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WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK  2-9-16

Spokesman Review: Millions needed to fix flawed college software system

The Spokesman-Review reports a $100 million computer software system for the state of Washington’s 34 community colleges is so far behind schedule and operating so poorly that it will likely cost another $10 million before it’s installed in all schools. Because students rather than taxpayers are responsible for the initial cost – and probably the overruns – the system and its problems have gone largely unnoticed by state lawmakers. That could change, however, as legislators try to get a handle on high costs and low performance by information technology systems around the state. The system, known as ctcLink, is one of the largest IT projects in state government, and likely the largest of its kind in higher education in the country. It’s designed to tie together most financial, student scheduling and employee functions at the community colleges.

Read more: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2016/jan/31/100-million-software-system-for-community-colleges/ 

Arizona Republic: Tax cuts have left Arizona short of cash

The Arizona Republic reports that state leaders blame lingering effects of the Great Recession for the state's sluggish tax revenues and flat budgets, but economists say the real culprit is the cumulative impact of two decades of Arizona governors and lawmakers chipping away at the state's bottom line. Tax cuts over that period will cost the state's fiscal 2016 general fund $4 billion in revenue, according to an analysis by economists with Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business. The impact is expected to grow as already-passed corporate tax cuts continue to be phased in through 2019. It leaves little room to reconcile Gov. Doug Ducey’s promise for more cuts this year with public demand for more school funding and Republican legislative leaders' push for a structurally balanced budget.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/politics/2016/02/06/tax-cuts-have-left-arizona-short-cash/79365542/

San Francisco Chronicle: Results of millions spent on homeless can't be tracked

The San Francisco Chronicle reports scores of tents line Division Street under the freeway, just one of many camps across the city. Human feces and needles litter sidewalks. Deranged people scream and threaten pedestrians in broad daylight. Visitors may wonder why one of the wealthiest cities in the world can’t cough up enough money to alleviate homelessness, but, in fact, San Francisco spends tremendous amounts of money on the problem. The city is allocating a record $241 million this fiscal year on homeless services, $84 million more than when Mayor Ed Lee took office in January 2011. But the city struggles to track exactly how all that money is being spent and whether it’s producing results. Eight city departments oversee at least 400 contracts to 76 private organizations, most of them nonprofits, that deal with homelessness. No single system tracks street people as they bounce among that galaxy of agencies looking for help.

Read more: http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/S-F-spends-record-241-million-on-homeless-6808319.php

New Haven Register: Connecticut towns raise concerns about fracking waste

The New Haven Register reports The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has more than a year to re-write regulations concerning the possible import of waste from hydraulic fracturing for natural gas that takes place in neighboring states, but some Connecticut municipalities are taking action ahead of schedule. Branford officials discussed a proposed ordinance earlier this month that would ban any waste generated in the process of hydraulic fracturing — either liquid or solid — from being used for any purposes within town limits. If the ordinance were to pass, Branford would be the fourth municipality in Connecticut, joining Washington, Coventry and Mansfield, to impose its own law about a substance that the federal government does not classify as a hazardous waste.

Read more: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-education/ga-lawmaker-pushing-for-stun-guns-on-college-campu/np5MG/

Baltimore Sun: How cellphones are changing 911

The Baltimore Sun reports that as more people rely on cellphones to communicate with the wider world, more emergency calls from a given town are going to dispatch centers in other towns, counties, and even states. It's a problem that has grown increasingly common in Maryland and across the country. When a caller dials 911 on a landline, the telephone grid routes the call to the correct dispatch center, and the 911 system tells the dispatcher the caller's address, which helps emergency responders get to the scene. But a cellphone tries to connect to the nearest cell tower, which might or might not be in the caller's jurisdiction. And cellphone technology does not always provide a caller's precise location to a 911 system. Dispatchers who are able to figure out that a caller is in another jurisdiction can forward the call to the right center. But in an emergency, a delay can be fatal.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-911-cell-phones-20160206-story.html

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune: New laws caused prison population spike

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports how getting tough on crime at the Legislature over the years has come at great cost to Minnesota’s corrections system. Over the past 25 years, the state’s incarceration rate has soared by 150 percent, and Minnesota’s prisons are bloated beyond capacity and burdened by runaway costs. The majority of that growth can be attributed to harsher penalties and other changes to the state’s criminal code passed by state lawmakers. “It’s the accumulation of all the smaller decisions that have been made over time,” said Kelly Mitchell, director of the University of Minnesota Law School’s Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice. “It’s not until you pull them all together that you see what the result is.” The effort to curb drunken driving is just one example of how what happens at the ­Capitol contributes to overcrowding in state prisons.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/decades-of-new-laws-caused-minnesota-s-prison-population-spike/367934361/

Kansas City Star: City worries state legislation would prolong blight

The Kanas City Star reports Missouri residents would probably eagerly embrace a bill eliminating jail time for a host of traffic and municipal offenses and capping fines and court costs at $200. But for property code problems, the savings for violators could be thousands of dollars. That’s why local officials are saying not so fast. They contend that the bill — awaiting action in the Missouri House after clearing the Senate — might be taking away a tool that helps fight creeping blight. Abandoned homes and nuisance properties are a major concern for city leaders and residents as they work to battle crime and revitalize neighborhoods. The bill is not aimed at making life easier for scofflaws. It has a much more serious purpose: preventing Missouri cities from using court fines as a major revenue generator and in the process trapping low-income citizens in a cycle of debt.

Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/news/government-politics/article58919663.html

New York Times: Airlines reap record profits, and passengers get peanuts

The New York Times reports that airlines, helped by falling oil prices, are reporting record profits, but for many passengers this sudden bonanza has meant little more than extra bags of free peanuts and pretzels. The four biggest domestic carriers — American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — together earned about $22 billion in profits last year, a stunning turnaround after a decade of losses, bankruptcies and cutbacks. A big reason for this is the plunging price of jet fuel, which now costs only a third of what it did just two years ago. But that windfall is only slowly finding its way down the aisles. Days after reporting record profits, for instance, two of the nation’s biggest airlines brought back free snacks in coach. Airfares, however, have remained stubbornly high.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/business/energy-environment/airlines-reap-record-profits-and-passengers-get-peanuts.html?_r=0

Philadelphia Inquirer: Newborn deaths at hospital raise questions

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports two hospitals in the Philadelphia region perform complex heart surgery on newborn babies. But the institutions' results are vastly different, an analysis of insurance claims data shows. At St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, one in four babies less than a month old died after arduous, highly risky heart operations performed between 2009 and 2014, a death rate nearly triple that of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The newspaper began a review of St. Christopher's after it declined last year to publicly reveal how many of its heart-surgery patients died - the only one of six hospitals not included in a first-ever state evaluation of such programs. Late last month, the hospital stopped performing nonemergency heart surgery pending an internal review but did not say exactly what prompted the move.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/20160207_Newborn_deaths_at_Phila__hospital_raise_questions.html

Houston Chronicle: Fracking research hits roadblock with Texas law

The Houston Chronicle reports that biochemist Zac Hildenbrand has for the past five years investigated potential links between unconventional drilling and water quality throughout the major shale plays in Texas. Some of the results, he said, are worrisome. Collaborating with researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington, Hildenbrand has identified water wells with high levels of chlorinated solvents, alcohols and compounds commonly found in petroleum products. Hildenbrand also has come across more "exotic" molecules in his research, he said. But his efforts to identify some of them have been hampered by what critics describe as a "loophole" in a state law requiring companies to publicly disclose the ingredients in their hydraulic fracturing fluid. The Texas law allows companies to withhold specific chemicals by labeling them as proprietary. Operators in Texas have invoked the exemption to shield – at least partially - the identities of more than 170,000 ingredients from when the law took effect in February 2012 through April, an analysis of the disclosure records shows.

Read more: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Fracking-research-hits-roadblock-with-Texas-law-6812820.php

 

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK  2-2-16

AP: More than 1 million could lose food stamps under new work requirements

The Associated Press reports that more than 1 million low-income residents in 21 states could soon lose their government food stamps if they fail to meet work requirements that began kicking in this month. The rule change in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was triggered by the improving economy - specifically, falling unemployment. But it is raising concerns among the poor, social service providers and food pantry workers, who fear an influx of hungry people. Recent experience in other states indicates that most of those affected will probably not meet the work requirements and will be cut off from food stamps. Advocates say some adults trying to find work face a host of obstacles, including criminal records, disabilities or lack of a driver's license.           

Read more: http://www.wbir.com/news/more-than-100000-tennesseans-could-lose-food-stamps-with-new-work-requirements/25853649

Baltimore Sun: Schools lose hundreds of students, millions in funding

After enrollment in Baltimore public schools unexpectedly dropped following years of growth, officials are bracing for nearly $30 million in funding cuts and investigating whether hundreds of students were mistakenly kept on the rolls, TheBaltimore Sun reports. City schools CEO Gregory Thornton said he launched the internal investigation into student rolls after he noticed discrepancies between attendance data and what he saw when he visited schools. He said he expected to find overcrowded classrooms — a common complaint from teachers — but often did not. State funding for Baltimore public schools would decline by about $25 million under Gov. Larry Hogan's proposed budget because the student population dropped and other factors, including a formula that measures an area's wealth. City funding is expected to decline as much as $4 million in per-pupil funding.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/education/bs-md-ci-schools-enrollment-drop-20160129-story.html

Maine Sunday Telegram: Campaigns turning to paid signature gatherers

The Maine Sunday Telegram says Glen Witham had already turned in hundreds of signatures for two ballot initiatives when the Waterville resident seized the opportunity to earn extra money by circulating petitions for a southern Maine casino. But Witham was surprised – and later outraged – to discover he was one of the few Mainers in the room when he went to hand in his casino signatures at a Bangor hotel. Maine isn’t typically a top destination during December and January but Maine has suddenly became a hot spot in the underground and largely unknown industry that has cropped up around gathering petition signatures for political campaigns. With just weeks to gather more than 61,000 signatures, the campaign to authorize a casino in southern Maine reportedly offered circulators up to $10 per signature. Campaigns typically offer $1 to $2 per signature when there is less deadline pressure.

Read more: http://www.pressherald.com/2016/01/31/campaigns-turning-to-paid-signature-gatherers/

Louisville Courier-Journal: For many, rising drug costs mean life or death 

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports a month’s worth of Glumetza diabetes pills cost Margaret Meffert $746 last April. Then the price inexplicably began skyrocketing – to $6,714. It wasn't an isolated surge. The price of Lantus insulin rose 34 percent in a year. A widely used antibiotic called doxycycline jumped from $20 to $1,849 in six months. And a heart-rhythm drug called Isuprel costs six times what it used to: $1,300 a vial. Such price hikes are a prescription for financial pain. While the cost of cancer and HIV medicines grab headlines, the trend toward ever-rising drug prices increasingly includes medicines for much more common conditions afflicting millions of Americans. And it's forcing hard choices among patients, who face high insurance deductibles and co-pays that leave them shouldering a larger-than-ever share of health care costs.

Read more: http://www.courier-journal.com/story/life/wellness/health/2016/01/28/common-drugs-prices-skyrocket/79120304/

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: How drug warnings slipped by in “Dr. Death” case

Long before he was dubbed “Dr. Death,” Jonesboro psychiatrist Narendra Nagareddy was known across metro Atlanta’s southside as the go-to physician for prescription drug addicts, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The users knew it, court records and interviews show. So did law enforcement, pharmacists, other doctors, state regulators and addiction counselors. Years of state and federal data, available to the public, raised red flags showing that Nagareddy was among the state Medicaid program’s top prescribers of one of the most abused prescription drugs. Patients were arrested for selling their pills. Patients died. Yet as the death toll mounted, none of the state safeguards designed to protect the public managed to stop Nagareddy, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found. By the time a Drug Enforcement Administration task force arrested Nagareddy Jan. 14, three dozen of his patients had died while he was prescribing them controlled substances, investigators allege.

Read more: http://www.myajc.com/news/news/crime-law/warnings-missed-for-years-in-case-of-doctor-accuse/nqD8g/

Washington Post: Prominent public universities shifting to out-of-state students

The Washington Post reports America’s most prominent public universities were founded to serve the people of their states, but they are enrolling record numbers of students from elsewhere to maximize tuition revenue as state support for higher education withers. The shift has buttressed the finances and reshaped the profile of schools across the country, from the University of California’s famed campuses in Berkeley and Los Angeles to the universities of Arkansas, Oregon, Missouri, South Carolina and numerous other places. Forty-three of the 50 schools known as “state flagships” enrolled a smaller share of freshmen from within their states in 2014 than they had a decade earlier, federal data show. At 10 flagships, state residents formed less than half the freshman class.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/nations-prominent-public-universities-are-shifting-to-out-of-state-students/2016/01/30/07575790-beaf-11e5-bcda-62a36b394160_story.html

San Francisco Chronicle: Data show deep racial disparity in homicide arrests

The San Francisco Chronicle reports when it comes to the police arresting suspects in homicide cases, the race of the victim plays an outsize role in San Francisco. San Francisco police make arrests in homicide cases where the victim is white or Asian at nearly twice the rate in homicide cases with African American or Latino victims — 67.1 percent compared with 37.1 percent — according to a Chronicle analysis of police arrest data from homicides that occurred from Jan. 1, 2010, through July 31, 2015. The reasons for the disparity in the arrest rates vary, police and criminal justice experts say. One big reason they cite is that Latinos and African Americans who witness homicides are less willing to talk with the police, out of fear of retaliation but also a deep mistrust of the police.

Read more: http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Deep-racial-disparity-in-homicide-arrests-SFPD-6795709.php

Arizona Daily Star: Nonprofit successor to Giving Tree violating same codes

The Arizona Daily Star reports the Arizona Department of Economic Security is investigating Tucson charity Cross Country Outreach, which the Star has found is violating building, zoning and health codes, and is likely breaking labor laws. DES spokeswoman Tasya Peterson would not give details on the subject of its investigation, but the announcement that it has begun came on the heels of a Star reporter’s questions about the charity, which describes its mission as “transitional housing, meals, clothing distribution and job training.” Public records show DES previously found that Cross Country Outreach and its predecessor, The Giving Tree, have operated as an unlicensed child welfare agency and may have mishandled homeless clients’ welfare benefits.

Read more: http://tucson.com/news/local/nonprofit-that-succeeded-giving-tree-violating-same-codes/article_18a9cd73-e4cb-57a2-b440-ed755644e99d.html

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Insanity plea highlights limits of mental health services

Had it not been for his insanity plea, Sean Cory Carter might have served just 10 days in jail for hitting a mental health worker in the eye in 1992, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. That’s all the time the state prosecutor recommended in the misdemeanor case. Instead, his plea has placed him in what some call a “black hole” — one that is sapping what little hope the 43-year-old has of a life outside of secure mental health facilities. His lawyer is now challenging the case, saying a public defender messed up nearly 24 years ago. Carter should be freed, the lawyer recently argued in court. For decades, Carter has lived in the custody of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, at the gray intersection of medicine and law. In Carter’s lifetime, society has moved on to a better understanding of mental illness and options for treatment. But Carter’s case has continued to languish.

Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/an-unusual-insanity-plea-highlights-the-limits-of-state-mental/article_ba5f11e5-1386-5485-9c2d-cfad70f05034.html

New York Times:  Faulty airbags still exact toll as recalls lag

The New York Times says that more than a decade after the first confirmed rupture of a Takata airbag in Alabama, and despite a vast recall spanning 14 automakers, a stark reality remains: Tens of millions of people drive vehicles that may pose a lethal danger but have not been repaired or have not even been recalled. Since 2000, Takata has sold as many as 54 million metal “inflaters” in the United States containing ammonium nitrate, an explosive compound that regulators believe is at the center of the problem, according to an estimate by Valient Market Research and provided to The New York Times. About 28 million inflaters in 24 million vehicles have been recalled. And of the 28 million recalled inflaters, only about 30 percent have been repaired. The rest of the inflaters, about 26 million, have not been recalled.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/business/takatas-faulty-airbags-still-exact-toll-as-recalls-lag.html 

Houston Chronicle: Big review of cases based on changing DNA calculations

The Houston Chronicle reports Texas criminal justice organizations have begun reviewing thousands of cases that relied on an outdated method for calculating the odds that a particular person left DNA evidence at a crime scene. At issue are samples that include more than one person's DNA, such as evidence swabbed from a countertop after a convenience store heist or taken from bodily fluids in a rape kit. Experts revised national guidelines for calculating odds in these scenarios six years ago, but no one sounded an alarm or asked prosecutors to re-examine cases that used the previous methodology. Now, Texas labs and lawyers are reviewing pending prosecutions and thousands of adjudicated cases, including those of death row defendants who had this type of evidence presented at trial.

Read more: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Texas-leading-massive-review-of-criminal-cases-6796205.php

 

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK  1-26-16

Sacramento Bee: At Sacramento airport, birds and planes don’t mix well

A high-stakes turf war unfolds each day in the fields beyond the runways at Sacramento International Airport, The Sacramento Bee reports. Armed with noise cannons, squawk boxes, shotguns and rifles, airport biologists patrol the grounds, shooing and often shooting avian intruders in hopes of reducing bird strikes, one of the airline industry’s oldest problems. Similar scenarios play out at airports nationally, but they are especially common in Sacramento, which sits beneath the giant bird migratory route known as the Pacific Flyway. Bird strikes pose a potentially significant hazard for planes and Sacramento has one of the highest bird strike rates in the country.

Read more:

http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/transportation/article56289465.html

San Diego Union-Tribune: Charter school growth questioned

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that by the time Steve Van Zant left the Mountain Empire School District in 2013, he had overseen the authorization of more than a dozen charter schools to operate in other districts throughout the county — with several going on to hire his education consulting firm. All the while, Van Zant coached at least one other district on how to approve out-of-town charters, according to emails obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune. As more districts approved far-flung charters, Van Zant’s EdHive consultant business took on some of the schools as clients. The San Diego Union-Tribune has tracked a charter empire built by Van Zant by taking advantage of what some say is a shortcoming in state law that gives districts a financial incentive to place charters in other school districts.

Read more:

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/jan/23/charter-schools-stir-controversy/

Sun Sentinel: County mental health diversion program off to slow start

Two months after it launched, a Broward County program to divert mentally troubled defendants from courtrooms and jails is off to a slow start: it has accepted only one person, according to The Sun Sentinel. That's far short of the program's goal to accept 12 people a month over five months. The pilot program plans to give 60 people with nonviolent felony charges a chance to receive treatment, eventually have their charges dropped and avoid mental health court, now packed with some 1,200 cases. In a two-part investigation published this month, the Sun Sentinel found that the average defendant in felony mental health court with minor charges spends more than six times longer in the court system than a person with comparable charges in regular court, according to a review of hundreds of cases. Nearly one in three spends five years or longer in Broward's system without being found guilty.

Read more:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-broward-mental-health-update-20160122-story.html

Honolulu Star Advertiser: New rule for imaging exams frustrates doctors

The Honolulu Star Advertiser says the Hawaii Medical Service Association is imposing a new pre-authorization requirement that doctors say is delaying critical imaging tests and resulting in harmful consequences for patients. The state’s largest health insurer, with 720,000 members, is now requiring physicians to go through a third party on the mainland to approve diagnostic imagining exams including MRI scans and computerized tomography, or CT, scans, and certain cardiac related procedures in an effort to reduce unnecessary costs.The decision on whether a test is necessary is now made by an Arizona-based company called National Imaging Associates Inc., part of Magellan Health. The company guarantees “multi-year cost savings” for its clients.

Read more (online subscribers only):

http://www.staradvertiser.com/hawaii-news/not-what-the-doctor-ordered-hmsas-new-rule-for-imaging-exams-frustrates-physicians/

Chicago Tribune: Next school budget will have greater hole: $800 million

The Chicago Tribune reports that despite getting no help from the state or the teachers union in plugging a $480 million budget gap this year, Chicago school officials are relying on the same two uncooperative parties to deal with next year's even bigger budget shortfall. Chicago Public Schools is hoping to raise $800 million through a mix of state assistance, new property tax dollars and labor concessions — none of it possible without the cooperation of state lawmakers and union leaders. The idealistic plan is one of many indicators emerging from recent financial reports and Tribune interviews that help show how the school system's finances — and its credibility — have deteriorated over the past year. The documents also undermine claims by schools chief Forrest Claypool that the district would need state assistance or union concessions "to get through the second semester" without classroom cuts.

Read more:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-cps-budget-second-semester-met-20160121-story.html

Des Moines Register: Faulty smoke detectors in third of fatal Iowa fires

In the past five years, 184 fire-related deaths have occurred in Iowa. The Des Moines Register reports that in more than a third of those fatalities, no working fire detectors were present, according to 2011-15 data from the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Office. In dozens of other deaths, investigators could not determine whether fire detectors were working — or even present, the data show. The fact that so many homes still lack functioning, properly-placed detectors frustrates firefighters, particularly now, in the more dangerous winter months when Iowans turn on their furnaces and space heaters. Fire marshal statistics show that deaths are much less common when working detectors are present. In the past five years, 18 percent of fire fatalities (34 deaths) occurred in single-family residences, mobile homes, apartments and hotel rooms where working fire detectors were present, the data show.

