited a median time of more than three days, compared with less than three hours in Sunland, a foothill community in the San Fernando Valley.

Read more:

http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-adv-city-service-20150829-story.html

Des Moines Register: Is Iowa’s Medicaid a pay to play program?

The Des Moines Register reports that some of Iowa’s top elected officials — most notably Gov. Terry Branstad — have accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from some of the companies that vied for lucrative contracts to manage Iowa’s annual $4.2 billion Medicaid program. Lobbyists and political action committees representing the four companies whose proposals were selected earlier this month donated nearly $68,000 to those campaigns since 2010, a Des Moines Register investigation shows.  At least another $57,000 flowed in from companies that submitted bids but failed to win the contracts. The Iowa amounts pale in comparison to $4.6 million that the four winning companies and their PACs have contributed to other governors, legislative leaders and political action committees across the country over the past five years. Such donations are part of widespread private sector efforts to shape public policy, critics contend.

Read more:

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2015/08/29/iowas-medicaid-management-game-pay-play/32422717/

Lexington Herald-Leader: Kentucky has more than 30,000 homeless students

The Lexington Herald-Leader says that going to school saved James Mouser's life in early April. Mouser, then a senior at Northpoint Academy in Pike County, cut his hand while at school on a Friday. Unable to see a doctor because he has no car, he lanced his own hand over the weekend after it became infected. When Mouser, 20, returned to school the following Monday, his hand had ballooned. Three dark, angry lines snaked from his hand to inches above his elbow. Rick Branham, the coordinator for homeless students for Pike County Schools, saw Mouser's hand and immediately took him to the hospital. Mouser stayed there for a week with an IV hooked to his arm, delivering high-dose antibiotics that eventually rid his body of the blood poisoning caused by his "hillbilly doctoring." "The doctors said I could have died," Mouser said. "The only people who visited me that week were Rick and my brother." Mouser has lived on and off with his mother since his father died of an aneurism when he was 13, but he spends most nights on someone else's couch, relying on extended family, friends and neighbors for food and shelter. Before graduating in June, Mouser was one of more than 30,000 homeless students in Kentucky, which has the highest rate of student homelessness in the nation, according to a Herald-Leader analysis of federal education data.

Read more:

http://www.kentucky.com/static/projects/homeless_main/index.html#storylink=cpy

Pioneer Press: Troubled waters in Minnesota

On a recent summer day, Dylan, Madysen and Colten King escaped the heat in time-honored Minnesota fashion: with a swim in a lake, the Pioneer Press reports. But the King children's trip to Lake Byllesby in southern Dakota County had another element now found in lakes across the state: huge, unsightly algae blooms. "It looks gross, but it gets better as you go out farther," 9-year-old Colten said as he and his siblings splashed a few yards from the beach, just beyond a film of blue-green algae hugging the shoreline. Lake Byllesby, a body of water created by a dam on the Cannon River, is a good example of a state lake dogged by uncertain water quality. Byllesby is a popular summer spot for fishing, boating and swimming, but state water-quality data show that it doesn't fully support any of those activities. … Overall, more than 600 of Minnesota's famous 10,000 lakes are rated as not able to fully support aquatic recreation -- including even the remote Lake of the Woods, which has regular summer algae blooms.

Read more:

http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_28720174/troubled-waters-minnesotas-lakes-and-streams-cherished-playgrounds

Baltimore Sun: Tales of 45 deaths

The Baltimore Sun reports that Taylor Street and Delvin Trusty began dating in high school after he sent her a message on social media. They attended prom together, and three years later were expecting their first child. When she gave birth this month, she was surrounded with support, including Trusty's parents and brother, and her mother, sister and cousin — but not Trusty. Their daughter, a 9-pound, 11-ounce girl named Avah, was born one month to the day that Trusty was gunned down in Northeast Baltimore. "I text his phone still," Street said. "I send pictures of the baby." Trusty was among 45 people killed in Baltimore in July, a toll that matched the deadliest month in the city's modern history and came amid a surge in violent crime surge that followed Freddie Gray’s death. The last time 45 people were killed in one month was in August 1972, when the city had about 275,000 more residents. The deaths occurred across the city, overwhelmingly in historically impoverished neighborhoods. All but one of the victims were male, all but two of them black. Many had serious criminal records. The victims also included a 5-month-old boy and a 53-year-old grandmother, a teen stabbed to death in a dispute over a cell phone and a carryout delivery man killed in a robbery. … The Baltimore Sun sought to profile each of the victims through interviews with relatives, friends, neighbors and police, as well as information on social media — and to chronicle the impact on those left behind.

Read more:

 http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/investigations/bs-md-ci-july-homicide-victims-20150829-story.html


 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK  8-31-15

Post and Courier: Many students left behind as consequences of school choice

The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, reports that kids with the toughest hurdles are stuck in gutted schools. It says, for example, that once a powerhouse Class AAAA school, North Charleston High can barely field sports teams anymore. Half of its classrooms sit empty. Saddled with a reputation for fights, drugs, gangs and students who can’t learn, middle-class families no longer give it a chance. This is the unintended consequence of school choice. Two-thirds of students in its attendance zone now flee to myriad magnets, charters and other school choices that beckon the brightest and most motivated from schools like this one. But not all can leave, not those without cars or parents able to navigate their complex options. Concentrated poverty is left behind. So is a persistent “at risk” rating from the state. The Post and Courier is running a five-part look at the high school through the eyes of students tethered to a world of dwindling dreams.

Read more:

http://data.postandcourier.com/school-choice/

Montgomery Advertiser: A look at the compensation of heads of nonprofits

The Montgomery Advertiser asks, just how much should the heads of major charities make? “It goes back to your passions and what is important to you,” said Jimmy Hill, president of the River Region United Way. “If I’m here working for a profit... then I’m here for the wrong reason.” But pay someone far too little and the charity risks losing them. … The 2014 CEO Compensation Study examined the compensation practices at 3,946 mid to large-sized U.S.-based charities that depend on support from the public. The analysis revealed that the top leaders of these charities earned a median salary in the low to mid six figures in 2012, an increase of 2.6 percent from the previous year, according to Charity Navigator. … The Montgomery Advertiser took a closer look within the River Region _ through Guidestar, a source of information on nonprofit organizations, which includes salaries and nonprofit incomes — to determine, based on either 2013 or 2014 Form 990s, what local nonprofit charity executives earn.

Read more:

http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/2015/08/22/nonprofit-leaders-compensation-just-pay/32219817/

 News Journal: Hepatitis C is Delaware’s hidden epidemic

Delaware’s skyrocketing number of heroin users face a hidden epidemic in hepatitis C, and many can’t get the medicine they need to get well. A 12-week regime for the most effective pharmaceutical treatments, Sovaldi and Harvoni, can cost up to $94,500. Patients must jump through hoops to secure the costly medicines through their private or government insurance plans, allowing the infection to slowly destroy their livers. Hepatitis C, a blood-borne disease, is most easily spread through intravenous drug use. It’s a viral infection with few early symptoms, and danger signs may not appear for decades. Ultimately, patients endure liver scarring, liver cancer or total failure of the organ. If not treated, hepatitis C can be lethal. But the need to get high often comes before getting treatment _ for the addiction or the hepatitis C.

Read more:

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/health/2015/08/21/delawares-hidden-epidemic/32147655/

Portland Press Herald: State’s disability reform results in more case denials

The Portland (New Hampshire) Press Herald reports that Bob Sprankle speaks by whispering through clenched jaws into a microphone, struggles to walk around the block, and spends much of his day squeezing a plush ball in a futile attempt to control his pain. “It feels like you are either being cut with long knives, or like a rat is chewing at your gut,” said Sprankle, 52, who used to run 4 miles nearly every day but is now largely confined to his home. Sprankle suffers from chronic lower abdominal pain related to a hernia surgery in 2007, medical professionals say. He is so sick he can’t work, said his nurse practitioner, but when he applied for disability through the Maine public retirement system, he was rejected twice. … Sprankle’s case is not unique. Since 2009, the medical board that reviews disability retirement applications for the Maine Public Employees Retirement System has slashed the number of applications it approves from 75 percent to 30 percent, according to retirement system records. The sharp decline resulted from reforms implemented in 2010 that were designed to speed up the application review process, but which had the unintended consequence of driving up the denial rate to disability applicants, officials say.

Read more:

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/08/23/state-retirement-system-reforms-backfire-on-the-disabled/

Charlotte Observer: Investors question land deal markups

The land company founded by U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger has amassed thousands of acres and around 1,400 investors _ some of whom say they’re unhappy with the way the company, now run by Pittenger’s wife, has handled their investments. Those complaints emerged this month when Pittenger disclosed the existence of an FBI investigation into the company. Pittenger, who transferred ownership to Suzanne Pittenger after being elected to Congress in 2012, said he was confident that he and the company have done nothing wrong. An Observer examination of land records has shed light on how Pittenger Land Investments functions, including how the company marked up the price of speculative tracts that it sold to investors. In addition to management fees and a profit taken when a property is sold, land records in more than a half dozen deals show how Pittenger’s company bought the land at one price before immediately selling it to the investors assembled by the company at prices ranging from 13 percent to 70 percent higher.

Read more:

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/article31914933.html#storylink=cpy

  


WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK

 

New York Times: AT&T helped US spy on Internet on vast scale

The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T. While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed N.S.A. documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as “highly collaborative,” while another lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” AT&T’s cooperation has involved a broad range of classified activities, according to the documents, which date from 2003 to 2013. AT&T has given the N.S.A. access, through several methods covered under different legal rules, to billions of emails as they have flowed across its domestic networks. It provided technical assistance in carrying out a secret court order permitting the wiretapping of all Internet communications at the United Nations headquarters, a customer of AT&T.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/us/politics/att-helped-nsa-spy-on-an-array-of-internet-traffic.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Arizona Daily Star: Teachers pass, even if students don’t

Nine in 10 Pima County teachers are rated good or great _ but that is not always evident in their students’ achievement scores. An Arizona Daily Star analysis of teacher evaluations and school district performance shows that principals rated 94 percent of Pima County teachers and 85 percent of teachers statewide as effective or highly effective. Some districts reported nearly unanimous high ratings for teachers even though their schools received low grades for student achievement and other standards. Tucson’s two largest school districts _ Tucson Unified School District and Sunnyside _ rated almost all their teachers good or great despite being among Pima County’s lowest-scoring districts on the state’s math, reading and writing assessments.

Read more:

http://tucson.com/news/local/education/rankings-for-local-teachers-students-out-of-whack/article_52797b10-bc83-5339-9c8c-2326d6652f99.html

Delaware News Journal: How the case against a drug ring is unraveling

State Police were proud of this case: They worked for years to infiltrate a drug ring in Kent County, then finally got a break after securing wiretaps on the phones of the kingpin and his supplier. Confidential informants were interviewed, undercover officers staked out parking lots where drugs changed hands. And in June of 2012, the targeted supplier, Jermaine Dollard, and another suspect, Eric Young, were stopped just south of Wilmington after making a trip to a McDonald's in New York City, where they met another person. Locked in a secret compartment in the vehicle was 2 kilograms of cocaine valued at about $88,000, dope which prosecutors say field-tested positive. It was a big bust that helped to put Dollard, Young, kingpin Galen Brooks and 11 others in prison _ some for decades, one, a habitual offender, for life. However, because of the scandalous lack of control on evidence at Delaware's Controlled Substances Laboratory, prison doors swung open for Dollard and Young 18 months after they were busted. … Improprieties at the state medical examiner’s office have called into question the legitimacy of numerous court cases and drug investigations.

Read more:

http://www.delawareonline.com/longform/news/crime/2015/08/14/case-kent-county-drug-ring-unraveling/31723335/

Miami Herald: Candidates benefit from for-profit colleges

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign spent the past week touting her new plan to make college affordable _ in part by cracking down on “predatory” colleges, and forcing schools to “spend federal dollars on things that benefit students, like teaching and research, not marketing campaigns.” What Clinton didn’t mention: Her husband, Bill, has been paid more than $16 million as “honorary chancellor” of Laureate Education, the world’s largest for-profit college company. The firm is being sued by several online graduate students for allegedly dishonest practices, and a 2012 U.S Senate report found that more than half of Laureate’s online Walden University revenue went to marketing and profit. Republicans quickly went on the attack. .. What the Republican National Committee didn’t mention: The GOP field of 2016 presidential hopefuls is filled with candidates who have close ties to for-profit colleges. Marco Rubio listed two for-profit executives (and the industry’s former top Florida lobbyist) as “contributors” to his 2006 book, 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future. Jeb Bush gave a keynote speech at the for-profit industry’s Washington trade association last year, for which he was paid $51,000. Republican front-runner Donald Trump is being sued by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over his now-shuttered “Trump University” business school.

