- Get Involved
- About Us
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Aug. 17, 2017
Wisconsin State Journal: No sanctuary, fewer farmhands
Along a desolate country road in northeastern Wisconsin, Manuel Estrada speeds toward work in his rumbling silver Ford SUV. He's running late for his predawn shift. And he's worried. His boss is counting on him; she's been down a worker for a month. More than 400 Holstein cows stand blinking, waiting to be milked. His family needs the paycheck from his $11.50-per-hour job. And Estrada, 30, hopes the police aren't waiting for him too. It's a risk he runs regularly during his 15-minute commute from his home in Manitowoc to the 150-year-old family dairy farm where he's worked for two years. Estrada, who has been in the country illegally for 13 years, is an unlicensed driver. This route passes through one of the top dairy-producing counties in the nation. If he's picked up by police, he could have an even bigger worry than a traffic ticket due to ramped up immigration enforcement under President Donald Trump. … As one of the Wisconsin's largest industries, dairy production is heavily dependent on immigrant workers. Farmers say few if any U.S. citizens apply for these jobs.
Los Angeles Times: Web haven for far right
Over and over again, those on America’s far right have learned that the 1st Amendment doesn’t protect them from Silicon Valley tech companies. For weeks, neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other far-right figures have been organizing for a “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is expected to be one of the largest rallies of its kind in at least a decade. But days before the rally, the short-term lodging service Airbnb started suspending the accounts of rally attendees who had rented houses in the area. Why? The San Francisco-headquartered company requires customers to “accept people regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity,” among other things — a deal breaker for white nationalists, who have been banned by other popular companies for similar reasons. It was a blow for the organizers, who had “taken over all of the large AirBnBs in a particular area,” according to a user on the message board for the Daily Stormer, a popular neo-Nazi website, who had “set up ‘Nazi Uber’ and the ‘Hate Van’ to help in moving our people around as needed.”
This wasn’t the first time the far-right had to find someone willing to provide services for its members. Increasingly, the group’s solution is to provide its own. Over the last two years, a crop of start-ups has begun offering social media platforms and financial services catering to right-wing Internet users.
Sacramento Bee: California Treasurer steered tax breaks to developer donors
California Treasurer John Chiang has helped award tens of millions in tax credits and bonds over the last decade to a handful of affordable housing developers who contributed to his political campaigns. A review of their projects by The Sacramento Bee found that Chiang has accepted more than $100,000 from firms that gained tax perks or bond financing from his actions, sometimes within weeks of the votes. As he prepares to run for governor next year, Chiang has used the companies and projects he supported to help promote himself – at taxpayer expense. He plans to carry a 2018 statewide ballot initiative to address the shortage of affordable housing in California.
Miami Herald: Road to refuge runs straight to Canada — and arrest
The Canadian police officer at the border near Champlain, New York, was adamant: If you cross here, you will immediately be arrested. The Haitian woman dragged her bulging suitcase across the dirt-covered mound to the Canadian side anyway. She was determined. And so were the mother and her four teenage children who came after, and the Latino family of three after them, and the 39-year-old Haitian father of four who soon followed, his friends keeping a watchful eye in a waiting car as he jumped out of a taxi cab. While U.S. President Donald Trump is clamping down on illegal immigration, thousands of migrants from Haiti, Central America and Africa are rushing to this border crossing in upstate New York, willing to face arrest in their pursuit of a better life. The popular stop near the border station at Lacolle, Quebec, is quickly becoming a path to a new life for immigrants — and something of a tourist attraction. The migrant surge has overwhelmed Canadian officials who, after opening Olympic Stadium in Montreal to asylum seekers, this week reopened a shuttered hospital to accommodate the growing numbers and deployed the military to construct a tent city near the official border crossing at St. Bernard-de-Lacolle.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Other states use Georgia for dumping