Read more:

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2016/01/23/faulty-smoke-detectors-third-fatal-fires/79171248/

Maine Sunday Telegram: The expanding effort to feed Maine’s hungry

According to The Maine Sunday Telegram, a multimillion-dollar food distribution network is expanding in Maine to meet the needs of more than 200,000 residents who otherwise would be hungry, a condition that’s worsening despite an overall improving economy. Federal figures show the level of food insecurity, a measure of a household’s inability to afford enough food throughout the year, has been escalating in Maine to a level that’s the highest in New England and above the national average. Hunger relief advocates blame a combination of reasons, including stagnant wages, Maine’s higher cost of living and an aging population. In response, a parallel food-supply system is ramping up on a scale that rivals a major supermarket chain. The system distributes food to more than 600 food pantries, meal programs and other partner agencies from Kittery to Madawaska, which provide it free of charge to hungry residents.

Read more:

http://www.pressherald.com/2016/01/24/persistent-hunger-fuels-sprawling-food-supply-system-for-needy-mainers/

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Food industry fights to block GMO labeling laws

The Minneapolis Star Tribune says the nation’s food and farm industries are mounting a furious, last-ditch push against mandatory labeling of foods made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, with dozens of Minnesota businesses backing the effort as part of a national coalition. With Vermont set to become the first state in the country to force GMO labels on foods on July 1, opponents of on-package labeling are running out of time. Supporters of labeling laws say consumers have a right to know what’s in the food they eat. But food and farm interests counter that labels cast a stigma on genetically engineered foods that have not been proven to be less healthy than organic alternatives. A publicity blitz against labeling includes a six-figure campaign that is running ads in prime time on network and cable TV in and around the nation’s capital.

Read more:

http://www.startribune.com/food-industry-mounts-last-ditch-effort-to-block-state-gmo-labeling-laws/366283421/

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Charter schools grow as oversight lags

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports an education network supported by some of the biggest names in local business and politics has taken in millions of taxpayer dollars with little oversight, highlighting the difficulty in tracking charter school spending. For example, on paper, 133 Hoover Drive in Greece seems like a bustling marketplace. A charter elementary school leases space from its landlord, a holding company, and, in turn, sub-leases to a tutoring company. It contracts with an outside group for its administrative services. A charitable foundation with real estate interests of its own infuses cash, doling out benevolences from more than $8 million in assets. In reality, the money isn't changing hands as much as changing pockets. All those entities and others are part of the Education Success Network (ESN), controlled by a group of local education reform advocates with influential business and political connections. Its affiliates have taken in millions of taxpayer dollars with little oversight.

Read more:

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2016/01/24/charter-school-money-encompass-discovery-contracts/73849832/

Tennessean: Investigation finds inappropriate text messages

Tennessee Republican leaders were told of a potential sexual harassment complaint about House Majority Whip Jeremy Durham’s behavior about a week before an unprecedented House GOP caucus meeting to decide the fate of his leadership role, but the specific concerns were never disclosed to his fellow legislators, Republican lawmakers confirmed. The news comes amid a Tennessean investigation into inappropriate text messages from Durham to three women who worked at the statehouse. Durham said Friday he does not remember sending the messages. The incidents point to a legislative sexual harassment policy experts have said is mired in secrecy and contributes to an environment where sexual harassment by the state’s elected leaders can go essentially unchecked.

Read more:

http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2016/01/24/tennessean-investigation-finds-inappropriate-text-messages/79130066/

Austin American-Statesman: Agencies often fail to report threats to judges

The Austin American-Statesman reports that since the attempted assassination of state District Judge Julie Kocurek in November, law enforcement officials have retraced their steps in hopes of learning why a threat on the life of an unnamed judge was never funneled to potential targets. The communication gap created still-mending tension between judges and the Travis County district attorney’s office and sheriff’s office, two agencies that knew about the threat but didn’t convey it to judges. An American-Statesman review has found that even though such threats appear to happen often in Texas — by some estimates, on an almost weekly basis — Travis County isn’t alone in operating under sometimes loosely defined protocols.

Read more:

http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/crime-law/agencies-lack-protocols-often-fail-to-report-threa/np9tw/

Seattle Times: Few clergy on child-sex list ever prosecuted

The Seattle Times reports that it appears only five of the 77 Catholic priests and clergy members identified this month as likely sex abusers of children have ever been brought to justice for any such crimes, according to a review of the list published by the Seattle Archdiocese. The list, which includes names of priests and other clergy who served or lived in Western Washington since the 1920s, identifies those “for whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been admitted, established or determined to be credible” following a two-year review by a consultant and an archdiocese-appointed board. The compilation of names provides the most complete public accounting of its kind to date for the Seattle Archdiocese. But among the names of the disgraced, only five appear to have been convicted of criminal sex-abuse charges.

Read more:

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/few-clergy-on-catholic-child-sex-list-ever-prosecuted/

Seattle Times: ‘Combat veteran’? Records fail to back state lawmaker’s claim

A doctored war photo and discrepancies about medals have raised questions about state Rep. Graham Hunt’s military background, The Seattle Times reports. Hunt, R-Orting, served in the Middle East and says he was “wounded in combat,” but has been vague about the details. In May 2014, a dramatic Iraq war photo posted to his Facebook page showed two kneeling U.S. soldiers in desert combat uniforms, one man consoling the other. “This picture of me was taken after a mortar attack in 2005,” the post said. However, neither soldier in the picture was of him. The image was a doctored version of a 2003 Associated Press photo of two military policemen from Ohio. The photo was removed several months later, with Hunt saying a campaign volunteer had posted it without his knowledge. Until recently, in his official and campaign biographies Hunt listed three medals that a military personnel center has no record of him receiving — though a military spokeswoman cautioned that its records are sometimes incomplete.

Read more:

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/combat-veteran-records-fail-to-back-state-lawmakers-claims/

 

 

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK  1-19-16

Los Angeles Times: Ethics committee: Lobbying in the shadows growing 

The Los Angeles Times reports California’s top state ethics officials have agreed that weak laws allow oil companies, labor groups and other special interests to conceal how they spend much of their money trying to influence state government, and that the amount of lobbying in the shadows is growing at an alarming rate. In a report to the state Fair Political Practices Commission, attorneys for the panel are proposing sweeping new requirements aimed at shedding light on how lobbying firms are spending tens of millions of dollars annually in Sacramento. Some spending to influence government officials can be lumped together as unexplained "other payments to influence," which could include money spent to hire former politicians not registered as lobbyists to influence decisions behind the scenes, payments to nonprofit groups to advocate a position, and cash spent on television, radio and newspaper ads to pressure lawmakers on a particular bill.

Read more:

http://www.latimes.com/local/politics/la-me-pol-sac-shadow-lobbying-20160117-story.html

San Francisco Chronicle: City fears PG&E tampered with records in 2014 blast

The San Francisco Chronicle reports it has learned a former Pacific Gas and Electric Co. official — now a whistle-blower in the federal prosecution of the company stemming from the San Bruno explosion — says she lost her job soon after she refused to help PG&E managers secretly gain access to records in a separate explosion. Attorneys for the city of Carmel, where botched work on a gas line touched off an explosion that destroyed a vacant cottage in 2014, said the former official’s accusation suggests that PG&E may have been trying to tamper with documents showing the utility was to blame for the blast. PG&E has denied any wrongdoing, saying it has conducted an extensive investigation and found no evidence to support the former manager’s accusations.

Read more:

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Carmel-fears-PG-E-tampered-with-records-in-2014-6764498.php

Denver Post: Denver homicides hit nine year high with 50 killed in 2015

The Denver Post reports 50 people were killed on Denver’s streets in 2015 making it the most violent year since 2006. The newspaper tracked the city’s homicides throughout the year to explain how people are killed, where homicides happened and who died. Gangs and guns were common themes, and many of the murders remain unsolved. Of the 50 killed, 37 died from gunshots. Ten victims, or 20 percent, were white, even though whites make up 80 percent of the city’s population. Only five were female. The average age was 34. Two neighborhoods bore the brunt of the violence. And an additional seven people were killed by law enforcement. Of the 50 homicides, arrests have been made in 28 cases, a 56 percent closure rate, said Sonny Jackson, a police department spokesman. The closure rate drops when looking at the gang-related killings with suspects charged in only 40 percent of those cases.

Read more:

http://extras.denverpost.com/homicides/2015/

Chicago Tribune: School funding plan spurs concerns over cuts

The Chicago Tribune reports almost half of school districts in Chicago's suburbs would lose money under a dramatic proposal to rejigger how the state divides up money to public schools, with affluent districts targeted for cuts and less wealthy districts set to get more state aid. To make it happen, the Illinois State Board of Education is proposing to take $305 million from an account designated for special education services and give that money to districts next school year for general expenses that may have nothing or little to do with kids with disabilities. The idea is to boost "general" state aid for public schools in what the state board believes would be a more equitable way. Even without this source of funding for special education, districts would be expected to continue covering those costs as required by law. 

Read more:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-special-education-funding-met-20160115-story.html

Sun Sentinel: 911 call-taker orders pizza while ignoring emergency call

The Sun Sentinel reports that when a young man passed out at a Fort Lauderdale optometrist office in September, an employee dialed 911 for help. But instead of answering, the call-taker at the 911 dispatch center was busy — ordering pizza.

For 15 seconds, the phone rang at the dispatch center run by the Broward Sheriff's Office. The caller hung up and tried again. No answer. Another try. Still no one picked up. Someone else at the optometrist office tried calling 911 from a cell phone. It rang for one minute and 15 seconds. No one ever answered. No one called the office back, either. The embarrassing mistake was one more in a litany of complaints since Broward County formed a countywide system in 2014 for dispatching 911 calls.

Read more:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-911-unanswered-pizza-20160114-story.html

Des Moines Register: Iowa Muslims: Terror, politics hijack faith

The Des Moines register reports Muslims in Des Moines, which has seven mosques, are not hiding in fear or shame after massacres in Paris and San Bernardino, California, whose attackers claimed links to the Islamic State (commonly known as ISIS) and ushered in a new round of what some call “Islamophobia.”  In fact, some Muslims in Iowa feel the need to be seen and heard. They welcome visitors to their mosques  — even Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has called for barring Muslims from entering the country. “We are part of this society,” said Almardi Abdalla, 39, of Des Moines, after prayer on New Year’s Day at Masjid An-Noor. “Muslims need to step up more and engage in the political process. “We are open to anyone who wants to come here. We have nothing to hide. Donald Trump can come here anytime.”

Read more:

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2016/01/15/iowa-muslims-terror-politics-hijack-faith/78091742/

Wichita Eagle: Clinic releases e-mails detailing fall into financial trouble

The Wichita Eagle reports the former CEO of Hunter Health Clinic hid $1 million in debt from her board of directors, did not pay vendors and endangered the clinic’s federal contract with the Indian Health Service, according to documents the clinic released to The Eagle as part of a two-year court case. The board found out about the problems only after CEO Susette Schwartz went on family medical leave in late 2012. The revelation left them “reeling,” according to Heather Baker, co-chair of Hunter’s board of directors, who started on the board as Schwartz departed. The clinic, which was founded in 1976 to serve American Indians, is largely funded by federal grants and is the only Urban Indian Health program in Kansas.

Read more:

http://www.kansas.com/news/local/article55074300.html

Baltimore Sun: Jury was one vote short of acquittal on manslaughter charge

The Baltimore Sun reports the jury in the trial of Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter was one vote from acquitting him of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Freddie Gray, the most serious charge he faced, according to sources familiar with the deliberations. Judge Barry G. Williams declared a mistrial because the jury deadlocked on all four charges last month. Jurors were two votes from convicting Porter of misconduct in office, and more divided on the charges of assault and reckless endangerment, sources said. How the jury voted has not been revealed previously, and the judge ruled that jurors' names should not be revealed. Legal experts say the information is critical to understanding the process now playing out as prosecutors and Porter's defense attorneys prepare for his scheduled retrial in June.

Read more:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/freddie-gray/bs-md-ci-porter-jury-split-20160115-story.html

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Stadium task force spent $16.2 million on failed plan

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that when the last check is sent and the books close on the failed plan for a riverfront football stadium here, the public will have paid out more than $16.2 million. The bills rose steeply over the last several months. The public agency that owns the Edward Jones Dome paid 22 companies, including architects, surveyors, bond attorneys, construction managers, geotechnical engineers, financial advisers and a minority workforce expert. Gov. Jay Nixon’s stadium task force, which guided the Dome authority’s hiring, has faced some criticism in the process. Some of the contracts were awarded without bids, which the task force said weren’t required. The firm of task force co-chairman Bob Blitz was one of the largest benefactors of the effort. And many of the stadium contractors are also political donors. Still, those who worked on the effort to build the $1.1 billion open-air stadium along the Mississippi River, and keep the St. Louis Rams from fleeing to Los Angeles, say they were frugal, followed all laws, cared deeply — and worked their tails off.

Read more:

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/st-louis-stadium-task-force-spent-million/article_5b201609-3053-5769-a0ea-90dd7f947356.html

New York Times: Drug overdoses push up mortality rates of young whites

The New York Times reports its analysis of death certificates has found that drug overdoses are driving up the death rate of young white adults in the United States to levels not seen since the end of the AIDS epidemic more than two decades ago — a turn of fortune that stands in sharp contrast to falling death rates for young blacks. The rising death rates for those young white adults, ages 25 to 34, make them the first generation since the Vietnam War years of the mid-1960s to experience higher death rates in early adulthood than the generation that preceded it. The Times analyzed nearly 60 million death certificates collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1990 to 2014. It found death rates for non-Hispanic whites either rising or flattening for all the adult age groups under 65 — a trend that was particularly pronounced in women — even as medical advances sharply reduce deaths from traditional killers like heart disease.

Read more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/17/science/drug-overdoses-propel-rise-in-mortality-rates-of-young-whites.html?_r=0

Columbus Dispatch: Drugmakers prepare to fight proposed RX price controls

The Columbus Dispatch reports a fight is brewing over an Ohio ballot issue on prescription-drug price controls that could dwarf the $24 million spent on last fall’s marijuana legalization campaign. The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act is being challenged in state and federal courts — and it isn’t even close to making the ballot. It would require the state to pay no more for prescription drugs than is paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, up to 40 percent lower than other rates. While capping the prices paid by the Ohio Department of Health — which buys drugs for mental health, prisons and other state agencies — might seem like a small stone in a big pond, the potential ripple effect on prescription-drug prices in other programs and other states could be huge. The issue attempts to capitalize on growing public discontent with drug prices, which overall rose 500 percent in the past two decades.

Read more:

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/01/17/drugmakers-gearing-up-for-fight.html

Philadelphia Inquirer: How non-profit newsrooms avoid conflicts of interest

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that when the applause died down after H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest announced that he had donated The Inquirer and its sister publications to a new nonprofit institute, several journalists in the room asked the same hard question: How could the news organization avoid potential conflicts of interest if it was taking money from outside donors? "What we do cannot be bought," Publisher Terrance C.Z. Egger told the gathering of Philadelphia Media Network employees, asserting that the company and its newsrooms would remain autonomous. But as the region's dominant news provider wades into the pool of foundation funding, editors who run nonprofit newsrooms caution that even with the highest standards, keeping clean demands vigilance. At times, taking outside money has proved problematic for a news organization and clouded its most valuable asset, a reputation for impartial reporting.

Read more:

http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20160117_How_nonprofit_newsrooms_avoid_conflicts_-_and_their_appearance.html#wlUQgHb9FgFZlzQq.99

Tennessean: Audit slams Nashville airport authority, calls for culture change

The Tennessean reports a scathing consultant’s report calls into question management of the Metro Nashville Airport Authority, a $119 million-per-year organization that oversees Nashville International Airport, the gateway for 11.7 million business and tourism travelers each year. The report — obtained by The Tennessean through a public records request — found a top-heavy organization whose senior management has for years been “paternalistic, dictatorial and centralized.” Completed in November by the firm Greeley Pond Technologies, the audit described the Airport Authority as “uncooperative internally and operating one year at a time in reactive mode, that is, more like a government bureaucracy than a proactive business enterprise.” The report was released five months after a major business restructuring of the airport — and as the airport faces complaints of bullying by employees and after a top official pleaded guilty to fraud and bribery charges. 

Read more:

http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2016/01/16/audit-slams-nashville-airport-authority-calls-culture-change/78423792/

 

 

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM THE PAST WEEK  1-12-16

Indianapolis Star: Underfunded agency can’t protect vulnerable adults

Fear churned in the pit of Bobbi Plewes’ stomach, the Indianapolis Star reports. Each time Plewes, a nurse practitioner, visited 76-year-old Shirley Jarrett, she found her patient covered in urine and feces. At least once, there were bruises. And Jarrett was hungry. “My fear is that she wasn’t being fed or cared for,” Plewes recalled. Jarrett’s physician, Dr. Timothy Walbridge, and other home health professionals shared Plewes’ worry about the Indianapolis woman, who had suffered a debilitating stroke and couldn’t take care of herself. Twice they told Indiana Adult Protective Services, the state agency responsible for protecting vulnerable adults, that they thought Jarrett was being abused by her granddaughter. But the APS investigator never got in the door. More than five months after the initial warning, and three months after the second, medics rushed Jarrett to the hospital. But her wounds were too severe. She eventually died, a casualty of an overburdened, underfunded state agency that is ill-equipped to fulfill its mission: to protect Indiana adults who can’t care for themselves. An IndyStar investigation found that thousands of vulnerable adults are exposed every year to horrific abuse and neglect, left at risk because of a system that relies on well-intentioned but overwhelmed investigators.

Read more:

http://www.indystar.com/longform/news/investigations/2016/01/10/state-underfunded-adult-protective-services-agency-day-away-exploding/78526046/

 

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Private-option health plans are costliest

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette says records show that despite restrictions meant to keep down the cost of the private option, the state Medicaid program in most cases is paying for the most expensive “silver,” or midlevel coverage plan, offered by each insurance company. In Pulaski County, for instance, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield is offering four silver-level plans, but only one, the Silver 3500 plan, is available to private-option enrollees. For a 40-year-old participant, the state Medicaid program pays a monthly premium for the plan of $324.50. A consumer of that age who didn’t qualify for Medicaid or other financial help could pay a monthly premium of $307.12 for the Silver 3350 plan, which is not available in the private option. The plans are named for the size of the annual deductible a consumer must meet in some instances before coverage for certain services kicks in.

Read more:

http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2016/jan/10/private-option-plans-costliest/

 

Los Angeles Times: When a rapist is released

The Los Angeles Times reports that at the foot of a fence around a small house in the desert, a protester cleared her throat. She wanted to scream loud enough for the man inside to hear. “Raaaaaapist!” she shouted. “Go away, rapist!” “No one in this world loves you,” her friend yelled. “You are a sexually violent predator!” The shrieks were met with silence from the white, two-bedroom home outside Palmdale where Christopher Evans Hubbart has lived since his 2014 release from a California mental hospital. Hubbart, 64, is one of the state’s most notorious sex offenders. Nicknamed the “pillowcase rapist” for his pattern of covering victims’ heads, Hubbart has admitted to at least 44 sexual assaults in Southern and Northern California. Two decades ago, politicians portrayed him as a poster child for why California needed to lock up the most dangerous sex offenders even if they had finished serving their prison terms. Hubbart was the first person held under a law that allowed the state to confine sexually violent predators in hospitals if they have a mental disorder that makes them likely to reoffend. Now Hubbart is testing a central premise of the law: That with intense treatment, some of the state’s worst sex offenders can be safely allowed back into society. So far, only a few have completed all steps of the treatment. California spends more than $100 million a year on the program and locks up 560 sexually violent predators in state hospitals — all but one of them men. Only 34, including Hubbart, have been allowed to leave the hospital for a final stage of the treatment program that involves counseling and monitoring while living at home.

Read more:

http://graphics.latimes.com/sexually-violent-predator/

 

Rockford Register Star: Meeting legally outside office

The Rockford (Illinois) Register Star says meeting twice a month apparently isn't enough for City Council members. Since September, Republican and Democratic aldermen have gathered at restaurants for three joint caucus meetings. The meetings, which are public but hardly publicized, have been to discuss such issues as the affordable-housing situation involving 49 apartments proposed for South New Towne Drive, the city budget and capital construction plans, according to interviews with aldermen. Both parties have been invited to an upcoming fourth meeting. What's a caucus? Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as a gathering "to discuss a particular issue or to work together for a shared, usually political, goal." While these meetings are public, the public has to seek them out.

Read more:

http://www.rrstar.com/news/20160109/rockford-aldermen-are-holding-extra-meetings-legally-outside-of-city-council-chambers

 

Baltimore Sun: New push targets border crossers

A 27-year-old Guatemalan has nightmares recalling the sound of immigration agents knocking on her door, the Baltimore Sun reports. A 40-year-old cancer survivor from El Salvador fears driving to the doctor. Unmarked vans parked near schools make parents skittish. A state of unease approaching panic has set in for Central Americans living in the country illegally after the Obama administration announced this month it is targeting recent border crossers under a stepped-up enforcement effort. Officials cited the need to respond to an uptick in the number of immigrants apprehended crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. As fears of raids pulse through the Hispanic community in Maryland and elsewhere, pro-immigration groups and elected officials have raised questions about the effort. In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, obtained by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake last week implored federal agents to avoid schools — as is their policy — as well as churches and grocery stores.

