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WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK JULY 26, 2016
Policing in America today is a rib dinner paid for by a stranger, and a protester kicking a dent into your patrol car door, The New York Times reports. It’s warning a young man speeding down a country road to beware of errant deer, and searching through trash cans for a gun on the streets of a big city. It’s your 8-year-old daughter calling repeatedly to ask if you’re safe. It’s your mother wishing you could wear plainclothes again. And it’s a kiss and a goodbye that you promise won’t be your last. But it’s also watching a video in your Facebook feed when another officer shoots a black man — a therapist, hands raised, trying to help a client who is autistic; a young man stopped for a traffic violation; a man selling CDs. And it’s facing the protests that follow, which are prompting introspection and even more of an attitude of us-versus-them. Adapting — it’s that, too. Being a warrior one minute, on guard at all times, and minutes later answering the most banal questions: You know a good restaurant around here? How do I get to the highway? About 477,000 sworn officers serve in the roughly 12,000 police departments in the United States. The demands, challenges, resources and cultures of each police force vary. But there are also commonalities. … Here’s a look at one such shift, compiled through ridealongs last week with officers in 10 departments — big, small, rural, suburban — across the United States.
Washington Post: A story of truth, lies and an American addiction
The Washington Post reports that Amanda Wendler had already made it through one last night alone under the freeway bridge, through the vomiting and shakes of withdrawal, through cravings so intense she’d scraped a bathroom floor searching for leftover traces of heroin. It had now been 12 days since the last time Wendler used a drug of any kind, her longest stretch in years. “Clear-eyed and sober,” read a report from one drug counselor, and so Amanda, 31, had moved back in with her mother to begin the stage of recovery she feared most. … This was the ninth time she had managed to go at least a week without using. She had spent a full decade trying and failing to get clean, and a therapist had asked her once to make a list of her triggers for relapse. “Boredom, loneliness, anxiety, regret, shame, seeing how I haven’t gone up at all in my life when the drugs aren’t there,” she had written. She had no job, no high school diploma, no car and no money beyond what her mother gave her for Mountain Dew and cigarettes. In the addicted America of 2016, there are so many ways to take measure of the pain, longing and despair that are said to be driving a historic opiate epidemic: Another 350 people starting on heroin every day, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; another 4,105 emergency-room visits; another 79 people dead.
Los Angeles Times: Olympus Corp. said no warnings needed about infections
Faced with superbug outbreaks in three countries by early 2013, Japanese device giant Olympus Corp. told U.S. executives not to issue a broad warning to American hospitals about potentially deadly infections from tainted medical scopes, internal emails obtained by the Los Angeles Times show. After two dozen infections were reported in French and Dutch hospitals, the company alerted European customers in January 2013 that a scope it manufactured could become contaminated. A top Olympus executive in the U.S. grew concerned because the company was investigating a similar outbreak at a Pittsburgh hospital. “Should [we] also be communicating to our users the information that [Olympus Europe] is communicating to their European users?” Laura Storms, vice president of regulatory and clinical affairs in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, asked in an email to Tokyo headquarters on Jan. 31, 2013. No, that’s not necessary, said Susumu Nishina, the company’s chief manager for market quality administration in Tokyo in a Feb. 6, 2013, reply. It is “not need[ed] to communicate to all the users actively,” Nishina wrote, because a company assessment of the risk to patients found it to be “acceptable.” … The company’s internal emails reveal conflicts inside Olympus over how to respond to a growing threat to patient safety, pitting U.S. executives against their superiors in Japan who had the final say. The emails were filed in a Pennsylvania court this month as part of a patient lawsuit and obtained by Kaiser Health News working in collaboration with the Los Angeles Times.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Vacant prison jobs help drive up state overtime totals
The overtime paid to state workers rose by 12 percent last year to a level not seen for at least a decade, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis has found. The sharp increase in overtime wages suggests that Gov. Scott Walker's Act 10 repeal of most collective bargaining is no longer holding down those costs the way it did several years ago. The state paid $64.5 million in overtime in 2015 to corrections, health and other state workers, up nearly one-third from a low of $49.4 million in 2012. Sean Daley, a longtime prison workers representative for Council 32 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, isn't surprised. He said many officers are now being required to work back-to-back shifts, or 16 hours in all, for two or more times in a week. "I've never seen it to this magnitude," Daley said of the overtime. These latest overtime figures underline the urgency for the state to fill the hundreds of vacant prison positions, according to the newspaper’s analysis of state payroll data released through the open records law.
Denver Post: River disaster spurs plans for leaking mine
One year after a plume of mustard-yellow mine waste washed into the Animas River from the Gold King Mine, prompting international coverage and concerns for the health of those who depend on the river, the water again looks clear, the Denver Post reports. But hundreds of gallons a minute of acidic metals-laced muck continue to drain into the headwaters of the Animas, which ranks among the West’s most-contaminated watersheds. Environmental Protection Agency crews still are preparing to stabilize the Gold King’s collapsed portal to gain access for cleanup. Federal steps toward a Superfund cleanup still consist mostly of meetings. The EPA decision on whether to designate the Gold King and other nearby mines a national priority disaster — crucial to secure cleanup funds — still hasn’t been made. While the Gold King blowout boosted awareness of the tens of thousands of dormant mines draining into western waterways, Congress continues to debate remedies, failing so far to create a national cleanup fund and reduce Clean Water Act liability to encourage voluntary cleanups. And Colorado lawmakers, too, have been considering the problem but haven’t yet acted to increase state mining regulators’ capacity. State inspectors have not begun planned visits of 140 leaking mines, those causing the worst harm along more than 1,800 miles of streams classified as impaired.
Boston Globe:Unexpected price of reporting abuse is retaliation
The Boston Globe says that when a small boarding school in the Berkshires discovered that a music teacher was having a sexual relationship with a female student, administrators responded in a way many parents would applaud: They fired him. But Buxton School officials took another step as well. They asked the teenager to leave. Just weeks before graduation in 1982, 18-year-old Erika Schickel was told that her continued presence would make others at the school uncomfortable. That included the teacher’s girlfriend, who worked there. Buxton officials unceremoniously sent Schickel a diploma in the mail and included her picture in the yearbook only at the insistence of indignant friends. “The top priority for the school was to get rid of me,” said Schickel, who remembers boarding the bus in Williamstown to leave, heartbroken and confused. “I walked around in a daze for years, so torn up and destroyed. I had made that my home and my family.” The Globe Spotlight Team, in its ongoing investigation of abuses at New England private schools, found at least 15 instances of apparent retaliation against students who were sexually exploited by staffers or against employees who raised concerns about alleged sexual abuse and harassment. Some cases date back decades, while others are quite recent. But all of them are still raw for the people who felt the backlash.
Philadelphia Inquirer: College students turn away from teaching careers
Danielle Arnold-Schwartz, a teacher in the Lower Merion School District, considers education her calling, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Yet, when her 16-year-old daughter began mulling the same career path, she advised her to choose a second major, just in case. The profession, Arnold-Schwartz warned, has been undermined by skin-and-bones school budgets, testing overkill, increasingly rigorous teacher evaluations, and dimming public respect, among a raft of relatively recent negatives. "I don't think you'll find this as satisfying as you think," she told her daughter. That message appears to be resonating among young people who, as never before, are turning away from teaching. The number of U.S. college students graduating with education degrees slipped from 106,300 in 2004 to 98,900 in 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A far more spectacular plunge has occurred in Pennsylvania. In 2013, the state awarded 18,590 teaching certificates. In 2015, it handed out 7,180 - a 61 percent decrease.
AP: Dallas shooter had troubled military history
Micah Johnson was a mediocre marksman, seemingly more interested in eliciting laughs from friends in his Army Reserve unit than in honing his infantry skills, former squad members say. But the young black man showed striking tactical acumen in the deftly choreographed assault that killed five police officers in downtown Dallas last week during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. Such was his skill that police thought multiple snipers were attacking. Moving stealthily in body armor, Johnson displayed textbook tactics, taking cover behind columns, skirting the line of fire, assaulting rather than retreating after his initial volleys. "He kept the police at bay and was able to flank an officer during an assault, a tactic that he was trained on," said Retired Army Sgt. Gilbert Fischbach, Johnson's former squad leader in Texas. "He certainly had enthusiasm and motivation that he never had while I was training him." Fischbach and other former comrades were stunned to learn that it was Johnson who pulled off the attack in revenge for police killings of black men. The popular, happy-go-lucky friend they remembered as cultivating many colorblind friendships had become a police-killer whose own life was taken by a robot-delivered bomb. Some who knew him say Johnson was never the same after his best friend in the 284th Engineer Company filed a sexual harassment complaint against him in Afghanistan in 2014. Accused of stealing the female soldier's dirty panties, he was disarmed, placed under 24-hour escort and sent home early, his aspirations to a military career over.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK JULY 19, 2016
The Denver Post reports that Colorado is a relatively egalitarian place, especially when compared with states such as New York, Connecticut or even Wyoming. But it contains some surprisingly high peaks and deep valleys in income inequality. Pitkin County, long a vacation-home haven for celebrities and executives, might come to mind as the one place in Colorado with the biggest chasm in income. But another county has an even larger divide between the rich and everyone else. The top 1 percent of households in Custer County made $3 million on average, which is 86.6 times the income of $34,823 averaged by the remaining 99 percent, according to a study last month from the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. The sparsely populated county northeast of the Great Sand Dunes National Park ranked fifth for its income gap among 3,064 U.S. counties examined by the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which conducted the study for Washington-based EPI. The top 1 percent of tax filers in Custer County reported 47 percent of the income in the county, a remarkable concentration by any measure.