Anne Jones became so afraid to drink the water that came out of her well she installed a water purification system. A blue plastic jug, filled to the brim with purified water, sits on her kitchen counter. “I’m just very careful about my water,” said Jones. Jones’ home in Banks County, about 75 miles northeast of Atlanta, sits on the edge of the county landfill. Since 2015, trucks from North and South Carolina have filled it with at least 6.7 million tons of coal ash, a by-product of coal-fired electricity that contains heavy metals known to be toxic to plants, animals and people. And more of it is on the way. Georgia’s relatively cheap land has made the state a dumping ground for solid waste from neighboring states. Apart from Florida, which doesn’t keep comparable data, Georgia now imports more solid waste than any of its neighbors, and most of it is coal ash, according to state records reviewed by students at the University of Georgia and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Baltimore Sun: Liens slow city renewal
For 30 years, the city has tried to collect the growing debt of John Stevens. Stevens is listed as the owner of 2032 Penrose Ave., a boarded-up old corner store with a bay window on the second floor and a pile of junk in the backyard. Officials say the money he owes for taxes, water bills, fines, fees and interest on the property has grown to $1.76 million. Stevens has been dead since 1989. The crumbling, century-old building he owned in West Baltimore is one of at least 15 properties on the city’s tax sale list that have accrued more than $1 million in debt over the past decade. These million-dollar vacants are the most extreme examples of a far more widespread problem: Thousands of properties in Baltimore are encumbered with liens for more than they’re worth. In many cases, far more. And that makes them zombies, empty, abandoned and unattractive to developers, contributing to the blight that plagues the city.
New York Times: Loving and leaving America
It was quitting time in Hampton, Iowa. Edith Rivera took one last lunch order, dropped off a basket of tortilla chips and set off from work, heading out to the farm roads where other immigrants feared to drive. Like them, Ms. Rivera, 33, had no legal status in the country where she had lived for 18 years. She had no driver’s license, apart from the long-expired North Carolina identification she held safe, like a talisman, in her wallet. But as she skimmed past the northern Iowa cornfields on her way to her son Steven’s seventh-grade track meet, she did not share other immigrants’ fears. Not of being pulled over. Not of raids or deportation. Not of the man in the White House. Not of the new Franklin County sheriff’s quest to make sure this rapidly diversifying community of hog barns and egg farms would never again be known as an immigrant sanctuary. Her American journey was waning, and she had little left to lose. Her husband, Jesús Canseco-Rodriguez, was already gone — deported to Mexico in 2015. Ms. Rivera had jettisoned their apartment and sold off what the family had built here in Hampton: their small business power-washing hog barns, Mr. Canseco’s work truck, their furniture.
Now, at this tense juncture for immigrants and their adoptive hometowns across the conservative swaths of rural America, Ms. Rivera planned to sever one last tie. She was returning to Mexico — and to her husband — with Steven, 13 years old and American-born.
Some politicians call it “self-deportation.”
Salt Lake Tribune: Nurse kept working despite sexual abuse complaints
When she was hospitalized on New Year’s Eve 2015, A.L. felt uncomfortable about the way her nurse treated her. He said he was fixing a heart monitor, but his hands lingered on her chest, in places no health care provider had touched her before when doing similar checks. He gave her Champagne, she said, and dosed her with pain medication through an IV without asking if she needed any. When that nurse — whom police identified as 53-year-old Adam Tae Kyun Lim — left the room, A.L. cried, praying he wouldn’t come back. She was too frightened to report the inappropriate touching right away, the 43-year-old woman said in a recent interview, but she eventually told the hospital when an employee conducting surveys for Intermountain Medical Center called and asked about her stay at the Murray facility. It wasn’t until later she would learn she wasn’t the first patient to report that Lim had groped her. She was the 11th. … By the time criminal charges were filed against Lim last August, 12 women had come forward during the past decade, all of them complaining that they had been violated. Public records show Lim had been employed by several Salt Lake County hospitals and facilities since finishing nursing school at Brigham Young University-Idaho in 2005.
Tennessean: Seniors addicted to painkillers often overlooked
Pain pills are sending more senior citizens to the hospital in Tennessee, according to data that sheds new light on how opioid addiction has spread to the state's aging population. The rate of hospitalizations for Tennesseans 65 years and older due to painkillers has more than tripled in a decade. Older adults are being hospitalized for reasons that range from falls and auto accidents after taking pain pills to unintentional overdoses, interactions with other medications and weakened kidney or liver functions in aging bodies that fail to metabolize the drug in the same way as younger people. Experts say physicians and family members are more likely to overlook addiction in senior citizens — even after opioids require a trip to the hospital. "It's not that easy to believe your grandmother has a drug abuse problem," said Dr. Peter Martin, a psychiatrist and director of the Vanderbilt Addiction Center.