Read more:

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article31216595.html#storylink=cpy

Baltimore Sun: More holdups, fewer solved

Jordan Black had just left work at the downtown Hilton hotel and was walking home to Camden Crossing late one night when he felt a hand grab him from behind. … A few months earlier, 26-year-old Ezra Winter experienced a similar, "well-rehearsed" robbery in Mount Vernon. … Across Baltimore, similar incidents have been occurring with increasing frequency, according to city crime data _ and fewer are being solved. Even as a spike in killings has grabbed headlines, the number of robberies _ taking someone's property through the use or threat of force _ stands at what is at least a five-year high. Robbery clearance rates, meanwhile, are at a five-year low.

Read more:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/blog/bs-md-ci-robberies-20150815-story.html

Minneapolis Star Tribune: When big rigs push past safety rules

The semitrailer truck rumbled south down Houston County Road 9, a two-lane highway that rolls across the fertile farmland of southeast Minnesota, on an overcast morning in March. The roads were clear of ice and snow, and the truck’s trailer was loaded with giant bales of hay. Dale and Teresa Erickson, married for 26 years, were cruising north in their pickup. Both vehicles were headed for a curve. When the semi driver felt the hay shift, he slammed on the brakes. But it was too late. Ten bales, each weighing an estimated 1,200 pounds, flew off. One crushed the pickup’s cab. Passers-by dragged Teresa out, but the pickup caught fire with Dale pinned inside. Both died within days. The truck’s owner and driver, Randall Hongerholt, now faces four misdemeanor charges, including failing to secure the load _ the kind of violation that would have been caught during a roadside safety inspection. But federal records show that Hongerholt, who put on about 5,000 miles a year transporting grain, feed and hay, hadn’t undergone such a check from a certified inspector since October of 2000, after a crash in which someone was injured. Millions of large trucks crisscross state and federal highways every day, hauling billions of tons of goods between factories and fields and warehouses and stores. Federal and state regulations govern truckers’ driving hours, equipment maintenance and load sizes, but enforcement of those rules through surprise roadside inspections has been falling nationally and in Minnesota.

Read more:

http://m.startribune.com/local/321965591.html?section=/

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Records show babies died, were not stolen

It was a heartwarming story that stirred the country. Forty-nine years after someone at Homer G. Phillips Hospital told Zella Jackson Price that her premature baby had died, the daughter _ quite alive _ tracked her down. After Price’s lawyer claimed that babies may have been stolen from the historic black hospital and sold, St. Louis officials were flooded with more than 200 demands for proof from mothers who wondered about the fate of their own babies. Price’s already collapsing story hit the ground when the region’s top federal prosecutor provided evidence that she didn’t even deliver the baby at Phillips. There was no indication of any kidnapping; records suggest Price, then 26, abandoned the child. But what about the others? Results of a months-long Post-Dispatch quest for records suggest that the vast majority of the women, and perhaps all, were told the truth. In those cases in which family provided authorities, lawyers or the Post-Dispatch with a baby surname and month and year of birth, a reporter found records verifying the deaths of roughly three-quarters. In some cases, there were multiple sources of that information. As for the rest, the absence of documentation may not mean much. Some of the queries regard deaths dating back generations. Relatives’ memories are unreliable. Records are spotty. Phillips closed in 1979. City Hospital No. 1, where Price’s daughter was really born, closed in 1985.

Read more:

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/records-show-babies-died-were-not-stolen-at-homer-g/article_40bf4b0b-2c47-501c-916e-818b4834d2da.html

Philadelphia Inquirer: Sounding alarm on emergency vehicles

The Philadelphia medic noticed smoke rising from the engine just as he steered his ambulance off I-95. He and his partner were on their way to a medical emergency when their ambulance began to smoke. Then, a bang - a "loud explosion," the medic remembered. They pulled over and scrambled from their seats as the smoke grew heavy and thick. On the side of the road, they watched as flames licked up the side of the ambulance. In the year since that fire in 2014, sources and records obtained by The Inquirer indicate that accident wasn't an anomaly _ that an ambulance bursting into flames is just an extreme example of the deteriorating, sometimes dangerous fleet operated by the Philadelphia Fire Department. Union officials and rank-and-file firefighters spoke to The Inquirer about frequent breakdowns on engines, ladder trucks, and medic units _ from doors that won't open to full-scale brake failures _ that put emergency vehicles out of commission for days, or even months at a time.

Read more:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150816_Alarms_sounded_over_Phila__Fire_Department_s_aging_fire_trucks_and_ambulances.html#jVq7LpVhHxrTChKA.99

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK

 

New York Times: AT&T helped US spy on Internet on vast scale

The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T. While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed N.S.A. documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as “highly collaborative,” while another lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” AT&T’s cooperation has involved a broad range of classified activities, according to the documents, which date from 2003 to 2013. AT&T has given the N.S.A. access, through several methods covered under different legal rules, to billions of emails as they have flowed across its domestic networks. It provided technical assistance in carrying out a secret court order permitting the wiretapping of all Internet communications at the United Nations headquarters, a customer of AT&T.

Read more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/us/politics/att-helped-nsa-spy-on-an-array-of-internet-traffic.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

 

Arizona Daily Star: Teachers pass, even if students don’t

Nine in 10 Pima County teachers are rated good or great _ but that is not always evident in their students’ achievement scores. An Arizona Daily Star analysis of teacher evaluations and school district performance shows that principals rated 94 percent of Pima County teachers and 85 percent of teachers statewide as effective or highly effective. Some districts reported nearly unanimous high ratings for teachers even though their schools received low grades for student achievement and other standards. Tucson’s two largest school districts _ Tucson Unified School District and Sunnyside _ rated almost all their teachers good or great despite being among Pima County’s lowest-scoring districts on the state’s math, reading and writing assessments.

Read more:

http://tucson.com/news/local/education/rankings-for-local-teachers-students-out-of-whack/article_52797b10-bc83-5339-9c8c-2326d6652f99.html

 

Delaware News Journal: How the case against a drug ring is unraveling

State Police were proud of this case: They worked for years to infiltrate a drug ring in Kent County, then finally got a break after securing wiretaps on the phones of the kingpin and his supplier. Confidential informants were interviewed, undercover officers staked out parking lots where drugs changed hands. And in June of 2012, the targeted supplier, Jermaine Dollard, and another suspect, Eric Young, were stopped just south of Wilmington after making a trip to a McDonald's in New York City, where they met another person. Locked in a secret compartment in the vehicle was 2 kilograms of cocaine valued at about $88,000, dope which prosecutors say field-tested positive. It was a big bust that helped to put Dollard, Young, kingpin Galen Brooks and 11 others in prison _ some for decades, one, a habitual offender, for life. However, because of the scandalous lack of control on evidence at Delaware's Controlled Substances Laboratory, prison doors swung open for Dollard and Young 18 months after they were busted. … Improprieties at the state medical examiner’s office have called into question the legitimacy of numerous court cases and drug investigations.

Read more:

http://www.delawareonline.com/longform/news/crime/2015/08/14/case-kent-county-drug-ring-unraveling/31723335/

 

Miami Herald: Candidates benefit from for-profit colleges

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign spent the past week touting her new plan to make college affordable _ in part by cracking down on “predatory” colleges, and forcing schools to “spend federal dollars on things that benefit students, like teaching and research, not marketing campaigns.” What Clinton didn’t mention: Her husband, Bill, has been paid more than $16 million as “honorary chancellor” of Laureate Education, the world’s largest for-profit college company. The firm is being sued by several online graduate students for allegedly dishonest practices, and a 2012 U.S Senate report found that more than half of Laureate’s online Walden University revenue went to marketing and profit. Republicans quickly went on the attack. .. What the Republican National Committee didn’t mention: The GOP field of 2016 presidential hopefuls is filled with candidates who have close ties to for-profit colleges. Marco Rubio listed two for-profit executives (and the industry’s former top Florida lobbyist) as “contributors” to his 2006 book, 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future. Jeb Bush gave a keynote speech at the for-profit industry’s Washington trade association last year, for which he was paid $51,000. Republican front-runner Donald Trump is being sued by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over his now-shuttered “Trump University” business school.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article31216595.html#storylink=cpy

 

Baltimore Sun: More holdups, fewer solved

Jordan Black had just left work at the downtown Hilton hotel and was walking home to Camden Crossing late one night when he felt a hand grab him from behind. … A few months earlier, 26-year-old Ezra Winter experienced a similar, "well-rehearsed" robbery in Mount Vernon. … Across Baltimore, similar incidents have been occurring with increasing frequency, according to city crime data _ and fewer are being solved. Even as a spike in killings has grabbed headlines, the number of robberies _ taking someone's property through the use or threat of force _ stands at what is at least a five-year high. Robbery clearance rates, meanwhile, are at a five-year low.

Read more:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/blog/bs-md-ci-robberies-20150815-story.html

 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: When big rigs push past safety rules

The semitrailer truck rumbled south down Houston County Road 9, a two-lane highway that rolls across the fertile farmland of southeast Minnesota, on an overcast morning in March. The roads were clear of ice and snow, and the truck’s trailer was loaded with giant bales of hay. Dale and Teresa Erickson, married for 26 years, were cruising north in their pickup. Both vehicles were headed for a curve. When the semi driver felt the hay shift, he slammed on the brakes. But it was too late. Ten bales, each weighing an estimated 1,200 pounds, flew off. One crushed the pickup’s cab. Passers-by dragged Teresa out, but the pickup caught fire with Dale pinned inside. Both died within days. The truck’s owner and driver, Randall Hongerholt, now faces four misdemeanor charges, including failing to secure the load _ the kind of violation that would have been caught during a roadside safety inspection. But federal records show that Hongerholt, who put on about 5,000 miles a year transporting grain, feed and hay, hadn’t undergone such a check from a certified inspector since October of 2000, after a crash in which someone was injured. Millions of large trucks crisscross state and federal highways every day, hauling billions of tons of goods between factories and fields and warehouses and stores. Federal and state regulations govern truckers’ driving hours, equipment maintenance and load sizes, but enforcement of those rules through surprise roadside inspections has been falling nationally and in Minnesota.

http://m.startribune.com/local/321965591.html?section=/

 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Records show babies died, were not stolen

It was a heartwarming story that stirred the country. Forty-nine years after someone at Homer G. Phillips Hospital told Zella Jackson Price that her premature baby had died, the daughter _ quite alive _ tracked her down. After Price’s lawyer claimed that babies may have been stolen from the historic black hospital and sold, St. Louis officials were flooded with more than 200 demands for proof from mothers who wondered about the fate of their own babies. Price’s already collapsing story hit the ground when the region’s top federal prosecutor provided evidence that she didn’t even deliver the baby at Phillips. There was no indication of any kidnapping; records suggest Price, then 26, abandoned the child. But what about the others? Results of a months-long Post-Dispatch quest for records suggest that the vast majority of the women, and perhaps all, were told the truth. In those cases in which family provided authorities, lawyers or the Post-Dispatch with a baby surname and month and year of birth, a reporter found records verifying the deaths of roughly three-quarters. In some cases, there were multiple sources of that information. As for the rest, the absence of documentation may not mean much. Some of the queries regard deaths dating back generations. Relatives’ memories are unreliable. Records are spotty. Phillips closed in 1979. City Hospital No. 1, where Price’s daughter was really born, closed in 1985.

Read more:

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/records-show-babies-died-were-not-stolen-at-homer-g/article_40bf4b0b-2c47-501c-916e-818b4834d2da.html

 

Philadelphia Inquirer: Sounding alarm on emergency vehicles

The Philadelphia medic noticed smoke rising from the engine just as he steered his ambulance off I-95. He and his partner were on their way to a medical emergency when their ambulance began to smoke. Then, a bang - a "loud explosion," the medic remembered. They pulled over and scrambled from their seats as the smoke grew heavy and thick. On the side of the road, they watched as flames licked up the side of the ambulance. In the year since that fire in 2014, sources and records obtained by The Inquirer indicate that accident wasn't an anomaly _ that an ambulance bursting into flames is just an extreme example of the deteriorating, sometimes dangerous fleet operated by the Philadelphia Fire Department. Union officials and rank-and-file firefighters spoke to The Inquirer about frequent breakdowns on engines, ladder trucks, and medic units _ from doors that won't open to full-scale brake failures _ that put emergency vehicles out of commission for days, or even months at a time.