Read more:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/bs-md-immigrants-deport-20160107-story.html

 

Columbus Dispatch: Stemming the tide of rising women’s prison population

More women than ever are going to prison in Ohio, with most serving short sentences for nonviolent drug crimes and struggling with mental-health and addiction issues, according to the Columbus Dispatch. A provision tucked into the state budget could change that, however. It empowers Ohio Prisons Director Gary C. Mohr to move nonviolent, low-level felony drug offenders out of prisons and into community programs or electronically monitored house arrest if they have less than a year remaining of their sentence. The change applies to both genders, with 2,100 inmates likely to be eligible this year. While men still far outnumber women in Ohio prisons — 46,394 to 4,258 currently — women will get first priority for the new program. It marks the first time the prisons director, and not a judge, has been authorized by legislators to shorten prison sentences. Qualifying inmates first must go through a demanding preparation program of eight to 10 hours a day for two weeks. … So what’s happening? Are more women turning to crime? Look no further than illegal drugs for the answer, Mohr said. “Drug possession is the No. 1 sentence for women coming to prison,” he said. The top five sentences are all directly or indirectly related to drugs: drug possession (16.3 percent), theft (12.7 percent), drug trafficking (9.7 percent), burglary (8.8 percent), and illegal manufacturing of drugs (8 percent). For men, drug offenses are lower percentages and felonious assault charges are in the top five.

Read more:

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/01/10/stemming-the-tide.html

 

  

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM THE PAST SEVERAL WEEKS  1-5-16


Denver Post: Marijuana-related businesses thrive in low-income neighborhoods

Recreational marijuana businesses have proliferated so rapidly in some of Denver's poorer neighborhoods during the past two years that city officials are exploring ways to disperse future growth more evenly. The pot boom in neighborhoods such as Elyria Swansea, Globeville and Northeast Park Hill in north Denver, and Overland to the south, wasn't exactly unexpected, but it still has residents and community groups concerned. Marijuana business owners say they've moved into the parts of town that city regulations restrict them to be. They say they work hard at being responsible neighbors in ways that include local hiring and community outreach.

Read more:

http://www.denverpost.com/marijuana/ci_29336993/denvers-pot-businesses-mostly-low-income-minority-neighborhoods

 

Kansas City Star: Police killings under the spotlight

Twelve years ago, a Denver police officer shot to death a developmentally disabled teenager holding a kitchen knife in his living room. Public outrage prompted city officials to establish an independent monitor’s office two years later to oversee law enforcement and investigate officer-involved shootings. It’s a form of civilian oversight of police, which protesters have been clamoring for across the country following fatal shootings in Ferguson, Missouri; Chicago and Cleveland. Police departments accused of wrongful shootings should not investigate their own, protesters argue. Since 2005, Kansas City police have been involved in 47 fatal shootings, or about four a year, according to an analysis by The Star, which began compiling a database of the shootings 11 years ago. When The Star recently compared Kansas City to 11 other cities, including larger ones like Denver and Milwaukee, it found that Kansas City had the third-most officer-involved fatal shootings per capita from 2005 through 2014. Only St. Louis and Cleveland recorded more.

Read more:

http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article52534610.html#storylink=cpy

 

Santa Fe New Mexican: A history of innovation and dysfunction at Los Alamos

On May 3, an electrical accident at a Los Alamos National Laboratory substation injured nine workers, burning one of them so severely he was hospitalized for more than a month. Federal officials in December cited the incident as a “significant failure” on the part of the contractor charged with managing the nuclear weapons repository and research facility. The contractor, Los Alamos National Security, lost $7.2 million in federal performance fees because of the accident. The incident also might have been the final straw that cost LANS — a consortium in which the University of California and Bechtel Corp. are the primary players — the lucrative $2.2 billion-a-year contract to manage the lab that it has held for nearly a decade. The electrical accident was the latest in a string of problems for LANS that include injured workers, improperly handled hazardous waste, missing enriched uranium, stolen tools and the public release of classified documents. … Experts, watchdog groups and former lab employees point to an array of problems, from a clash of cultures between the regimented and profit-driven Bechtel and the languorous, research-oriented university; to incentives that may have induced contractors to put a premium on meeting deadlines despite safety risks; to a mix of shoddy accountability and micromanagement on the part of the federal government.

Read more:

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/a-history-of-innovation-and-dysfunction-at-los-alamos-national/article_6bde4aee-077f-56a6-836b-eab1d289271e.html

 

Washington Post: Police fatally shoot nearly 1,000 in 2015

Nearly 1,000 times this year, an American police officer has shot and killed a civilian. When the people hired to protect their communities end up killing someone, they can be called heroes or criminals — a judgment that has never come more quickly or searingly than in this era of viral video, body cameras and dash cams. A single bullet fired at the adrenaline-charged apex of a chase can end a life, wreck a career, spark a riot, spike racial tensions and alter the politics of the nation. In a year-long study, The Washington Post found that the kind of incidents that have ignited protests in many U.S. communities — most often, white police officers killing unarmed black men — represent less than 4 percent of fatal police shootings. Meanwhile, The Post found that the great majority of people who died at the hands of the police fit at least one of three categories: they were wielding weapons, they were suicidal or mentally troubled, or they ran when officers told them to halt. The Post sought to compile a record of every fatal police shooting in the nation in 2015, something no government agency had done.

Read more:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2015/12/26/a-year-of-reckoning-police-fatally-shoot-nearly-1000/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_shootings-1248pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

 

Seattle Times: Buffett-owned company exploits minorities

After a few years living with her sister in Gallup, New Mexico, Rose Mary Zunie, 59, was ready to move into a place of her own. So, on an arid Saturday morning this past summer, the sisters piled into a friend’s pickup truck and headed for a mobile-home sales lot here just outside the impoverished Navajo reservation. The women — one in a long, colorful tribal skirt, another wearing turquoise jewelry, a traditional talisman against evil — were steered to a salesman who spoke Navajo, just like the voice on the store’s radio ads. He walked them through Clayton-built homes on the lot, then into the sales center, passing a banner and posters promoting one subprime lender: Vanderbilt Mortgage, a Clayton subsidiary. Inside, he handed them a Vanderbilt sales pamphlet. “Vanderbilt is the only one that finances on the reservation,” he told the women. His claim, which the women caught on tape, was a lie. And it was illegal. It is just one in a pattern of deceptions that Clayton has used to help extract billions from poor customers around the country — particularly people of color, who make up a substantial and growing portion of its business. The company is controlled by Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men, but its methods hardly match Buffett’s honest, folksy image: Clayton systematically pursues unwitting minority homebuyers and baits them into costly subprime loans, many of which are doomed to fail, an investigation by The Seattle Times and BuzzFeed News has found.

Read more:

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/minorities-exploited-by-warren-buffetts-mobile-home-empire-clayton-homes/

 

Los Angeles Times: U.S. Missile Defense Agency burned through cash

Proponents of the Precision Tracking Space System were not shy about touting its supposed benefits. The head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said PTSS represented an “unprecedented capability” to protect America and its allies against a nuclear attack by the likes of North Korea and Iran. A key congressional supporter described it as “a necessity for our country.” The planned network of nine to 12 satellites, orbiting high above the equator, would detect missile launches and track warheads in flight with great precision, the proponents said. It would be able to tell apart real missiles from decoys — an elusive capability known as “discrimination.” It would help guide U.S. rocket-interceptors to destroy incoming warheads. And it would do all this at a fraction of the cost of alternative approaches. Based on those promises, the Obama administration and Congress poured more than $230 million into design and engineering work on PTSS starting in 2009. Four years later, the government quietly killed the program before a single satellite was launched. … The Los Angeles Times examined hundreds of pages of congressional testimony and other government records and interviewed leading defense scientists and others.

Read more:

http://graphics.latimes.com/missile-defense-satellite/

 

Sacramento Bee: California black market surges for ‘ghost guns’

On May 16, 2013, Sharod Gibbons pulled his 1997 white Infiniti into a parking lot at Watt Avenue and Arden Way, near Arden Middle School. Gibbons got out and walked to the back of his car to show off a loaded AK-47 assault rifle and a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle to a prospective buyer, according to a federal agent’s court affidavit. After some chit-chat, the two agreed on a price, and the buyer handed over $2,500 in cash. That was the second firearms transaction between Gibbons and his buyer. The buyer was a government informant who eventually would pay $32,800 in cash for 16 rifles and six pistols in various locations around Sacramento, according to the affidavit by Jerry Donn, a special agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The undercover operation marked the start of a new effort by federal agents to tackle what they say is a growing black market for weapons being manufactured and sold throughout the region. While the San Bernardino terrorist attack and other mass shootings have brought cries for greater restrictions on gun sales by firearms dealers, these homemade guns change hands with no government oversight of any kind. They are known as “ghost guns.”

Read more:

 http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article50685560.html#storylink=cpy

 

Louisville Courier-Journal: Cancer kills Kentuckians at highest rate

In the end, lung cancer left Jerome Grant voiceless, a breathing tube in his windpipe. He could say nothing when his wife Dawn spoke her last words to him: “I love you, you know that?” He gave her a thumbs up. Then he closed his eyes and was gone. “I just thought we’d grow old together. But all of a sudden, you’re on your own.” The 52-year-old Louisville man was one of about 10,000 Kentuckians a year taken by cancer in a state where the disease consistently kills at the highest rate in the nation. Experts say the biggest culprit is lung cancer, which strikes and kills Kentuckians at rates 50 percent higher than the national average. But Kentucky’s death rates also rank in the Top 10 nationally for breast, colorectal and cervical cancers. “It’s really been driven by three major things: obesity, smoking and lack of screening,” said Louisville gastroenterologist Dr. Whitney Jones. “Our state is completely inundated with risk factors.”

Read more:

http://www.courier-journal.com/longform/life/wellness/health/2015/12/17/cancer-kills-kentuckians-highest-rate-nation/74874698/

 

Star-Ledger: Special report details New Jersey’s herointown

What would happen if you took everyone who is addicted to heroin in New Jersey and sent them to live in one place? It would be the state's fourth largest city, boasting a population of at least 128,000. Its residents are diverse enough that the town would be self-sufficient — with lawyers, politicians, construction workers, teachers and scientists walking the streets. And you will know one of them. In fact, social network analysis suggests you likely will know several city residents, whether they toil at a desk behind you or sleep in a bed down the hall. This city exists all across New Jersey, where heroin and opioid addiction have exploded in the past 10 years, killing more than 5,000 people and enslaving hundreds of thousands more. It's not a new story, but one whose tendrils reach far deeper into the Garden State than most know. Over the past year, NJ Advance Media has collected hundreds of stories from people touched by this epidemic – addicts, recovering users, mothers, fathers, friends and family – to detail the struggle with addiction.

Read more:

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/page/welcome_to_herointown_new_jerseys_4th_largest_city.html

 

Austin (Texas) American-Statesman: Drug court shuts out disadvantaged groups

When Travis County created its drug court in 1993, the model was innovative. The program sought to steer black offenders away from the criminal justice system, offering defendants with substance abuse issues treatment instead of time in prison. The shift in strategy became part of a rare bipartisan push for similar specialty courts across the state after a decade of tough-on-crime policies. But an Austin American-Statesman (http://atxne.ws/1VsoxsV ) investigation has found that as the Travis County Adult Drug Diversion Court has embarked on an overhaul, the program is shutting out disadvantaged groups, and its leaders say they don't know why. African-Americans make up 8.9 percent of Travis County residents but 26.8 percent of defendants arrested on felony drug charges. They are convicted of those offenses at a rate of 41.3 percent, which is higher than the conviction rate for white defendants, 32.9 percent. Yet amid the changes to the drug court, participation overall has dropped by more than half in the past five years. Among the least likely to join and fastest to drop out are black offenders, the very population the program was created to serve.

 

 

 

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK  12-15-15

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Cancer drug ok’d without proof it extends life

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that despite lack of proof the drug extends life, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Afinitor for a new use five times in the last six years. Afinitor is now used to treat advanced breast and kidney cancer, a rare type of pancreatic tumor and two types of nonmalignant tumors. The drug comes with a long list of serious side effects — mouth sores, infections, fatigue, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, cough, headache and decreased appetite. In clinical trials, each occurred in at least 30 percent of patients. Since 2009, the year the drug first got on the market, there have been nearly 9,000 reports of serious adverse reactions among Afinitor users, including more than 2,700 deaths and more than 3,100 hospitalizations, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today analysis of FDA data found.

Read more:

http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/fda-repeatedly-approved-cancer-drug-afinitor-without-proof-it-extended-life-b99628814z1-361607291.html

 

Seattle Times: How Microsoft moves profits offshore to cut its tax bill.

The Seattle Times reports that when someone buys a copy of Office at a local Microsoft Store, the profit, after accounting for state taxes, goes to a Microsoft sales subsidiary in Nevada. From there, much of that money begins a complicated global trek that ultimately leads across the Atlantic, with two stops on the island tax haven of Bermuda. Microsoft in the past 20 years built that network of subsidiaries in part to minimize the taxes it pays to governments worldwide. The company is hardly alone. Many multinational corporations have set up similar structures, in some cases reducing their tax burden to near zero. But a court fight this year between Microsoft and the Internal Revenue Service brought to light new documents outlining the deals that set up the company’s structure. Additional court papers, corporate filings and tax records from four continents offer a rare, detailed look at the business of avoiding taxes.

Read more:

http://www.seattletimes.com/business/microsoft/how-microsoft-parks-profits-offshore-to-pare-its-tax-bill/

 

Austin American-Statesman: University employees abused access to tickets

The Austin American-Statesman reports an audit it obtained reveals University of Texas athletics employees systematically abused their access to Longhorns football tickets for years, resulting in preferential treatment for favored donors, secret arrangements with ticket brokers and untold financial losses for the university. Some allegations resulting from a 16-month university investigation point to possible illegal conduct, including employees who accepted gifts and exploited loopholes to pocket immeasurable profits by selling complimentary tickets. The audit says those allegations were referred to police and to the Travis County district attorney, but no charges were pursued. Many practices uncovered by the investigation violate university policy or represent fireable offenses, UT officials said. However, no employees are named and no one is held responsible in the audit, formally completed Nov. 30 and obtained by the Statesman under the Texas Public Information Act.

Read more:

http://www.hookem.com/story/ut-audit-finds-longhorns-staff-used-prime-seats-to-play-favorites-help-ticket-brokers/

 

Baltimore Sun: Housing policies still pin poor in Baltimore, but some escape

The Baltimore Sun reports Danielle Hill shares a secret with dozens of other residents of Baltimore public housing. It goes like this: They don't live in the city. Instead, they live in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties, in houses purchased by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. Thousands more have moved to the counties with special rent subsidies in a companion program. Hill's family is among nearly 10,000 black women and children who have moved into overwhelmingly white, prosperous suburbs through a court-ordered relocation program designed to combat the intense inner-city segregation and poverty forged by decades of discrimination. That relocation program — one of the nation's largest — has been discreetly rolled out to avoid the political and community opposition that routinely arises to defeat proposals for building subsidized housing in Baltimore's suburbs.

Read more:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-housing-segregation-20151212-story.html

 

Indianapolis Star: Computer glitch may have caused test score errors

The Indianapolis Star reports scores on thousands of student exams could be incorrect because of a computer malfunction that inadvertently changed grades on Indiana’s high-stakes ISTEP test, according to scoring supervisors familiar with the glitch. But the company that scored the exam on behalf of the state — testing giant CTB McGraw Hill — decided to leave those potentially faulty scores in place, even after the problem was brought to management’s attention, the supervisors said. Company executives would not speak with The Indianapolis Star, but in a letter Tuesday, Dec. 8, to the Indiana Department of Education, Executive Vice President Ellen Haley downplayed the problem. She said the issue “was very rare” and “did not affect student scores.” Seven supervisors who spoke with The Star disagreed. Two estimated that tens of thousands of test questions were likely given incorrect scores.

 

Read more:

http://www.indystar.com/story/news/education/2015/12/13/computer-glitch-could-have-misscored-thousands-istep-tests-scoring-supervisors-say/77102522/

 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Warnings about prison doctor unheeded

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Georgia State officials allowed Dr. Yvon Nazaire to continue treating thousands of Georgia’s female prison inmates despite repeated warnings that he was neglecting inmates in obvious distress, making questionable diagnoses and trying to intimidate those who questioned him. The newspaper says the apparent lack of attention to the warnings suggests some decision-makers stood silent while the health of nearly half the 3,500 women in Georgia’s state prisons was put at risk. Nazaire was ultimately fired from his position as medical director at Pulaski State Prison in September after a series of AJC stories raised questions about the deaths of nine inmates in his care as well as the accuracy of the resume he submitted when he was hired nine years ago. But interviews and documents indicate that a host of officials, ranging from prison wardens to Gov. Nathan Deal’s staff, were alerted to concerns about Nazaire at least five years before the newspaper’s disclosures.

Read more:

http://specials.myajc.com/state-failed-to-heed-warnings/

 

Miami Herald: Sex, corruption and cover-up in nation’s largest prison for women

The Miami herald reports the inmates behind the walls of the nation’s largest prison for women are mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. Most prisoners at Lowell Correctional Institution are doing time for non-violent offenses: some have committed unspeakable crimes. Their sentences range from little more than a year to spending the rest of their lives behind bars. The criminal justice system in Florida—which incarcerates more women than any state except Texas—has failed many of them. Only a fraction of them receive rehabilitation and programs to help them transition to life after prison. Too often, they leave prison traumatized, lost and ill equipped to start new lives. They say that is because Lowell is a place they don’t want to remember, yet a hell they can never forget.   

 

Read more:

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/florida-prisons/article49175685.html

 

Sun Sentinel: Cuban tourists who never leave U.S. get easy immigration path

The Sun Sentinel reports waves of Cuban immigrants are pouring into the United States, some flying to Miami on visitor visas and then staying — and the United States allows it. Other foreigners who overstay visitor visas face deportation and can't legally work or receive public benefits. But Cuban tourists have a quick path to legally remain in the U.S.: They just don't leave. And some even collect welfare. The disparity underscores the unique treatment Cubans receive over every other immigrant group, a special status more easily exploited as U.S.-Cuba relations thaw. The annual number of visitor visas the U.S. awarded to Cubans more than doubled from 2011 to 2014, from about 14,000 to 35,000. U.S. officials declined repeated requests to identify how many of those visitors overstay, but one Cuban affairs expert estimated as many as 40 percent have.

Read more:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-cuba-tourist-visas-aid-20151211-story.html

 

San Diego Union-Tribune: Monsanto lawsuits unnerve corporate America

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports a San Diego-led legal team, in a move that might give corporate America chills, is testing a strategy aimed at expanding companies’ liability for cleaning up pollutants — even if those companies didn’t directly spill or release the toxins. The attorneys’ target is the St. Louis-based corporation Monsanto, which makes everything from pesticides to genetically modified seeds. In lawsuits filed on behalf of San Diego and a growing number of cities, they’re seeking untold millions from Monsanto for remediation projects, including dredging of tainted sediment in San Diego Bay and efforts to address storm water contamination in the city. Trial lawyers and corporate defense attorneys agree that if the litigation against Monsanto succeeds, it could embolden groups across the country to sue other chemical makers in a bid to recoup cleanup and public health costs.

Read more:

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/dec/11/monsanto-pcbs-san-diego-bay-cleanup-gomez-lawyers/

 

San Francisco Chronicle: Video spurs police reforms, but skeptics doubtful

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Mario Woods by San Francisco police officers Dec. 2 has followed a script that’s become sadly familiar in the wake of numerous similar killings across the nation in recent years. But the shooting, in which at least five officers opened fire on a limping man they say was armed with a knife, has also led city officials to begin examining the factors that could have played a part in the killing. Experts and critics say the question is not whether it will change how San Francisco operates when it comes to officer-shootings. It’s whether the city will go far enough to prevent the same outcome next time.    

Read more:

http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Will-S-F-police-reforms-go-far-enough-after-6694614.php

 

Dallas Morning News: Drugged to death in a dental chair

The Dallas Morning News reports a dental patient dies about every other day in America, according to a first-of-its-kind estimate. It’s the newspaper’s own rough calculation, based on data from one state, Texas. Why estimate? Because many state governments, which are supposed to oversee dentists, have failed to keep meaningful statistics. And why Texas? Because it alone clearly required dentists to report all deaths that might be treatment-related and produced a detailed accounting of those reports. It has the added benefit, for estimating purposes, of size — it’s the second-largest state, with about one-twelfth of the U.S. population. Since 2010, Texas has received at least 85 death reports. Projected out to the whole U.S. population, that’s just over 1,000 deaths. For every Texas dental patient who died, about six more were hospitalized and survived.

Read more:

http://interactives.dallasnews.com/2015/deadly-dentistry/part1.html

 

Arizona Daily Star: Tucson border police check many, few deported

The Arizona Daily Star reports controversy over Arizona’s tough immigration law rages on, but its analysis shows that the Border Patrol is picking up few people in Tucson for possible deportation. For the 16 months ending Oct. 2, Tucson police ran 26,000 immigration checks, which led to the Border Patrol taking custody of 83 people. The checks were run under SB 1070’s Section 2b, which requires local police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop if they become suspicious that person may be in the country illegally. The law also says officers must check the immigration status of anyone arrested before that person can be released, which Tucson police interpret to mean they must run immigration checks on everyone arrested, including those who are cited and released, regardless of whether there is reasonable suspicion the person may be undocumented.