Programs allowing intravenous drug users to exchange dirty syringes for clean ones are spreading in Kentucky as communities confront growing heroin abuse and concerns over the potential for disease outbreaks caused by addicts sharing needles, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. So far, health departments and local governments in 13 counties have approved needle exchanges, and 11 are in operation, according to the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services and local officials. The Clark County Health Department held its first exchange recently, making it the third department in the state to begin providing syringes to addicts since July 1, along with Boyd and Pike counties. … The goal is to prevent drug users from getting infected with hepatitis C and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Kentucky had the highest rate of acute hepatitis C cases in the nation from 2010 through 2013, according to information from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Baltimore Sun: Cost overruns draw scrutiny
Private contractors fixing Baltimore's water mains, repaving roads and rehabbing buildings routinely go over budget — at a cost to taxpayers of more than $105 million over the past four years, a Baltimore Sun review has found. Construction jobs done for Baltimore's government ran over budget 375 times since 2012 — sometimes ballooning to two, three or even four times their original cost. "This is ridiculous," said City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, who sits on the Board of Estimates and has questioned the frequency of cost overruns in Baltimore. "These are some huge numbers. I don't believe we should have this many extra work orders." Critics say they are concerned that contractors are bidding low to win work before running up the bill on the true costs of the project. But city officials in Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration say the extra work orders are simply a cost of doing infrastructure work in an aging city where complications such as pipe breaks and sinkholes frequently occur in the middle of a job.
Boston Globe: City’s notorious Methadone Mile
Last night’s needles line the sidewalks at dawn along the blighted blocks where Massachusetts Avenue and Southampton Street meet, the Boston Globe reports. People emerge from shelters and halfway houses and trudge toward the methadone clinics that lend this place its ugly nickname. An open-air drug market is in full swing on the corner outside a convenience store, where offers of drugs trill like music. “Clonidines-Clonidines-Clonidines-Clonidines!” “Does anybody need Xani Bars?” Phenergans, Pins, Johnnies? A man grimaces one chilly morning, unsteady on his feet. He opens his mouth to reveal a knotted bag of heroin, double-wrapped and ready to be swallowed should police wade into the crowd. “This is all I have left,” he says. Some come to this sad section of the city to get high, slumped on street corners and shooting up between parked cars. Some come to get clean, ducking into low-slung clinics where they swallow the fuchsia medicine, sweet and bitter at once, that frees them from heroin’s grasp. The people here call it Methadone Mile, and it is the congested heart of Massachusetts’ raging opioid crisis.
New York Times: Nations, athletic groups seek to keep all Russian teams away from Rio
Antidoping officials from at least 10 nations and 20 athlete groups are preparing the extraordinary step of requesting that the entire Russian delegation be barred from the Summer Olympics over allegations of a state-sponsored doping program, according to email correspondence obtained by The New York Times. The antidoping officials and athletes were expected to pressure Olympic leaders on the matter as soon as Monday — less than three weeks before the opening ceremony in Rio. They were waiting for the results of an investigation into claims published in The Times of a state-sponsored doping program conducted by Russian officials at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. … The country’s track and field team has already been barred from the Rio Games for doping violations; calls for sanctions against Russian athletes in every sport would be unprecedented and would likely escalate the geopolitical debate. At least 10 national antidoping organizations — including those in the United States, Germany, Spain, Japan, Switzerland and Canada — and more than 20 athlete groups representing Olympians from around the world have banded together.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/17/sports/olympics/russia-doping-summer-games-rio.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news
The Oregonian: Struggle continues for 'atomic veterans'
The USS De Haven sailed from Hawaii's Pearl Harbor on May 5, 1958, carrying 240 men deep into the Pacific on a secret mission, The Oregonian says. Gunner's mate Wayne Brooks had only a vague idea of their destination. But within a few days, he would experience an explosion so immense and bright that he could see his own bones. He and his crewmates had been assigned to witness Operation Hardtack I, a series of nuclear tests in the Pacific. The De Haven, a destroyer, was one of dozens of ships assigned to the operation at Enewetak Atoll, Bikini Atoll and Johnston Island. It would be their crews' initiation into the ranks of hundreds of thousands of service members now known as "atomic veterans." What seems like a story long tucked away in history books remains a very real struggle for those veterans still alive, the radiation cleanup crews who followed and their families – many of them sick and lacking not just the federal compensation, but also the recognition they believe they deserve.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State doled out $2.5 million to workers under investigation
Over the past two years, taxpayers shelled out $2.5 million in wages for nearly 400 prison workers to wait at home while they were investigated for alleged misconduct, records obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel show. Most of these workers were found to be at fault in some way. A few weren't. But they were all paid to do nothing for an average of 54 days and often despite some seemingly simple cases to sort out. Seventy-two workers were paid at least $10,000 apiece while on leave, and one probation and parole agent was ultimately fired after being paid $79,725 while apparently on leave for nearly two years, according to records released to the newspaper. At times, workers waited on paid leave for weeks or even months and in the end received only a written reprimand. In other cases, investigators were deployed to look into a minor matter while more serious probes dragged on.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK JULY 5, 2016
Arizona Daily Star: Juvenile court picks up children’s health tabs
The Pima County Juvenile Court increasingly is funding care for children who have health insurance — but whose recommended treatments were denied by Cenpatico Integrated Care, the Arizona Daily Star reports. Juvenile Court judges — who oversee cases involving children in the child welfare and the juvenile justice systems — can order the court’s probation office to pay for kids’ health services using its $2.9 million treatment budget. But that fund is meant primarily for children who are uninsured or underinsured. Cenpatico coordinates behavioral health care for children on AHCCCS, the state’s Medicaid program, which includes kids from very low-income homes and children in the child welfare system. Since Cenpatico started operating in Southern Arizona, juvenile court attorneys, judges and probation officers have been trying to find ways to maintain services for kids amidst a surge in treatment denials.
Denver Post: Court ruling may offer second chance to some prisoners
The Denver Post says that inside his prison cell, Gabriel Adams could at long last see a different future. He had spent more than half of his life behind bars because, when he was 17, he helped a friend shoot and stab his mother and stepfather to death. Tried as an adult, he received an adult’s sentence: life in prison with no opportunity for release. Outside, other kids his age graduated high school and entered college. They bought their first beers and drank toasts at their weddings. Then, in 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to treat juvenile murderers like adults because, regardless of how heinous their crimes are, juveniles think differently. Many states changed their sentencing rules to give juvenile murderers a second chance, but Colorado hesitated. Adams waited, and his life unspooled one day at a time. By March 9, 2014, the 38-year-old Adams felt there was no hope left. Inside his prison cell, he slipped a makeshift rope around his neck, pulling the noose tight. Adams died waiting. There are 48 others like him in Colorado, still waiting.
Chicago Tribune: 10 shootings a day
To understand Chicago's violence, start at Kostner Avenue and Monroe Street and walk west up a one-way stretch of graystones and brick two-flats, the Chicago Tribune says. There on a boarded-up front door you'll see the red stain of gang graffiti. On the cracked sidewalk below lies an empty heroin baggie. Hardened young men sit on a porch. This single block on the West Side — part of the Harrison police district — has been the scene of at least six shootings so far this year. A masked gunman shot a teen in the stomach. A father delivering groceries to his daughter was shot before he could escape gunfire. And in late June, police again unspooled the yellow crime scene tape in the alley behind the block after a teen was fatally shot in the head. As Chicago heads into the often violent July Fourth weekend, these kinds of stories are all too common in pockets of the West and South sides. At the halfway point of the year, homicides have jumped by 49 percent citywide to 312, reaching levels unseen since the late 1990s.