Read more:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150816_Alarms_sounded_over_Phila__Fire_Department_s_aging_fire_trucks_and_ambulances.html#jVq7LpVhHxrTChKA.99

 

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF RECENT IMPACT JOURNALISM

Montgomery Advertiser: Church-exempt day care centers lack oversight

To avoid most state regulations that protect children at day care centers, all you have to do is become church-exempt, the Montgomery Advertiser reports. To become church exempt you have to do a long list of things — except no one will know if you don’t actually do them. Theoretically to become a church-exempt day care center, you need a note on church letterhead stating the program is an integral part of a local church or ministry. And when you submit it to the state’s department of human resources, you must certify that you have had fire inspections, health inspections, immunizations for all children, and that there are medical history forms for all staff and children. Theoretically. In fact, all you need is the church letterhead because DHR does not have the authorization to validate any certification, according to state codes.

Read more:

http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/2015/08/08/church-exempt-day-care-centers-anyone-can-open-one/31363923/

Arizona Republic: Hispanic, Native American children at risk in poorly installed car seats

The Arizona Republic warns that many children are at risk because of improperly installed car seats, especially in Hispanic and Native American families. It reports that shortly before sunrise on July 13, Alfonso Beltran was driving with his girlfriend, Letitia Greyeyes, and her 3-year-old daughter, Aria, in his Chevy Suburban. Two teens drove through a red light at full speed, broadsiding the Suburban. … Amid a shower of glass, Aria flew out of her car seat through a side window onto the asphalt. The impact fractured her right arm and leg and skull. … Beltran said he's sure he buckled Aria in her car seat. But police said Aria must not have been fastened in properly, and that the seat itself was not installed correctly. Weeks later, Aria clings to life in critical condition at Phoenix Children's Hospital. What happened to her is anything but rare. More children in Arizona and across the country die or are injured in vehicle accidents because they weren't secured properly than for any other reason.

Read more:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/investigations/2015/08/08/seat-them-safely-arizona/31228425/

Washington Post: Unarmed black men often victims of police gunfire

A Washington Post study of police shootings finds that unarmed black men often are the victims. It cites cases in Wisconsin, California, Florida and Ohio. … Perhaps most infamously, the pattern played out one year ago Sunday in Ferguson, Missouri, where a white police officer searching for a convenience-store robber shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. That incident sparked a national movement to protest police treatment of African Americans and turned 18-year-old Michael Brown into a putative symbol of racial inequality in America. So far this year, 24 unarmed black men have been shot and killed by police - one every nine days, according to a Washington Post database of fatal police shootings. During a single two-week period in April, three unarmed black men were shot and killed. All three shootings were either captured on video or, in one case, broadcast live on local TV. Those 24 cases constitute a surprisingly small fraction of the 585 people shot and killed by police, according to The Post database. Most of those killed were white or Hispanic, and the vast majority of victims of all races were armed. However, black men accounted for 40 percent of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population. The Post's analysis shows that black men were seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.

Read more:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2015/08/08/black-and-unarmed/

Miami Herald: Rubio truant in U.S. Senate

A chipper talk radio host in New Hampshire had a tired sounding Sen. Marco Rubio on the phone, the Miami Herald reports.

“How have you been, sir?”

“I’ve been busy.”

“You’ve been very busy in the Senate. ... You’re joining us from Washington this morning?”

“No, I’m in New York City.”

It was a Thursday in June, and Rubio, who was in New York to appear on Fox News, finished the day in Connecticut, raising money and giving a speech. As he campaigns for president, the Florida Republican is increasingly skipping his elected duty in Washington. In July alone, he missed more than half the Senate votes. In June, Rubio missed 67 percent of votes, including taking an entire week off for fundraising in California and to attend a candidate gathering in Utah. In April, a month in which he missed 21 percent of votes, Rubio went to the floor to bemoan how he could not get traction on amendments aimed at the Iran nuclear accord. “If you don’t want to vote on things,” he said, voice rising, “don’t run for the Senate.” All told, Rubio has the worst missed vote record of any current senator.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article30426819.html#storylink=cpy

Chicago Sun-Times: Fat chance police will take fitness test

Rather than provide an incentive for Chicago’s finest to get and stay in fighting shape, a city fitness testing program appears to be rewarding officers who already are physically fit, while doing little to encourage overweight officers to get in shape, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Only one in four sworn members of the Chicago Police Department even takes the test, which includes a 1.5-mile run, a bench press, sit-ups and a sit-and-reach test. Standards for passing are based on age and gender. The reward for passing? A $350 bonus. … Last year, 3,040 of the department’s approximately 12,500 sworn officers took the test. Bonuses for those who passed cost taxpayers $1,050,350. The vast majority who took the test passed. Only 39 failed.

Read more:

http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/782269/watchdogs-chicago-cops-skip-fitness-test

Denver Post: Anatomy of a VA hospital failure

The biggest construction failure in VA history began with a handwritten note signed two days before Veterans Day 2011, the Denver Post reports. On that Nov. 9, project officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs were locked in a 7½-hour meeting with executives from Kiewit-Turner, the construction team tapped to build a hospital in Aurora for the agency. … What saved the deal was a simple proposal - and a pen and paper. Rather than fight over the book’s details, negotiators agreed to shrink the deal to a handwritten note of 70 words with two basic terms: KT would build the hospital for $604 million, and the VA would provide the design to get them there. That brief note became the pact to start work on a state-of-the-art medical campus spread across 31 acres. Its signing also marked the moment when the VA hospital in Aurora began to devolve from a mismanaged project to a national calamity. The VA could not hold up its end of the deal and control its designers, who initially operated under a contract that left the construction price blank. It later battled KT in court for 17 months and lost. The agency stonewalled elected officials as costs, delays and questions mounted, and its own investigative staff did nothing. … Even now, there is no agreement on fully funding the new medical campus, which the VA admitted in March could cost a stunning $1.73 billion. … The cost is five times an initial $328 million estimate and nearly three times the $604 million construction target. To tell the story of the troubled project, The Denver Post read hundreds of court documents, interviewed dozens of those involved and reviewed congressional testimony going back a decade.

Read more:

http://extras.denverpost.com/aurora-va-hospital/

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK


Seattle Times: Cases of sex abuse in prison mostly go nowhere

The Seattle Times reports that one investigation began with an anonymous tip: Theresa Nolte, a customer-service worker at the print shop in Monroe Correctional Complex, appeared to have a strange relationship with an inmate named Kelly Beard, a member of the prison’s Aryan gang who was finishing up a 20-year murder sentence. The two spent time together most days, huddled in whispered conversations. Investigators discovered Nolte and Beard had secretly struck up a romance, and on several occasions sneaked away to have sex. The two even planned a life together after Beard’s expected release the following year. … In Washington, prison staffers commit a crime whenever they have sexual contact with an inmate, even if both insist it was consensual. Over the past decade, the number of annual complaints about staff sexual misconduct here has more than quadrupled, according to state data obtained by The Seattle Times. In 2014, complaints hit 216. Prison officials said they look into every complaint. But only about one in seven is substantiated, meaning they meted out some form of staff discipline.

Read more:

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/prison-sex-abuse-cases-grow-but-prosecutions-are-rare/


Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Do these projects really need government help?


The Rochester (New York) Democrat and Chronicle reports that the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency may be called that because it is charged with spurring job creation and business investment locally via tax breaks and other incentives. But most projects in the area that benefit from taxpayer largesse don't involve industry or manufacturing. And the projects create relatively few jobs per dollar in tax breaks awarded. The government agency _ whose appointed, volunteer board has a reputation for unanimously approving every project that comes before its members _ offers development incentives to businesses in the form of tax-exempt bonds, and sales, property and mortgage tax breaks. But analysis of COMIDA's recent work shows the bulk of enterprises benefiting from those breaks is in the service, retail, finance, insurance and real estate sectors. Critics say the agency isn't selective enough, that it offers up too many assists for projects that would likely have moved forward even without the incentives, letting developers pad their pockets on the taxpayers' dime.

Read more:

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2015/08/01/comida-data-analysis-watchdog/30972975/


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Prevention with a dose of danger

At 88, Gloria Glatz still embraced life, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. She was an avid Scrabble player and made a phenomenal potato salad between occasional visits to the casino. Like 3 million to 5 million Americans, Glatz had a type of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation. The condition is not normally life-threatening, but can cause clots to form and increase the risk of a stroke. So in December 2011, her doctor put her on a blood thinner. Instead of choosing the decades-old standby, warfarin, the doctor prescribed Xarelto, which had been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration just a few months earlier. Xarelto is one of four anticoagulants approved since 2010 that make up a class of lucrative new drugs marketed as more convenient than warfarin. While warfarin has a blood thinning action that can be halted in a bleeding emergency, none of the newer drugs has an approved antidote. When Glatz developed gastrointestinal bleeding, a few months after she started taking Xarelto, doctors could not make it stop. She died March 23, 2012, at a Kenosha hospital. … Since 2010, at least 8,000 deaths have been linked to the three of the new anticoagulant drugs, compared to 700 for warfarin, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today investigation found. By contrast, last year warfarin accounted for roughly three times as many prescriptions.

Read more:

http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/new-anticoagulant-drugs-provide-stroke-prevention-with-dose-of-danger-b99545719z1-320303991.html


Arizona Daily Star: Shortage puts uncertified teachers in Arizona classrooms

The Arizona Daily Star reports that when Cesar Aguirre learned his daughter’s first-grade teacher had resigned in the middle of the school year, he was alarmed. That turned to dismay as weeks passed and Jasmine — whose speech delay affected her reading ability — started falling behind. Now a third-grader, Jasmine emerged from the experience relatively unscathed. But Aguirre remains concerned that Arizona has such a tough time fulfilling his modest expectations for his daughter’s classroom: a certified teacher who would stick around all year and could meet her educational needs. That’s more than many Arizona children can expect. Public schools statewide are struggling to fill vacancies as they attract fewer new teachers and more experienced ones retire or leave the profession for more lucrative careers. Teacher say low pay, long workdays, a lack of professional respect and opportunities elsewhere are luring them away from a field they love. As a result, thousands of kids may find themselves in classrooms without a certified teacher this fall. … Tucson-area school districts had 217 vacant teaching positions as of July 17, an Arizona Daily Star investigation found.

Read more:

http://tucson.com/news/local/education/shortage-puts-uncertified-teachers-in-arizona-classrooms/article_b0344334-7730-5356-89d7-bdbc9eb461a7.html


New York Times: Small pool of rich donors dominates political giving

Fewer than four hundred families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign, a concentration of political donors that is unprecedented in the modern era. The vast majority of the $388 million backing presidential candidates this year is being channeled to groups that can accept unlimited contributions in support of candidates from almost any source. The speed with which such “super PACs” can raise money — sometimes bringing in tens of millions of dollars from a few businesses or individuals in a matter of days — has allowed them to build enormous campaign war chests in a fraction of the time that it would take the candidates, who are restricted in how much they can accept from a single donor.

A New York Times analysis of Federal Election Commission reports and Internal Revenue Service records shows that the fund-raising arms race has made most of the presidential hopefuls deeply dependent on a small pool of the richest Americans.

Read more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/02/us/small-pool-of-rich-donors-dominates-election-giving.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1


Washington Post: Super PACs rolling in cash

More than 50 individuals and entities have shelled out at least $1 million apiece to big-money groups backing presidential candidates — with close to half of the big donors giving to a super PAC aligned with former Florida governor Jeb Bush. With 15 months to go before Election Day, donors have already contributed $272.5 million to independent groups supporting the large Republican field, more than four times the $67 million raised through their official campaigns, according to a tally by The Washington Post. In all, 58 million-dollar donors together were responsible for $120 million donated to GOP and Democratic super PACs by June 30 — more than 40 percent of the total amount raised by those groups. Never before has so much money been donated by such a small number of people so early. The massive sums have empowered outside groups that face no contribution limits and are now serving as de facto arms of many campaigns.

Read more:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/million-dollar-donors-pump-huge-sums-into-2016-white-house-race/2015/07/31/e2befec4-37b8-11e5-9739-170df8af8eb9_story.html


News Journal: Women violated in Delaware’s prison system

When police arrested the security chief at the state women’s prison July 8 for having sex with an inmate in his office, the episode was no anomaly for Delaware, the News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, reports. The illegal acts that authorities say Major Fred Way III engaged in at Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution were merely the latest in a string of staff-inmate sex scandals that have plagued Delaware since men began guarding female prisoners nearly a quarter-century ago. In recent years, several male correctional officers and one courthouse security officer have been charged with sex crimes against female inmates while working at Baylor and other state facilities. One abused a prisoner in a supply closet. One violated three women at a boot camp. Another had sex with a woman twice in the laundry area, then the storage room – all in the same night. The problem of guards having sex with women behind bars in Delaware goes much deeper than those criminal cases, however, according to court records, federal reports, a consultant study and prison insiders.