Providence Journal: Danger in Rhode Island group homes
Prostitution. Assaults arranged by a staff member. A clandestine overnight visit by a teenage girlfriend as the police searched for her. A paralyzing injury. Investigators say they’ve found all this and more connected to group homes — places where Rhode Island is supposed to provide refuge to young people it has removed from unfit living conditions. At least four times in the last five months, workers at state-regulated group homes took actions that left young people in their care hospitalized, endangered or exploited, a Providence Journal investigation has found. In two cases, group-home employees attempted to cover up slack supervision and management with forged log books or falsified statements, investigators reported. In one Pawtucket home, an employee used the agency van to help run a teenage sex-trafficking operation, prosecutors allege.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Aug. 10, 2017
AP: Workplace accident death rate higher for older workers
Older people are dying on the job at a higher rate than workers overall, even as the rate of workplace fatalities decreases, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal statistics. It's a trend that's particularly alarming as baby boomers reject the traditional retirement age of 65 and keep working. The U.S. government estimates that by 2024, older workers will account for 25 percent of the labor market. Getting old — and the physical changes associated with it — "could potentially make a workplace injury into a much more serious injury or a potentially fatal injury," said Ken Scott, an epidemiologist with the Denver Public Health Department. Gerontologists say those changes include gradually worsening vision and hearing impairment, reduced response time, balance issues and chronic medical or muscle or bone problems such as arthritis. In 2015, about 35 percent of the fatal workplace accidents involved a worker 55 and older — or 1,681 of the 4,836 fatalities reported nationally.
Los Angeles Times: Trustees silent on dean drug scandal
How USC handles one of the biggest scandals in its history will be decided behind closed doors by a small group of wealthy and powerful people. Composed of 57 voting members, USC’s board of trustees includes noted philanthropists, accomplished alumni, Hollywood insiders and industrial tycoons. The group’s influence extends from the floor of Staples Center to metropolises in India and China. A small executive committee makes many of the significant decisions facing the university. A USC spokesman refused to identify who is on this committee. Nor would the university disclose what happens at its meetings or release minutes. It is this elite group that is overseeing the investigation into how the university handled the case of former medical school dean Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito. The Times reported last month that Puliafito, while leading USC’s Keck School of Medicine, partied with a circle of addicts, prostitutes and other criminals who said he used drugs with them, including on campus. … Since the scandal broke, the trustees have been largely silent. Times reporters attempted to contact all 57 voting members by phone, email or both. Reporters also sent requests to USC’s press office seeking comment from trustees. Only two commented to The Times. The rest did not reply, or declined to comment. Nikias did not respond to requests for interviews but has released letters to the USC community.
Denver Post: Drilling, housing collide in northeast Colorado
The clash between growing communities and oil and gas production in northeastern Colorado, heightened by a deadly home explosion last spring, will only intensify in coming years, a Denver Post analysis of drilling permits suggests. The Post analyzed pending and approved drilling permits in and around the sprawling Wattenberg Field in Weld, Larimer, Boulder, Adams and Broomfield counties, and found that permits are being taken out in and near towns and other populated areas twice as often as in more remote rural areas. Eight of the 10 fastest-growing towns and cities in the state and the two fastest-growing counties, Broomfield and Weld, are in the direct path of drilling. Larimer, Adams and Arapahoe — among the state’s fastest-growing counties — have permits pending and drilling rigs at work.