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Stealing the show in the Twin Cities
Adele won’t kick off her U.S. tour until Tuesday in St. Paul, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, but a lot of the British singer’s Minnesota fans are already heartbroken, even before she sings her first breakup song. Many have to choose between paying scalpers an average of nearly $300 per ticket or staying home — even after Adele took one of the most aggressive stances yet by an artist to curb ticket resales. … More than ever this summer, Minnesotans are being shut out of the hottest concerts and ripped off by ticket scalpers. It’s part of a nationwide “ticketing epidemic,” as a recent New York attorney general report calls it, fueled by the proliferation of online ticket buying and resale sites such as StubHub. In Minnesota, where ticket scalping was legalized in 2007, the laws and enforcement around them are weaker than in many states, and there is no government oversight on how concert tickets are distributed in venues owned or funded by taxpayers. Sometimes even the companies that stage sold-out shows are selling seats at inflated prices.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Administrative judge faces probe over sexual, racial language
A federal official who has long sat in judgment of disability claimants reduced them to racist and sexual tag lines such as "gorilla-like" and "buxom" in his case notes, according to copies of those forms obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and whistleblower interviews. The conduct of administrative law judge John H. Pleuss toward his own co-workers and applicants for disability payments and their representatives raises questions not only about his official decisions but also about whether proper oversight is being exercised at the federal Social Security Administration's Madison Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. An inspector general's investigation has been opened into issues in the administration's Madison office, the newspaper has learned. Pleuss has temporarily stopped hearing cases here but has not been put on leave and was in the office on Friday, a union official said.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK JUNE 28,2016
The Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser quotes District Attorney Daryl Bailey as saying that a 1,604-case backlog of drug related cases is burdening the Montgomery County criminal justice system. To put that in perspective, the most recent drug case to come out of forensics is from April 2014. In short, anybody arrested for drug-related charges would currently be waiting more than two years for a trial as evidence is processed. “What you have are more cases going in than coming out,” Bailey said. … A large part of the problem is that state budget cuts have made it difficult for the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences to run tests for suspected drug substances, experts said.
Denver Post: State doesn’t require background checks for nurses
Nurses with convictions for sexual offenses, drug thefts and crimes of violence have escaped detection under Colorado’s porous system for licensing health care workers, which has far fewer protections than most states, the Denver Post reports. Colorado is one of six states that does not conduct criminal background checks on applicants for nursing licenses. The state requires massage therapists and private investigators to submit a fingerprint for checks against state and FBI conviction records to get licensed. It’s even a step the legislature decided this year to require of operators of fantasy sports leagues before they set up shop in Colorado. To identify dangerous applicants or licensees with criminal histories, the nurse licensing system in Colorado mostly relies on self-disclosure and complaints. The process allows nurses deemed unfit for the job in other states to obtain and hold a Colorado license to work as a nurse here or in other states.
News Journal: Shootings hurt police recruiting
The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, reports that in many ways, Anthony Parker Jr. is the ideal recruit for one of Delaware’s 49 police departments. The 21-year-old who smiles with ease and is schooled in communications, understands struggling neighborhoods because he comes from one, and his childhood dream was to become a cop. But that goal changed in recent years, he said, after watching a steady stream of news reports about people taking to American streets to protest the deaths of mostly young black men during encounters with police. A north Wilmington native, Parker is part of a growing trend: Fewer young people in Delaware are considering policing as a profession in recent years than during past decades, multiple law enforcement experts told The News Journal. As a result, departments are placing a stronger emphasis on recruiting. “There’s a decrease in applicants in general, and it’s not just a Delaware problem,” said New Castle County police Capt. Laura O’Sullivan. "Twenty years ago you were competing with 1,000 people for 15 spots, and today you certainly have to push harder to get more applicants to come in."
Miami Herald: Workers’ use of vacation funds cost taxpayers
Dwight Danie had an emergency: Duncan the terrier needed eye surgery, the Miami Herald reports. It was January of last year, and Danie had an estimated $2,700 bill coming down the pike from a South Florida specialty clinic for a procedure to remove cataracts from his dog’s eyes. So he filed paperwork stating that he had an emergency, which allowed him to sell five weeks of untaken vacation valued at $8,430 back to his employer, the city of Miami. “It was a financial emergency. It was very expensive,” said Danie, at the time an $88,000-a-year elections coordinator. “I’m not a rich man.” Danie, who told the Herald the money also helped him pay for his mother’s funeral, was hardly the only city employee to experience a crisis last year. Citing situations that included footing their kids’ tuition and funding home improvements, 591 men and women in a city of roughly 4,000 employees sold back “V-time” to the city. The cost to taxpayers: $2,954,540. A review of three years of city records shows Miami employees routinely tap into their vacation hours and cash out thousands of dollars each year under a long-standing policy that allows them to sell up to six weeks of accrued vacation time to the city if they have an emergency.
Indianapolis Star: Airbnb says it wants to pay taxes
At a gathering of more than 200 mayors in Indianapolis, Airbnb officials extended an enticing offer: Let us collect millions in unpaid hotel taxes for you. At first glance, the company's pitch is an unusual one. After all, who wants to be taxed? But it also is a clear sign that the online home-sharing service is trying to get out in front of an issue that has pitted the upstart firm against the traditional hotel industry in virtually every city where it does business. Hotel operators in Indianapolis and across the country complain that Airbnb is playing by a different set of rules, and it's disrupting not only their share of tourism dollars, but also government tax collections. In Indiana, a 10 percent innkeeper's tax helps pay for things such as Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indiana Convention Center and city tourism marketing. And while Airbnb hosts who rent out their homes are required by law to pay these taxes, enforcing compliance among a web of unregulated homeowners has proven difficult nationwide. For its part, Airbnb insists it's trying to be a good corporate citizen: It has long urged its hosts to follow state and local laws. And it is willing to collect and pay the taxes itself, cutting the host out of the picture entirely. It now has voluntary tax collection agreements with communities in 18 states, including neighboring Illinois and Ohio, but not Indiana. … If the offer sounds too good to be true, the hotel industry would agree. They say the voluntary agreements fall well short of the level of accountability required of hotels.
Des Moines Register: Preventing repeat driving offenses proves difficult
Iowa has made little headway in reducing the percentage of intoxicated drivers who are repeat offenders, a Des Moines Register analysis of state data shows. In 2015, 26 percent of the 11,628 motorists convicted of driving impaired had previously been caught driving while intoxicated, data from the Iowa Court Information System show. That's down just 3 percentage points in a dozen years. Since 2000, roughly 222,500 drivers have been convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated in Iowa. Nearly 60,000 were repeat offenders, according to Iowa Court Information System data. The numbers are an indication of the magnitude of the problem facing Iowa in its continued struggle to get drunk drivers off roads.
Boston Globe: The desperate and the dead
The Boston Globe tells the story of Nancy Chiero, a mother who struggled to take care of her 35-year-old son, Lee, until he murdered her in a paranoid fit of rage. … In a state that prides itself on leadership in human services and compassionate government, it has come to this, a Spotlight Team investigation has found: threadbare policies, broken promises, short-sighted decisions, and persistent underfunding over decades. As a result, the seriously mentally ill, including those at greatest risk of harming others or themselves, are far too often left in the care of parents, police, prison guards, judges, shelter workers, and emergency room personnel — almost anyone, in fact, but professionals trained to deal with their needs. Families of these sufferers find themselves up against obstacles that earlier generations didn’t have to face. Fifty years ago, Lee Chiero might have been treated — and locked away — in one of the public psychiatric hospitals that once dotted Massachusetts. Today, nearly all of those institutions have been bulldozed or boarded up — and many had to be, having evolved into inhumane asylums for people who are, in the great majority, no threat to anyone. But the hospitals were not replaced with anything resembling a coherent care system, leaving thousands of people with serious mental illness to navigate a fragmented network of community services that puts an extraordinary burden on them to find help and to make sure they continue getting it.
Detroit Free Press: Families say no justice for workers killed on the job
For the families of hundreds of workers killed on the job in Michigan, there is often no justice. No criminal charges. No civil lawsuits. No costly penalties from Michigan's workplace safety agency. And strict limits on workers compensation. A yearlong Free Press investigation into more than 400 workplace deaths across the state found a flawed system of oversight with penalties against employers so low they're not a deterrent. And families have little recourse in court because of restrictive rules about bringing suits over workplace deaths and injuries. "It’s extremely difficult for a family from the state of Michigan to be able to seek accountability for a death in a place of employment," said Troy employment lawyer Shereef Akeel, who won a civil suit against a Barry County dairy farmer over the death of one of two teenage workers, his only successful suit in a workplace death or injury in his 20-year career.