Read more:

http://www.delawareonline.com/longform/news/local/2015/07/31/sex-behind-bars-women-violated-prison/30944001/


Pioneer Press: For St. Paul graduates, college readiness is an issue

The Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minnesota, says that for Ramon Page and several of his friends, graduating from a St. Paul public high school offered not a springboard to college but a trapdoor.

Because of his low scores on a college placement test, Page had to take developmental math and English courses the summer before enrolling at Minnesota State University Mankato and then again during first semester. As he spent thousands of borrowed dollars before earning a single college credit, Page grew frustrated with both Minnesota State Mankato's placement system and Humboldt High School, which awarded him a diploma in 2013. "You're allowing me to walk (for graduation), and then I'm told I'm not ready," the 20-year-old said. Although St. Paul Public Schools does a decent job of getting its graduates to enroll in higher education _ college-going rates among low-income students actually exceed the state average _ college completion is another story. By 2014, just 32 percent of the district's 2008 graduates had earned a two- or four-year degree within six years, compared with 48 percent statewide. And many who enter college simply aren't ready.

Read more:

http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_28568581/college-readiness-an-issue-st-paul-high-school


 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK


Columbus Dispatch: Care ratings rare in Ohio

The Columbus Dispatch reports that a new federal ratings system that aims to measure the quality of home health care leaves Ohioans in the dark about the performance of most local agencies. Nearly 47 percent of the more-than 800 Medicare-certified home-health agencies statewide were not rated through the government’s star-ratings consumer tool, a higher share than in any other state. And in Columbus, the void is even wider: Nearly three-fourths _ 72 percent _ of Medicare-certified agencies in the city were not rated, a Dispatch analysis found. …

The dearth of home health-care information is a major problem in Ohio. The state has plenty of information about nursing-home quality, at Ltcohio.org. But it does little to inform consumers about the performance of individual home-care agencies, despite the fact that the industry is rife with fraud and inconsistent, subpar care.

Read more:

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/07/26/care-ratings-rare.html


Los Angeles Times: A bar too high to reach

To Omar Medina, a security officer working the graveyard shift, attending Northwestern California University School of Law seemed like the ideal way to fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer, The Los Angeles Times reports. Unlike traditional law schools with high tuitions and entrance requirements, Northwestern California offered Medina a chance to take online courses while working full-time and helping raise his toddler son. Medina enrolled in the unaccredited school. He said he paid about $3,000 a year in tuition. But almost from the start, the Marine Corps veteran struggled. He said he frequently asked for help, but got little. Less than two years later, he gave up. Medina's situation was hardly unusual: Nearly 9 out of 10 students at California's unaccredited law schools dropped out, according to a Times investigation based on recent state bar data.

Read more:

http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-law-schools-20150726-story.html#page=1


Times Herald: Meth is homemade, volatile and growing

The Times Herald in Port Huron, Michigan, reports that Catherine Silver-Martin watched sternly as officers dressed in hazmat suits carried plastic bottles, aluminum foil, and chemicals from her neighbor’s home. “I suspected it,” the Port Huron woman said as she watched Port Huron police and St. Clair County Drug Task Force across the street. “But I didn’t realize the magnitude of what he was doing. I’m glad they’re here. I’m glad they’re taking out these meth labs.” From January through mid-June, the St. Clair County Drug Task Force made 17 raids involving methamphetamine and seized about 165 grams of the drug. That’s nearly as many meth raids as the task force totals for each of the last three years. “That is the popular drug right now and it happens to be the most dangerous,” said St. Clair County Sheriff Lt. Kevin Manns, who leads the task force. “Meth is not only dangerous to the user, but the people around them as well.” … Meth _ a highly addictive stimulant _ can create fumes and fires during and after production that threaten more than just the user.

Read more:

http://www.thetimesherald.com/story/news/local/2015/07/25/meth-homemade-volatile-growing-problem/30675083/


Minneapolis Star Tribune: Medical debts soar in spite of insurance coverage

The Minneapolis Star Tribune says that the number of Minnesotans struggling to pay their medical bills is rising sharply, despite an increase in the number of residents who have health insurance. In the past year, Minnesota’s main hospital and clinic groups filed nearly 9,000 lawsuits against people with large or long-standing medical debts _ a sharp increase since 2005, according to a Star Tribune analysis of court records. Once a leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States, medical debt was widely expected to decline as more Americans got health insurance following federal health reform. Instead, shifts in the insurance market are pushing more people toward high-deductible policies that can require them to pay as much as $7,500 before any insurance benefits kick in.

Read more:

http://m.startribune.com/local/318545021.html?section=/



The Oregonian: Public work on private email

Oregon law requires public employees and elected officials to abide by the basic rule children learn in math: Show your work. They must save and share their work on paper documents, digital files and email, the Oregonian reports. Yet at nearly every rung of government, from unpaid school board members to the former U.S. secretary of state, officials are using personal email accounts that may help them keep public work hidden, shield them from being accountable and increase the chance files will be lost or leaked. In Oregon, few jurisdictions definitively address the issue with employees and elected officials. An informal survey by The Oregonian/OregonLive of a dozen state and local agencies found that only one _ the state Bureau of Labor and Industries _ forbids staff and leaders from using personal emails to conduct public work. At best, the majority of agencies remind employees that personal emails are public records and encourage forwarding them to work accounts, the survey found.

Read more:

http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/07/goverment_and_private_emails_s.html#incart_2box


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Documents show state GOP courtship of gas industry

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that a lobbyist urged Tom Corbett’s campaign that the pitch to the Marcellus Shale gas industry should be stark. “The Guv and House Ds are conspiring to move devastating amendments to the Oil & Gas Act, as well as, a severance tax bill that would make PA one of the least competitive shale gas states in the nation,” according to “talking points” attributed to Peter Gleason, a lobbyist at K&L Gates whose clients include gas firms. They might talk of “balance,” according to the document, but “in reality, are marching in line with hardcore, anti-industry environmental radicals that are the base of Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party.” The time was May 2010, and Tom Corbett was then attorney general. Days earlier, he had won the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Days later, he traveled to Texas, with his campaign’s finance chair, for meetings with top gas executives. … The talking points _ among hundreds of documents from Mr. Corbett’s first gubernatorial campaign recently obtained by the Post-Gazette _ reflect a moment in time with strong echoes today.

Read more:

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-state/2015/07/26/Documents-show-Pennsylvania-GOPs-courtship-of-gas-industry/stories/201507260190


New York Times: Campaign spending predates campaigns

Since late last year, presidential hopefuls have been romancing donors, hiring staff and haunting the diners and senior centers of Manchester and Dubuque, The New York Times reports. But on paper, most of the candidates spent virtually no money exploring a presidential bid until very recently. According to campaign disclosures newly filed with the Federal Election Commission, the much-promoted campaign staff they hired had other jobs. And their many, many trips to New Hampshire and Iowa had nothing to do with running for president. Such accounting _ which the campaigns defended as perfectly appropriate but some election lawyers said violated the law _ has allowed would-be candidates to spend months testing the presidential waters while saving cash to use later in the primaries. It also let them tap their most loyal donors for additional funds that will not count against the limits on contributions to their official campaigns. And it has contributed to what some experts described as a kind of campaign Wild West, with candidates and their lawyers testing or crossing legal boundaries stretched thin by the advent of “super PACs” and by Federal Election Commission deadlocks.

Read more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/26/us/presidential-race-just-started-not-according-to-the-spending.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0



 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF RECENT IMPACT JOURNALISM


Arizona Daily Star: Parents DUIs top charges for child abuse

The child endangerment and abuse felonies most commonly found in Pima County’s courtrooms have nothing to do with hitting children or neglecting to feed or bathe them, the Arizona Daily Star reports. Instead, they involve children riding in the car with a parent or caregiver who has been using drugs or alcohol. A Daily Star analysis of the 157 defendants charged with at least one child abuse felony in 2014 found that nearly 80 percent involved children being exposed to potential harm, rather than having harm directly inflicted on them. Of these, nearly 44 percent involved children in cars with a drunk or drugged driver at the wheel.

Read more:

http://tucson.com/news/local/driving-impaired-with-kids-tops-county-abuse-charges/article_c03c33b2-1c86-5d47-9c0d-d1b0ad685752.html


Indianapolis Star: 5,006 rape kits untested in county

More than 5,000 sexual assault kits collected in the county around Indianapolis since 2000 have never been tested, according to an analysis by The Indianapolis Star and the USA Today Media Network. Each kit represents an individual named as a victim of sexual assault. The kits contain forensic evidence, such as clothing, fingernail scrapings and swabs from various parts of an individual’s body, gathered through an invasive and intensely personal exam that takes about three hours. A number of victims’ advocates are pushing for testing of all kits in Marion County. Testing the sexual assault kits can reveal DNA evidence that helps identify suspects, strengthen criminal cases or, in some cases, clear a suspect of wrongdoing. It’s unclear, however, whether the large number of untested kits in Marion County is denying justice to sexual assault victims. Officials say there are myriad — and often legitimate — reasons why a kit might not be tested.

Read more:

http://www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2015/07/18/officials-clear-answer-untested-rape-kits/30365207/


Minneapolis Star Tribune: Overtime costs soar for local sheriffs

Counties across the metro are struggling with millions of dollars in soaring overtime costs as waves of officers in their sheriff’s departments either retire or quit jobs that are often proving difficult to fill. Staffing shortages have become so acute in some areas that even responding to 911 calls requires overtime. And some county officers are filling staffing gaps so often they are earning hundreds of hours in overtime pay, records show. After losing 94 employees in 2014, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek says he’s bracing to blow his office’s budget this year by at least $1.5 million. In Ramsey County, commissioners tapped their contingency account last year to cover Sheriff Matt Bostrom’s overruns of $900,000 in temporary employee salaries and unbudgeted overtime. And in Carver County, Sheriff Jim Olson blamed his rising overtime on an exodus of more than half his authorized force of licensed peace officers since 2011 to higher-paying agencies. … The Star Tribune analyzed payroll expenditures from six metro counties. The analysis excludes payments to undercover officers, which are not public information.

Read more:

http://www.startribune.com/overtime-costs-soaring-at-twin-cities-sheriff-agencies-as-they-struggle-toward-full-employment/317035211/


New York Times: Lawless on the high seas

The New York Times reports that a rickety raft made of empty oil drums and a wooden tabletop rolled and pitched with the waves while tied to the side of the Dona Liberta, a 370-foot cargo ship anchored far from land in the Atlantic Ocean off West Africa. “Go down!” yelled a knife-wielding crew member, forcing two Tanzanian stowaways overboard and onto the raft. As angry clouds gathered on the horizon, he cut the line. Gambling on a better life, the stowaways had run out of luck. They had already spent nine days at sea, most of the time hiding in the Dona Liberta’s engine room, crouched deep in oily water. But as they climbed down onto the slick raft, the men, neither of whom knew how to swim, nearly slid into the ocean before lashing themselves together to the raft with a rope. As the Dona Liberta slowly disappeared, David George Mndolwa, one of the abandoned pair, recalled thinking: “This is the end.” Few places on the planet are as lawless as the high seas, where egregious crimes are routinely committed with impunity. Though the global economy is ever more dependent on a fleet of more than four million fishing and small cargo vessels and 100,000 large merchant ships that haul about 90 percent of the world’s goods, today’s maritime laws have hardly more teeth than they did centuries ago when history’s great empires first explored the oceans’ farthest reaches.

Read more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/19/world/stowaway-crime-scofflaw-ship.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news


Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Bridge inspectors check for damage amid earthquake activity

When a big earthquake hits, the world often sees horrific images of collapsed bridges.

In 1989, during a 6.9-magnitude quake in the San Francisco area, the double-deck Nimitz Freeway pancaked, killing 42 people. Fifty-foot sections of the Bay Bridge also collapsed, killing a woman. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that North Texas is unlikely to experience an earthquake of that scope, according to researchers. But in recent years, the region has experienced dozens of smaller quakes, with the strongest having a magnitude of 4.0 — enough to potentially damage buildings and bridges. Those in geology and engineering circles are increasingly concerned that the wave of seismic activity in the Dallas-Forth Worth area could damage the area’s transportation infrastructure — not only bridges but also tunnels, roadways and rail lines.


Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/community/fort-worth/article27648586.html#storylink=cpy


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  Gangs exploit police chase policy

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that an innovative, violent gang of drug dealers is exploiting the Milwaukee Police Department's own policy on vehicle pursuits and other rules as they feed an incessant hunger for heroin across southeastern Wisconsin and contribute to a surging number of murders in the city, according to newly unsealed court documents. The dealers are part of Big Money Addicts, or BMA, one of a number of gangs in Milwaukee that operate on a new, highly mobile business model designed to better deliver drugs and build customer loyalty while thwarting police efforts to arrest them, records show. The gangs are selling heroin and cocaine from cars, shifting dealing away from drug houses and sales on foot or bicycle and creating rolling drug operations. They heavily tint their car windows, often to a degree that is prohibited under city ordinance. The tint is enough for police to pull over the cars, but if the driver flees, under department policy, officers cannot give chase unless they have evidence an occupant has committed a violent crime or is a threat to the safety of others. And the tint often prevents police from seeing what is going on in the car and gathering the evidence they would need to give chase.

Read more:

http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/gangs-turn-to-rolling-drug-houses-exploiting-policy-chase-policy-b99538779z1-317132501.html


 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK 7-14-15

 

Montgomery Advertiser: How safe are day care centers?

The Montgomery Advertiser reports that children began arriving at area hospitals, all with the same symptoms: diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and lethargy. Some 86 children became sick from staph bacteria at two Sunny Side Day Care Center locations. Quickly, questions arose about the day care center operations, about whether it was licensed, about why there were 323 children at two of the four locations, about what the child/adult ratio was, and whether there were any state guidelines to prevent what had happened. Alabama is one of about a dozen states that have "church-exempt" day care centers. Sunny Side is one of them. … The Montgomery Advertiser investigated the history of Sunny Side Day Care Center, and it was found that Sunny Side did not meet fire safety standards, and while the center received a 98 rating on a May food inspection, they were not consistent in their food reports. Officials said oversight is very different for licensed day care centers than for "church-exempt" centers.

Read more:

http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/2015/07/12/outbreak-sunny-side-illustrates-oversight-problem/30042715/

 

Arizona Republic: Medicaid-expansion foes get prime state insurance

More than two-thirds of Republican lawmakers who sued to overturn Medicaid coverage for low-income Arizonans took state-sponsored health-insurance plans that offer more-robust medical benefits than what the average Arizonan gets from private employer. Records obtained by The Arizona Republic show that of the 36 current and former state lawmakers who sued to halt funding of the Medicaid expansion, 26 enrolled in state-funded health-insurance plans. Eight of the lawmakers who sued the state over the Medicaid expansion no longer serve in the Arizona Legislature. Of the remaining 28 serving in either the Arizona Senate or House of Representatives, 21 are enrolled in the state-sponsored health-insurance plans. Arizona lawmakers serve part-time, but most now seated take year-round health-insurance benefits that are more generous than what most other states offer their employees.

Read more:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/politics/2015/07/12/arizona-lawmakers-state-insurance-medicaid-foes/29885099/

 

Modesto Bee: Victims of scams have long wait for repayment

The Modesto Bee calculates that at the rate approved by a federal judge, it will take convicted swindler Tony Daniloo more than 10,000 years to repay what he stole from his victims. One of them, owed $74,000, is 85 years old and fading with Alzheimer’s disease. The woman’s daughter and full-time caregiver, Linda Malone, says they lost everything in Daniloo’s scam, and are too poor to buy a car, are hounded by creditors and have no hope of returning to a normal life. “I’d rather shoot the son of a bitch,” Malone said, than wait for pennies representing their share of Daniloo’s repayment. A judge formally set it at $50 per month when Daniloo had trouble keeping a heating and air-conditioning job not long after his January 2013 release from federal prison. Other victims of Stanislaus County’s more notorious white-collar criminals have similar stories. … None of the six offenders analyzed by The Bee has paid more than 1 percent of the money ordered by judges when sentenced; combined, they owe nearly $33 million, and have coughed up less than $29,000, or nine-tenths of a cent for each $100 ordered in restitution.

Read more:

http://www.modbee.com/news/local/article27057817.html#storylink=cpy

 

Denver Post: Rogue officers certification rarely revoked

Colorado's lenient police discipline system allows rogue officers to jump from department to department despite committing transgressions that would bar them from law enforcement jobs in many states, the Denver Post reports. Michael Jimenez resigned from the Denver police force in 2008 after he allegedly had sex with a prostitute he picked up in his squad car. But that did not stop the Custer County Sheriff's Office from hiring him in 2009. He lost that job, too, in less than a year. Then the Fowler Police Department, whose chief knew Jimenez from Denver, hired him. Jimenez never showed up for work and was later fired after pleading guilty to driving while ability impaired. Still, his certificate to work as a police officer remained active. It was not until he pleaded guilty again, this time to vehicular assault while driving drunk, that the panel that decides who can and cannot work in law enforcement in Colorado finally revoked Jimenez's certification. … The Denver Post reviewed a decade of state police personnel findings as well as discipline logs at the Denver Police Department and hiring records at select agencies and found officers still working in Colorado despite serious transgressions. In some instances, these problem officers went on to commit crimes or cause harm.

Read more:

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_28470805/colorado-laws-allow-rogue-officers-stay-law-enforcement

 

Washington Post: Power and politics of parole boards

The Washington Post tells the story of Reynaldo Rodriguez, who was 19 with a young son, a good job and no criminal record when he shot and killed a man. As part of an ongoing family feud, someone _ Rodriguez believed it was a man named Robert Cuellar _ had shot at Rodriguez’s mother and brother. Then Cuellar slapped Rodriguez’s sister. “I just blew a fuse,” Rodriguez says now of killing Cuellar. In 1977 he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and the judge gave him a choice: A sentence of 15 to 30 years would probably mean parole in 12. A life sentence would make him parole-eligible in 10 years. Rodriguez chose life. At his sentencing, Saginaw County (Michigan) Judge Gary McDonald made it clear that this was “not the mandatory natural life imprisonment sentence” and said that if Rodriguez was a “model prisoner,” McDonald would recommend release in 10 years. Thirty-seven years later, Rodriguez is still behind bars. America’s prisons hold tens of thousands of people like Rodriguez — people primarily confined not by the verdicts of a judge or a jury but by the inaction of a parole board.

Read more:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/the-power-and-politics-of-parole-boards/2015/07/10/49c1844e-1f71-11e5-84d5-eb37ee8eaa61_story.html?tid=hpModule_9d3add6c-8a79-11e2-98d9-3012c1cd8d1e&hpid=z9

 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: VA handed out pain killers, then stopped

Zach Williams came home to Minnesota with two Purple Hearts for his military service in Iraq, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. He also carried other lasting war wounds. Back pain made it hard for him to stand. A brain injury from the explosions he endured made his moods erratic. Williams eased the chronic pain with the help of narcotics prescribed for years by the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center. Then the VA made a stark and sudden shift: Instead of doling out pills to thousands of veterans like him _ a policy facing mounting criticism _ they began cutting dosages or canceling prescriptions, and, instead, began referring many vets to alternative therapies such as acupuncture and yoga. At first, the change seemed to work: Worrisome signs of prescription drug addiction among a generation of vets appeared to ebb. But the well-intentioned change in prescription policy has come with a heavy cost. Vets cut off from their meds say they feel abandoned, left to endure crippling pain on their own, or to seek other sources of relief. Or worse. On Sept. 20, 2013, police were called to Williams’ Apple Valley home, donated to him by a veterans group grateful for his sacrifice. Williams, 35, lay dead in an upstairs bedroom. He had overdosed on a cocktail of pills obtained from a variety of doctors.

Read more:

http://www.startribune.com/cut-off-veterans-struggle-to-live-with-va-s-new-painkiller-policy/311225761/

 

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Wisconsin last among states for malpractice payments

Wisconsin doctors paid fewer medical malpractice claims per capita last year than their peers in any other state _ and physicians here are consistently at the bottom nationwide when it comes to paying such claims, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis of federal data. Only six of every 1 million Wisconsin residents collected a medical malpractice claim last year, compared with a national rate of 27 per 1 million of population, according to the analysis of records filed with the National Practitioner Data Bank. That amounted to 37 total payouts in Wisconsin last year. The Wisconsin payment rate was last among the states in three of the past five years, and it has ranked 47th or lower 20 times since 1992, according to the analysis.

Meanwhile, the analysis shows, the number of claims paid to victims of doctor error has been dropping in Wisconsin and nationally.

Read more:

http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/wisconsin-last-among-states-for-malpractice-claim-payments-analysis-shows-b99530717z1-313906961.html

 

Los Angeles Times: Pedestrians in trouble in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Times says that during the evening rush hour near MacArthur Park, the streets teem with activity. Crowds pack the crosswalks, weaving around cars that nose through to make right turns. Men pull food carts and women push strollers toward the Metro Rail station, accompanied by the strains of pop music from cars and businesses. This is the kind of dense, transit-oriented neighborhood that Los Angeles officials say the car-clogged city needs to replicate. But Westlake's bustling character also makes it one of the city's most dangerous areas for pedestrians: On four blocks of South Alvarado Street, the neighborhood's backbone, 90 people were hit by cars in a period of 12 years. A Los Angeles Times analysis shows nearly a quarter of traffic accidents involving a pedestrian occur at less than 1 percent of the city's intersections. Many of the most dangerous crossings, which see a disproportionately high rate of crashes, are clustered in high-density areas between downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood.

Read more:

http://graphics.latimes.com/la-pedestrians/

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK 7-9-15


AP: Governors' trade missions have uneven record of success

Governors across the country have been packing their bags for all-expenses-paid trade missions abroad, spending taxpayer dollars on costly trips that have an uneven track record of yielding any tangible benefits for their states. Last week alone, governors of 10 states were jetting across Europe, many converging at an air show in Paris. Others traveled to Canada, South America and Asia. At the beginning of last week, more than a quarter of the nation's governors were out of the country. Since the start of 2014, governors have taken or scheduled more than 80 trips to 30 countries in their efforts to increase exports and entice foreign companies to expand in their states, according to a nationwide analysis of gubernatorial trade trips by The Associated Press.

Read more:

http://www.stltoday.com/news/national/govt-and-politics/governors-trade-missions-have-uneven-record-of-success/article_38ff425a-1f37-5b77-aa2d-b3352354b37d.html


Kansas City Star: Police pursuits kill dozens, injure more

Seconds before impact, Emma Rothbrust cheered on the Grandview police officer _ in hot pursuit far from his home turf _ as he blew through a red light in Leawood. “Go get him,” said Rothbrust, 16, as she and a friend waited for him to clear the intersection. As soon as they pulled out, a second Grandview cruiser, traveling 81 mph, slammed into the passenger side of the car where Rothbrust was sitting. The 2004 crash left Rothbrust with serious injuries and the city of Grandview on the hook for a $2.9 million settlement with Rothbrust’s family. … In a rare response to the accident, Johnson County prosecutors charged both Grandview officers with misdemeanor reckless driving. … In the decade since, there have been at least another 706 pursuit-related crashes in the metro area, according to state data analyzed by the Hale Center for Journalism and The Kansas City Star. Those crashes killed at least 23 people, according to an analysis of more than 100 news stories over the decade. Hundreds more were injured, including at least 11 police officers.

Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/news/government-politics/article26040007.html#storylink=cpy


AP: Health insurance companies seeking large rate increases

Health insurance companies across the country are seeking rate increases of 20 percent to 40 percent or more, saying their new customers under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act turned out to be sicker than expected. Federal officials say they are determined to see that the requests are scaled back. Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans -- market leaders in many states -- are seeking rate increases that average 23 percent in Illinois; 25 percent in North Carolina; 31 percent in Oklahoma; 36 percent in Tennessee; and 54 percent in Minnesota, according to documents posted online by the federal government and state insurance commissioners and interviews with insurance executives. The Oregon insurance commissioner, Laura Cali, has approved 2016 rate increases for companies that cover more than 220,000 people. Moda Health Plan, which has the largest enrollment in the state, received a 25 percent increase, and the second-largest plan, LifeWise, received a 33 percent increase.

Read more:

http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2015/jul/05/insurers-seek-double-digit-rate-increas/


Los Angeles Times: State audit slams Blue Shield of California

In a scathing audit, state tax officials slammed nonprofit health insurer Blue Shield of California for stockpiling "extraordinarily high surpluses" _ more than $4 billion _ and for failing to offer more affordable coverage or other public benefits. The California Franchise Tax Board cited those reasons, among others, for revoking Blue Shield's state tax exemption last year, according to documents related to the audit that were reviewed by The Times. These details have remained secret until now because the insurer and tax board have refused to make public the audit and related records. Blue Shield's operations are indistinguishable from those of its for-profit healthcare competitors, the auditors found, and it should be stripped of the tax break it has enjoyed since its founding in 1939. The insurance giant does not advance social welfare, the key test for preserving its tax exemption, according to the records.