Portland Press Herald: State routinely sells date it denied federal government
Maine has joined dozens of states in refusing to share personal voter information with President Trump’s voter fraud commission. But the state regularly sells the very same data to political parties, candidates and ballot question or issue-based political action committees. In fact, over the last two years, Maine collected more than $30,000 selling voter information – including name, year of birth, address, party affiliation and whether or not a voter participated in the last two elections. The state also provides data in its Central Voter Registry database at no cost to the federal court system, other government entities such as school district administrators, and academic researchers. And while voters can get their own information, the data is not otherwise available to the public. Under the state’s open records laws, only government and a narrow group of other entities that must pay a fee are given access to the CVR data. The going price for a statewide list of Maine’s registered voters is $2,200 – if you are among the eligible few allowed to purchase it.
New York Times: GOP stars move toward 2020 bids
Senators Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse have already been to Iowa this year, Gov. John Kasich is eyeing a return visit to New Hampshire, and Mike Pence’s schedule is so full of political events that Republicans joke that he is acting more like a second-term vice president hoping to clear the field than a No. 2 sworn in a little over six months ago. President Trump’s first term is ostensibly just warming up, but luminaries in his own party have begun what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020 — as if the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue weren’t involved. The would-be candidates are cultivating some of the party’s most prominent donors, courting conservative interest groups and carefully enhancing their profiles. Mr. Trump has given no indication that he will decline to seek a second term. But the sheer disarray surrounding this presidency — the intensifying investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the plain uncertainty about what Mr. Trump will do in the next week, let alone in the next election — have prompted Republican officeholders to take political steps unheard-of so soon into a new administration.
Concord Monitor: Positive drug tests prompt stricter New Hampshire prison rules
At a cost of $4.45, state officials can test for 12 drugs – including fentanyl – in one urine sample provided by an inmate. And in less than five minutes, they can have the preliminary results of those 12 tests without having to send the samples to the state’s forensics lab in Concord. From there, they can discard all urine cups with negative readings and forward only the positive samples to lab technicians for a final confirmation, which comes at a cost of $75 to $100.
Enhancements in technology have made it possible for the New Hampshire Department of Corrections to perform thousands of additional drug tests annually on its prisoners – something that officials argue is necessary given the current opioid crisis in New Hampshire. … But a closer review of the data reveals that the spike is due to an increase in testing, not necessarily a rise in drug use. In fact, the percentage of inmates testing positive has hardly changed over five years.
News & Observer: 51 inmates died over five years amid poor jail supervision
It couldn’t have been any clearer to Wilkes County jail staff that Emily Jean Call intended to kill herself, reports the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. She had been arrested on April 16, 2012, for missing a court date. Call had told detention officers then that she was high on crystal methamphetamine and wanted to kill herself. She had cut her wrist two weeks earlier, requiring a trip to the emergency room, state records show. After two days in jail, she told medical staff she was sick, fatigued and depressed, feeling like she was going to have a nervous breakdown. The county’s mental health provider was no longer offering services at the jail, which meant no one was available to treat her mounting depression, the records show.
She should have been watched closely – at least four times an hour, according to state regulations. But Call, 32, a mother of two struggling with drug addiction, went unwatched for more than an hour. She slipped away to a bathroom in a common area, slung a bed sheet over a water pipe, tied it around her neck, stood on a toilet and stepped off. … Emily Call was one of 51 inmates who died in North Carolina’s county jails in the past five years after being left unsupervised for longer than state regulations allow, a News & Observer investigation shows.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Aug. 3, 2017
AP: A patchwork of justice for juvenile lifers
Courtroom 801 in Detroit is nearly empty when guards bring in Bobby Hines in handcuffs. More than 27 years ago, Hines stood before a judge to answer for his role in killing a man over a friend's drug debt. He was 15 then, just out of eighth grade. Another teen fired the shot that killed 21-year-old James Warren. But Hines had said something like, "Let him have it," sealing his punishment: life in prison with no chance for parole. The judgment came during an era when many states, fearing teen "superpredators," enacted laws to punish juvenile criminals like adults, making the U.S. an international outlier. But five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court banned mandatory life without parole for juveniles in murder cases. Last year it made clear that applies equally to more than 2,000 who already were serving the sentence. Prison gates, though, don't just swing open. The Associated Press surveyed all 50 states and found that uncertainty and opposition stirred by the court's rulings have resulted in an uneven patchwork, with the odds of release or continued imprisonment varying widely.