Read more:

http://tucson.com/news/lots-of-immigration-checks-few-deportations-due-to-sb/article_a2610e46-3efd-570a-9f5a-caa3b95c849c.html

 

Sacramento Bee: Desalination will help ease water crunch but cost is high

The Sacramento Bee reports the newest weapon in the war on drought in California has arrived, an engineering marvel that will harvest drinking water from the ocean on a scale never before seen in the Western Hemisphere. A giant water desalination plant will open this week north of San Diego. It will produce 50 million gallons of fresh water each day, meeting 7 percent to 10 percent of the San Diego County Water Authority’s demands and buffering the region against supply shortages for decades to come. Oh, and it will be expensive – ridiculously so, in the minds of some critics. Built by privately owned Poseidon Water of Boston for $1 billion, the plant will deliver some of the priciest water found anywhere in California. It will cost twice as much as the water San Diego gets from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which provides the bulk of San Diego’s supplies.

Read more:

http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article49468770.html

 

 

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK   12-9-15

 

AP: FBI can’t access NSA phone records in California terrorism case

The Associated Press reported the U.S. government's ability to review and analyze five years' worth of telephone records for the married couple blamed in the deadly shootings in California lapsed just four days before the attack, when the National Security Agency's controversial mass surveillance program was formally shut down. Under a court order, those historical calling records at the NSA are now off-limits to agents running the FBI terrorism investigation even with a warrant. Instead, under the new USA Freedom Act, authorities were able to obtain roughly two years' worth of calling records directly from the phone companies of the married couple blamed in the attack. The period covered the entire time that the wife, Tashfeen Malik, lived in the United States, although her husband, Syed Farook, had been here much longer.

Read more:

http://www.wcvb.com/news/fbi-cant-access-nsa-phone-records-in-california-terrorism-case/36819194

 

AP Exclusive: Texas birth certificate rules often unenforced

Texas has for seven years said it won't accept Mexican identification cards when issuing birth certificates for children of people in the United States illegally. But it doesn't appear to have stepped up enforcement until recently, amid mounting political pressure to get tougher on immigration, records obtained by The Associated Press show. That could validate complaints from immigrant parents suing in federal court, claiming the state is denying "birthright" U.S. citizenship for their Texas-born children guaranteed under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The AP used open records requests to get annual "self-assessment" surveys completed by local registrars. They show that officials in at least five cities and counties along the U.S.-Mexico border told the Texas Department of State Health Services during the past three years that they were allowing parents to get copies of birth certificates using a Mexican identification known as the matricula consular.

Read more:

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/national/political/story/2015/dec/06/ap-exclusive-texbirth-certificate-rules-often/339165/

 

Washington Post: How D.C. spent $200 million on a streetcar you can’t ride

The Washington Post reports the District of Columbia is spending three or four times what other cities have to build a maintenance facility for its fledging streetcar system, a reflection of the flawed planning and execution that have dragged down the transit start-up for more than a decade. The “Car Barn” project was originally designed as a simple garage and rail yard for light repairs and storage, with some offices for staff. But it has ballooned in ambition and nearly tripled in cost — to $48.8 million. It will now include a number of pricey and unusual features, including grass tracks for parking the fleet of six streetcars and a cistern for washing them with rainwater. At the same time, a short stretch of track that the city built in Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood never reached its intended destination and has been all but abandoned, leaving the city with a multimillion-dollar, eight-tenths of a mile monument to good intentions.

Read more:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/how-dc-spent-200-million-over-a-decade-on-a-streetcar-you-still-cant-ride/2015/12/05/3c8a51c6-8d48-11e5-acff-673ae92ddd2b_story.html

 

Chicago Tribune: EPA tosses aside safety data on Dow pesticides

The Chicago Tribune reports Dow Chemical Co. is reviving 2,4-D, a World War II-era chemical linked to cancer and other health problems for use on its new genetically engineered corn and soybeans. If these crops are widely adopted, the government’s maximum-exposure projections show that U.S. children ages 1 to 12 could consume levels of 2,4-D that the World Health Organization, Russia, Australia, South Korea, Canada, Brazil and China consider unsafe. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had considered that exposure dangerous for decades as well. But the Obama administration’s EPA now says it is safe to allow 41 times more 2,4-D into the American diet than before he took office. To reach that conclusion, the Tribune found, the agency’s scientists changed their analysis of a pivotal rat study by Dow, tossing aside signs of kidney trouble that Dow researchers said were caused by 2,4-D.

Read more:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-gmo-crops-pesticide-resistance-met-20151203-story.html

 

Arizona Daily Star: Tucson Police no longer using cellphone tracker

The Arizona Daily Star reports Tucson police no longer use controversial cellphone-tracking devices in investigations and haven’t for more than two years. The devices, the subject of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the Tucson Police Department, were used in five police investigations since 2010. The city paid $408,000 in federal grant money to Florida-based Harris Corp. for a vehicle-mounted device and a backpack-sized device. That amounts to $81,600 per investigation. The cell-site simulators mimic cellphone towers and allow police to track the movements of suspects through their cellphones. In an Arizona Court of Appeals hearing last week, the ACLU said the devices raise privacy concerns for people whose phones may be tracked solely because they are in the vicinity of a suspect.

Read more:

http://tucson.com/news/tucson-police-no-longer-using-cellphone-tracker/article_65eaa81b-af1f-5878-bec5-ea885c42f6a1.html

 

Columbus Dispatch: Lt. Gov.’s top aide made campaign calls on state time

The Columbus Dispatch reports the former top aide to Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor worked on the 2014 re-election campaign of Gov. John Kasich and Taylor on state time, pocketing her paycheck while participating in partisan politics. The newspaper said it determined that Laura Johnson, Taylor’s chief of staff for 3 1/2 years until she resigned under pressure in mid-2014, made more than 150 phone calls to top Kasich-Taylor campaign officials while her timesheets showed she was on the state clock. Johnson also participated in at least 19 campaign meetings and conference calls on state time, including two meetings with Taylor and five with the campaign’s top fundraiser, according to her appointment calendar.

Read more:

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/12/02/taylors-ex-aide-made-campaign-calls-meetings-on-state-paid-time.html

 

Spokesman-Review: Records unveil layers of secrecy at Spokane City Hall

The Spokane Spokesman-Review reports that reporters were given just eight minutes on Sept. 22 to rush to a room adjacent to the mayor’s office for a hastily called news conference about the forced resignation of police Chief Frank Straub. Spokane Mayor David Condon, on the other hand, had more than five months to prepare for the day he’d take Straub’s badge because of allegations about the chief’s behavior toward employees. Condon said he’d decided it was time to “move in a new direction, change management” in the police department after receiving a letter from the police Lieutenants and Captains Association detailing the “unprofessional and even hostile behavior” that made Straub an ineffective chief. In fact, Condon heard of even more serious accusations against Straub in April, when the spokeswoman for the police department, Monique Cotton, confronted the mayor and City Administrator Theresa Sanders with allegations of sexual harassment.

Read more:

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2015/nov/29/records-unveil-layers-of-secrecy-at-spokane-city-h/

 

Miami Herald: Bitter pill: How Florida rations care for frail kids

The Miami Herald reports six-year-old Aref Shabaneh is almost entirely blind, able to read only in Braille, walks with a cane, and is so sensitive to light his parents turn them off when he’s home. For two years, he was enrolled in a taxpayer-funded healthcare program that provided specialists to help protect what little is left of his eyesight. In June, Florida health administrators declared in a memo that the little boy was “NOT clinically eligible.” His severely detached retina had not been miraculously cured by doctors. Instead, state records show, Aref had been tossed from the program by state health employees looking to cut costs.

Read more:

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article48230395.html

 

Chicago Tribune: Chicago’s flawed system for investigating police shootings

The Chicago Tribune reports Chicago police officers enforce a code of silence to protect one another when they shoot a citizen, giving some a sense they can do so with impunity. Their union protects them from rigorous scrutiny, enforcing a contract that can be an impediment to tough and timely investigations. The Independent Police Review Authority, the civilian agency meant to pierce that protection and investigate shootings of citizens by officers, is slow, overworked and, according to its many critics, biased in favor of the police. Prosecutors, meantime, almost never bring charges against officers in police shooting cases, seeming to show a lack of enthusiasm for arresting the people they depend on to make cases — even when video, an officer's history or other circumstances raise concerns.

Read more:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-chicago-police-accountability-20151204-story.html

 

Boston Globe: Schools fail to keep track of asbestos

The Boston Globe reports that contractors, without sealing off the area, used ice scrapers to remove the tiled floor of three classrooms, loaded the splintered remains into a wheelbarrow, and carted them through hallways to the dumpster behind the school, where the dusty refuse remained for more than a month. Only weeks later did officials at the McCloskey Middle School in Uxbridge, Mass., realize that the tiles contained asbestos, toxic minerals that can cause cancer when inhaled. It was the kind of worst-case outcome — the contamination of a building used by hundreds of children each day — that Congress sought to prevent when it passed a law requiring schools to conduct routine inspections of areas with asbestos, provide special training to custodians and other school staff, and follow strict procedures when removing the fibrous material. Nearly 30 years later, the state recently revealed, schools in Massachusetts appear to be ignoring the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act and the state is doing little to enforce it, setting aside only enough money to conduct 40 inspections a year.

Read more:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/12/05/schools-massachusetts-failing-monitor-asbestos-state-and-federal-officials-say/zyehlz8G01pI9lf7sI3meK/story.html

 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Clean water costly in Minnesota’s farm country

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports taxpayers spent nearly $125 million last year to clean up Minnesota lakes, streams and groundwater contaminated by farming, according to its analysis of state and federal budget data that highlight agriculture’s increasingly prominent role as a source of water pollution. That total amounts to more than half the annual budget of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and it helps explain a contentious debate emerging across the state over agriculture and the environment. In large parts of southern Minnesota, half the rivers and lakes are often unsafe for swimming and fishing, according to a state survey published this year. The sum also underscores how Minnesota’s environmental efforts often work at cross purposes with farm policy.

Read more:

http://www.startribune.com/in-minnesota-s-farm-country-clean-water-is-costly/360685251/

 

New York Times: Meal plan costs go up as students pay for more than food

The New York Times reports that for the first time this year, the University of Tennessee imposed a $300-per-semester dining fee on about 12,000 undergraduates, including commuters, who do not purchase other meal plans. The extra money will help finance a $177 million student union with limestone cornices, clay-tiled roofing and copper gutters, part of a campus reconstruction plan aimed at elevating the University of Tennessee to a “Top 25” public university. Tennessee’s contract with its dining vendor, Aramark, is just one example of how universities nationwide are embracing increasingly lucrative deals with giant dining contractors, who offer commissions and signing bonuses to help pay for campus improvements and academic programs.

Read more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/06/us/meal-plan-costs-tick-upward-as-students-pay-for-more-than-food.html?_r=0

 

Austin American-Statesman: Troopers search Hispanics more but find less

The Austin American-Statesman reports that over the past five years Hispanic motorists stopped by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers were 33 percent more likely to be searched than white drivers. Yet those inspections were less likely to result in the discovery of drugs, weapons or illegal currency than the searches performed on white drivers. During the same period, troopers discovered contraband on African-American men searched during traffic stops at slightly higher rates than white men. Yet a black man pulled over by the Texas state police was also more than twice as likely to be searched as a white man. The disparities were revealed in an American-Statesman analysis of 15 million records representing every DPS traffic stop between the beginning of 2009 and July 2015. The examination represents the most detailed picture yet of the intersection of race and traffic stops performed statewide by Texas’ largest law enforcement agency.

Read more:

http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/crime-law/dps-searches-hispanics-more-finds-less-statesman-a/npcwz/

 

Houston Chronicle: Insurer cutbacks squeeze patients out of high-end care

The Houston Chronicle reports more than 88,000 people in the Houston area have lost plans from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas for 2016, potentially cutting off some of the most seriously ill from the top-tier medical care the city has built its reputation on. Last summer, the state's largest insurance carrier dropped all preferred provider organization plans from both the Affordable Care Act's federal exchange in Houston and the private individual market. Now, with only weeks to go before existing plans expire, patients, doctors and hospitals are scrambling to find what care is available under the insurer's replacement health maintenance organization plans. Even if the former PPO plan holders shift to one of BCBS's HMO plans on the exchange, those with the most complex medical needs still could be forced out of certain types of specialty care and left to find similar lifesaving treatments elsewhere.

Read more:

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/medical/article/Insurer-cutbacks-squeeze-patients-out-of-high-end-6678736.php

  

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK  12-1-15

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Campaign financial reports don’t add up

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a review of hundreds of financial reports filed by a dozen state and local officials over the last decade found numerous mistakes and discrepancies — some leaving tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash seemingly unaccounted for. The AJC analysis does not prove that campaign money is missing or that it was used for improper purposes. Many of the problems likely boil down to sloppy paperwork or bad math. But the newspaper’s findings suggest voters can’t trust reports that are supposed to give them an accurate picture of candidates’ finances. And they show elected officials who oversee billions of dollars in public spending can’t seem to balance their own checkbooks.

Read more:

http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/ga-officials-campaign-reports-dont-add-up/npWqp/

Arizona Republic: Valley Metro CEO resigns amid Republic investigation

Valley Metro Chief Executive Officer Stephen Banta abruptly resigned Tuesday, Nov. 24, amid an investigation by The Arizona Republic into expenses he incurred while running the region's bus and light-rail systems. The Republic obtained Valley Metro records showing he routinely flew first class, stayed in a nearly $600-a-night hotel room and bought alcohol for himself and guests at restaurants while running the transit system. The newspaper also confirmed Tuesday that on at least four occasions, Banta was reimbursed for dinners between $230 and $470, in which the people he claimed to have entertained did not attend.

Read more:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/investigations/2015/11/24/valley-metro-ceo-stephen-banta-resigns-investigation/76076636/

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Feds frustrated by medical test problems

A federal advisory committee at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has again taken no action after discussing concerns about a growing category of medical tests described by one member as the "Wild West" of lab testing, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports. Federal regulators said during a recent meeting they don't have the authority or resources to address the tests that have long-standing quality issues, yet are increasingly used in doctor's offices, emergency rooms and retail clinics across the country. Health care decisions are frequently based on medical tests that are essentially waived from oversight and regulation. The tests are supposed to be foolproof — no training or qualifications are required for those who do them — but the tests are often done incorrectly, which can lead to wrong results and serious harm to patients, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found this month.

Read more:

http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/federal-committee-frustrated-by-problems-with-medical-tests-b99620170z1-352814451.html

Arizona Republic: Ex-VA doctor concerned about surgeries in Phoenix

The Arizona Republic reports a physician formerly at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Phoenix says he was harassed and fired from his job two years ago after he complained that the hospital was improperly supervising the training of surgical residents. Dr. Maher Huttam said he raised concerns that numerous veterans had suffered medical complications from operations performed by student physicians who were insufficiently trained or monitored. In retaliation, Huttam said, he was falsely accused of endangering patients, subjected to religious discrimination and finally dismissed after a “sham” investigation. He also said his medical records were repeatedly compromised by VA staffers.

Read more:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/investigations/2015/11/22/ex-va-doctor-concerned-veterans-surgeries-phoenix/73045652/

Washington Post: Two Clintons. 41 years. $3 billion

Over four decades of public life, Bill and Hillary Clinton have built an unrivaled global network of donors while pioneering fundraising techniques that have transformed modern politics and paved the way for them to potentially become the first husband and wife to win the White House. The grand total raised for all of their political campaigns and their family’s charitable foundation reaches at least $3 billion, according to a Washington Post investigation. The majority of the money — $2 billion — has gone to the Clinton Foundation, one of the world’s fastest-growing charities, which supports health, education and economic development initiatives around the globe. Separately, donors have given $1 billion to support the Clintons’ political races and legal defense fund, making capped contributions to their campaigns and writing six-figure checks to the Democratic National Committee and allied super PACs.

Read more:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/clinton-money/

Oregonian: Governor promises review of Energy Department, but when?

The Oregonian reports Gov. Kate Brown is promising an unprecedented review of the Oregon Department of Energy, plagued for nearly a decade by the waste of millions in public money, mismanagement and staff turmoil. Brown's staff said the probe will examine the agency's management and performance, perhaps in concert with other state officials. They said the governor also has been discussing with legislative leaders a more targeted review of the agency's tax credit programs. So far, there is little sign either initiative is under way. And that raises the question whether one of Oregon's most troubled state agencies could once again escape accountability.

Read more:

http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/11/governor_promises_review_of_pr.html

Los Angeles Times: A talent agent and a trail of unhappy clients

The Los Angeles Times says Venturella is one of the hundreds of talent agents operating on the fringes of Hollywood, where the clients are mostly character actors, fledgling screenwriters, workaday directors, even unknown wannabes. Most provide a useful service, but complaints about abuses by second-tier talent representatives grew loud enough in 2009 to prod the state Legislature to pass the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act, which prohibits agents and others who represent performers from charging them any fees other than commissions and reimbursements for some out-of-pocket costs. Some of Venturella's former clients accuse her of pocketing fees they were owed for acting and modeling work, making promises she couldn't keep, pressing them into spending money and not acting in their best interest.

Read more:

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-selling-stardom-20151122-htmlstory.html

St Louis Post-Dispatch: Analysis of police shootings intended as model

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports a new analysis of a decade of shootings by city police could become the template for a national reporting model widely sought in the wake of controversies in Ferguson, Cleveland and elsewhere according to its researchers. What it tells the public can help frame the debate on police use of force, breaking down details of the circumstances and demographics. For example, in the decade studied, police shootings in St. Louis here were not necessarily associated with the most violent areas, or the prevailing race of the neighborhood. What it tells law enforcement leaders could lead to more effective changes in policies or training. For example, that St. Louis officers missed the people they were shooting at in half the encounters.

Read more:

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/analysis-of-st-louis-police-shootings-intended-as-national-model/article_ea0e3c20-45d6-53ca-8114-1166852c701d.html

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Vacant buildings plague city

More than 12,000 structures – houses, schools, former manufacturing plants and forgotten warehouses – sit empty in the city of Cleveland, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Roughly half of them are so dilapidated that they're possibly beyond saving. These buildings taint neighborhoods, hurt home values and entice criminals. Shabby houses stand as testaments to a half-century of population loss capped by a decade-long flood of foreclosures and a brutal housing bust. An unprecedented, citywide survey of 158,851 properties completed last month shows the scope of the problem, particularly on the hard-hit East Side. Surveyors dispatched by the Thriving Communities Institute, an urban-focused arm of the nonprofit Western Reserve Land Conservancy, found that 8.8 percent of residential structures in the city are vacant. More than a third of those empty homes might be a lost cause.

Read more:

http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2015/11/vacant_houses_blighted_buildin.html

San Francisco Chronicle: Facilities chief oversees work by his own company

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that when Oakland school officials hired an interim director of their facilities department early this year — at $30,000 a month — they said it was temporary. Eight months later, Lance Jackson’s services still cost Oakland Unified about $1,300 a day, nearly 30 percent more than the district superintendent’s pay. Despite his job title, Jackson isn’t a district employee. He’s the chief operating officer at SGI Construction Management, the company hired to manage the district’s bond program, a three-year contract worth up to $11 million. He is both a district administrator and a contract worker, overseeing services performed by his own company, through which the $30,000 monthly fee is paid. The arrangement has raised conflict-of-interest questions in an Oakland district with a history of financial mismanagement, including a $100 million state bailout in 2003.

Read more:

http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Oakland-s-facilities-chief-oversees-work-by-his-6649232.php

Arizona Daily Star: Sheriff official’s relative ran department cafes rent-free

The Arizona Daily Star reports the niece of a high-ranking Pima County Sheriff’s Department employee has been operating restaurants at headquarters and the jail rent-free and with taxpayer-purchased equipment. An Arizona Daily Star investigation found that Nikki Thompson ran her two Off the Record-The Exclusive Café sites without a contract with the county, which is required for outside vendors. Thompson closed the jail location last week after the Star learned she did not have a mandatory health department permit. The department ordered her to limit her service to food prepared elsewhere, but she opted to shut down. Thompson, who also owns the downtown restaurant Nook, opened Off the Record at Sheriff’s Department headquarters three years ago, serving made-to-order meals to deputies and staff workers. The jail location opened last year.

Read more:

http://tucson.com/news/local/sheriff-official-s-relative-ran-department-cafes-rent-free/article_2f2c25d5-1310-5ab8-89d2-e067fb662e37.html

Austin American-Statesman: The gender divide in Austin

The Austin American-Statesman reports city officials in August released a long-awaited 16-page report suggesting the pay gap between men and women working for the city of Austin had shrunk to just a few pennies per dollar. The average woman, excluding first responders, made 96 cents for every $1 a man earned. In nearly half the jobs reviewed, the study added, women earned more than men. But the city’s study failed to capture the larger issues of gender imbalance that remain at City Hall. An American-Statesman analysis finds the problem is not one of equal pay for equal work: Men and women doing the same job earn similar pay, with differences in earnings usually reflecting years of experience with the city. But the city government’s workforce is overwhelmingly male, especially at the upper-management tiers and other higher-paying positions.