Read more:

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-blue-shield-audit-20150705-story.html#page=1


Miami Herald: Despite probe, police kept after cash

With federal agents bearing down on a troubled sting operation run by Bal Harbour police, the officers for the unit began striking more deals with criminal groups to bring in massive amounts of drug cash. In one month alone, they traveled 22 times to cities outside Florida to collect suitcases filled with cash, even as federal agents complained the police were ignoring their questions about the undercover operation. By the time federal investigators issued a subpoena in 2012, the police task force was striking as many as three deals in a single day to launder money for the drug cartels and other criminal groups. New records obtained last week by the Miami Herald show the Tri-County Task Force carried out a rush of deals while fending off federal agents in what appears to be one of the largest ever state undercover money laundering operations in Florida.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article26508889.html#storylink=cpy


New York Times: Obesity treatment covered by insurance

The New York Times reports that Dr. Michael Kaplan looked across his desk at a woman who had sought out his Long Island Weight Loss Institute and asked the question he often poses to new patients: “Where do you think you go wrong with food?” The 38-year-old patient was about 20 pounds overweight and, as she described it, desperate. Weight Watchers, nutritionists _she had tried them all in vain. A physician like Dr. Kaplan, she reasoned, might be the only one left who could help her. … Dr. Kaplan, a leader in the medical weight-loss industry, nodded sympathetically, interjecting questions that ranged from what she typically ate for breakfast (protein shake) to whether she felt depressed (sometimes). By the end of the 50-minute session, the woman had chosen Dr. Kaplan’s most expensive weight-loss plan: $1,199 for six weeks’ worth of meal-replacement products, counseling and vitamin supplements. Then he delivered some good news: Her insurance would probably reimburse her for at least a small portion of the bill, thanks to a provision in the federal health care law that requires insurers to pay for nutrition and obesity screening.

Read more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/05/business/in-health-law-a-boon-for-diet-clinics.html?_r=0


 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF RECENT IMPACT JOURNALISM 7-1-15


AP-APME Infrastructure Project: Growing Gridlock

At 4:35 a.m. each weekday, Stan Paul drives out of his Southern California suburb with 10 passengers in a van, headed to his job as an undergraduate counselor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Some 80 miles and 90 minutes later, the vanpoolers finally arrive to start their workday.

On the return trip, Los Angeles' infamously snarled traffic often stretches their afternoon commute to three hours. Since Paul joined in 2001, he has spent roughly 1 1/2 years aboard the vanpool.

Transportation experts say Paul's long journey offers a warning for the future, when traffic rivaling a major holiday might someday be the norm for many more Americans. And it's not just the usual congestion spots.

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/states-wrestle-with-addressing-increased-traffic-congestion-b99527496z1-310339161.html


Orange County Register: Disney works to stop gate tax

The Orange County Register says that the Walt Disney Co. recently showed how much it values keeping Anaheim out of its ticket-pricing business. The corporation announced it would commit to a $1 billion expansion at Disneyland Resort, provided the city forgoes taxing admission tickets for 30 years. Anaheim has never charged taxes on Disney tickets. But the 1996 deal that spelled out that policy expires next year. Disney’s effort to get ahead of the curve shows how much control it wants to maintain over its carefully calibrated prices. ...At the end of 2014, Disney’s parks and resorts were its second-biggest source of revenue, after its media networks, with operating revenue of $2.6 billion, a 20 percent jump from the previous year, according to financial filings. In Orange County, Disneyland Resort accounts for nearly a third of the $9.6 billion tourism market and generates $370 million in state and local tax revenues, according to a study commissioned by Disney. The city’s tax revenue from hotel stays, heavily tied to Disney parks, is projected to hit $133 million next year – nearly half of its total revenue.

Still, Anaheim faces a half-billion dollar unfunded pension obligation. And mayor Tom Tait opposes Disney’s proposal, saying he doesn’t want Anaheim to be handcuffed for another three decades.

Read more:

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/tax-669095-disney-city.html


Miami Herald: Money pipeline to Latin America

From a trailer just across from the Bal Harbour village hall, the police set up an elaborate undercover sting, the Miami Herald reports in a series. Posing as money launderers, they counted the $409,115 in drug cash that had just arrived. They bundled it. They took photos of it.

In the next few days, they delivered it: thousands of dollars to VA Cell, a company in an atrium office in Doral. Even more to GSM City, a popular computer store with a showroom just three miles away. Armed with one of the toughest money-laundering laws in the country, the police infiltrated the drug cartels five years ago and zeroed on their money-laundering hub — setting up what should have been a sweeping crackdown on businesses used by the drug traffickers to conceal their cash. But in the end, nothing happened. No company owners were arrested by the Tri-County Task Force, nor were they targeted with civil actions to seize their assets. To this day, most of the exporters are open, some still suspected by federal agents of laundering money for the drug organizations, a Miami Herald investigation found. … The lack of enforcement represents everything that went wrong with a task force that funneled millions into the storefront businesses — gathering crucial evidence against some of the owners — yet took no enforcement actions against them.

Read more: http://pubsys.miamiherald.com/static/media/projects/2015/license-to-launder/doral.html#storylink=cpy


Idaho Statesman: Commercializing tech research hasn’t fulfilled promise

The Idaho Statesman says that the world should hope Boise State University professor Greg Hampikian strikes it big. Hampikian, who teaches biology and criminal justice, has developed three chemical compounds he says have shown promise in the laboratory to fight cancer. The drugs are not yet patented and have years of testing and trials before they might receive regulatory approval. If Boise State chose to pursue a patent for the drugs, and if they were to reach market, Hampikian could split millions in patent licensing agreements with a pharmaceutical company in equal parts with Boise State. … After spending thousands on initial filings, Boise State has chosen not to pursue patents on the drugs, though it has filed for patents for two other Hampikian inventions: a miniature pump for use in forensic DNA analysis and a transducer that can generate energy. So Hampikian plans to pay himself to file patents for the cancer drugs, though he will likely need investors to advance them. … Universities like Boise State, the University of Idaho and Idaho State University, and federal installations like the Idaho National Laboratory, have embraced tech transfer by creating offices to license their work.

But in Idaho at least, tech transfer has so far produced mostly hopes, not business success.

Read more:

http://legacy.idahostatesman.com/techtransfer/index.html


The Courier-Journal: Dental ER visits rising

What started as a toothache from a lost filling became a raging infection that landed Christopher Smith in the University of Louisville Hospital emergency room, then in intensive care on a ventilator and feeding tube. "It came on so quickly and violently. I was terrified," said Smith, 41, who lacked dental insurance and hadn't been to a dentist for years before the problem arose this month. "I had no idea it could get this serious this quickly."

Smith is one of a growing number of patients seeking help in the ER for long-delayed dental care. An analysis of the most recent federal data by the American Dental Association shows dental ER visits doubled from 1.1 million in 2000 to 2.2 million in 2012, or one visit every 15 seconds. ADA officials, as well as many dentists across the nation say the problem persists despite health reform. … Limited insurance coverage is a major culprit; all but 15 percent of dental ER visits are by the uninsured or people with government insurance plans. The Affordable Care Act requires health plans to cover dental services for children but not adults. Medicaid plans for adults vary by state, and offer only a short list of dental services in Kentucky. Medicare generally doesn't cover dental care.

Read more:

http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2015/06/24/er-visits-dental-problems-rising/29242113/


Charlotte Observer: Broker sells insurance policies to homeless

Just outside the gate of Charlotte’s Urban Ministry Center, where the homeless often gather with people selling them something, Kim Huggins got a pitch from an acquaintance she knows only as Jeff, the Charlotte Observer reports. If she would give him her name and Social Security number, she would get free health insurance and he would earn $5. Huggins, who was sleeping on a friend’s floor, says she handed the man her Social Security and ID cards and he filled out a form. Her form, along with 600 others from across the Carolinas, went to Charlotte insurance agent Will Kennedy. Almost all the applications he submitted had an estimated annual income of $11,700, and many of the addresses were the Urban Ministry Center and other homeless help centers, according to a complaint filed with the N.C. Department of Insurance. Today Huggins is among dozens in Charlotte who are learning that their “free” coverage requires them to cover a $5,000 deductible and costs them eligibility for some of the free medical services they’ve relied on.

Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/health-care/article25671634.html#storylink=cpy


Seattle Times: Navy stealthily targets canal development

With little public outreach, the Navy has stealthily put thousands of acres of Puget Sound shoreline and upland off-limits to proposed and future development. Recently released documents reveal the Navy has marked a “sphere of influence” in the western Puget Sound that it can use to block developments — even after they’re well under way — by deeming them threats to national security. The Navy has clandestinely targeted projects, rating them according to perceived threat level. Meanwhile, area developers say they were unaware their work was being monitored. Last year, the Navy was so worried about a proposed pier bringing barges into Hood Canal that it managed to restrict a narrow, 70-mile strip of seafloor to stop it. The state hired two appraisers, who independently valued the strip, some 4,804 acres of public land, at $1.68 million. But to pay Washington state that amount, the Navy first needed approval from Congress. To get around the lawmakers, the Navy reappraised the lease in-house, valuing the seafloor acreage at $720,000, according to a Seattle Times review of hundreds of pages of Navy and state documents. The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) agreed to the new price despite state law that requires the agency to obtain fair-market value for this “restrictive easement.”

Read more:

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/navy-stealthily-targets-hood-canal-development-2/


 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK 6-24-15


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Coffee roasting can release dangerous chemical

Tucked inside a burlap sack at room temperature, green coffee beans pose no known danger.

Funnel a 90-pound batch into a 430-degree roaster and things change, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. A chemical reaction between the beans' sugars and amino acids creates a toxic compound capable of crippling the lungs of anyone nearby. But few, if any, commercial coffee roasters know it. They stand close, smelling the beans periodically during the 14 minutes it takes to turn them into a ready-to-be-ground roast. As the beans spill from the roasting drums into the cooling rack, roasters again inhale the fumes — the aromas made delicious, in part, by the same molecular formula tied to hundreds of injuries and at least five deaths. Most coffee roasters have never heard of the chemical compound diacetyl. Those who have, associate it solely with its devastating effects on microwave popcorn workers and those in the flavoring industry. They don't suspect that it could be wreaking the same havoc on their own lungs.

Read more:

http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/coffee-roasters-health-at-risk-from-chemical-compound-air-samples-suggest-b99505149z1-308183961.html


Arizona Republic: The high cost of drones

The drone's radar spots the men first _ four red dots moving on Ajo Mountain, a half mile north of the U.S.-Mexico border, the Arizona Republic reports. The radar operator sits more than an hour's flight away, with the rest of the drone's flight crew, in a trailer at the edge of the Fort Huachuca military base in southern Arizona. He taps at his keyboard. A powerful video camera mounted on a ball beneath the Customs and Border Protection Predator B zooms in. The image clearly shows four men, one in a white shirt, hiking calmly through the rugged desert, unaware they're being tracked from nearly nine miles away and 19,000 feet up. The drone's crew alerts the Border Patrol. In less than a minute, a helicopter heads there from one direction, agents in a truck from another. After a few minutes the four men, apparently hearing the chopper, break into a run, sprinting for the border fence. Impressive technology. But federal auditors and aerial-surveillance competitors repeatedly have questioned whether CBP's drone program is cost effective _ and whether other alternatives might do more for less money. … An Arizona Republic analysis suggests that manned aircraft or other, less expensive drones could provide broader coverage than the Predator Bs have delivered, at a significantly lower cost.

Read more:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/investigations/2015/06/20/border-patrol-drone-program/28999735/


Miami Herald: To serve, protect and profit

The Miami Herald reports that after showing up for guard duty at Bal Harbour’s Sea View Hotel, Wilner Pierre surveyed the cluster of boisterous men lounging at the pool, drinks in hand. The 58-year-old security guard asked them to remove the glass from the pool area of the elegant, 1940s-era resort. When they refused, he threatened to call the police. Then came their response: We are the police. Bal Harbour’s Sea View Hotel emerged as a de facto base for task force members, who booked rooms at the elegant 1940s-era resort at least 75 times, holding meetings and often converging around the pool. … The Tri-County Task Force turned a money-laundering investigation into a multi-million-dollar enterprise, spending lavishly on travel and dining while picking up suitcases stuffed with drug cash from as far away as Los Angeles and San Juan.