Star-Ledger: Port Authority pays millions in overtime
Nearly five years ago, New York State's comptroller complained overtime "flows like water" at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and called on the bi-state agency to dramatically reign in the extra hours its employees work. Though the Port Authority has attempted to curb costs, the agency is still struggling to cut overtime, according to public documents. Nearly 170 Port Authority employees -- mostly police officers and maintenance supervisors – earned more than $75,000 each in overtime last year, according to the agency's payroll. The top 25 on the list each earned more than $110,000 in overtime on top of their regular salaries. Many employees more than doubled their base salaries by working overtime, the records show. Several took home nearly as much or more than their boss, Port Authority Patrick Foye, who earned $305,111 last year.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK JUNE 21, 2016
The Los Angeles Times reports that ads for a new blood test, dubbed “the cancer stethoscope,” were designed to grab attention from even the healthiest Americans. “Did you know?” warned the colorful ads promoting the cancer detection test on Twitter. “1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will get cancer.” Pathway Genomics, a San Diego start-up, directed consumers through the ads to a toll-free number, where a customer service rep linked them to a panel of physicians, who ordered the test. The company then sent a mobile phlebotomist to draw blood at the person’s home or office. … Pathway is one of a growing number of start-ups trying to disrupt the $75-billion medical lab business by selling blood tests and other types of medical lab checks directly to consumers. It’s part of a new frontier of medicine, where tech companies say they are using data, software and genomics to create tools for personalized medicine, letting patients take the lead without always relying on a physician. But Silicon Valley technologists face steep hurdles in their efforts to revolutionize the medical system the way they have communications or shopping. And because of the hype surrounding the blood tests — many of which are not backed by reliable scientific studies — patients may be at risk of being misled or even harmed.
Alarms sounded on U.S. Air Force bases in Spain and officers began packing all the low-ranking troops they could grab onto buses for a secret mission, The New York Times says. There were cooks, grocery clerks and even musicians from the Air Force band. It was a late winter night in 1966 and a fully loaded B-52 bomber on a Cold War nuclear patrol had collided with a refueling jet high over the Spanish coast, freeing four hydrogen bombs that went tumbling toward a farming village called Palomares, a patchwork of small fields and tile-roofed white houses in an out-of-the-way corner of Spain’s rugged southern coast that had changed little since Roman times. It was one of the biggest nuclear accidents in history, and the United States wanted it cleaned up quickly and quietly. But if the men getting onto buses were told anything about the Air Force’s plan for them to clean up spilled radioactive material, it was usually, “Don’t worry.” … Interviews with dozens of men and details from never before published declassified documents tell a different story. Radiation near the bombs was so high it sent the military’s monitoring equipment off the scales. Troops spent months shoveling toxic dust, wearing little more protection than cotton fatigues. And when tests taken during the cleanup suggested men had alarmingly high plutonium contamination, the Air Force threw out the results, calling them “clearly unrealistic.”
The rain let up on a Tuesday afternoon moments before a flood of traffic descended on Longfellow Elementary School in northeast Spokane, Washington, the Spokesman-Review reports. When the bell rang and kids poured from the school, adults in cars jostled for position. The chaos and snarl of vehicles lasted about 15 minutes, enough time for Longfellow’s 530 students to find their ride, get on the bus or cross one of the many busy streets surrounding the school. Through it all, traffic never let up on the busy, nearby arterials. At the beginning of the year, the city of Spokane began issuing tickets to drivers speeding near the school, a violation caught on camera as part of a new program similar to the city’s red-light cameras. Finch Elementary School also has a camera for school zone speeders. Since January, 5,778 tickets have been issued near Longfellow and Finch. The tickets range from $234 to $450, meaning between $1.3 million and $2.5 million in fines have been assessed to drivers near those schools.
Donald Trump was in his element, mingling with beauty pageant contestants and business tycoons as he brought his Miss Universe pageant to Russia for a much-anticipated Moscow debut, the Washington Post reports. Nonetheless, Trump was especially eager for the presence of another honored guest: Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump tweeted Putin a personal invitation to attend the pageant, and a one-on-one meeting between the New York businessman and the Russian leader was scheduled for the day before the show. Putin canceled at the last minute, but he sent a decorative lacquered box, a traditional Russian gift, and a warm note, according to Aras Agalarov, a Moscow billionaire who served as a liaison between Trump and the Russian leader. Trump’s relationship with Putin and his warm views toward Russia, which began in the 1980s when the country was still part of the Soviet Union, have emerged as one of the more curious aspects of his presidential campaign.
The Washington Post says that when Sen. Bernie Sanders, the now-vanquished Democratic presidential candidate, returns to Capitol Hill to vote, he is expected to be accompanied by his constant traveling companions from the campaign trail: the U.S. Secret Service. Though Hillary Clinton has clinched the party’s nomination, Sanders retains one of the trappings of a top-notch candidate. A team of agents still guards him at his home, where they’ve constructed a small watch station on the property. They travel with him on commercial and charter flights and use a motorcade to whisk him through cities he visits. And they recently marched alongside him during a gay pride event here in his hometown after the Orlando shootings. Such round-the-clock protection can cost taxpayers more than $38,000 a day. And with the potential for the Secret Service to be watching over Sanders through the Democratic convention in Philadelphia five weeks from now, the taxpayers may get stuck with a big security bill long after his campaign receded from the daily cable news cycle.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/an-expensive-reminder-that-sanders-still-hasnt-dropped-out-his-secret-service-detail/2016/06/19/a3f717c6-3555-11e6-8ff7-7b6c1998b7a0_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_sanderssecurity-858am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory
Indianapolis Star: Struggling public parks
In 2012, a national survey of public parks ranked Indianapolis' park and trail system 47th out of the country's 50 largest cities, the Indianapolis Star reports. It was embarrassing, to say the least. City officials and community leaders alike called for change, saying that whatever the budget pressures, Indianapolis couldn't settle for third from last. Then-Mayor Greg Ballard called parks "essential" and launched a number of initiatives to study and improve Indy's offerings. The Indianapolis Parks Foundation pledged to step up its advocacy role. The charitable Lilly Endowment gave $10 million for facility upgrades. Four years later, Indianapolis is still ranked third from last — this time tied with Charlotte, North Carolina, for 95th out of 98 cities studied. Two of the 100 largest cities were not included in the rankings because they did not provide enough data. … There's one metric Indianapolis can't blame on bias or a misunderstanding — and if it isn't addressed, advocates say, it threatens not only Indy's ability to improve, but even to maintain the parks and trails it has. In 2012, the government invested $43.61 per resident on parks. Today, that figure has dropped 40 percent to $26.34, more than only Detroit and Stockton, California. That's less than one-fourth of what the typical city in the region spends. And the top five in the country spend as much as 10 times that.
Des Moines Register: Hospital bottlenecks strand mentally ill
No one who suffers a stroke, tumor or broken bone would expect to be stranded in a hospital for months after doctors cleared them to be released. But many Iowans with serious mental illnesses are being marooned that way, the Des Moines Register says. In one of the worst cases, a Des Moines man who had been cleared for release spent an extra year and two months in Broadlawns Medical Center's psychiatric unit. Hospital staff members struggled to find an agency that would supervise him in the community. They finally found one this spring, after Polk County taxpayers spent nearly $500,000 housing the man in the public hospital. Such long-term patients clog hospital units that are desperately needed for new patients going through mental health crises.
Lexington Herald-Leader: Constables -- untrained and unaccountable
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that night had fallen on March 4 when Laurel County Constable Bobby Joe Smith rolled into the parking lot at the A & B Quick Stop. Smith had received a tip that Brandon Stanley was among the handful of customers mingling inside the convenience store. The convicted felon and the elected constable had played cat-and-mouse two days earlier, when the 30-year-old Stanley ran away as Smith was trying to serve him with a warrant. The constable didn’t want to let that happen again. Moments after Smith walked into the store, Stanley lay on the floor, with two gunshots in or near the chest. He died almost instantly. It was less than 24 hours before his planned wedding. The 37-year-old Smith had been a constable for just 15 months. He had no state-approved law enforcement training and mainly worked at a motorcycle dealership. Now, he faces a manslaughter charge for shooting Stanley, and up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Smith serves as the latest in a long line of constables — pseudo police, really — who have run amok in Kentucky for years, according to the story, which was reported in conjunction with the WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Wave 3 News.
Boston Globe: The other victims of the opioid crisis
Jonathan Rodis takes his hydrocodone pills sparingly, only when the pain becomes unbearable, the Boston Globe reports. He doesn’t like the way the drug fogs his brain. And lately, he also needs to conserve — because new federal rules make it hard to get a refill. Rodis has Marfan syndrome, a genetic condition that affects connective tissue and makes his whole body hurt. The pills dull the pain for a few hours. But now, instead of just calling his pharmacy when he needs a refill, he has to make the 30- to 45-minute trek from Winthrop into Boston to see his doctor, a major undertaking for a man who can barely leave the house on bad days. “I feel so trapped when I look at my bottle and see six pills left,” said Rodis, who is 57. This is the other side of America’s war on opioids. As federal and state regulators rush to curtail access to drugs that have claimed thousands of lives, the rules they’ve enacted fall hard on people who legitimately need relief from pain. In an atmosphere of heightened concern about opioids, patients in pain face reluctant doctors, wary pharmacists, and the frequent demand to prove that they are not addicts.