Read more:

http://specials.mystatesman.com/gender-pay-gap/

Boston Globe: Child deaths go unsolved as autopsies fall behind

The Boston Globe reports dozens of cases of Massachusetts children who may have died of abuse and neglect remain unresolved for years because investigators have been hamstrung by delays in obtaining death reports and difficulty determining whether deaths were accidental, natural, or the results of a crime, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting has found. The state medical examiner’s office, long under fire for delays in performing adult autopsies, is even slower when children die, taking an average of 242 days to find an official cause of death in child abuse and neglect cases. Official death reports based on those findings sometimes take more than three years to complete, the New England Center found in its review of 102 cases, including the case of a 1-month-old boy who died in 2012 and whose death determination is still pending.

Read more:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/11/28/many-investigations-into-massachusetts-child-abuse-deaths-remain-limbo-for-years/e4qO9xOmlthllM8PV2rXBN/story.html

San Francisco Chronicle: More blacks stopped for 'reasonable suspicion' 

The San Francisco Chronicle reports police in Oakland disproportionately stop and search African American pedestrians and motorists under the parameters of “reasonable suspicion” — a vague legal standard that can amount to little more than an officer’s hunch. From September 2014 to September 2015, more than 34,000 people were stopped by Oakland police, 1,876 for reasonable suspicion. About 70 percent were black, even though just 26.5 percent of Oakland residents are African American, according to a Chronicle analysis. Reasonable suspicion is the lowest legal threshold officers must clear to conduct a rudimentary search without consent. Unlike traffic or probable cause stops, which require tangible evidence of a violation or crime, reasonable suspicion can be invoked if someone fits a suspect’s physical description, inconsistently answers questions or displays any other signs that they’re engaged in criminal activity.

Read more:

http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Black-Oakland-residents-stopped-searched-with-6662485.php

Columbus Dispatch: Copies of medical records costly for Ohioans

The Columbus Dispatch reports Ohioans seeking copies of their medical records often pay hospitals, doctors and other health-care providers some of the highest fees in the nation, according to a Dispatch analysis. Most states have statutes that specify the maximum amounts that can be charged for copying medical records. In Ohio, health-care providers can charge as much as $3.07 per page for the first 10 pages of a person’s paper or electronic medical records, 64 cents for pages 11 through 50 and 26 cents for any additional pages. While the state’s maximum rates are above-average across the board, they are especially high for smaller volumes of records.

Read More:

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/11/29/in-ohio-records-cost-hefty.html

New York Times: Climate talks avoid scientists’ idea of 'Carbon Budget'

After two decades of talks that failed to slow the relentless pace of global warming, negotiators from almost 200 countries are widely expected to sign a deal in the next two weeks to take concrete steps to cut emissions, The New York Times reports. The prospect of progress, any progress, has elicited cheers in many quarters. Yet the negotiators gathering in Paris will not be discussing any plan that comes close to meeting their own stated goal of limiting the increase of global temperatures to a reasonably safe level. They have pointedly declined to take up a recommendation from scientists, made several years ago, that they set a cap on total greenhouse gases as a way to achieve that goal, and then figure out how to allocate the emissions fairly.

Read more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/science/earth/paris-climate-talks-avoid-scientists-goal-of-carbon-budget.html?_r=0

Las Vegas Review Journal: Borrow $2,500 today, lose $8,000 car tomorrow

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports how Wayne Fischer, who lives mostly on $489 a month from Social Security, qualified for a 30-day loan of nearly $2,500 by borrowing against his 2006 Ford Ranger, taking out a type of loan so controversial that it's illegal in 25 states. Fischer's car-title loan ultimately cost him far more than the truck, which the lender seized when he couldn't pay. "I can't get anywhere. I can't get to jobs,'' Fischer said. "If I need to do things bureaucracy-wise, to try to fight what's happening to me, it takes forever using the bus. It's just additional stress." Largely unregulated in Nevada and most other states, the $4.3 billion-a-year title loan industry drives thousands of consumers over the financial edge, even when they make their payments. In states with limits, lenders exploit legal loopholes to skirt consumer protections. The consequences are shared by all.

Read more:

http://www.reviewjournal.com/business/borrow-2500-today-lose-8000-car-tomorrow

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Opioid overuse kills more people than homicide

Runaway use and abuse of prescription opioid painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone has emerged as a public health threat in Minnesota, according to The Minneapolis Star Tribune. They now cause more deaths each year than homicides, according to a Star Tribune review of state death records. Combined with other prescription-related deaths, they also account for more fatalities than car wrecks. Deaths from prescription and illegal opioids such as heroin have risen nearly sixfold since 2000, reaching 317 last year, state records show. That sharp increase precisely tracks the rise in opioid prescriptions — caused by pharmaceutical company promotions, patient demands for quick fixes, and doctors who unknowingly hooked their patients on addictive drugs by providing excessive quantities for minor pains or procedures, said Dr. Chris Johnson, an ER physician who worked the last 12 years at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park.

Read more:

http://www.startribune.com/opioid-overuse-driving-minnesota-deaths/357244811/

Arizona Daily Star: South Tucson police, fire pensions in dire shape

South Tucson’s pension system for police officers and firefighters is breaking under the weight of dwindling assets and the ever-increasing cost of benefits. The Arizona Daily Star reports the strain of keeping that financial promise to retirees or their surviving spouses is costing the 1.2-square-mile city an estimated $520,000 a year, with pensioners outnumbering employees paying into the retirement programs. To keep the police pension checks going out, the city is using general funds to cover 72 percent of the program. That’s more than three times the statewide average of 20 percent of general funds being used in municipal pension plans.

Read more:

http://tucson.com/news/s-tucson-police-fire-pensions-in-dire-financial-shape/article_e3e0d804-a5d9-51d2-a6c2-011801377d29.html

 

 

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK

Indianapolis Star: How government helps investors profit from decay

The Indianapolis Star reports Indianapolis is pockmarked with 6,800 abandoned homes that stunt property values, attract crime and destabilize neighborhoods. But one of the primary causes is mostly hidden. And it is, in large part, enabled by our own government. An Indianapolis Star investigation has found that, increasingly, the empty house next door is not owned by a bank or an individual, but by one of many investors, often from out of state, who are enticed by the prospects of cheap homes that can be purchased — sight unseen and in bulk — at government tax sales. A few big companies such as Mt. Helix have amassed hundreds of houses in Indianapolis’ poorest neighborhoods by taking advantage of government sales that have destructive, if unintended, consequences.

Read more:

http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2015/11/14/blight-inc/75675084/

 

Columbus Dispatch: Suicide in preventable but rarely discussed

The Columbus Dispatch reports that suicide, like cancer in the 1960s and AIDS in the 1980s, is a public-health crisis — one whose victims largely have been ignored by lawmakers, medical professionals and much of the public. The newspaper studied 15 years’ worth of Ohio death records and scrutinized more than 1,500 coroners’ investigative reports on suicides in nine counties that represent a cross-section of the state. The findings from those records are stark: Since 2000, more than 20,000 people have died by suicide in Ohio — nearly triple the number of homicide victims. More than 80 percent of those who took their own lives were male. Middle-age men, ages of 45 to 64,  account for nearly a quarter of all suicides. The youngest victims were just 8 years old — and there were three of them. But this isn’t an issue just for Ohio. It’s a national problem.

Read more:

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/public/2015/suicide/suicide-the-stigma.html

 

Los Angeles Time: Automakers removing spare tires from car trunks

The Los Angeles Times reports  nearly four in 10 new cars are sold without a most basic feature – the spare tire. A study by the American Automobile Assn., or AAA, found that 36 percent of 2015 models come with run-flat tires or tire inflation kits instead of a spare tire. That’s up from just 5 percent in 2006. “Flat tires are not a disappearing problem, but spare tires are,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “AAA responds to more than 4 million calls for flat tire assistance annually and, despite advances in vehicle technology, we have not seen a decline in tire-related calls over the last five years.”

Read more:

http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-hy-aaa-spare-tires-20151111-story.html

 

New Haven Register: Yale students say racism deeper than just ignorance

The New Haven Register reports many students say the central issue that has caused such an uproar at Yale University is racism and working to erase it and other forms of discrimination from campus life. While there have been episodes in the last two weeks that have put the focus on free speech and whether it’s being suppressed, those are minor compared to the real problems of race relations at the Ivy League school, those students say. Complaints by columnists and national media outlets that students have tried to suppress free speech are a “toxic diversion,” in the words of Brett Davidson, a senior. The larger point, students say, is that conditions on campus foster an undercurrent of racism and sexism that must be addressed by the administration.

Read more:

http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20151114/yale-students-fight-for-change-say-racism-on-campus-goes-deeper-than-just-ignorance

 

Stamford Advocate: Unfunded mandates for Connecticut schools

The Stamford Advocate reports that as Stamford and eight other municipalities prepare to take a lawsuit claiming the state shortchanges them on education funding to trial, a new web tool lets the public see how the state decides which cities and towns get more money for schools. The nonprofit Connecticut School Finance Project’s website shows the substantial disparities in per-student spending between schools that have many low-income students whose English is weak, and districts that have more property tax money to put toward schools and fewer disadvantaged students to educate. “If we expect school districts to provide our kids with equal opportunities, we have to be sure they have sufficient financial resources to do that, ” said Katie Roy, the founder of the new nonprofit. “It is a question of fairness.”

Read more:

http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/printpromotion/article/Unfunded-mandate-6633475.php

 

Washington Post: Forced police reforms, mixed results

The Washington Post reports that over the past two decades the Justice Department has undertaken its deepest interventions at 16 police departments that had patterns of excessive or deadly force, implementing reforms under the watch of independent monitors. More than its predecessors, the Obama administration has aggressively pursued police departments over the ­abuses, recently launching probes after individuals died as a result of encounters with police in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo. The question is whether such interventions work. To examine the impact, reporters surveyed the departments, visiting four cities. The reforms have led to modernized policies, new equipment and better training, police chiefs, city leaders, activists and Justice officials agree. But measured by incidents of use of force, one of Justice’s primary metrics, the outcomes are mixed.

Read more:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2015/11/13/forced-reforms-mixed-results/

 

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Fewer living in poverty in Georgia

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that for the first time since the economic downturn fewer people are living below the poverty line in both Georgia and metro Atlanta. In addition, more of the poor have jobs, and fewer are receiving food stamps, according to an analysis of data by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Recently released U.S. Census figures show that Georgia has an estimated 50,500 fewer people living below the poverty line since 2012, including tens of thousands in metro Atlanta. That actually represents about a 1 percent drop in the poverty rate - but several charity leaders said they can’t see it. They say they see just as much need, if not more.

Read more:

http://www.myajc.com/news/news/state-regional/fewer-in-georgia-in-poverty-at-least-on-paper/npNJm/

 

Honolulu Star Advertiser: Legislation to increase oversight on the way

The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports several key lawmakers say they plan to introduce legislation in the coming session to address concerns about the state’s oversight of physicians and other licensed professionals. The calls for change follow a three-day Honolulu Star-Advertiser series last week that detailed numerous shortcomings in the regulatory system, ranging from a sluggish disciplinary process to a lack of transparency. Among the newspaper’s findings were cases in which physicians lost their credentials in other states because of misconduct but were able to keep their licenses for months, or even years,  while the state pursued disciplinary action.

Read more (online subscribers only):

http://www.staradvertiser.com/s

 

Baltimore Sun: Public housing residents wait months for repairs

The Baltimore Sun reports shoddy, incomplete and long-overdue repairs are common among the 11,000 homes maintained by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, according to records obtained last month by The Sun through a public information request.. An investigation by the newspaper found the Housing Authority has a backlog of more than 4,000 work orders in which residents have waited more than 30 days — sometimes more than a year — for repairs. While some of the orders were for cosmetic work such as painting, others were for repairs essential to safety and sanitation. More than 1,000 were requests to fix plumbing problems such as broken shower heads, falling-down sinks, clogged tubs and leaking toilets.

Read more:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/sun-investigates/bs-md-ci-work-orders-20151114-story.html

 

Boston Globe: Did surgeons run two operating rooms at once?

The Boston Globe reports Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed 10 years of internal records from Massachusetts General Hospital and have interviewed several physicians as part of an investigation into surgeons running two operating rooms at the same time, according to individuals with direct knowledge of the probe. Some MGH staff members have raised concerns for years about double-booked operations in the renowned hospital’s orthopedics department, a dispute little known to the public until a Globe Spotlight Team report last month. Hospital officials say concurrent surgery is safe and improves efficiency, but critics say the practice is risky and that, too often, patients are not told their surgeon plans to manage a second, simultaneous case.

Read more:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/11/14/prosecutors-seek-decade-records-from-mass-general-hospital-double-booking-investigation/cvw3NgCGiJxqjVQkS2UNhO/story.html

 

Albuquerque Journal: New Mexico’s stunning “rape kit” backlog

The Albuquerque Journal reports the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, spurred on by complaints from victim advocates about a growing backlog in testing sex assault evidence kits in New Mexico, surveyed police agencies earlier this year in an effort to find out just how serious the problem is. The results stunned them. At least 5,341 sexual assault kits – some dating back to the 1980s – are sitting in police department evidence rooms still untested for a criminal suspect’s DNA. And that doesn’t include results from several dozen departments that haven’t responded. The Albuquerque Police Department had 3,476 sexual assault kits listed as untested based on computer database searches, but no one has gone in and looked at the evidence envelopes on a case-by-case basis. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office reported 472 untested evidence kits, and the rest of the departments around the state reported 1,393 untested kits.

Read more:

http://www.abqjournal.com/676079/abqnewsseeker/more-than-5000-untested-samples-taken-from-sexassault-victims-sitting-in-police-evidence-rooms.html

 

Columbus Dispatch: Slumlords feeling heat to care for neglected properties

The Columbus Dispatch reports city officials are forced to take an out-of-state entity to court over the dozens of neglected properties it owns in neighborhoods already struggling with poverty and blight. Since 2012, nearly 40 cases have been filed in Franklin County Environmental Court against Municipal Tax Property LLC or Municipal Tax Investment LLC. The companies are connected and are based in Lincoln, Neb. At the same time, the city’s Proactive Code Enforcement Team has swept through five neighborhoods — Franklinton, the Hilltop, North Linden, South Linden and North Eastmoor on the East Side — looking for problem properties. So far, 4,576 properties have been inspected and 2,133 notices have been issued. Property owners have complied with 1,751 notices, according to the city’s code-enforcement office, and 170 ended up in court. The city’s efforts are in response to the “Legacy of Neglect” series that ran in The Dispatch in 2013.

Read more:

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/11/15/slumlords-feel-heat.html

 

Austin American Statesman: Special treatment seen for some at Texas agency

The Austin American-Statesman reports some employees at the Texas Facilities Commission were hired without facing competition, promotions were made with little supporting material and people were being paid after they stopped working for the agency, according to an internal audit. A review of agency records by the Austin American-Statesman also found that some of the individuals who seem to have benefited from the actions listed in the audit had personal or political connections to its executive director at the time, Terry Keel. The commission is charged with overseeing the state government's physical plants. The Statesman said that it reviewed thousands of pages of records obtained through 14 records requests under the Texas Public Information Act and other sources and interviews with current and former employees.

Read more:

http://www.statesman.com/ap/ap/texas/audit-shows-special-treatment-for-some-at-texas-ag/npNGN/

 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Witness intimidation “out of control”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports witness intimidation permeates, and sometimes corrupts, the criminal justice system in Milwaukee County and prosecutors say it appears to be getting worse, even as the threats are more aggressively investigated and prosecuted. The threats are made in high-profile homicides and little-known domestic violence cases, delivered over jail phones, on social media and even in old-fashioned letters. Milwaukee's courthouse itself is often the scene of brazen acts of intimidation. Witnesses are routinely "mean-mugged" by relatives of those on trial, who issue the glares even as sheriff's deputies stand guard over unruly courtroom galleries. Some in the crowd secretly record victim testimony and post it online, despite orders from judges against it. And prosecutors themselves face intimidation, hearing the word bitch or other expletives muttered as they leave court.

Read more:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/witness-intimidation-out-of-control-in-milwaukee-county-b99611278z1-349227031.html

 

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK

AP: California Gov. Brown had state workers research oil on ranch 

Gov. Jerry Brown last year directed state oil and gas regulators to research, map and report back on any mining and oil drilling history and "potential for future oil and gas activity" at the Brown family's private land in Northern California, state records show. After a phone call from the governor and follow-up requests from his aides, senior staffers in the state's oil and gas regulatory agency over at least two days produced a 51-page historical report and geological assessment, plus a personalized satellite-imaged geological and oil and gas drilling map for the area around Brown's family ranchland near the town of Williams. State regulators labeled the map they did for Brown "Oil and Gas Potential In West Colusa County," and "JB_Ranch," referring to the Brown family land in Colusa County.

Read more:

http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-brown-state-research-oil-ranch-20151105-story.html

 

San Francisco Chronicle: Toxin in crab alarms California scientists

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the poisoning of Dungeness crab off the California coast by a mysterious algae bloom may be bad news for the seafood industry, but to marine biologists and climate scientists, it is a frightening omen of future distress to a vibrant ecosystem. Experts say the toxin in the algae, which likely flourished in this year’s record-high ocean temperatures, is one symptom of a wholesale shift in the physical and biological makeup of the Pacific Ocean — a transformation so abrupt and merciless that it is endangering species and forcing migrations before our eyes. Tissue samples of Dungeness and rock crabs last week showed contamination by domoic acid, a neurotoxin known to cause seizures, coma and even death when consumed by animals or humans. The finding prompted California wildlife officials to delay the $60 million commercial crab season, which was supposed to start Nov. 15.

Read more:

http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Toxin-in-crab-among-impacts-of-warm-sea-that-6617583.php

Miami Herald: On the bus in Miami-Dade, and not happy about it

The Miami Herald reports waiting bus passengers may well wonder where the 27 bus might be on its daily journey up and down 27th Avenue. Since the start of 2014, the route has received more than 300 complaints of missing or late buses. Mayor Carlos Gimenez has pledged to usher in an era of cleaner and more efficient buses in Florida’s largest transit system, thanks to an influx of new vehicles, technological upgrades, more scrubbing and a reworking of route maps and schedules. Bus passengers have offered thousands of reasons why creating more enticing buses would be so welcome and the task so difficult. The Miami Herald requested all complaints filed by bus passengers since the start of 2014. Through July of this year, there were nearly 27,000 of them registered via email, online and call center. That’s roughly 47 per day, offering the most detailed look available at what irks, enrages and horrifies the system’s 210,000 daily passengers.

Read more:

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/traffic/article43207062.html

 

The Washington Post: Get ready for surge-priced parking

The Washington Post reports driving in the District of Columbia can be a nightmare. Speed cameras and expensive tickets, motorcade-induced gridlock, parking signs harder to decipher than CIA code — that is, if you can find an open spot. Now, the city is testing a program under which the price of parking at meters in one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods would change based on demand. This “surge pricing” means you could be paying $8 an hour to park in Chinatown-Penn Quarter at peak times. You read that right. $8. An hour. City officials say the idea is to reduce downtown traffic congestion, 25 percent of which, studies show, is caused by vehicles circling the block looking for a parking space. It is simple supply and demand, they say.

Read more:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/youve-heard-about-surge-pricing-get-ready-for-surge-priced-parking/2015/11/07/4ff53f80-83ef-11e5-8ba6-cec48b74b2a7_story.html

Arizona Republic: Arizona’s education woes galvanize business leaders

The Arizona Republic reports Arizona’s national reputation on education isn't good — and is often a liability for business. The state consistently produces a below-average share of college-educated workers and is usually near the bottom on spending for K-12 as well. Business leaders and economists agree these metrics matter when trying to attract strong corporations and talented workers. A strong talent pool also matters to Arizona employers trying to hire new workers to fill existing jobs and to grow their companies. The issue has taken on renewed urgency and political importance as neighboring states with more high-tech opportunities have grown faster than Arizona in recent years. Even if Arizona produces quality science, technology, engineering and math graduates, they will move elsewhere if businesses don't invest here.

Read more:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/economy/2015/11/07/arizonas-education-woes-galvanize-business-leaders/74815804/?from=global&sessionKey=&autologin=

Orlando Sentinel: A focus on police use of force in Orlando

The Orlando Sentinel reports an analysis of five years of data finds that 3,100 people were hit, kicked, pepper-sprayed, shocked or had some other force used on them by Orlando Police Department officers from 2010 through the end of 2014. Orlando officers used force in 5.6 percent of their arrests, more than double the rate of some other agencies, including Tampa's, the Sentinel found. They also injured more than 1,900 people during that five-year period, with 1,200 of them requiring medical care, the Sentinel found. The people subjected to force included a woman pulled from her car by the hair, an 11-year-old girl shocked by a stun gun and a 12-year-old boy whose skull was fractured by a police dog set loose by its handler.

Read more:

http://interactive.orlandosentinel.com/focus-on-force/main/index.html

Des Moines Register: Some Medicaid bids misleading, unverifiable

The Des Moines Register reports some of the claims made by the for-profit corporations chosen to manage Iowa’s $4.2 billion annual Medicaid program contain unverifiable data, misleading statements or half-truths. The Des Moines Register investigation found that the questionable information was provided to Iowa officials in public bid documents used to help the companies edge out competitors to win the lucrative contracts. The Register could find nothing to suggest that the Iowa Department of Human Services, the agency that oversaw the selection process, did its own fact-checking of claims included in the winning bids. DHS officials declined to answer questions about those and other bid claims, citing ongoing litigation brought by three companies that competed unsuccessfully for the contracts.