Read more: http://pubsys.miamiherald.com/static/media/projects/2015/license-to-launder/spend.html#storylink=cpy


Chicago Tribune: Emanuel-backed effort to fight violence falters

As Chicago's youth violence made national headlines, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and business leaders in 2013 launched what they called a game-changing initiative to quell the bloodshed, the Chicago Tribune reports. With prominent executives at the helm and a goal of $50 million in corporate pledges, the new private foundation called Get IN Chicago presented itself as a departure from the usual practice of pumping tax dollars to community groups while paying little heed to the results. In addition to funding existing youth programs, Get IN would enlist top social scientists to conduct randomized, controlled trials and rigorously evaluate the programs' outcomes, its press releases said. For the first time, authorities would have data enabling them to scale up and replicate proven strategies. … But as of June 1, two years into Get IN's five-year plan, the foundation had disbursed only $3.7 million in grants to youth programs, while spending $900,000 per year on its own administrative salaries and overhead, according to the most recent available records.

Read more:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-youth-violence-prevention-met-20150618-story.html#page=1


Des Moines Register: Traffic-camera ticket appeals often successful

Got a citation from one of the dozens of traffic enforcement cameras scattered across Iowa?

It might be worth your while to appeal it. In Council Bluffs, 83 percent of the automated traffic enforcement citations that were appealed by motorists resulted in dismissals, a Des Moines Register review found. The success rate on appeals in three other cities with enforcement cameras ranged from 20 to 50 percent, the Register review showed. But only a tiny fraction of cited motorists bother appealing. In most cities, the appeals process requires taking time during a weekday to appear before a city official to haggle over a citation. Just 2.7 percent of motorists who received an enforcement camera citation from Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Des Moines or Sioux City chose to appeal, the review shows.

Read more:

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2015/06/20/automated-traffic-enforcement-cameras-appeals/29055365/


Portland Oregonian: Unpaid parking tickets pile up

Two years ago, Portland State University student Devin Witter had racked up so many parking tickets that the city towed his road-worn Hyundai Accent from a downtown street. When Witter went to pick up his car, the attendant told him he could get it back, but only if he paid off his citations. "The car wasn't even worth the amount I owed in parking fines," Witter said. "So I just left it there, figuring the city would sell the car, pay off the tickets and that would be that." That wasn't that. After late fees and collection costs, the state says Witter still owes $9,669 for 36 unpaid tickets, putting him on the short list of Portland's worst parking scofflaws. At the top: An Internet marketing manager who owes $12,565 and a Maserati owner with a $11,539 tab. But even if those debts were paid off tomorrow, they would barely make a dent in $32.4 million in unpaid tickets owed to a City Hall reluctant to get more aggressive with parking deadbeats.

Read more:

http://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/index.ssf/2015/06/portland_parking_scofflaws_owe.html


Washington Post: Recycling is stalling

Tucked in the woods 30 miles north of Washington is a plant packed with energy-guzzling machines that can make even an environmentalist’s heart sing _ giant conveyor belts, sorters and crushers saving a thousand tons of paper, plastic and other recyclables from reaching landfills each day, The Washington Post reports. The 24-hour operation is a sign that after three decades of trying, a culture of curbside recycling has become ingrained in cities and counties across the country. Happy Valley, however, it is not. Once a profitable business for cities and private employers alike, recycling in recent years has become a money-sucking enterprise. The District, Baltimore and many counties in between are contributing millions annually to prop up one of the nation’s busiest facilities in Elkridge, Maryland, but it is still losing money. In fact, almost every facility like it in the country is running in the red. And Waste Management and other recyclers say that more than 2,000 municipalities are paying to dispose of their recyclables instead of the other way around. … The problems of recycling in America are both global and local. A storm of falling oil prices, a strong dollar and a weakened economy in China have sent prices for American recyclables plummeting worldwide.

Read more:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/american-recycling-is-stalling-and-the-big-blue-bin-is-one-reason-why/2015/06/20/914735e4-1610-11e5-9ddc-e3353542100c_story.html


Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo Billion tends to secrecy

The Buffalo Billion program championed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a bold and costly experiment in economic development that is beset by secrecy and politics, and banking on a company with a history of losing money, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports. The program — hailed in Buffalo but resented across much of the rest of New York — has been promoted as both a catalyst for rejuvenating the western New York economy and a model for other upstate regions.

But the management of the Buffalo Billion by the Cuomo administration has raised eyebrows — and concerns — in some quarters.

Read more:

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2015/06/21/buffalo-billion-andrew-cuomo-solarcity-transparency/29054685/



 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF RECENT IMPACT JOURNALISM


AP: FBI behind mysterious surveillance aircraft over US cities

Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies, The Associated Press has learned.

The AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas. At least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, were mentioned in a federal budget document from 2009.

For decades, the planes have provided support to FBI surveillance operations on the ground. But now the aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and in rare circumstances, technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones, raising questions about how these surveillance flights affect Americans' privacy.

Read more:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-behind-mysterious-surveillance-aircraft-over-us-cities/2015/06/02/030ce2e2-0959-11e5-951e-8e15090d64ae_story.html


Los Angeles Times: Rise in accidental gunshots by deputies follows new firearm

The Los Angeles Times says that one sheriff's deputy shot himself in the leg while pulling out his gun to confront a suspect. Another accidentally fired a bullet in a restroom stall. A third deputy stumbled over a stroller in a closet as he was searching for a suspect, squeezing off a round that went through a wall and lodged in a piece of furniture in the next room. Accidental gunshots by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies have more than doubled in two years, endangering bystanders and occasionally injuring deputies. The jump coincides with the department's move to a new handgun that lacks a safety lever and requires less pressure to pull the trigger. Sheriff's officials say that the increase in accidental discharges — from 12 in 2012 to 30 last year — occurred because deputies were adjusting to the new gun.

Read more:

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-sheriff-guns-20150614-story.html#page=1


Washington Post: One in five women say they were violated

Twenty percent of young women who attended college during the past four years say they were sexually assaulted, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. But the circle of victims on the nation’s campuses is probably even larger. Many others endured attempted attacks, the poll found, or suspect that someone violated them while they were unable to consent. Some say they were coerced into sex through verbal threats or promises. About the project: The Washington Post and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation teamed up to poll more than 1,000 people nationwide who have attended college within the past four years about sexual assault and campus culture. Post reporters then interviewed more than 50 women and men who responded that they had experienced unwanted sexual contact — or attempted or suspected sexual contact — while they were students.

Read more:

http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/?tfp_page=2&tfp_id=DC_WP


Sacramento Bee: California’s largest nursing home owner under fire

At the top of the chain: Shlomo Rechnitz, a 43-year-old Los Angeles entrepreneur and philanthropist, the Sacramento Bee reports. Since 2006, Rechnitz and his primary company, Brius Healthcare Services, have acquired 81 nursing homes up and down the state, many of them through bankruptcy court. His chain has grown so quickly that he now controls about 1 in every 14 nursing home beds in California, giving him an outsized influence on quality of care in the state.

In the past year, multiple alarms have been raised about this relative newcomer to the industry and the care provided in some of his homes. His facilities have become the target of police scrutiny, lawsuits, stiff regulatory fines and state and federal investigations that have uncovered numerous alleged violations.

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/nursing-homes/article24015475.html#storylink=cpy


Des Moines Register: Invest in Des Moines hotel, get a green card

The Des Moines Register reports that a $101 million convention hotel in downtown Des Moines promises to bring hundreds of jobs, thousands of visitors and millions of dollars to the city. It also could provide green cards to 40 wealthy immigrants and their families. Developers aim to secure $20 million for the hotel project through a federal program known as EB-5. It allows foreign citizens to obtain permanent U.S. residency by investing $500,000, and in some cases $1 million, in a U.S. business that creates at least 10 jobs. Offering a rare path to U.S. residency — and ultimately citizenship — the program has exploded in popularity, driven largely by investors from China who want their children to grow up in American cities and attend American schools. Their money has helped fund projects like a posh casino on the Las Vegas strip, a Four Seasons hotel in lower Manhattan and an ethanol plant in North Dakota. But the EB-5 program has been a target of criticism. Several high-profile projects have flopped, and whistleblowers have raised questions about fraud, lack of investment in poor and rural areas, and loopholes that could allow foreign operatives and people with ties to terrorism to settle here.

Read more:

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/business/development/2015/06/13/invest-des-moines-hotel-get-green-card/71153784/


Baltimore Sun: Arrests in Baltimore plummet, people frightened

Baltimore police arrested fewer people in May than in any month for at least three years, despite a surge in homicides and shootings across the city — triggering safety concerns among residents, the Baltimore Sun reports. Several neighborhoods saw declines of more than 90 percent from April to May, while arrests in the West Baltimore area where Freddie Gray was arrested dropped by more than half during the same period, according to a Baltimore Sun analysis of police data. Citywide, arrests declined 43 percent from April to May. "I've noticed fewer police," said Steve Dixon, program director for the Penn North Recovery Center in West Baltimore. "We're having robberies at the playground in broad daylight. All these murders and shootings, we're having them in broad daylight." The dramatic citywide decline — which has sparked a debate about police pulling back on enforcement efforts — came in the aftermath of the death of Gray. Six officers have been charged in the death of the 25-year-old, who suffered spinal injuries while in police custody and died a week after his April 12 arrest.

Read more:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-arrests-decline-20150613-story.html#page=1


Star-Ledger: Lawyers say two prisoners are innocent

The Star-Ledger in New Jersey recounts the murder of two people in 1995. A protest erupted. Police were put on high alert. The arrests came swiftly, amid public outcry. Kevin Baker and Sean Washington, then both 25, were convicted after a two-day trial in 1996. A single eyewitness, a woman who testified she was a habitual crack cocaine user out looking for another fix, placed them at the scene. Each was given two consecutive sentences of 30 years to life, meaning they'll be in their mid 80s before they get out of prison. But an examination by NJ Advance Media of hundreds of records, trial evidence and interviews with key players raises serious questions about whether the two are guilty. Lawyers from the Last Resort Exoneration Project — an initiative at Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark that offers free legal and investigative services to those it believes to be innocent — say neither man pulled the trigger. "They were victims of a total breakdown of the criminal justice system at every point," said Michael Risinger, who runs the project with his wife and co-counsel, Lesley Risinger. The Risingers say the evidence they have gathered proves the two men innocent and points to something investigators missed all those years ago. The actual killer.

Read more:

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2015/06/a_double_murder_20_years_in_prison_but_did_they_do.html


Democrat and Chronicle: Education reforms spur lobbying ‘arms race’

Education policy is big business for lobbyists in New York state, according to the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York. Various education interests have spent at least $124 million trying to influence lawmakers, officials and the general public at the state and local level since the start of 2006, including a record of at least $16 million last year, according to a review of state records by Gannett's Albany Bureau. That's in addition to $45.3 million in lobbying expenses reported by the New York State United Teachers union and its New York City affiliate over the past nine years. They are tallied as labor organizations, not education groups, by the state's lobbying regulator. Add in political spending and the numbers are starker: Education interests and teachers unions have spent more than a quarter-billion dollars — $285.5 million — on lobbying, campaign contributions and independent political expenditures over the past decade, according to a report by Common Cause/NY, which the good-government group is set to release shortly.

Read more:

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/2015/06/13/education-reform-lobbying-spending-new-york-albany/71140506/


The Oregonian: Tainted High

Dab Society Dutch Treat, a potent cannabis extract sold to medical marijuana patients, sailed through state-mandated pesticide testing, the Oregonian reports. The results were printed on the label, backed by an official report. Workers at a Southeast Portland dispensary were happy to share the lab certificate. All you had to do was ask. But, in fact, two laboratories commissioned by The Oregonian/OregonLive found pesticides in the same sample of Dutch Treat at levels above what the state allows. It wasn’t an isolated case. A combination of lax state rules, inconsistent lab practices and inaccurate test results has allowed pesticide-laced products to enter the medical marijuana market, The Oregonian/OregonLive has found. Marijuana that fails a pesticide screen is not supposed to be sold to patients. But two other cannabis products in addition to Dutch Treat also tested above acceptable levels for pesticides.

Read more:

http://www.oregonlive.com/marijuana-legalization/pesticides/


 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM 6-10-15


Arizona Republic: Lack of water threatens future of farming

The Arizona Republic says that in the Willcox area, Jen Score watched her minister baptize her husband, Ralph, by submerging him in water last August. The pastor told him faith would carry the couple through life's trials. Jen wondered, what trials? She counted her blessings that they didn't have any. And then they got home. Ralph turned on the kitchen faucet. Not a drop came out. Their well had run dry. Nearby, Jim Graham grows grapes and pistachios. John Hart grows corn, alfalfa, pinto beans and other grains. They have seen their groundwater levels drop, and increasing pumping costs to chase them. "There will be a day when we'll run out of water if we don't act responsibly," Graham said, gazing down the rows of wine grape leaves before him. About 80 miles east of Tucson, the Southwest's 15-year drought has barged into living rooms, dinner tables, farm fields. After decades of unregulated groundwater pumping to support a growing agricultural demand, the Willcox area's only water source is shrinking quickly. On average, water levels observed in wells there have plummeted deeper than almost anywhere else in the state. The fallout jeopardizes an industry that grows nearly three-quarters of Arizona's wine grapes, raises tough questions about the future of farming in the desert and pits community members against each other.