Star-Ledger: Developers, not storm victims, cashed in on Sandy funds
A New Jersey state program to lend more than $400 million in taxpayer dollars to replenish affordable housing lost during Hurricane Sandy so far has assisted fewer than two dozen victims of the storm, according to state statistics reported by the Newark Star-Ledger. The Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing began disbursing zero- and low-interest loans in 2014 in the nine counties most affected by Sandy, with the caveat that Sandy victims on limited incomes be given priority on the new rental units. But of the 2,000 units completed with the help of the public money, only 15 are occupied by New Jersey residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed, according to the state Department of Community Affairs. Critics contend the program, which has so far allocated to developers $413 million of $591 million, helps investors and builders more than people affected by the storm.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK JUNE 14, 2016
For Alabama, a state with one of the highest rates of payday lenders per capita, the federal payday lending reforms proposed on June 2 may not be enough to change predatory lending behavior in the state, the Montgomery Advertiser reports. The 1,341-page framework for potential payday and title lending reform from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau looks to reduce borrowers’ ability to take on multiple loans and require lenders to make sure borrowers can afford to pay the loans. Each year, about 240,000 Alabamians take out about 2.5 million payday loans which create $800 million in revenue for the payday lending industry, according to Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, a payday lending reform advocate. … Alabama’s 456 percent payday loan interest rate – and 300 percent interest rate for title loans – means most low-income borrowers will take out additional loans to pay for the continuing fees from past loans.
Los Angeles Times: Lucrative job at port went to boss’ son
The Los Angeles Times says that a rare opening last year in the city of Los Angeles’ small corps of port pilots, who guide cargo ships and oil tankers into the harbor in San Pedro, drew more than 50 applicants, including ship’s captains and tugboat skippers with many years of experience. That was no surprise, considering L.A.’s full-time port pilots averaged $434,000 in salary and bonuses last year, making them by far the city’s highest-paid employees. The surprise came when the job went to 33-year-old Michael J. Rubino, whose father is Chief Port Pilot Michael R. Rubino. The younger Rubino was hired at the recommendation of an interview panel whose senior member was a longtime colleague of his father, port records obtained by The Times show, but the job didn’t last long. The leader of the small pilots’ union questioned Rubino’s credentials and asked that the work history he and other candidates listed on their applications be carefully checked — something city officials admit they initially failed to do.
Washington Post: The lonely road of staying clean
Jessica Kilpatrick was in the middle of a 10-hour shift at Burger King in a small town in Alabama when she checked her phone messages, the Washington Post reports. Right away she knew. It was the canned voice of the community corrections office ordering her in for a random drug test. Jessica put her headset back on and tried to stay calm. She looked into a mirror. She was hot and greasy and smelled like a Croissan’wich, but her eyes were clear and her mind was straight, unglazed by opioid painkillers. She had not missed a single day of work in 11 months and had been off drugs for 18 months. … Everyone in this white, rural county of 67,000 has a theory about what happened here. It was the global economy that took away the coal-mining jobs. It was Purdue Pharma marketing OxyContin as a less-addictive painkiller. It was greedy doctors who needed to pay for their beach condos in Gulf Shores. It was the druggies and scammers abusing the system. It was God being taken out of the schools. It was the government allowing Medicaid patients to get $800 worth of painkillers for a $6 co-pay. It was too few jobs and too many with headsets. It was 21st-century America, a place so lonely for some that only pills could fill the void.
Idaho Statesman: Curing hepatitis C is costly problem
The Idaho Statesman says that if Robert E. Gibbish Jr. had known a tattoo he got in prison in the late 1980s would give him a deadly infectious disease, he would not have done it. But once he found out he was infected, he kept getting prison tattoos of elaborate demons and skulls. “I figured I was already dirty, I might as well finish them up,” said Gibbish, of Nampa, who returned to prison in 2014 at the Idaho State Correctional Institution south of Boise on drug and assault charges. He believed it was just a matter of time before he succumbed to an incurable disease. … When his kidneys failed last year, Gibbish, 49, suspected hepatitis C was calling in its chit. The Idaho Department of Correction sent him to a specialist in Boise. The specialist recommended that Gibbish receive a new hepatitis C drug. It took nearly a year of wading through red tape, but in February, Gibbish was given the drug regimen: a pill a day for 12 weeks. “I feel better than I have in decades,” he says. … But the drugs terrify those who must pay for them. Sovaldi costs $84,000 for a standard 12-week course, or $1,000 per daily pill. Harvoni costs $94,000. That has put Idaho and other states in a bind: They don’t have enough money to cure all the Medicaid patients and prison inmates they must care for who have hepatitis C.
South Bend Tribune: Profits over prisoners in medical care?
A private company hired to provide medical treatment to Indiana's prisoners while saving taxpayer money has come under increasing scrutiny amid a spike in complaints, questions about oversight and allegations that profit often takes priority over critical health services for inmates, the South Bend Tribune reports. Corizon Health, based in Brentwood, Tennessee, is the largest correctional medical company in the country. It provides health care services to jails and prisons in 25 states, including Indiana and Michigan. A spokesman for Indiana's Department of Correction defended the medical care provided to the state's approximately 26,000 prisoners, saying, “I am confident that our clinical metrics for chronic conditions are better than the free world.” But in the last few years: The number of inmate medical complaints filed with the ombudsman for Indiana's DOC has spiked, from 153 in 2010 to 509 in 2015. The number of prisoner deaths, including suicides, also rose, reaching 86 in 2015. Prisoners or their families have filed at least 178 medical-related civil rights lawsuits in federal courts in Indiana against Corizon since 2011 — 46 of those in 2015 alone. The state has settled nearly three dozen of those cases, paying out more than $1.2 million.
Boston Globe: Making it big, the Pam family way
The Boston Globe reports that Rolando Pam is an imposing figure in his dark trench coat and smartly shaped fedora, unabashed as he describes himself and his 11 children as “success stories” in a part of town, Roxbury, where black families too often fail. He presents himself as a patriarch of a striving, self-made real estate enterprise, and has some material proof to back up the claims of success — luxury cars, a business portfolio that has included houses and apartment buildings, and the friendship of many wealthy and powerful people looking to tap into the escalating Roxbury market. Yet in his neighborhood and in court, many see Pam and his family business in a very different light — as hypocritical operators who speak forcefully about black pride, then wrest black-owned properties away from their owners and peddle them to well-to-do investors. To do this, Pam once resorted to one of the oldest swindles in the books: forging a seller’s signature and filing the fake document with a government office. Critics also say Pam, 56, has groomed two of his grown sons in his style of acquiring properties, using charisma and charm to take advantage of the financially vulnerable. The Globe found a litany of lawsuits against Pam, his sons Tyler and Kyle, or their related companies, including at least four civil court judgments of fraud or breach of contract, three lawsuits settled out of court, and at least two pending civil cases; a group of other alleged victims have said they also plan to file suit. In some Roxbury real estate circles, the Pams’ actions are so widely known that they’ve been given their own nickname: “The Pam Family Scam.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Patient wishes lost in the system
When her chest pains morphed into cardiac arrest in the Regions Hospital emergency room two years ago, doctors saved Beth Bedell’s life, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. She has mixed feelings about that. Bedell, 67, of St. Paul, is happy to be alive. But she’s troubled that caregivers did not follow her health care directive for no resuscitation, a document drafted after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Frustration built this spring when Bedell made a subsequent trip to the emergency room. Concerned what would happen if her condition took a turn for the worse, she asked staff to look up her end-of-life care wishes in the hospital’s electronic health record system. They couldn’t find the document. … Electronic health records are now ubiquitous in hospitals, and the systems give patients what could be a better way to communicate their wishes on treatment options at the end of life. But in too many cases, physicians using the systems struggle to find the documents.
Kansas City Star: Lead remains peril to Kansas City kids
Sixteen years ago, a presidential task force mapped a plan for the United States to eliminate childhood lead poisoning by 2010, the Kansas City Star says. It never happened. Today, tens of thousands of Kansas City area homes still contain lead paint so dangerous that a tiny amount of paint dust can damage a young child’s brain. As many as 1,500 children in Kansas City have lead poisoning, health officials estimate. Hundreds more have been poisoned in Wyandotte County and surrounding areas. Many of their parents don’t even realize it. In Kansas City, the situation persists despite decades-long efforts to clean up contaminated homes. The number of problem houses, largely concentrated in poor and minority neighborhoods, is too immense. At the current pace it would take centuries to safely contain the lead, a common ingredient in paint until a 1978 ban took effect.