Rockford Register Star: Firefighters get calls for residents’ pick-me-up
“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
That famous 1990s television commercial catchphrase, or something similar, is what residents told the Rockford Fire Department 845 times last year. When older or disabled residents fall and need help getting back into a chair or bed, but are otherwise uninjured, Rockford dispatches the closest available fire engine. City firefighters are ready 24 hours a day to assist anyone in need. No one who needs help getting back on their feet should hesitate to call 911 in an emergency. But many of these calls are being made from retirement homes, assisted living and independent senior living facilities whose own staffs ought to be trained to handle these situations, Rockford Fire Chief Derek Bergsten said. … The number of lift assist calls has more than doubled in recent years, from 354 in 2011 to 845 last year, an average of more than two a day. Two-thirds of those calls came from retirement homes, assisted living facilities or independent senior living communities. The rest were from private residences.
South Bend Tribune: Kids are victims of opioid crisis
Books, stuffed animals, baby dolls and other toys surround a small room inside the Indiana Department of Child Services office in downtown South Bend. The walls are painted a soft blue and brown, and the room is designed in a way — with touches such as blankets and children’s art — that’s meant to be calming. It’s the first stop for many children after being removed from their homes by DCS. It’s where six children were taken one recent morning after authorities raided a Mishawaka house on suspicion of selling heroin. Seven adults were arrested from the home, and four have been charged with dealing a narcotic. Ollie Bell, 40, was also charged with neglect of a dependent for the dangerous conditions the children were found in. The case was a dramatic reminder of the often-overlooked victims of the opioid epidemic — children. And it is a group of victims that is growing. … For Indiana in fiscal year 2013, 32 percent of cases where a child was removed from a home listed substance abuse as the reason. By fiscal year 2016, that figure had jumped to 53 percent.
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Zebra mussels invade inland lakes
Summer after summer, Pat Rooney looked out at the revered North Woods lake called Winnibigoshish, hoping the tea-colored waters that lured so many anglers also provided a magical barrier against a creature that might destroy it. Zebra mussels already were fouling some of the biggest and best known waters in Minnesota, and were spreading throughout neighboring Cass Lake, a popular swimming, boating and fishing lake near Bemidji. While the larvae had appeared in “Lake Winnie,” scuba divers repeatedly failed to find evidence of adult shells – the surest sign of infestation. Then last August, a fisherman snagged a piece of driftwood encrusted with tiny, tiger-striped clams, and the biological clock began ticking on another Minnesota lake that is home to thousands of residents and visitors alike every year.
“Zebras were our nightmare,’’ said Rooney, owner of Denny’s Resort, a gathering place for walleye anglers since 1932. “Now they are here, and the problem is that you can’t stop it.’’
Zebra mussels are not the only invasive species appearing in Minnesota’s waters, but their rapid spread poses an increasingly dire threat to the state’s $5 billion-a-year summer tourism and fishing economy, as well as the cherished lake experience central to Minnesota’s identity.
Kansas City Star: Party bus buzzkill -- many illegal, dangerous
If you’ve spent any time enjoying Kansas City’s nightlife, you’ve probably seen them: the colorful, customized buses carrying revelers to restaurants, bars and sporting events. A popular choice for bachelor and bachelorette parties, weddings, birthdays and other celebrations, party buses let riders enjoy a good time without the risks of drinking and driving. But more than half — and perhaps as many as two-thirds — of the party bus companies operating in this area defy state and federal regulations designed to protect riders and the public, The Star found in a months-long investigation. For unsuspecting customers, the consequences can be dangerous — even deadly. In fatal incidents from California to Kansas to New Jersey, investigators have discovered poorly maintained vehicles, unqualified drivers and other problems with companies or buses involved.
Bergen Record: Immigrant prisoners ignored in county jail
Carlos Mejia-Bonilla’s desperation soared with every phone call to his family from jail. He was seriously ill and told his family that authorities inside the Hudson County Correctional Facility were not providing the medicine he needed. His pleas for help were being ignored, he said.