Read more:

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2015/11/07/medicaid-bids-include-misleading-unverifiable-data/74233238/

Maine Sunday Telegram: Loopholes corked in tax credit programs

The Maine Sunday Telegram reports The U.S. Treasury has issued new guidelines that prohibit tools used in several controversial investment deals in Maine that left taxpayers on the hook for millions. The federal New Markets Tax Credit program, created to help low-income communities by directing investment money to local businesses, helped funnel a $40 million investment in Great Northern Paper in 2012 and a $23 million investment in JSI Store Fixtures in Milo in 2013 using the tools that are now prohibited. The program essentially gives financiers income tax credits in exchange for investing in eligible businesses. The changes to the federal rules come six months aftera Maine Sunday Telegram examination revealed how the deals were structured so that investors using the tools would receive tax credits worth more than the investments they made.

Read more:

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/11/08/loopholes-corked-in-new-markets-tax-credit-programs/

Baltimore Sun: Maryland scraps gun “fingerprint” database

The Baltimore Sun reports millions of dollars later, Maryland has officially decided that its 15-year effort to store and catalog the "fingerprints" of thousands of handguns was a failure. Since 2000, the state required that gun manufacturers fire every handgun to be sold here and send the spent bullet casing to authorities. The idea was to build a database of "ballistic fingerprints" to help solve future crimes. But the system — plagued by technological problems — never solved a single case. Now the hundreds of thousands of accumulated casings could be sold for scrap. "Obviously, I'm disappointed," said former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat whose administration pushed for the database to fulfill a campaign promise. "It's a little unfortunate, in that logic and common sense suggest that it would be a good crime-fighting tool."

Read more:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-bullet-casings-20151107-story.html

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Minnesota segregates thousands of disabled adults

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports thousands of Minnesotans with disabilities are employed by facilities known as sheltered workshops. They stuff envelopes, package candy or scrub toilets for just scraps of pay, with little hope of building better, more dignified lives. Many states, inspired by a new civil rights movement to integrate the disabled into mainstream life, are shuttering places like this. Not Minnesota. It still subsidizes nearly 300 sheltered workshops and is now among the most segregated states in the nation for working people with intellectual disabilities. Records examined by the Star Tribune show Minnesota pours $220 million annually into the sheltered workshop industry, consigning more than 12,000 adults to isolating and often mind-numbing work. It also relies more than any other state on group homes to house the disabled — often in remote locations where residents are far from their loved ones and vulnerable to abuse and neglect.

Read more:

http://www.startribune.com/Sheltered:-How-Minnesota-is-failing-the-disabled/330695211/

New York Times: Shell companies defraud owners of their homes

The New York Times reports that in Bedford-Stuyvesant and other pockets of New York City, white-collar criminals are employing a variety of schemes to snatch properties from their owners. Often, they use the secrecy afforded to shell companies to rent out vacated properties until they are caught or sell them to third parties. Victims are left groping for redress, unable to identify their predators or even, in some cases, to prove a crime has been committed. Attention lately has focused on the growing use of shell companies to buy prized real estate in Manhattan and other glittering destinations for global wealth. But the stealthy practice of deed theft illustrates another way that limited liability company law used to create such entities has been twisted and stretched to conceal the ownership of real estate. A review by The New York Times of several dozen cases, and interviews with lawyers, prosecutors and others knowledgeable about fraudulent deed transfers, suggests they are accelerating even as officials struggle to address them.

Read more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/nyregion/real-estate-shell-companies-scheme-to-defraud-owners-out-of-their-homes.html?_r=0

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK

 

AP: Hundreds of officers lose license over sex misconduct

The Associated Press, in a yearlong investigation of sexual misconduct by U.S. law enforcement, reports it uncovered about 1,000 officers who lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sodomy and other sexual assault; sex crimes that included possession of child pornography; or sexual misconduct such as propositioning citizens or having consensual but prohibited on-duty intercourse. The number is unquestionably an undercount because it represents only those officers whose licenses to work in law enforcement were revoked, and not all states take such action. California and New York — with several of the nation's largest law enforcement agencies — offered no records because they have no statewide system to decertify officers for misconduct. And even among states that provided records, some reported no officers removed for sexual misdeeds even though cases were identified via news stories or court records.

Read more:

http://www.richmond.com/ap/state/article_aa402490-ee0e-5478-95d7-9af691085991.html

 

Sun Sentinel: Fading support for special rules for Cuban immigrants

The Sun Sentinel reports the longest-serving Cuban-American in Congress may be easing her staunch support for the preferential immigration law for Cubans, saying "it wouldn't break my heart if it is done away with.'' Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has been one of the most stalwart defenders of the Cuban Adjustment Act, but said those who now exploit it by quickly returning to Cuba are "not in fear of persecution" and "should not have the privilege." Appearing on Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS4, Ros-Lehtinen said a Sun Sentinel investigation opened her eyes to welfare abuses by recent Cuban arrivals who are collecting U.S. assistance and returning to Cuba. "They're coming here and they're taking welfare benefits when they've never worked in the United States, they've never contributed to the greatness of our nation, and they're taking their money and going to Cuba,'' Ros-Lehtinen told DeFede. "That has got to stop.''

Read more:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/nationworld/fl-ileana-cuban-adjustment-act-20151030-story.html

 

New York Times: Arbitration everywhere, stacking the deck of justice

The New York Times reports that beneath an explainer on interest rates and late fees, and past the details about annual membership, there is a clause in a credit card contract used by American Express that most customers probably miss. If cardholders have a problem with their account, American Express explains, the company “may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration.” Those nine words are at the center of a far-reaching power play orchestrated by American corporations, an investigation by The New York Times has found. By inserting individual arbitration clauses into a soaring number of consumer and employment contracts, companies like American Express devised a way to circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices.

Read more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/business/dealbook/arbitration-everywhere-stacking-the-deck-of-justice.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

 

Philadelphia Inquirer: In the ashes, signs of doubt about deaths

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Somerset County officials prematurely closed the investigation into the 2014 deaths of Cooper Health System's CEO and his wife, according to two independent experts who examined bloodstains, charred debris, and burns inside the couple's Montgomery Township, N.J., home. The two investigators, former Philadelphia homicide detective Edward Rocks and retired Philadelphia fire marshal Thomas Schneiders - with more than seven decades of combined experience - studied the home of John and Joyce Sheridan for four hours last month at The Inquirer's request. Somerset authorities had ruled the case murder-suicide in March, a conclusion that ignited a public disagreement between the family and investigators. Rocks and Schneiders, however, believe the deaths look more like a double murder.

Read more:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20151101_IN_THE_ASHES__SIGNS_OF_DOUBT.html

 

Arizona Republic: What can Arizona do to assure its water supply?

The Arizona Republic reports the state, dry and getting drier as the climate trends warmer, faces important decisions in water policy. Either Arizonans and their representatives will shift how they use and secure water, experts agree, or they will suffer. The state has more than doubled in population since it created the Department of Water Resources in 1980 to manage water for the future. And at least for now, Arizona is in an enviable position compared to neighbors such as California. Yet Arizona is pressed to adapt after 15 years of regional drought and growing climate threats to its long-term Colorado River supply. The river is shrinking, and government hydrologists predict climate change at its Rocky Mountain source will permanently drop it by about a tenth, or maybe more, in this century.

Read more:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/investigations/2015/10/31/solutions-what-can-arizona-do-assure-its-water-supply/74405714/

 

Portland Press Herald: Gulf of Maine one of fastest warming spots on earth

The Portland Press Herald reports in a six-part series how global warming has brought rising seas, a two-story-high rock wall to fight them and Yarmouth Bar’s

designation as one of the communities in the province most threatened by climate change.  The fishing hamlet, sandwiched on a narrow sandbar between Yarmouth’s harbor and the open Gulf of Maine, has long struggled to keep the sea at bay. Now, snaking around the snout of Nova Scotia and into the Gulf of Maine is a new, unseen threat to Yarmouth Bar and hundreds of coastal communities in Maine, eastern New England and the Maritimes: currents fueling the rapid warming of the sea.

Read more:

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/10/25/mayday-gulf-maine-distress-six-part-series-from-colin-woodard/

 

Baltimore Sun: Housing Authority eliminated its inspector general

The Baltimore Sun reports the leaders of the city’s embattled public housing authority late last year eliminated the office designed to root out misconduct and hold employees accountable. The Housing Authority of Baltimore City eliminated the position of inspector general in December as a cost-saving measure, a spokeswoman for city housing chief Paul T. Graziano confirmed last week. As a result, the position was vacant as residents in three public housing developments filed suit this fall alleging that some maintenance staff refused to make repairs unless the women agreed to provide sexual favors. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is now investigating those allegations, Graziano said last week. The absence of an inspector general in Baltimore to oversee investigations raises questions about oversight at the city housing authority, several city officials said.

Read more:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/investigations/bs-md-habc-inspector-general-20151030-story.html

 

Chicago Tribune: Waukegan police have history of wrongful conviction

The Chicago Tribune reports its investigation of the Waukegan Police Department has found a troubling history of investigative failure and abuse allegations. No city police agency in Illinois, other than Chicago's, shares responsibility for as many known wrongful convictions as the Waukegan police, who helped send six men to prison — some for decades — before they were cleared, according to an analysis of data from the National Registry of Exonerations. Waukegan police also have been inundated with abuse allegations, records show, and insurers and the city have paid out $26.1 million in police cases since 2006, outspending towns with more police and, in some cases, more violent crime.

Read more:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-waukegan-police-problems-met-20151028-story.html

 

Los Angeles Times: How Tasers became instruments of excessive force 

The Los Angeles Times reports that Border Patrol leaders, searching for a way to curb fatal border shootings, decided in 2008 that their agents needed a new weapon on their belts. The agency began to supply Tasers, a hand-held device that delivers a paralyzing electric charge, as a way to end confrontations quickly and safely. But in scores of cases along the border, the Tasers became instruments of excessive force, a Los Angeles Times analysis found. The Times examined 450 uses of Tasers from 2010 to 2013 that were documented by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. At least 70 times, agents fired the devices at people who were running away, even though there was no struggle or clear indication that agents were in danger, according to use-of-force reports. At least six times, agents used the weapons against people who were trying to climb over the border fence back into Mexico.

Read more:

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-taser-border-20151030-story.html

 

Miami Herald: Neglect, budget cuts create chaos in Florida’s mental hospitals

The Miami Herald reports years of neglect and $100 million in budget cuts have turned Florida’s state-funded mental hospitals into treacherous warehouses where violence is out of control and patients can’t get the care they need. Since 2009, violent attacks at the state’s six largest hospitals have doubled. Nearly 1,000 patients ordered to the hospitals for close supervision managed to injure themselves or someone else. The Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald-Tribune spent more than a year chronicling life in these institutions, interviewing patients and their families, and examining thousands of pages of government records. Using police and hospital reports from across the state, reporters pieced together the first comprehensive list of injuries and violent attacks inside Florida’s mental instuitutions.

Read more:

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article41933331.html

 

Arizona Daily Star: Exclusive Tucson rehab center gets license back

The Arizona Daily Star reports state health officials have decided to give the Sierra Tucson rehab center another chance, restoring its license despite numerous patient safety problems that have included five deaths in the last four years.  Sierra Tucson, a 32-year-old for-profit center that has earned a reputation as a “rehab for the stars,” had been on a provisional license through Saturday after state officials found it had not been following its own policies on keeping track of patients’ whereabouts. The facility will be subject to some new rules, including keeping patients with mood and anxiety disorders in a “ligature free” environment. The three most recent patient deaths were of middle-aged men who hanged themselves — two with shoelaces and one with a belt.

Read more:

http://tucson.com/news/science/health-med-fit/exclusive-tucson-rehab-center-gets-license-back/article_705368e3-a103-5e49-a249-a9603f18f513.html

 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Urban school districts are among least integrated

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports elementary students in Minneapolis and St. Paul attend schools that are more racially segregated than they have been in a generation. More than half of elementary schools in the two districts now have 80 percent or more minority students. In Minneapolis, a district that was fully integrated in the 1980s, two schools have student populations that are almost entirely white and 19 schools are more than 80 percent minority, according to a Star Tribune analysis of enrollment data. Meanwhile, many once overwhelmingly white suburban districts are increasingly diverse, a development that researchers say should produce far better educational outcomes for minority students.

Read more:

http://www.startribune.com/urban-school-districts-are-among-least-integrated/339132801/

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK

Arizona Daily Star: Not all Tucson greyhound injuries reported to state

The Arizona Daily Star says that broken legs, torn muscles and other injuries dogs suffered at Tucson Greyhound Park were not reported to state authorities at least 30 times so far this year, public records show, but the agency that oversees the track says no laws were broken. The Arizona Department of Gaming, which lists greyhound injuries online, does not include data from about 30 dogs whose injuries are noted in the track’s transfer logs. Transfer records are filed with Pima County’s Animal Care Center whenever a dog leaves the park. Dale Popp, the track’s general manager, said injuries that happen during official races and schooling, or practice, races are attended to and then reported by on-site veterinarians. Popp said the unreported injuries must have occurred during unofficial training runs or at the kennels and were not brought to a track veterinarian’s attention. Arizona law says the state must “obtain and maintain records regarding the injuries incurred by dogs that were used for or in connection with dog racing, including injuries incurred in schooling races.” There is no reference to the word “official.” The law also requires that the record be updated and made available to the public “no later than 10 days after the end of each month.” No injury reports have been posted on the state site for August or September.

Read more: http://tucson.com/news/not-all-tucson-greyhound-injuries-are-reported-to-state/article_965ba6a0-636a-5e04-ab2a-30887ed1dbc1.html

 

Los Angeles Times: How Exxon became a skeptic on climate change

Throughout much of the 1980s, Exxon earned a public reputation as a pioneer in climate change research. It sponsored workshops, funded academic research and conducted its own high-tech experiments exploring the science behind global warming, The Los Angeles Times reports. But by 1990, the company, in public, took a different posture. While still funding select research, it poured millions into a campaign that questioned climate change. Over the next 15 years, it took out prominent ads in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, contending climate change science was murky and uncertain. And it argued regulations aimed at curbing global warming were ill-considered and premature. How did one of the world’s largest oil companies, a leader in climate research, become one of its biggest public skeptics? The answer, gleaned from a trove of archived company documents and the recollections of former employees, is that Exxon, now known as Exxon Mobil, feared a growing public consensus would lead to financially burdensome policies.

Read more: http://graphics.latimes.com/exxon-research/

 

Washington Post: Deadly consequences for police on duty

The Washington Post reports that Trooper Trevor Casper was stopped in his patrol cruiser while keeping watch for a gray Toyota Corolla on a busy stretch of Wisconsin Highway 41. Behind the wheel was Steven Timothy Snyder, a bank robber and killer on the run. When Casper spotted Snyder about 5:30 p.m., he eased his cruiser into southbound traffic, following the Corolla at a distance, keeping his lights and siren off. But Snyder soon realized he was being followed. Outside the Pick ’n Save grocery store, he abruptly turned his car around. He raised his semiautomatic pistol and opened fire, striking Casper in the neck. … Casper, who returned the fire, later collapsed and then dropped his gun. March 24 was his first solo day on the job — and his last. Shot three times, he became the youngest law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty in Wisconsin history. Casper is among 31 officers this year who have been shot to death by perpetrators, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. He was hailed as a hero for stopping Snyder, who had magazines of ammunition tucked in his socks and left a manifesto promising “to go down fighting hard.” Snyder’s killing, as documented in interviews and police reports, is among the 800 fatal shootings by police so far this year. As the tally continues to grow, so does public debate and criticism over police use of deadly force. But only a small number of the shootings — roughly 5 percent — occurred under the kind of circumstances that raise doubt and draw public outcry, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The vast majority of individuals shot and killed by police officers were, like Snyder, armed with guns and killed after attacking police officers or civilians or making other direct threats.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2015/10/24/on-duty-under-fire/

 

Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Maine foes of ‘big’ money also accept ‘dark’ funds

Two Maine groups leading a referendum drive to “get money out” of politics and increase transparency in political campaigns are taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in out-of-state contributions, including several large donations from a nonprofit organization with unclear funding sources, The Portland (Maine) Press Herald reports. The campaign, which would put Maine on the leading edge of a national effort to overhaul campaign finance laws, has depended heavily on funding from nonprofit organizations that can legally shield donors. Overall, about 80 percent of the $1.3 million received by Mainers for Accountable Elections has come from people and organizations outside of Maine. About 6 percent of the contributions came from individual Mainers, according to campaign finance reports filed through Sept. 30. New finance reports released Friday revealed no significant change in the donation trend.

Read more: http://www.pressherald.com/2015/10/25/maine-foes-of-big-money-also-accept-dark-funds/

 

Boston Globe: Battle over doctors doing two surgeries at once

The Boston Globe reports that Dr. Kirkham Wood arrived in the operating room at Massachusetts General Hospital before 7 one August morning with a schedule for the day that would give many surgeons pause. Wood, chief of MGH’s orthopedic spine service at the time and a nationally renowned practitioner in his specialty, is a confident, veteran surgeon. He would need all of his talent and confidence this day, and then some, as he planned to tackle two complicated spinal surgeries over the next many hours — two patients, two operating rooms, moving back and forth from one to the other, focusing on the challenging tasks that demanded his special skills, leaving the other work to a general surgeon, who assisted briefly, and two surgeons in training. In medicine it is called concurrent surgery, and the practice is hardly unique to Wood or MGH. It is allowed in some form at many prestigious hospitals, limited or banned at many others. Hospitals that permit double-booking consider it an efficient way to deploy the talents of their most in-demand specialists while reducing wasted operating room time. For patients, however, it can come as an unsettling surprise — especially when things go wrong. … The Globe, through dozens of interviews and a review of hospital records, court filings, and hundreds of emails shared by current and former medical staffers, pieced together a portrait of this remarkable and revealing episode, one which changed surgical practice and procedure at the hospital and resulted in double-booking being raised as an issue in malpractice lawsuits.

Read more: http://apps.bostonglobe.com/spotlight/clash-in-the-name-of-care/story/?p1=Clash_Landing_to-story

 

The Record: Discipline spotty for abusive doctors

The Record in Bergen County, New Jersey, says that one doctor won his medical license back after he served time in prison for sexual crimes against female patients. He is a registered sex offender on lifetime parole supervision. Another physician accused of sexual impropriety is restricted from having patients remove their underwear during exams — or be alone when treating girls age 10 or older — under a confidential agreement that hides his name from the public. And a third, who pleaded guilty to sexual contact with three female patients, was barred from treating women but allowed to see male patients in the presence of a chaperone — until he violated that requirement and lost his license again. The state’s system of handling accusations of sexual misconduct by doctors was called into question by revelations early this year about the case of Gangaram Ragi, a Teaneck dermatologist who continues to practice despite a dozen allegations of groping patients. Now a review by The Record shows it to be a system that is at times porous, inconsistent and opaque, one that allows physicians to resume their practice despite evidence of serious improprieties.

Read more: http://www.northjersey.com/news/discipline-is-spotty-for-abusive-doctors-in-n-j-1.1440697

 

New York Times: Disproportionate risk of driving while black

Rufus Scales, 26 and black, was driving his younger brother Devin to his hair-cutting class in Greensboro, North Carolina, when they heard the siren’s whoop and saw the blue light in the rearview mirror of their black pickup. Two police officers pulled them over for minor infractions that included expired plates and failing to hang a flag from a load of scrap metal in the pickup’s bed. But what happened next was nothing like a routine traffic stop. Uncertain whether to get out of the car, Rufus Scales said, he reached to restrain his brother from opening the door. A black officer stunned him with a Taser, he said, and a white officer yanked him from the driver’s seat. Temporarily paralyzed by the shock, he said, he fell face down, and the officer dragged him across the asphalt. Rufus Scales emerged from the encounter with four traffic tickets; a charge of assaulting an officer, later dismissed; a chipped tooth; and a split upper lip that required five stitches. That was May 2013. Today, his brother Devin does not leave home without first pocketing a hand-held video camera and a business card with a toll-free number for legal help. Rufus Scales instinctively turns away if a police car approaches. … As most of America now knows, those pervasive doubts about the police mirror those of millions of other African-Americans. … An analysis by The New York Times of tens of thousands of traffic stops and years of arrest data in this racially mixed city of 280,000 uncovered wide racial differences in measure after measure of police conduct.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/25/us/racial-disparity-traffic-stops-driving-black.html?_r=0

 

Philadelphia Inquirer: What new building inspection guidelines?

The city's Department of Licenses and Inspections failed to follow new inspection guidelines in more than 80 percent of private demolitions performed over the last nine months, an analysis of agency records by the Philadelphia Inquirer shows. And, people familiar with L&I records say, the agency's database appears to have been altered to show that demolition inspections had occurred when they had not. In at least one case, records show, the agency's database said five inspections that should have occurred during a demolition were actually conducted four months after the building had been razed. The new regulations were put in place to improve demolition standards in the aftermath of the Center City building collapse in June 2013, when six people died during a private demolition at 22d and Market Streets. … The Inquirer obtained L&I records of 82 private demolitions for which permits had been issued and finalized between Jan. 1 and Oct. 8, 2015. Of those, 83 percent were not inspected properly, according to two veteran L&I inspectors who examined the records. The inspectors asked not to be identified because they feared reprisal.