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/investigations/2015/06/07/willcox-water-wells-run-dry/28482379/


Modesto Bee: One irrigation district ignores voting law

When population figures from the latest U.S. census rolled in a few years ago, most California agencies adjusted their voting districts to make them equally sized, as required by state law every 10 years, the Modesto Bee reports. Some had gotten out of whack over the preceding decade because of uneven growth, births and deaths. A turn-of-the-century housing surge in the Village I area of northeast Modesto, for example, boosted its corresponding voting district 13 percent higher than it should have been by 2010, just two years after districts were created. The City Council fixed the problem by moving voting boundaries by a few streets in certain areas. So did Stockton, Stanislaus County and scads of other agencies. Irrigation districts, subject to the same reapportionment law, also resized their voting districts. … Oakdale Irrigation District did not. OID leaders were fully aware of the law, meeting minutes show. They said they would resize if numbers indicated they should. But when wildly uneven numbers were brought before them in 2011, the OID board chose to do nothing. Four years later, remaining board members and OID General Manager Steve Knell have no explanation. Almost all said their memories are fuzzy; Al Bairos, who was board chairman at the time, could not be reached for this story.

Read more:

http://www.modbee.com/news/local/article23310651.html#storylink=cpy


Palm Beach Post: Gender, racial pay disparities persist

Even as it has hired a woman as its top employee, Palm Beach County still struggles with a glass ceiling, the Palm Beach Post reports. Verdenia Baker, the longtime deputy Palm Beach County Administrator who last month was tapped for the top job, now is in negotiations on her pay. She already was the third highest-paid of the county’s 6,408 employees, and the highest paid woman.

But of the 25 highest-paid employees, only eight are women, according to a Palm Beach Post analysis of the county’s $372.7 million payroll. The analysis shows women represent 51.6 percent of the county population but only a third of county employees. Of those, women account for about a fourth of the 3,052 employees earning $50,000 or more and 14 percent of the 713 earning least $100,000.

Read more:

http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/gender-racial-disparities-remain-in-palm-beach-cou/nmW2k/


Boston Globe: Rich financial realm runs with little scrutiny

The Boston Globe says that the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. frequently brags that it doesn’t react to the whims of Wall Street, it answers to the millions of policyholders who own the giant insurer. But when a handful of those owners showed up for MassMutual’s annual meeting this spring, they were treated more like security risks. After driving past the iron fence surrounding the company’s headquarters in Springfield, they had to get their photo taken at the security desk, submit to a search as a guard passed a metal-detecting wand over them, and wait for an escort. Once they got to the meeting, the annual business of the Fortune 100 company, with more than $250 billion in assets, was concluded in 15 minutes. That same day, Liberty Mutual Insurance convened its annual meeting at its headquarters in Boston. The nation’s second largest property and casualty insurer, it has $124 billion in assets, and 50,000 employees. And its executives closed out the meeting in six minutes. No presentations were made, no questions asked, and no outside board members attended. The speed with which the policyholders were shooed out the door is symbolic of the shadows in which MassMutual, Liberty Mutual, and others among the nation’s largest insurance companies, such as State Farm and Nationwide, operate.

Read more:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2015/06/06/big-companies-little-scrutiny/Ey4KCvQRrmpIkWllj9wUwN/story.html


Philadelphia Inquirer: Shooting at drivers is dangerous, costly

Dana Russell was driving up Roosevelt Boulevard on a freezing February afternoon in 2011 when he realized the car he just passed was his stolen Chevy Impala, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Ten days before, two men had hijacked the burgundy sedan from his wife. “They all got guns on them, I know that for sure,” Russell told the police dispatcher as he turned around and tailed his stolen car into North Philadelphia. The officer asked how he knew. “’Cause my wife was robbed at gunpoint.” At the wheel of the 2000 Impala sat Frederick Bell, 41, an ex-con with a long rap sheet. Next to him was Jamil Moses, 24, who two days before had escaped from a halfway house where he was serving the end of a four- to eight-year prison sentence for armed robbery. An epic chase was on — a pursuit that would last 10 minutes and reach high speeds through narrow, crowded streets, drawing officers from three districts and two task forces. It ended at 23d and Susquehanna, between the Anna B. Pratt Elementary School and the Raymond Rosen housing project, where the stolen Impala slammed into a squad car. Police cruisers surrounded the Chevy. There, six police officers fired 56 bullets into the car, leaving one man dead — and the other man wealthy. Neither suspect turned out to have a gun. It was what police call a bad shooting. The city would pay $2 million to the family of the slain passenger, Moses, who had three bullet wounds in the back of his head and neck, and $500,000 to the driver, Bell, who was gravely injured. … Since 2002, Philadelphia police officers have shot 43 people in vehicles, killing eight of them, an Inquirer review of confidential police investigations has found. That has cost the city $5.8 million.

Read more:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/special_packages/inquirer/Shooting_at_drivers.html


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State agency writes off millions

The Milwaukee Journal reports that Wisconsin’s top jobs agency has written off $7.6 million in taxpayer-funded loans since it was created by Gov. Scott Walker about four years ago. The write-offs include 28 different loans removed from the balance sheets of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., with some companies receiving multiple loans. The majority of those loans, which officials typically write off after determining the likelihood of collecting the debt is small, were awarded by the former state Department of Commerce, the predecessor to the WEDC. One of those loans, which was awarded by the WEDC to Building Committee Inc., set off a firestorm of criticism in recent weeks after it was revealed that some of Walker's top aides and a powerful lobbyist pushed for a $500,000 unsecured loan to the now-defunct company, which was owned by Walker campaign contributor William Minahan. That loan was written off by the WEDC last year. The $500,000 given to BCI amounts to about 7 percent of the loans — totaling $7,607,013 as of early June — that the agency has written off since it was created in 2011. Walker, a Republican governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate, said that problems with loans have decreased at WEDC compared to its predecessor.

Read more:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/state-jobs-agency-has-written-off-76-million-in-loans-b99506132z1-306381241.html


 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF RECENT IMPACT JOURNALISM 6-3-15


Washington Post: Fatal police shootings approaching 400 nationwide in 2015

The Washington Post reports at least 385 people were shot and killed by police nationwide during the first five months of this year, more than two a day, and more than twice the rate of fatal police shootings tallied by the federal government over the past decade, a count that officials concede is incomplete. “These shootings are grossly under­reported,” said Jim Bueermann, a former police chief and president of the Washington-based Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving law enforcement. “We are never going to reduce the number of police shootings if we don’t begin to accurately track this information.”

To understand why and how often these shootings occur, The Washington Post is compiling a database of every fatal shooting by police in 2015, as well as of every officer killed by gunfire in the line of duty. The Post looked exclusively at shootings, not killings by other means, such as stun guns and deaths in police custody.


Read more:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/fatal-police-shootings-in-2015-approaching-400-nationwide/2015/05/30/d322256a-058e-11e5-a428-c984eb077d4e_story.html


Hartford Courant: Authorities lost track of now suspected serial killer

The Hartford Courant reports law enforcement agencies and Connecticut’s judicial system lost track of now-suspected serial killer William Devin Howell in early 2003, the year six victims disappeared, and again in 2004, when he was released early from an unrelated prison term even while police awaited DNA tests that tied him to one of the victims. A Hartford Courant examination of court and investigative records reveals that authorities couldn't find Howell for most of 2003, when police had multiple warrants for his arrest and knew where he was living in New Britain. By the time police arrested him, a half dozen people had disappeared between January and October of that year, their remains found in recent weeks and years behind a New Britain strip mall.


Read more:

http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-new-britain-serial-killer-probation-20150531-story.html#page=1


Idaho Statesman: Officers allege interference, retaliation in crash probe

The Idaho Statesman report three Idaho State Police crash investigators who say they refused to bend the truth about a fatal crash in 2011 claim that the agency’s leaders are retaliating against them. The daughter of the man killed in that crash says ISP’s manipulation of the investigation to protect a Payette County deputy could make it difficult for her to seek justice in her father’s death. ISP is now embroiled in three lawsuits stemming from the crash investigation, with possibly more to come. And the Gem County prosecutor who handled the case told ISP officials that he was shocked by the behavior of the trooper who led the investigation, that he could no longer trust the trooper and that the trooper secretly recorded their conversation about the case.


Read more:

http://www.idahostatesman.com/2015/05/31/3829142/officers-allege-interference-retaliation.html


Portland Press Herald: Taxpayers lose as Maine jails indigents

The Portland Press Herald reports Conner Comeau’s crime was spraying graffiti on rail cars at a South Portland train yard in 2010. For that, he was sentenced to 48 hours in jail. But the far more serious punishment came in 2014, when Comeau, 25, missed two payments on the $1,300 in restitution the court ordered him to pay. He ended up in jail for 100 days, earning credit at a rate of $5 each day toward paying off his debt. Taxpayers in Maine are spending at least tens of thousands of dollars a year – and likely much more – to jail low-income defendants like Comeau who failed to pay the fines for what are often minor crimes, according to a study of Maine’s jails conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. In all of these cases, it costs taxpayers more to jail the defendants for unpaid fines or restitution than the inmates can earn in credit for each day they serve behind bars.


Read more:

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/05/31/taxpayers-lose-as-maine-counties-jail-indigents-over-unpaid-fines/


Detroit Free Press: Did DNA test lapse leave rapist free to strike again?

The Detroit Free Press reports it has learned a suspected serial rapist accused of kidnapping three women from a gas station in March and sexually assaulting them might have been behind bars at the time had local authorities followed state law and collected his DNA several years ago. Authorities say Michael Sykes, now 21, might have been linked to an unsolved sexual assault case from 2008 had his DNA been entered into a federal database after he was convicted in two Highland Park cases in 2009 when he was a teenager. But the agencies responsible for collecting his DNA — Highland Park Police and Wayne County's Department of Children and Family Services — failed to do so, officials say.


Read more:

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/wayne/2015/05/30/accused-rapist-michigan-police-dna/28230053/


Minneapolis Star Tribune: Minnesota’s medicaid enrollment soars past 1 million

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Minnesota’s Medicaid rolls have soared past the 1 million mark for the first time, driven by two years of explosive growth in government insurance programs in the wake of federal health reform. The enrollment surge — one of the largest in the country and the biggest for the state in 35 years — helped push Minnesota’s uninsured rate down to about 5 percent and has enabled more low-income families to receive regular medical care, doctors say. But it also means that Medicaid and its sister program, MinnesotaCare for the working poor, now rank among the state’s largest health insurers, which could place long-run strains on the state budget. Fully one in five Minnesotans now receive health insurance from public programs, up from one in 10 just five years ago.

While unprecedented, the spurt was not unexpected after the administration of Gov. Mark Dayton made an ambitious push to cover more of Minnesota’s uninsured population.


Read more:

http://www.startribune.com/in-wake-of-federal-reform-state-medicaid-enrollment-surges-to-1-million/305582121/


Bergen County Record: Out-of-network medical bills a sickening shock

The Bergen County Record reports on three cases of how out-of-network medical bills can come as a shock. If the patients had been savvy enough to follow their insurers’ rules and choose in-network hospitals, they could have maximized their coverage and minimized their out-of-pocket costs. But one or more of the physicians who took care of them — and over whom they had no choice — did not partic

Sign In


Forgot your password?

Haven't registered yet?

Latest News
Calendar

10/15/2015 » 10/16/2015
Monroe, Louisiana, NewsTrain

10/16/2015 » 10/18/2015
2015 APME-ASNE conference at Stanford

10/29/2015 » 10/30/2015
DeKalb, Illinois, NewsTrain

11/13/2015 » 11/14/2015
Philadelphia NewsTrain

1/21/2016
Lexington, Kentucky, NewsTrain

About Associated Press Media Editors

APME is a professional network, a resource for helping editors and broadcasters improve their news coverage and newsroom operations.

Calendar of Events

APME is active throughout the year bringing editors and broadcasters together to share ideas and find solutions.

 

Journalism News

Whether daily, weekly or in APME's quarterly magazine, stay on top of practical news for newsroom leaders.