New York Times: How Trump profited on failed casinos
The New York Times reports that the Trump Plaza Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is now closed, its windows clouded over by sea salt. Only a faint outline of the gold letters spelling out T-R-U-M-P remains visible on the exterior of what was once this city’s premier casino. Not far away, the long-failing Trump Marina Hotel Casino was sold at a major loss five years ago and is now known as the Golden Nugget. At the nearly deserted eastern end of the boardwalk, the Trump Taj Mahal, now under new ownership, is all that remains of the casino empire Donald J. Trump assembled here more than a quarter-century ago. Years of neglect show: The carpets are frayed and dust-coated chandeliers dangle above the few customers there to play the penny slot machines. On the presidential campaign trail, Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, often boasts of his success in Atlantic City, of how he outwitted the Wall Street firms that financed his casinos and rode the value of his name to riches. A central argument of his candidacy is that he would bring the same business prowess to the Oval Office, doing for America what he did for his companies. … But a close examination of regulatory reviews, court records and security filings by The New York Times leaves little doubt that Mr. Trump’s casino business was a protracted failure. Though he now says his casinos were overtaken by the same tidal wave that eventually slammed this seaside city’s gambling industry, in reality he was failing in Atlantic City long before Atlantic City itself was failing. But even as his companies did poorly, Mr. Trump did well. He put up little of his own money, shifted personal debts to the casinos and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other payments. The burden of his failures fell on investors and others who had bet on his business acumen.
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Substitute teachers hard to find
Substitute teaching has never been a glamorous job, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle says. The pay is low and per diem, with no benefits. A 5 a.m. phone call often dictates where, or if, one will show up to work. And students have been known to make the classroom conditions interesting. Just because a job is not glamorous, though, doesn't mean it is not important. A worsening shortage of substitute teachers over the past several years has given districts across Monroe County and New York a keener appreciation for reliable replacements. "It's been a pretty acute situation for six or seven years," said Pat McCue, assistant superintendent for human resources in Rush-Henrietta. "It's definitely a regional issue. ... We're all competing in the same pool, and the pool is shrinking." The issue is serious enough across the state to have attracted the notice of the Board of Regents. It is reviewing new regulations that would let districts more freely use non-educators as substitutes.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Decline in federal gun cases criticized
With shooting deaths soaring in Milwaukee, gun cases have swamped the county criminal courts, but there has been no similar spike in federal firearm prosecutions. In fact, the opposite occurred last year, according to new data analyzed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The number of people sentenced in the Eastern District of Wisconsin primarily for federal firearms offenses fell to 46 in fiscal year 2015 — a 47% drop from the previous year, and a 10-year low, according to U.S. Sentencing Commission data. Federal gun prosecutions are down nationwide, but the drop here was one of the steepest among the nation's 94 federal court districts, the analysis found.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK JUNE 7, 2016
AP: History in hand, Clinton faces voters as presumptive nominee
History already in hand, Hillary Clinton will celebrate becoming the first woman to lead a major American political party following votes in California, New Jersey and four other states — contests Clinton hopes send her into the general election in strong standing. Clinton reached the 2,383 delegates needed to become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee on the eve of this week’s voting, according to an Associated Press tally. Her total is comprised of pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses, as well as superdelegates — the party officials and officeholders who can back a candidate of their choosing. … Heading into Tuesday's voting, Clinton has 1,812 pledged delegates and the support of 571 of the 714 superdelegates, according to the AP count. The AP surveyed the superdelegates repeatedly in the past seven months. While they can change their minds, those counted in Clinton's tally have unequivocally told the AP they will support her at the party's summer convention.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/07/us/politics/hillary-clinton-presidential-race.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0
Since a sweeping prison reform bill went into effect in Alabama in January, the state has hired 37 of the 112 parole officers it hoped to hire to watch newly released inmates, state officials told the Anniston Star. With other aspects of the bill, progress is a little harder to assess. “New policies often take months, and more often years, to fully implement and allow time to measure,” said Bennet Wright, director of the Alabama Sentencing Commission. More than a year has passed since the Alabama Legislature, in a bipartisan vote, passed Senate Bill 67, a measure designed to reform nearly every aspect of the state’s penal system with an eye toward easing crowding in the state’s prisons. More than 24,000 people now live in Alabama prisons built for 13,000, with thousands more in lower-security facilities or county jails. Riots and stabbings in jails have become regular news events this year, and Tutwiler Prison for Women has already been subject to federal intervention over sexual abuse of prisoners. The 2015 prison reform bill is supposed to bring the crowding down. … The law went into effect at the end of January, but the impact so far hasn’t always been clear.
On an August afternoon in 1984, Linda Marie Baltazar Pasnick, a 27-year-old aspiring model, was running errands before a fashion competition when she pulled into the drive-through at a Der Wienerschnitzel, the Los Angeles Times reports. As she waited in line, a panhandler pushed his face into her window and she shooed him away. Ronnie McPeters came back with a gun, leaned in to her open window and fired three times. Then as her car rolled forward and she cried for help, he shot twice more. McPeters spent the next nine months in the “rubber room” of the Fresno jail. He set fires and assaulted jailers. He told a psychiatrist he was filming a commercial. His bizarre behavior escalated at San Quentin State Prison’s death row, where in months he fell into a stupor, smearing feces on the walls, the floor and himself. Now, McPeters is at the center of a legal battle with profound implications for California’s death row. Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ office has asked the California Supreme Court to remove Peters from death row, arguing he will always be too gravely disabled to execute. State prosecutors believe McPeters’ sentence should be be converted to life, to be spent in other prisons or state medical facilities. If the state’s highest court agrees, Harris’ legal theory of “permanent incompetence” would make California the first to address a growing problem of aging and gravely mentally ill inmates awaiting ever-delayed execution.
Indianapolis Star: Few teens on track to receive state aid
The vast majority of incoming high school seniors who could qualify for a state-funded scholarship are running the risk of losing out on the assistance that covers up to four years of college tuition, according to newly released state data analyzed by the Indianapolis Star. About 80 percent, or more than 14,000 students, are behind on meeting new requirements for the state’s 21st Century Scholars program, which is designed to help low-income Hoosiers afford college. In Marion County alone, nearly 3,300 students aren’t on track. Faced with a large number of students falling behind on the program’s mandates, state officials are working to make members of the Class of 2017 aware of the new requirements, including conducting meetings throughout the summer to connect with potential scholarship recipients.
Charlotte Observer: Companies replacing Americans with foreign workers
Companies in Charlotte are stepping up their efforts to hire foreign workers – especially for information technology jobs – under a federal visa program that’s becoming a political flashpoint, the Charlotte Observer reports. The H-1B visa lets companies bring foreign workers to the U.S. temporarily to fill jobs requiring highly skilled labor. Employers say it helps them fill jobs that draw too few qualified applicants. Critics say some companies abuse it, replacing Americans with foreign tech workers willing to work for less. Sometimes American IT workers are laid off after spending their final days training their foreign-born replacements. Demand for these visa workers is growing especially fast in Charlotte. Last year hundreds of employers filed initial applications for more than 16,500 H-1B workers in the Charlotte metro area, many in technology positions. That number alone is bigger than the entire workforce of some of Charlotte’s largest employers. Supporters of the visas, including local job recruiters, point to a shortage of skilled technology talent that is resulting in thousands of open computing jobs throughout the state. A lack of computer science majors graduating adds to the problem, officials say. But in some instances, “companies that are bringing in H-1B people at the same time are having staff reductions in the same area – generally speaking, the IT area,” said Bill Chu, a professor at UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics. “There are lots of H-1B people in Charlotte.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Tiny victims of drug abuse
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describes the scene: The lights are off in the hospital room. The only sound is the regular, electronic beeping of monitors tracking vital signs — and the telltale, high-pitched cry of a baby going through withdrawal. The baby boy is one of three infants on this warm April afternoon at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield who was born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, the term for infants whose mothers were using opiates during their pregnancies. Dr. Giovanni Laneri, a neonatologist and Director of the Newborn Nursery at West Penn, picks up the tiny baby and gently speaks to him to soothe him. “Come on, buddy,” he says to the 18-day-old baby, whose cries quickly subside as he is in the doctor’s arms. “You’re very cute,” says Dr. Laneri, one of the hospital’s lead physicians in caring for babies born to mothers who were using drugs during their pregnancies. “We don’t say that babies are addicted. We never use that word for babies. We say babies are dependent on the substances that the mom was using while she was pregnant,” Dr. Laneri explained. As officials in Pennsylvania and elsewhere try to battle a rising tide of opioid use, they are also grappling with how to aid the epidemic’s tiniest victims.