Read more:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20151025_What_new_building_inspection_guidelines_.html#Fzl4MWyeOY55w8Fk.99

 

Seattle Times: Seattle is port of entry for hunting trophies

The Seattle Times reports that in a Kent warehouse sonorous with the clanking of busy forklifts and freight trucks, United States Fish and Wildlife inspectors John Goldman and Ashley Skeen pry the lids off two shoulder-high plywood crates that together weigh 1,850 pounds. Then, the digging begins. They must find and identify the animal species stacked and curled and stuffed inside. “I think those leg bones are also a giraffe,” Goldman says, periodically consulting declaration paperwork provided for the shipment. In about an hour, the two will examine the mounts of a baboon, caracal, gemsbok, waterbuck, giraffe, impala, warthog, zebra, blue wildebeest, bushbuck, eland, kudu, nyala, hartebeest and blesbok — all shipped from South Africa. When a Minnesota dentist shot, beheaded and skinned Cecil the Lion outside a Zimbabwe national park, it sparked uncommon fury among animal activists and dominated the cable news cycle. … But the fury over one popular lion belies that the practice is common: Americans routinely hunt animals in far-off lands, especially Africa, and ship their kills home. And Seattle, as one of 18 ports where wildlife is typically imported plays a quiet but substantial role in bringing those trophies back.

Read more: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/thousands-of-exotic-animals-are-shipped-through-seattle-each-year/

 

 

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF RECENT IMPACT JOURNALISM 10-22-15

Columbus Dispatch: Rate of Ohioans without health insurance falls to 8.7%

The Columbus Dispatch reports Ohio’s uninsured rate has plunged by half in recent years to 8.7 percent, but it could be even lower. Two-thirds of non-elderly Ohioans without health coverage — about 567,000 residents — are either eligible for Medicaid at no cost or qualify for tax credits to help pay for private coverage through the Affordable Care Act. The other third can’t get help because their incomes are too high, they have access to employer coverage or they are undocumented immigrants, according to a new state-by-state analysis by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The report found many uninsured residents who qualified for Medicaid or subsidized coverage available through a federally operated marketplace were misinformed about the cost, unaware of financial assistance, or confused about eligibility rules.

Read more:

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/10/18/uninsured-rate-8-7-in-ohio.html 

 

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Testosterone courses downplay risks

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that in 2012 a doctor education course paid for by the company that marketed the nation's top-selling testosterone product, AndroGel, told physicians they could safely prescribe testosterone to men with prostate cancer. Never mind that testosterone actually can fuel some prostate cancers. And never mind that treatment guidelines — and the product label itself — warn that testosterone should not be given to men with prostate cancer. The same physician who led the online course has participated in at least 19 others since 2010, part of a wave of courses touting the dubious virtues of testosterone treatment — all bankrolled by companies that manufacture the products. The testosterone courses are at the forefront of a resurgence in industry-funded continuing medical education courses, often offered for free to doctors who need the credits to maintain their medical licenses, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today investigation found.

Read more:

http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/testosterone-courses-downplay-risks-lead-to-overuse-in-older-men-b99595151z1-333591801.html

 

Arizona Republic: Few punished in Arizona discrimination cases

The Arizona Republic reports an investigation of court documents and state records has uncovered dozens of sexual, racial and age discrimination claims by state workers. More than half the employees said they were penalized by retaliation, the investigation found, while those accused of discrimination went virtually unpunished. More than one-third were actually promoted after their alleged actions, and more than 40 percent received pay raises following the settlements. Several of the largest settlements went to women at state agencies and universities who claimed they were sexually harassed, groped and subjected to sexual demands, The Republic found. One woman said she was handcuffed to a railing and pepper-sprayed at work. Another claimed she endured lewd sexual remarks and pornographic texts. Fewer than one in 15 of the accused named in settlement agreements was disciplined in connection with actions alleged in legal claims, The Republic found. One person was fired.

Read more:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/investigations/2015/10/15/public-disservice-punished-arizona-discrimination-cases/73847204/

 

Los Angeles Times: LAPD high-speed chases lead state in bystander injuries

The Los Angeles Times reports an analysis of statewide data shows police car chases in Los Angeles -- long a part of cop lore and a staple of live local television news broadcasts -- shows that LAPD pursuits injure bystanders at more than twice the rate as police chases in the rest of California. From 2006 to 2014, 334 bystanders were injured — one for every 10 LAPD pursuits, according to The Times’ review of pursuit data reported to the California Highway Patrol. Although fatalities remain rare, the analysis shows that LAPD pursuits are also more likely than chases in the rest of the state to result in a bystander’s death. LAPD officials say officers take measures to keep the public safe during chases and that many of the injuries are minor. Much of the blame, they argue, falls on the city’s sprawling web of multilane thoroughfares and highways, which they say allow suspects to move at greater speeds and make wild turns through traffic, greatly increasing the likelihood that someone may be hurt.

Read more:

http://graphics.latimes.com/lapd-pursuits/

 

Chicago Tribune: Five ways to improve O’Hare International Airport

The Chicago Tribune reports O'Hare International Airport has opened its third new runway since 2008, part of the almost $10 billion airfield modernization that former Mayor Richard M. Daley first laid out in 2001, featuring six parallel runways. The plan was hailed as a game changer that would transform delay-plagued O'Hare from a holding pen for stranded passengers to a reliable airport. Yet the performance goals set almost 15 years ago — cutting delays in bad weather by 95 percent and delays overall by 79 percent — seem to be as elusive as ever. From 2010 to 2014, O'Hare's on-time departure rate fell a whopping 10 percentage points — to an abysmal 67 percent — despite dealing with 8 percent fewer flights, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Delays no doubt contribute to O'Hare's lousy reputation with fliers. O'Hare ranked 92nd out of 100 airports worldwide in a recent rating by Skytrax. So are O'Hare travelers stuck? A Tribune analysis of reams of flight data, as well as interviews with aviation experts and federal and airline officials pointed to five key steps that could boost the likelihood in the future that your flight will be on time.

Read more:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-ohare-delays-solutions-met-20151016-story.html

 

Des Moines Register: Shuttered schools: Rural America’s SOS

The Des Moines Register reports Corwith, Iowa’s public school is now forever shuttered, expected to meet the wrecking ball sometime in 2016. Its story — the subject of a yearlong project and a new Des Moines Register documentary that will be broadcast on statewide Iowa Public Television — is a window into the 4,315 other Iowa school districts that have been permanently closed since 1950. It’s also a wakeup call, some say, to the state’s remaining 336 public school districts. Rural Iowa — and most of rural America for that matter — is sending an SOS with each closed school. Back in 1900, three of every four Iowans lived in rural areas, according to U.S. Census data. By 2010, that share had fallen to a little more than one in three. Nationally during that span, the percentage of rural residents fell from 60 percent to less than 20 percent.

Read more:

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/education/lost-schools/2015/10/17/shuttered-schools-rural-americas-sos/73055596/

 

Baltimore Sun: Records show police urged seat belt use in vans long ago

The Baltimore Sun reports that at the time of Freddie Gray's death last spring, the Baltimore Police Department had been waging a nearly three-year campaign urging officers to use seat belts for detainees transported in police vans, according to newly obtained documents obtained through a public records request. The department sent memos to commanders stressing seat belt use, held training sessions on the practice and regularly conducted unannounced spot checks to make sure detainees were secured in vans. The campaign started in May 2012 after several detainees sued the department for injuries allegedly received while being transported. Gray died in April of a severe spinal cord injury sustained in police custody after he was placed unsecured in the back of a transport van, the state medical examiner's office found. The office concluded that the death could not be ruled an accident, and was instead a homicide, because officers failed to follow safety procedures "through acts of omission."

Read more:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/sun-investigates/bs-md-police-seatbelt-audits-20151017-story.html

 

Boston Globe:  State Dept. aided Clinton-backed Rwanda effort

The Boston Globe reports that in 2007 Bill Clinton made a public appeal for an international mission with deep personal resonance: to expand and modernize the piecemeal health care system in Rwanda, the African nation whose tribal genocide in 1994 Clinton feels he should have done more to stop. But it was not until Hillary Clinton, his wife, became secretary of state that Bill Clinton, working through a Boston-based charity that he leads, was able to help the African nation secure at least $27 million from the State Department to bring his vision closer to reality — a network of care centers fortified with newly trained doctors.The State Department diverted a portion of US government grant money flowing to nonprofit groups fighting HIV infection in Rwanda, and channeled it to the Rwandan government to build the program envisioned by Clinton’s charity.

Read more:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2015/10/17/state-department-under-hillary-clinton-redirected-millions-for-bill-clinton-pet-project-rwanda/r7ASbc3E1HZ3JzriNRQAQI/story.html

 

Austin American Statesman: Drowning in water bills in Texas

The Austin American-Statesman reports it costs Port O’Connor residents $124 for water and sewer before they even turn on a faucet. The coastal Texas community southeast of Victoria is a 1,300-resident unincorporated area without a single traffic light, door-to-door mail service or Walmart but beneath the tranquil surface an ugly fight is raging over the rising cost of services provided by the Port O’Connor Improvement District. Angry board members, who say mismanagement and corruption are behind the high water rates, have asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to investigate. TCEQ, which has the right to inspect the district’s finances, has refused, saying it’s not the agency’s responsibility. Port O’Connor’s plight shines a light on state’s hands-off approach to dealing with financial problems at Texas’ 900-plus municipal utility districts. No centralized agency oversees them.

Read more:

http://specials.mystatesman.com/drowning-in-water-bills/

 

Houston Chronicle: Campus guns stir angst among UT faculty

The Houston Chronicle reports that ever since Seung Hui-Cho shot and killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007, Steve Friesen has begun each new semester wondering how he would protect himself and his students in the event of a "live shooter incident." Now, with colleges and universities across Texas planning for the advent of campus carry next fall, he and other faculty at the University of Texas at Austin have become the most vocal opponents of the new law that will allow guns in classrooms, dormitories and other campus buildings. Friesen said it is not the remote possibility of a deranged student shooting up his class that keeps him up at night, but his belief that more guns could increase the possibility for accidents and suicides or stifle the free exchange of ideas. He’s not alone.

Read more:

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/texas/article/Campus-carry-triggers-angst-anger-among-UT-6575915.php

 

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM  Week of 10-7-15

AP INVESTIGATION: Nuclear smugglers sought extremist buyers 

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Over the pulsating beat at an exclusive nightclub, the arms smuggler made his pitch to a client: 2.5 million euros for enough radioactive cesium to contaminate several city blocks.  It was earlier this year, and the two men were plotting their deal at an unlikely spot: the terrace of Cocos Prive, a dance club and sushi bar in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. "You can make a dirty bomb, which would be perfect for the Islamic State," the smuggler said. "If you have a connection with them, the business will go smoothly." But the smuggler, Valentin Grossu, wasn't sure the client was for real — and he was right to worry. The client was an informant, and it took some 20 meetings to persuade Grossu that he was an authentic Islamic State representative. Eventually, the two men exchanged cash for a sample in a sting operation that landed Grossu in jail. The previously unpublicized case is one of at least four attempts in five years in which criminal networks with suspected Russian ties sought to sell radioactive material to extremists through Moldova, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. One investigation uncovered an attempt to sell bomb-grade uranium to a real buyer from the Middle East, the first known case of its kind.

Read more


Wichita Eagle: Lobbyists spend $500,000 on food and drink for lawmakers

The Wichita Eagle reports lobbyists have spent more than $500,000 treating Kansas lawmakers to dinner, drinks, KU basketball games and other entertainment since January. During the longest legislative session in the state’s history, lawmakers faced pressure from lobbyists representing a host of industries as they struggled to craft a tax plan that could fix a budget deficit. The 114-day session was filled with fiery rhetoric, late nights, rejected bills – and lots of free food. Kansas law prohibits lobbyists from making campaign donations during the session and limits them to spending $100 on gifts for a lawmaker. But unlike some other states, Kansas has no limit on the amount of food and drink a lobbyist can buy a lawmaker.

Read more:

http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article37591305.html

 

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Deaths rising on the family farm

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that at nearly all workplaces in America today, regulators, insurers and workers themselves demand safeguards to make it less likely for a careless mistake to become a tragedy. Coal mines, factories and construction sites are safer as a result. Not the family farm. Minnesota and other Midwestern states allow small farmers to rely on their own judgment and experience to decide what’s safe and what isn’t. Deaths are on the rise. More than 210 work-related deaths occurred on Minnesota farms from 2003 to 2013 — an increase of more than 30 percent when compared with a decade earlier. A Star Tribune review of those fatal cases shows that at least two-thirds involved practices that violate federal workplace rules.

Read more:

http://www.startribune.com/deadliest-workplace-the-small-family-farm/327431751/

 

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Fear of gangs escalates in Cleveland’s courtrooms

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports gang intimidation in Cleveland’s courtrooms is so troubling that county Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty says it has become increasingly problematic to take some cases to a judge and jury. The reason is simple: Cleveland gangs have infiltrated some pockets of the city so deeply that it is often insurmountable to find victims or witnesses willing to cooperate. Authorities say the brutal violence Cleveland gangs dole out, their saturated influence in neighborhoods and the heightened impact of social media have fueled a level of intimidation that hasn't been seen before.  The National Gang Center Bulletin calls the issue of intimidation "a significant problem throughout all regions of the United States.'' But attacking that problem can be a struggle. Authorities have pushed for the aggressive prosecutions of all suspected perpetrators and the need for long sentences for them.

Read more:

http://www.cleveland.com/court-justice/index.ssf/2015/10/refusing_to_take_the_stand_gan.html

 

Austin American-Statesman: Unlicensed, uninsured drivers a problem

The Austin American-Statesman reports that while the number of uninsured and unlicensed Texas drivers has been dropping steadily, state records show about 2 million vehicles registered in Texas don’t have corresponding insurance. Inevitably, many drivers without licenses or insurance coverage crash. The Insurance Research Council, a nonprofit funded by the industry, calculated that medical claims made by Texas drivers with uninsured motorist coverage came to $110 million in 2012, the last year for which figures are available. And experts say dollars and cents are only one measure of the damage caused by illegal motorists. Nearly one-third of Austin’s fatality crashes in 2014 involved a driver without a valid license, department figures show.

Read more:

http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/crime-law/damage-from-uninsured-unlicensed-drivers-lasts-wel/nns98/

  

Chicago Tribune: Businesses get tax breaks but fall short on job goals

The Chicago Tribune reports Illinois' flagship job program has awarded millions of dollars to companies that never hired an additional employee. It's doled out millions more in tax breaks for corporations that eliminated jobs and became smaller. And it's allowed companies to reap lucrative rewards and then relocate to other states without penalty or repayment. Illinois cut these deals through a strategy dubbed EDGE — short for Economic Development for a Growing Economy — that was launched in 1999 by Gov. George Ryan as a way to create jobs and lure businesses from other states. But what began as a modest number of tax breaks for a handful of companies has mushroomed into a billion-dollar giveaway rife with failure.

Read more:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-illinois-corporate-tax-breaks-met-20151002-story.html

 

Miami Herald: License to launder

The Miami Herald reports just days after his undercover police flouted state law by using drug cash to pay their informants, Bal Harbour Chief Tom Hunker hosted dozens of police chiefs at the elegant Sea View Hotel, complete with dinner, an open bar and a $500-a-night cigar roller. As the staff served lamb chop appetizers under a white canopy, Hunker’s men were about to secretly move drug money into a bank in Panama in direct violation of U.S. policies that ban illicit dollars from being sent offshore. In a region where money and power are interwoven, Tom Hunker knew few equals. The charismatic chief showered public officials with dinners and gifts — including gold-plated police badges and expensive cigars — as the task force he created broke nearly every provision of undercover sting operations while laundering millions for drug organizations, a Miami Herald investigation found.

Read more:

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article37582506.html

 

Sun Sentinel: U.S. welfare flows to Cuba

The Sun Sentinel reports Cuban immigrants are cashing in on U.S. welfare and returning to the island, making a mockery of the decades-old premise that they are refugees fleeing persecution at home. Some stay for months at a time — and the U.S. government keeps paying. Cubans’ unique access to food stamps, disability money and other welfare is meant to help them build new lives in America. Yet these days, it’s helping some finance their lives on the communist island. America’s open-ended generosity has grown into an entitlement that exceeds $680 million a year and is exploited with ease. No agency tracks the scope of the abuse, but a Sun Sentinel investigation found evidence suggesting it is widespread.

Read more:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/us-cuba-welfare-benefits/sfl-us-cuba-welfare-benefits-part-1-htmlstory.html

 

Washington Post: The heroin scourge: Is jail the only place to get help?

The Washington Post reports rates of heroin addiction and fatal overdose are skyrocketing in the United States, and a political consensus has emerged to emphasize treatment over criminal prosecution. But there’s little agreement on how to pay for more treatment, leaving addicts facing obstacles so daunting even a healthy person would struggle to overcome them. Treatment centers are often prohibitively expensive, overcrowded, underfunded and subject to byzantine government rules. Health insurance coverage is stingy to nonexistent. And the social stigma of heroin addiction is still so potent that many users and their families are reluctant to seek help in the first place. That leaves one sure route into rehab: “Treatment in the overwhelming majority of cases begins behind bars,” said Jim McGreevey, the former New Jersey governor, who runs an experimental treatment program in Jersey City.

Read more:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2015/10/03/this-is-where-heroin-almost-killed-her/

 

Denver Post: Colorado yields to marijuana industry pressure on pesticides

The Denver Post reports Colorado state regulators have known since 2012 that marijuana was grown with potentially dangerous pesticides, but pressure from the industry and lack of guidance from federal authorities delayed their efforts to enact regulations, and they ultimately landed on a less restrictive approach than originally envisioned. Three years of e-mails and records obtained by The Denver Post and dozens of interviews show state regulators struggled with the issue while the cannabis industry protested that proposed limits on pesticides would leave their valuable crops vulnerable to devastating disease. Last year, as the state was preparing a list of allowable substances that would have restricted pesticides on marijuana to the least toxic chemicals, Colorado Department of Agriculture officials stopped the process under pressure from the industry, The Post found.

Read more:

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_28917964/colorado-yields-marijuana-industry-pressure-pesticides

 

The San Diego Union-Tribune: Is there a “right to be forgotten”?

When Europe’s highest court ruled last year that citizens have a “right to be forgotten” on the Internet, many legal scholars and privacy advocates doubted the decision would have much impact in the United States, land of the First Amendment. Now they aren’t so sure. Data regulators in France last month ordered Google to break out a bigger eraser, removing links to outdated or irrelevant items not just from European Union searches, but globally. That means someone in San Diego who is Googling a person or place in Paris, for example, might soon find access to that information restricted. Google has resisted the order as a form of censorship that “risks serious chilling effects on the web” and is considering its options. Failure to comply could subject the company to escalating fines.

Read more:

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/oct/03/right-to-be-forgotten-debate/

 

Sacramento Bee: Fire prevention funds in California go unspent

The Sacramento Bee reports that amid a drought that has created bone-dry conditions across much of California’s wildland area, a state fire prevention account has ended recent fiscal years with tens of millions of dollars unspent. The money was generated by a contentious, four-year-old fee pushed through by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats over the objections of Republicans and rural property owners. The state collected more than $300 million through June and spent about $260 million, including roughly $228 million on administration and statewide prevention activities, vegetation clearing, defensible space inspections and other programs. About $22 million went to a state tax agency to cover collection costs. But as fires burned hundreds of thousands of acres this year, the state ended the fiscal year in June with an estimated $43 million in fee money left over.

Read more:

http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/the-public-eye/article37612905.html#storylink=cpy

 

Arizona Republic: Four Arizona insurance carriers dropping PPO plans

The Arizona Republic reports four major health insurance companies will discontinue preferred-provider plans for tens of thousands of Arizonans next year on the federal marketplace. Instead, they’ll sell pared-down, health maintenance organization plans that limit the doctors and hospitals that consumers can visit at lower, in-network rates. Erin Klug, of the Arizona Department of Insurance, said that Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna and Meritus won't offer PPO plans on the federal marketplace in Arizona next year. However, Health Net and UnitedHealthcare's All Savers Insurance have filed paperwork to sell PPO plans in 2016, pending federal approval, Klug said.

Read more:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/consumers/2015/10/02/arizona-health-insurance-costs-insurers-switching-hmos/73092228/

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM THE PAST WEEK 9-29-15

Columbus Dispatch: Protecting drinking water is costly

The Columbus Dispatch reports that standing in Toledo, Ohio, at the edge of the Great Lakes, the world’s largest surface source of fresh water, the city of 280,000 would seem immune from the water-supply problems that bedevil other parts of the country. But even there, the promise of an endless tap can be a mirage. Algae blooms in Lake Erie, fed by agricultural runoff and overflowing sewers, have become so toxic that they shut down Toledo’s water system in 2014 for two days. The city is considering spending millions of dollars to avoid a repeat. Similar concerns about water quality are playing out elsewhere. Farm fertilizers, discarded pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals and even saltwater from rising oceans are seeping into many of the aquifers, reservoirs and rivers that supply Americans with drinking water. Combating these growing threats means cities and towns must tap new water sources, upgrade treatment plants and install miles of pipeline, at tremendous cost.