Madison State Journal: Homeless fall through the cracks
The Madison State Journal reports that decades of inadequate leadership and insufficient direct funding from the state have weakened the fight against rising homelessness in Wisconsin. Advocates and service providers say state officials must be more engaged to address an often hidden plight that shatters lives and creates significant costs for social services, schools, health care and law enforcement. There’s no precise way to measure homelessness, but a State Journal review of data make clear that its scope is broad — affecting infants to seniors and all demographics. By one estimate, perhaps 20,000 people are homeless in Wisconsin on any given night. One count shows the ranks of homeless single adults growing by nearly 25 percent since 2007. Another has the number of homeless children more than tripling since 2003. State officials say Wisconsin spends tens of millions of dollars on homelessness. But the Wisconsin Coalition Against Homelessness and local officials and providers disagree, contending that most of the money isn’t targeted directly at the issue. The state essentially has delivered no new direct funding for two decades, with the sum long stuck at about $3.3 million, the coalition says.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK MAY 31, 2016
Under pressure to prevent people from sneaking onto runways and planes at major U.S. airports, authorities are cracking down _ not on the intruders who slip through perimeter gates or jump over fences, but on the release of information about the breaches. A year after an Associated Press investigation first revealed persistent problems with airports' outer defenses, breaches remain as frequent as ever _ occurring about once every 10 days _ despite some investments to fortify the nation's airfields. As Americans focus on the wait in ever-longer security screening lines inside terminals, new documents show dozens more incidents happening outside perimeters than airports have disclosed. At the same time, leaders at some airports and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration are saying some of the 345 incidents AP found shouldn't count as security breaches, even when intruders got deep into secure areas.
More than a decade ago, researchers at Gilead Sciences thought they had a breakthrough: a new version of the company's key HIV medicine that was less toxic to kidneys and bones, the Los Angeles Times reports. Clinical trials of the new compound on HIV-positive patients in Los Angeles and several other cities seemed to support their optimism. Patients needed just a fraction of the dose, creating the chance of far fewer dangerous side effects. But in 2004, just as the biotech firm was preparing for a second and larger round of patient studies, Gilead executives stopped the research. The results of the early patient studies would go unpublished for years as the original medication _ tenofovir _ became one of the world's most-prescribed drugs for HIV, with $11 billion in annual sales. More than six years later, though, in 2010, Gilead restarted those trials. The new version of the drug, which the company says is safer, was approved in November under the brand name Genvoya. The executives' decisions stand to extend Gilead's domination of the global HIV medicine market for years. Analysts project the company will reap tens of billions of dollars in sales that otherwise would have vanished with the expiration of tenofovir's patent in 2018. That has pleased the company's investors. But it has stirred criticism among patients and caregivers, and prompted a lawsuit. The critics believe the new, less harmful form of the drug could have been developed sooner _ and wasn't because the company wanted to extend its patent-protected profits.
Hartford Courant: State pledge to repair safety net
The state says it has developed a strategy to better protect people with developmental disabilities, including computerizing injury reports, increasing staff training and monitoring the medical diagnosis and treatment of clients _ actions officials hope will radically improve the detection of possible abuse and neglect, the Hartford Courant reports. The plan to repair Connecticut's tattered safety net is in response to a scathing federal audit last week that revealed some group homes failed to report injuries or mischaracterized their severity and that the Department of Developmental Services routinely missed "critical incidents" that warranted abuse or neglect investigations. Also, some hospitals failed to report injuries that should have raised a suspicion of abuse, the audit found. But some experts in disability services expressed doubt that DDS could continue to police itself or provide the amount of ongoing injury-recognition training necessary to overcome the problems cited by the audit. An expert also said that Connecticut's state-run institutions continue to divert money and time away from the agency's mission of safeguarding clients. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began its investigation in 2013 at the request of U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, after The Courant exposed the preventable deaths of 76 people with developmental disabilities in state care.
Idaho Statesman: Device, drug firms spent $3.8M in Treasure Valley in 2014
The Idaho Statesman reports that Robert Wechsler calls himself "the Rain Man of epilepsy for Idaho." A neurologist who specializes in seizure disorders, Wechsler also says that because of his work with the pharmaceutical industry, he is something of a "hired gun ... who comes in and talks about a drug." And he's proud of it. Wechsler was among the top five doctors in Idaho receiving payments from pharmaceutical and medical device companies in 2014, the most recent year for which records are available through the federal Open Payments system. Drug companies funded Wechsler's trips in 2014 to 40 cities, where he talked to other physicians about certain medications. To compensate him for those engagements, the companies paid Wechsler more than $147,000 in honoraria, speaking and consulting fees. He also received about $25,000 for clinical trials and studies of seizure drugs. … Treasure Valley physicians and hospitals _ those in southwestern Idaho _ received $3.8 million in payments from medical device and pharmaceutical companies, and $2.8 million for clinical research funded by those companies, in 2014. Several local doctors received more than $100,000 in benefits — cash, in-kind payment or other compensation — during the year.
The Washington Post says that for months, a small team of U.S. Navy investigators and federal prosecutors secretly devised options for a high-stakes international manhunt. Could the target be snatched from his home base in Asia and rendered to the United States? Or held captive aboard an American warship? Making the challenge even tougher was the fact that the man was a master of espionage. His moles had burrowed deep into the Navy hierarchy to leak him a stream of military secrets, thwarting previous efforts to bring him to justice. The target was not a terrorist, nor a spy for a foreign power, nor the kingpin of a drug cartel. But rather a 350-pound defense contractor nicknamed Fat Leonard, who had befriended a generation of Navy leaders with cigars and liquor whenever they made port calls in Asia. Leonard Glenn Francis was legendary on the high seas for his charm and his appetite for excess.
Des Moines Register: Critics fault oversight in inmate deaths
As an officer escorted Douglas Ramsey to a phone at the Polk County Jail in 2013, he sprinted away and slammed his head into a concrete wall so hard that he later died from the injury, the Des Moines Register reports. Tana Lekin, an inmate in the Jones County Jail who was presumed drunk or high, was placed in a holding cell in March 2015, where she died of self-strangulation. At least 14 minutes elapsed from when Lekin failed to respond to a check and when jailers entered her cell to offer assistance, records show. In March, Lamont Walls, a 38-year-old Des Moines resident, died in the Polk County Jail. Officials say he ingested drugs before his arrest, one of several other Iowa inmates whose deaths resulted from drug overdoses or other medical conditions. Ramsey was jailed for interfering with police, Lekin for burglary and Walls on drug-related charges. What the three deaths have in common are lapses in prisoner oversight, critics contend. Detailed, up-to-date data on all Iowa inmate deaths are elusive. But an analysis by The Des Moines Register, relying on public records, lawsuits and news stories, shows at least 19 Iowa inmates have killed themselves since Jan. 1, 2013.
Lexington Herald-Leader: Lifestyles of rich and political
The Lexington Herald-Leader says that over the last year, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr spent nearly $32,000 on tickets to the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup, plus $300 to hire handicapper Ellis Starr to provide betting tips for his racetrack guests. "Nobody was even talking politics. It was just entertainment for everyone," Starr recently recalled. U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers paid $21,504 to golf at Pebble Beach Resorts on California's beautiful Monterey Peninsula. Down the coastline, retiring U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield dropped more than $20,000 for a weekend of dining and poolside socializing in Beverly Hills. These members of Kentucky's congressional delegation didn't take this money from their campaign committees, which hold the funds they raised to keep their current jobs. Instead, they tapped their leadership PACs - their lightly regulated, seldom scrutinized political action committees, which are mostly funded by interest groups who lobby Congress for favorable legislation.
Boston Globe: Trump airline went from opulent liftoff to rough landing
When Donald Trump's new airline, the Trump Shuttle, launched on a summer day in 1989, tuxedoed waiters with white gloves passed out smoked salmon, honey chicken skewers, and chocolate truffles, the Boston Globe reports. It was early in the day, but champagne flowed at Logan Airport. After a string quartet rested its bows, Trump took the microphone and struck a discordant note: He railed against Pan Am, his rival in the shuttle business. He suggested Pan Am's flights were unsafe, that the company was strapped for cash and couldn't spend as much to maintain planes as Trump Shuttle. … Executives at Trump's newest venture were aghast. In a highly competitive business, one in which Trump had no experience, the new boss had tossed
decorum to the wind and made claims he had no evidence to support. "We said, 'Donald, don't ever do that again,' " recalled Henry Harteveldt, who was the company's marketing director. "It was wrong. We had no proof to back that up. And there's an unwritten rule in the airline business that you don't attack someone else's safety record. There but for the grace of God go
I." Echoes of Trump Shuttle reverberate in the Trump presidential campaign. He bashed his rivals with scant justification, grabbed media attention with flash and dazzle, and relied on gut instinct to pursue strategies that flouted industry norms. But while Trump broke into the shuttle business with typical bravado and brand mastery, he was brought low by a series of missteps and a softening economy. His lack of expertise in East Coast skies took a toll, and he was forced to give up the airline after less than three years.
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Big projects, big money, big problems
Like an extended episode of House of Cards, Rochester's $1.3 billion program to modernize city schools is laden with political machinations and conspiracy theories, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle says. Who knew? The program, which got underway in 2006, is meant to bring the city's aging school buildings into the 21st century in three phases of construction over 15 years. It is the most costly public works project in local history. The first phase of work, in which $325 million has been spent, is ending now. The second phase, which will see $435 million more in work, may start soon. A six-month investigation by the Democrat and Chronicle has found that good work was done in Phase I but it was also beset by cost overruns, truncated projects and mid-stream reallocations of tens of millions of dollars. Critics complain that poor planning led to money being wasted, though much of what went on is still shrouded in confusion. As Phase II was ramping up, politicians got more involved, and things turned, unsurprisingly, political. And today, the future of Phase II is in limbo.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Supervisor misused Taser
A longtime employee at the state-run Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility remains a supervisor after being disciplined for using a Taser on one mentally ill woman and forcing another face-first against a shower wall, according to newly released records reviewed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The employee, Valencia Guillonta, was suspended for 10 days after the first incident, which occurred in July 2014, Department of Corrections records show. After the second use of force, in September 2015, Guillonta was demoted from captain to sergeant. In that position, she continues to have authority over both guards and inmates. Guillonta is the second supervisor at the Secure Detention Facility whose inappropriate treatment of mentally ill prisoners has been confirmed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in recent months. Earlier this year, Sgt. Mark Peterson retired amid a disciplinary investigation after the news organization obtained an audio recording of him and two subordinates antagonizing a male inmate and threatening to withhold his medication. One of the guards under Peterson's supervision at the time resigned and the other was fired.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK MAY 24, 2016
Anniston (Alabama) Star: More places to pack heat
At the Selma Interpretive Center, a museum honoring the nonviolent resistance of the 1965 voting rights march, visitors can now openly carry firearms, The Anniston (Alabama) Star reports. Guns are also allowed at Selma’s City Hall when the council isn’t in session. And at the local animal shelter. And at the Selma-Dallas County Public Library and the building that houses the Selma City Ceramic Art Program. It’s been that way since December, when the city got a letter from Attorney General Luther Strange urging officials to comply with the state’s 2013 open-carry law. With few exceptions, the law allows people to visibly wear pistols on government property. Gun-rights activists in recent months have fanned across the state to file complaints to the attorney general and make the law stick. “We don’t know who filed the complaint,” Jimmy Nunn, Selma’s city attorney, said. “We just know we heard from the attorney general’s office.” In the past year, the attorney general’s office sent similar letters to nearly two dozen local governments and state agencies, turning public parks, libraries and senior centers into open-carry zones.
Washington Post: The Americans primed to fight their government
B.J. Soper took aim with his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and fired a dozen shots at a human silhouette target, the Washington Post reports from Oregon. Soper’s wife and their 16-year-old daughter practiced drawing pistols. Then Soper helped his 4-year-old daughter, in pink sneakers and a ponytail, work on her marksmanship with a .22-caliber rifle. Deep in the heart of a vast U.S. military training ground, surrounded by spent shotgun shells and juniper trees blasted to shreds, the Central Oregon Constitutional Guard was conducting its weekly firearms training. “The intent is to be able to work together and defend ourselves if we need to,” said Soper, 40, a building contractor who is an emerging leader in a growing national movement rooted in distrust of the federal government, one that increasingly finds itself in armed conflicts with authorities.Those in the movement call themselves patriots, demanding that the federal government adhere to the Constitution and stop what they see as systematic abuse of land rights, gun rights, freedom of speech and other liberties. Law enforcement officials call them dangerous, delusional and sometimes violent, and say that their numbers are growing amid a wave of anger at the government that has been gaining strength since 2008, a surge that coincided with the election of the first black U.S. president and a crippling economic recession.
Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2016/05/21/armed-with-guns-and-constitutions-the-patriot-movement-sees-america-under-threat/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_constitutionalguard908pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory
Indianapolis Star: Mentally ill teenager, tragic ending
Princola Shields’ screams stopped long before her body was found hanging lifelessly inside an Indiana Women’s Prison shower. She’d been crying out from her locked bathroom stall for hours, several inmates told the paper, begging nearby officers to tell her what she’d done wrong. Only three weeks remained on her prison sentence, but officers moved her into temporary confinement after, inmates said, an argument in the chow hall. Before entering her new cell, however, she was placed in a stall no bigger than a hallway closet. She was left there alone for three hours, inmates said. They said her cries — described as frantic and childlike, laced with threats of suicide — were ignored, The Indianapolis Star reported. By the third hour, the cries stopped. … Although authorities would not comment on what transpired in the hours before Shields took her life, six inmates who spoke to the Indianapolis Star described a scene that would be in clear violation not only of what experts say are the best practices in handling inmates with a history of mental illness and suicide threats, but also of the prison's policies. More broadly, experts note, Shields’ case is an example of a larger issue: the difficulty public safety officials face when dealing with suspects and inmates who suffer from severe mental health issues. More than 6,000 inmates in Indiana have been diagnosed with mental illness.
Read more: http://www.indystar.com/longform/news/investigations/2016/05/22/jailing-princola-shields-mental-health-depression-mental-illness-disorders-prison-inmate-bipolar-severe-anxiety-oppositional-defiant-disorder-incarceration-juvenile-justice/83842158/
Boston Globe: High cost of college killing the American dream
The Boston Globe notes that one of the most enduring selling points for the value of higher education is that the best route out of poverty is through the college quad. Spend four years in college, and all that book-learning, mind-opening, and network-expanding will help even the lowest-income student jump up several rungs on the economic ladder. Nowhere is that message preached as often or with as much evident authority as in Massachusetts, the nation’s historic capital of private, nonprofit higher education, where the concentration of colleges in some areas is surpassed only by the number of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises. But just how true is this truism about college lifting low-income students out of their circumstances, Horatio Alger style? In fact, like the actual story of author Horatio Alger, who was born into a well-established family and graduated from Harvard, there’s more myth than truth. That’s been especially so in recent years, as nonselective private colleges from around the region have increasingly filled their freshman classes with low-income students — often the first generation in their families to go to college — from Boston and other urban areas. … So whether they are actively recruiting these low-income students for reasons of open-the-door altruism or keep-the-lights-on capitalism — or, more likely, some combination of the two — there has been a huge, largely hidden byproduct of this dramatic increase in access: These students are often being loaded up with staggering debt that is completely out of whack with the earnings boost they’ll likely get from a degree at a nonselective or less selective college.
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Few punished for pedestrian deaths
Carol Wiggins crossed Territorial Road every day at the crosswalk on her way home from work in Watertown, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. But the driver of the car that hit her one evening said he didn’t see her until it was too late. Wiggins never recovered from the traumatic brain injury from the 2011 crash, dying weeks later in a Minneapolis hospital. The driver never faced any charges — not even a traffic citation. … The decision not to cite the driver who struck Wiggins isn’t unusual. The majority of drivers who killed pedestrians between 2010 and 2014 were not charged, according to Star Tribune analysis of metro area crash data. Those who were charged often faced misdemeanors — from speeding to careless driving — with minimal penalties, unless the driver knowingly fled or was intoxicated at the time of the crash.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Black students less likely to have access to AP classes
In high schools throughout the St. Louis area, stark racial differences persist in terms of which students are progressing to the most advanced classes — a divide that threatens the ability of African-American students to prepare for college, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Tens of thousands of black students aren’t enrolling in calculus or Advanced Placement classes — long considered the gold standard for college readiness. That’s true at most predominantly black high schools, which are less likely to provide rigorous course offerings. But it’s also true in the suburbs, where predominantly white high schools offer a much broader range of opportunities. Even there, African-American students are grossly underrepresented in elite classes. ... The Post-Dispatch gathered information on AP enrollment at all district high schools in St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County, as well as Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois. Other area counties with smaller African-American enrollment were not included in the analysis.
New York Times: New frontline in culture war is the bathroom
The people of Palatine, Illinois, a middle-class suburb of Chicago marked by generic strip malls and tidy cul-de-sacs, had not spent much time debating the thorny questions of transgender rights. But in late 2013, a transgender high school athlete, so intent on defending her privacy that she is known only as Student A, took on her school district so she could use the girls’ locker room. After the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights ruled in her favor last fall, the two sides cut a deal: Student A could use the locker room and the school would install private changing areas. Some in the community denounced the arrangement; others joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which represented the girl, in declaring a victory for civil rights. Now the whole nation is in a pitched battle over bathroom access, with the Obama administration ordering all public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice. Across the country, religious conservatives are rebelling. … How a clash over bathrooms, an issue that appeared atop no national polls, became the next frontier in America’s fast-moving culture wars — and ultimately landed on the desk of the president — involves an array of players, some with law degrees, others still in high school, The New York Times reports.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/us/transgender-bathroom-obama-schools.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0
New York Times: America’s overlooked gun violence
After the slaughter of nine worshipers at a South Carolina church last June, but before the massacre of eight students and a teacher at an Oregon community college in October, there was a shooting that the police in Cincinnati here have labeled Incident 159022597.01, The New York Times reports. It happened on a clear Friday night at an Elks Lodge, on a modest block of clapboard houses northeast of this city’s hilly downtown. Unlike the butchery that bookended it, it mer