Read more:

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/09/27/protecting-drinking-water-is-costly.html 

Southern Illinoisan: Living large on the public dime

The Southern Illinoisan reports hundreds of people in Cairo, Illinois, rely on public housing for shelter, with the average income among Alexander County Housing Authority residents just $8,655 a year, the majority of them raising children and nearly half as single mothers. More than half of the county’s children live in poverty, and nearly a third are considered food insecure – meaning they don’t always know from where their next meal is coming. But some of those who were charged with overseeing the shelter upon which many of them rely, lived large, records show, traveling extensively to conferences in destination cities, drinking on the authority’s dime, shelling out hundreds of dollars for steak, salmon, shrimp cocktails, sorbet and other multi-course meals, sometimes paying nearly $100 per person at fine-dining establishments. Meanwhile, the public housing developments that provide shelter in the state’s poorest county have deteriorated into abysmal conditions, besieged by infestation and violent crime.

Read more:

http://thesouthern.com/news/local/living-large-on-the-public-dime/article_820dffcd-5a92-5e9b-8a7a-d5671034ca5a.html 

Seattle Times: Police shielded by law: 213 people killed, 1 officer charged

The Seattle Times reports killings by police in the line of duty have surged in the state of Washington over the past decade. According to a Seattle Times analysis, only one police officer has been criminally charged in state courts with the illegal use of deadly force on the job during that period. In fact, that case is the only one to be brought in the three decades since Washington enacted the nation’s most restrictive law on holding officers accountable for the unjustified use of deadly force. In 1986, Washington’s Legislature decided police officers shouldn’t be prosecuted for killing someone in the line of duty as long as they acted in good faith and without malice, or what the law calls “evil intent.” The Times also determined that a disproportionate number of the 213 deaths were African Americans.

Read more:

http://projects.seattletimes.com/2015/killed-by-police/

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Oxendine blasts Georgia ethics panel

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine has fired back at the state ethics commission, accusing the panel of wasting taxpayer money in a long-running case against him and his failed 2010 campaign for governor. The newspaper reported that the commission has amended an existing complaint against Oxendine adding accusations that he accepted more than the legal limit from 20 donors during the 2010 campaign and that he spent $208,0000 in contributions raised for political races he never ran. The complaints came about a month after the AJC reported that Oxendine’s campaign failed to return about $750,000 in contributions her received from the 2010 gubernatorial runoff and general election -- races the former commissioner never got a chance to run because he finished fourth in the GOP primary.

Read more:

http://www.myajc.com/news/news/breaking-news/oxendine-blasts-state-ethics-panel/nnpHW/

Kansas City Star: Homicides rise with domestic violence fueling upsurge

The Kansas City Star reports domestic violence, unpredictable and often hidden behind closed doors, is fueling a surge in Kansas City’s homicide rate. And in just nine months, that rate is creeping toward the city’s homicide total for all of last year. At least 16 of the city’s 73 homicides so far in 2015 rank as domestic-related — a fourfold increase from domestic-related killings in 2014. Mothers killed children. Husbands killed wives. An uncle killed his nephew. In one horrific September incident, three people, including a small child, were fatally shot in a rampage of anger and jealousy. Beyond the killings, those who work with domestic violence victims say they also notice an increase in incidents being reported and more people seeking help for abusive relationships.

Read more:

http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article36704916.html

Portland Press Herald: Mayor wants online registry of welfare recipients

The Portland Press Herald reports Mayor Robert Macdonald’s proposal to create an online registry of welfare recipients has his constituents talking – in coffee shops and restaurants, in businesses and on the street. The range of their opinions spoke to the ongoing battle, both in Maine and elsewhere, about the role and scope of public assistance programs. Many people were angry with Macdonald, who made his proposal in a newspaper column, for trying to “name and shame” people. “If he wants to do something, why doesn’t he try to create jobs instead of complaining about all these people that don’t have jobs,” said Leo Girardin, 67. “He thinks he knows everything, but all he’s doing is generalizing.” Others, though, shared the mayor’s frustration, and there was a clear sense that Macdonald, a Republican and staunch critic of welfare recipients who is running for re-election, has tapped into a current of anger and resentment that runs through the community.

Read more:

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/09/26/lewiston-divided-over-mayors-latest-call-for-welfare-reform/

Dallas Morning News: Texas taxpayers pay to spin vets in chair

The Dallas Morning News quotes experts as saying there was no medical reason to think that spinning traumatized combat veterans upside down could help them — and every reason to think it wouldn’t.  But the state of Texas said yes, sure, and poured 2 million taxpayer dollars into a study to see whether a spinning chair — described as an “Off Vertical Axis Rotational Device” — could help. Most of the researchers in the study were chiropractors, not medical doctors. They didn’t work at an established research lab, but at the Carrick Brain Centers, a chiropractic clinic in Irving that opened its doors about six months before the state funding began. But the clinic still won a no-bid contract.

Read more:

http://interactives.dallasnews.com/2015/carrick/

The Tennessean: Mystery surrounds death of inmate No. 81738

Tennessean reports that when Elbert Thornton died, he died a mystery. State prison records obtained by The Tennessean say the West Tennessee State Penitentiary inmate, No. 81738, died a natural death. An autopsy and sources tell a different story. They tell a story of beatings, of burnings, of broken bones, of deceit. They tell the story of a suffering 55-year-old man, dead as the result of multiple traumatic and thermal injuries. They tell the story of a loving father, of a doting grandfather, of a man eligible for release who didn't deserve to die. A state prison official and the local district attorney tell a different version of the story. The prison official hints medical conditions may have caused the death of inmate No. 81738. The district attorney says there isn’t enough evidence to show criminal activity. Others who may know more specifically what happened to Thornton before his death aren’t speaking at all.

Read more:

http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2015/09/26/mystery-still-surrounds-death-inmate-no-81738/72687894/

Oregonian: Hundreds of Portland Homes destroyed with asbestos inside

The Oregonian reports weak regulatory oversight has allowed contractors to tear down hundreds of homes in Portland without properly removing asbestos inside. An investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive has found that the agency responsible for protecting the public from asbestos, the Department of Environmental Quality, set the stage for many of these hazardous demolitions. The department has known for years that its rules aren't strong enough to keep people safe during home demolitions. Yet the state backed away from imposing even modest measures to strengthen the rules in 2002 after the construction industry complained. Potentially thousands of homes have come down with asbestos inside since then. The department estimates the number is 650 homes annually statewide.

Read more:

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/09/portland_home_demolitions_asbestos.html

 

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK 9-23-15

Chicago Tribune: LA and NYC top Chicago in curbing violence.

The Chicago Tribune reports that as summer waned this year New York City officials tallied 239 people killed in homicides. Los Angeles police counted 201 killed in about the same time period. But in Chicago, a city whose population is dwarfed by both major coastal cities, the death toll is far grimmer, with 325 killed in homicides by Sept. 6. The numbers tell a tragic, nagging story for Chicago: Violence here far outpaces the nation's two larger cities, and has for more than a decade. New York's stunning decline in violent crime coincided with new policing strategies in the 1990s that tracked crime hot spots, flooded problem neighborhoods with cops and put pressure on commanders to bring their communities under control. Meanwhile, unlike in Chicago's segregated neighborhoods on the South and West sides, many of New York's communities have seen an influx of new people and money, either through gentrification or immigration, which has discouraged criminal elements from returning.

Read more:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-violence-chicago-new-york-los-angeles-met-20150918-story.html

The Sacramento Bee: Video captures deputy beating suspect with flashlight

The Sacramento Bee reports Sacramento County sheriff’s Deputy Paul “Scotte” Pfeifer has been hailed as a hero cop. The 14-year veteran has won numerous awards in his career, including the department’s highest honor – the Sheriff’s Gold Medal of Valor – for helping save a baby from a three-day hostage situation on Arden Way. He also has been accused in court of using excessive force at least three times since 2009, each time over his use of a flashlight as a weapon, and captured on video in two separate incidents beating a suspect with a long, metal flashlight. Video of one of those incidents began circulating in December. The Sacramento Bee this month obtained exclusive video of the second incident – shot from the dashboard cameras of two patrol cars.

Read more:

http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/article35847090.html

Baltimore Sun: No end in sight for Baltimore’s leaky, polluting sewers

The Baltimore Sun reports that after spending $700 million over the past 13 years, the city of Baltimore plans to drop another $400 million to fix an aging, leaky sewer system that routinely fouls areas streams and the harbor with raw human waste. But less than four months before a court-ordered deadline, the overhaul is nowhere near done. Whenever the rain pours — and even when it doesn't — the city's streams and harbor are still so contaminated by raw human waste spilled from corroding, porous sewer lines that it's unsafe in most places for people to swim or wade. It's risky to kayak or even fish without scrubbing afterward to clean off potentially disease-causing bacteria. The city has rehabilitated 85 miles of sewer lines, plugged dozens of overflows and is doing $250 million worth of sewer cleaning and rehab now. But some repair projects are not expected to be finished until 2018, and one critical, but massive fix — which pushes the price tag over $1 billion — has not even begun.

Read more;

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-sewer-overhaul-20150904-story.html

Orlando Sentinel: Sick farmworkers hope for major study of their illnesses

The Orlando Sentinel reports Geraldean Matthew kept a wary eye on the sky as she picked sweet corn from a muck field near the north shore of Lake Apopka. When she saw a plane over the horizon, she and the other farmworkers would quickly drop to the ground and cover their heads and faces as the crop-duster swooped, showering them with a chemical spray of pesticides and fertilizers. On Thursday, Matthew sat in her Apopka living room, her walker nearby, recalling those days when she toiled in the fields as a teenager starting in the early 1960s. Today, Matthew, 65, seldom leaves her home, except when she takes a bus three times a week to a local medical clinic for hours-long dialysis treatments because of chronic kidney disease. Scars from pesticide burns run across her legs. Matthew is among a group of former Apopka farmworkers who believe that the daily exposure to the pesticides led them and their children to develop a variety of serious illnesses, including lupus and chronic kidney disease.

Read more:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-apopka-farmworkers-lupus-20150918-story.html

Arizona Daily Star: Tucson on track to end homelessness among veterans

The Arizona Daily Star reports the city of Tucson set an ambitious goal in June 2013: to end homelessness among local veterans. The end is already in sight — through an initiative launched by the city and other local agencies, about 1,200 formerly homeless veterans now have permanent housing. There are still 442 to go, but Mayor Jonathan Rothschild expects them all to be in apartments by the end of the year. “If we work diligently over the next four months, we’re on pace to make our goal,” Rothschild said. “Based on our experience from the last 27-28 months and given the additional focus, we should be there.” He has requested more caseworkers and more data sharing from the VA in order to reach the goal.

Read more:

http://tucson.com/news/local/tucson-on-track-to-end-homelessness-among-veterans/article_47284ced-e711-5a85-a5cd-3e5e2dcdca20.html

Des Moines Register: Serious service errors plague Medicaid companies

The Des Moines Register reports that the corporations poised to take over management of Iowa’s Medicaid program have each been held accountable in other states for serious service and administrative errors, including some that wrongly delayed or denied medical services to poor residents, a Des Moines Register investigation shows. Yet a review committee that scored the corporations' bids gave the highest scores — and a piece of the annual $4.2 billion in contracts — to some of the companies with the most egregious problems. In total, more than 1,500 individual regulatory sanctions resulting in more than $10.2 million in fines have been imposed against the four companies in the past five years, according to information contained in public bid documents.

Read more:

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2015/09/19/serious-service-errors-plague-medicaid-companies/71903372/

Sunday Oregonian: Comcast makes Oregon test bed for service overheaul

The Sunday Oregonian reports Rodrigo Lopez, Comcast's regional vice president, has listened to the notorious recording of an exasperated subscriber struggling to persuade a customer service rep to perform the simple task of disconnecting his service. He has seen the nightmare stories of customer service gone bad that went viral online. Comcast, and Lopez, know the company has a lot of work to do to repair its reputation. That work is beginning in Oregon. The nation's largest cable TV and Internet company is starting a three-year initiative to improve its image with customers. It's adding thousands of customer service employees and investing $300 million in the effort.

Read more:

http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2015/09/comcast_makes_oregon_test_bed.html

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Call to the jihad from the heartland

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports no state in the country has provided more fresh young recruits than Minnesota to violent jihadist groups like Al-Shabab and, more recently, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Over the last decade, dozens of mostly young men have abandoned the relative comfort and security of life in the Twin Cities to fight and, in many instances, die, in faraway lands. While the April arrests marked a major victory in federal efforts to slow the exodus of local men abroad, its impact on the families and the Twin Cities Somali-American community — the largest in the U.S. — has been profound. The case, with hours of secretly recorded transcripts and, now, heartfelt courtroom confessions, exposes how powerful the draw of jihad remains for a generation that has spent most, if not all, of its life in the United States. And it shows how difficult it is to stop.

Read more:

http://www.startribune.com/called-to-jihad-from-the-heartland/328363141/

St. Louis post-Dispatch: Titlemax thrives, repossessing cars by the thousands

The St Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Lawrence Perry, 62, who was behind on several bills and lives on Social Security disability payments, decided he needed a quick loan. He’d seen lots of ads and storefronts for TitleMax, so in June, he went to a shop on North Grand Boulevard and took out a $5,000 loan. He said a store employee told him he’d pay back $7,400 over two years. As he would soon realize, $7,400 was the finance charge. The loan’s annual interest rate was 108 percent, and if he managed to make all payments on schedule, he would repay a total of $12,411. Perry said that he was to blame, though he felt the employee misled him. “I thought that was stuff they did with the loan sharks years ago,” he said. He’s hoping a legal aid lawyer can help him. If not, he said, “I have no choice but to make the payments.” Otherwise, his 2009 Kia Borrego could end up at a local auction house and into the hands of the highest bidder.

Read more:

http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/titlemax-is-thriving-in-missouri-and-repossessing-thousands-of-cars/article_d8ea72b3-f687-5be4-8172-9d537ac94123.html

 

 

 

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF RECENT IMPACT JOURNALISM 9-16-15

Columbus Dispatch: Arbitration over long term care can come as surprise

The Columbus Dispatch reports little is more emotionally wrenching and stressful than taking a loved one whose health is declining to a nursing home. So it’s not surprising that many people sign the dozens of pages that often make up an admissions contract without asking a lot of questions. What they might not realize, advocates say, is that often buried in the pile of paperwork is an agreement that requires them to take disputes to a professional arbitrator instead of court. That’s true even in instances involving serious injuries, neglect, sexual or physical abuse and death. In July, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced proposed changes in nursing-home regulations, including limits on when and how forced arbitration can be used.

Read more:

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/09/13/arbitration-over-care-can-surprise.html

 Austin American-Statesman | Texas Tribune: Prosecutors for hire

The Austin American-Statesman and Texas Tribune report a six-month investigation shows Texas Mutual Insurance authorized payments of $4.7 million since 2001 to the Travis County District Attorney’s office to prosecute alleged crimes against the company. The state created Texas Mutual in 1991 and although it became a stand alone mutual insurance company in 2001 it still isn’t subject to state transparency laws or audits. The contract between the company and the DA’s office calls for both parties to give “special emphasis” to major corporate and healthcare fraud but the overwhelming majority of cases are brought against workers.

Read more:

http://projects.statesman.com/news/paid-to-prosecute/index.html

Modesto Bee: Justice delayed: Wheels of county legal system turn slowly

The Modesto Bee reports that of all the men confined in Stanislaus County Jail, only 28 percent of inmates are serving sentences and 72 percent are waiting for their trials. Not all are accused of murder, but those who are find themselves in one of the most bogged-down local court systems in California. Among 17 counties with readily available data, Stanislaus has the most homicide cases pending – 108. That number exceeds counties that are far larger and where many more murders are committed, such as San Diego (95 open homicide cases) and Sacramento (105). Adjusted for population, Stanislaus has more than three times the average of murder cases waiting to be tried. The same ratio holds true for old homicide cases, defined in The Modesto Bee’s analysis as waiting at least five years.

Read more:

http://www.modbee.com/news/local/crime/article35078373.html

 San Francisco Chronicle: PG&E’s “shady” conduct hindered probe

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that federal investigators complained that secret meddling, arrogance and “shady” conduct on the part of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. hindered their probe into the deadly San Bruno gas pipeline explosion, according to new court filings that shed light on prosecutors’ decision to seek a criminal obstruction-of-justice case against the company. “PG&E really stood out as a company that was not forthcoming and lacked cooperation,” Ravi Chhatre, lead investigator in the San Bruno case for the National Transportation Safety Board, told a team of federal investigators and prosecutors last year, the documents show.

Read more:

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/PG-E-s-shady-conduct-hindered-probe-6501122.php

The Washington Post: U.S. capital’s first legal marijuana harvest feeding pot market

The Washington Post reports marijuana buds the size of zucchinis hang drying in a room once reserved for yoga in upper Northwest Washington. In the Shaw neighborhood, pot grown in a converted closet sits meticulously trimmed, weighed and sealed in jars. Elsewhere, from Georgetown to Capitol Hill to Congress Heights, seven-leafed weeds are flowering in bedrooms, back yards and window boxes. Welcome to the first crop of legal pot in the nation’s capital — where residents may grow and possess marijuana but are still forbidden to sell it. All of which presents a thorny question for District leaders and police in a city where cultivation and possession are legal but sales are not: How the heck will all this pot get from those who have it to those who want it?

 Read more:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/first-legal-harvest-of-marijuana-fueling-gray-market-for-pot-in-us-capital/2015/09/12/9961891e-50cb-11e5-9812-92d5948a40f8_story.html

Sun Sentinel: Fines for Uber drivers top $2.8 million

The Sun Sentinel reports that after a year of South Florida operations, ride-hailing service Uber is approaching legal status. But in the months it took to get there, its drivers racked up at least 3,321 citations in three counties. Even as local elected officials worked on new regulations that recognize Uber as something different than a taxi company, county enforcers were busy handing out two citations for each driver caught — one for the driver, one for the unlicensed vehicle. The citations, if paid, would total at least $2.8 million in the three South Florida counties of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade, where Uber says it has given 8 million rides to date.

 Read more:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-south-florida-fines-uber-20150913-story.html

Miami Herald: Young inmates beaten and raped in broomstick prison ritual

The Miami Herald reports numerous inmates suffer a beating by gang members in Florida’s youthful offender prisons in an extortion ritual so common and well known by both inmates and corrections officers that it has a name. It’s called a “test of heart.” Documents obtained by the Miami Herald reveal that the attacks, also referred to as “TOH,” have resulted in more than a dozen beatings and sexual assaults by inmates at Lancaster — as well as other youthful offender prisons — since 2010. Far more of the beatings go unreported, mentioned in passing in other prison reports, where young offenders say matter-of-factly that they have either paid the gangs off or suffered through the assaults and gained the respect — and protection — of the thugs responsible.

 Read more:

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article35039946.html

Indianapolis Star: BMV gives fired workers access to your auto records

The Indianapolis Star reports at least three employees were fired from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles only to be given renewed access to Hoosiers’ confidential auto records in new jobs at private BMV contractor Express MVA. Two of those employees were fired for being dishonest during an internal BMV fraud and security investigation, while the other was terminated for poor performance that “opened the door for fraudulent title transactions,” according to personnel records obtained by The Star. Yet the BMV gave permission for all three to access the agency’s highly guarded computer system when they went to work for Express MVA, which operates a private license branch on the city’s Southeast side.

Read more:

http://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2015/09/13/bmv-gives-fired-workers-access-auto-records/72079992/

 Times-Picayune: Four states fail so far to make driver licenses more secure

The Times-Picayune reports Louisiana is one of four states and one U.S. territory listed as non-compliant with a 2005 federal law designed to make state-issued driver's licenses more secure, a designation that could make it harder for state residents to board airplanes as early as next year. Louisiana, New Hampshire, Minnesota and New York and the territory of American Samoa are listed as non-compliant, according to a recent memo from the Department of Homeland Security. More secure driver's licenses are required under the 2005 Real ID Act, enacted by Congress after the 911 Commission said improvements were needed to protect against terrorism.

 Read more:

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/09/louisiana_drivers_licenses_non.html

 Boston Globe: State finds license fraud by 13 nurses

The Boston Globe reports Massachusetts regulators revoked or suspended the professional licenses of 13 nurses after discovering recently that the health care workers lied about having nursing degrees or being licensed in other states, health department documents show. The action sparked questions about the background checks state regulators rely on to issue licenses to thousands of nurses and applicants in 10 other health fields, including pharmacists, psychologists, podiatrists, and optometrists. And the discovery raised the unsettling prospect that patients might have been treated by health care workers with fraudulent credentials, although regulators said there is no evidence so far linking the nurses to any patient safety or quality of care issues.

 Read more:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/09/12/massachusetts-regulators-crack-down-nurses-who-lied-about-degrees-licenses-other-states/hQNMsj0dM8zLgwpV9wmPIO/story.html

Oregonian: Portland police left thousands of sexual assault kits untended

The Oregonian reports Portland police left thousands of sexual assault kits untended on storeroom shelves that they now admit could have helped solve at least 500 sex crimes over the last decade. The untested kits stacked up despite public promises by police leaders to eliminate the stockpile after a serial rapist killed 14-year-old Melissa Bittler on her way to school in 2001. Detectives had tracked down her murderer by testing old kits that they discovered among more than 1,000 sitting in their evidence warehouse. They vowed then not to let the kits – and all the unprocessed DNA -- gather more dust. But an investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive shows that police chiefs and supervisors failed to make good on their pledge to send the kits to the state crime lab for analysis.

 Read more:

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/09/portlands_thousands_of_unteste.html

 

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

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4/9/2016
Lincoln, Nebraska, NewsTrain

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