Two months after his arrest for being in the U.S. illegally, the 44-year-old immigrant from El Salvador was rushed to the hospital. His longtime girlfriend and his brother were kept in the hallway, barred from his room because he was in federal custody. .. They never were allowed in to see the ailing man. Mejia-Bonilla died the following day, on June 10. Federal authorities listed the cause as “internal bleeding and hemorrhagic shock,” meaning his organs failed because he had lost so much blood. … Since then, two members of the jail's medical staff have been dismissed for "errors" in the case and Hudson County has launched an investigation into the medical care at the facility. … The claims that Mejia-Bonilla did not receive proper treatment are just the latest in a long and growing list of allegations of medical neglect in the jail's division for people detained on immigration violations, an investigation by The Record and NorthJersey.com reveals.
Columbus Dispatch: Taxpayer-funded gold
After making and losing his first fortune in the office supply business, William Lager hatched a plan for Ohio’s first online charter school on the back of napkins over countless cups of coffee at a West Side Waffle House. … Eventually ECOT was born. The name was a variation on ACOT, the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow, a pilot project that, starting in the mid-1980s, studied the integration of computers in classrooms. At first, Lager failed to get the Ohio Department of Education to sponsor the school. But in 2000, he persuaded the Lucas County Educational Service Center to grant the charter required to launch the tax-funded, privately operated school. … Once Lager inked that deal, his financial woes didn’t last long. ECOT — and his affiliated for-profit companies that provide instructional materials, services and marketing — have brought Lager a fortune. From 2001 to 2016, ECOT took in more than $1 billion from Ohio taxpayers, and of that total paid more than $170 million to Lager’s companies to run the day-to-day operations of the school and provide it with educational software. During that time, Lager amassed millions in real estate holdings and made $2.1 million in political contributions to influential state officials.
Seattle Times: How police brought down tech-savvy prostitution network
Men cruised the hallway of an upscale Bellevue apartment building, checking their cellphones and scanning the unit numbers before pausing at a door that swung open even before they knocked. A neighbor grew suspicious and alerted police, saying she believed the woman living down the hall was involved in sex work. The men “are all ages and body sizes,” the tipster wrote in an April 2015 email to Bellevue police. They visit “at all hours of the day.” The email set in motion an eight-month investigation that revealed South Korean prostitutes were working out of a dozen luxury Bellevue apartments. The young women, who often spoke limited English, were hired by an “agency” and worked in the apartment for several weeks before they moved on to other cities. Many of their customers were members of a secretive network of men who not only paid for sex — in some cases scores of times — but would also write detailed online reviews of their encounters and encourage others to do the same. Using pseudonyms like “TomCat007,” “Captain America” and “Tahoe Ted,” the men posted thousands of sexually explicit reviews on a carefully curated, Seattle-based website called The Review Board. In great detail, they rated a woman’s performance, energy level and physical attributes, and offered recommendations as if they were reviewing restaurants. The website also accepted free advertisements from prostitutes.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • July 27, 2017
Los Angeles Times: USC ignored queries about troubled medical school dean
Four days after The Los Angeles Times published a story about drug use by the then-dean of USC’s medical school, the university announced it was moving to fire Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito and said it was “outraged and disgusted” by his conduct. USC Provost Michael Quick said the university decided to act because it had been shown “extremely troubling” information that same day about Puliafito’s behavior. Quick provided no details. But he said it was “the first time we saw such information firsthand.” “I know many people wanted us to act on allegations and hearsay, but we needed actual facts,” Quick wrote in a letter to the faculty. It remains unclear when top USC officials first learned about the allegations involving Puliafito. But The Times made repeated inquiries over the last 15 months about Puliafito, in some cases describing information reporters had gathered about the dean. USC’s leaders never responded to the inquiries.
Washington Post: In rural Virginia, disabled and disdained
Five days earlier here in Grundy, Virginia, his mother had spent the last of her disability check on bologna, cheese, bread and Pepsi. Two days earlier, he had gone outside and looked at the train tracks that wind between the coal mines and said, “I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this.” One day earlier, the family dog had collapsed from an unnamed illness, and, without money for a veterinarian, he had watched her die on the porch. And now it was Monday morning, and Tyler McGlothlin, 19, had a plan. “About time to go,” said his mother, Sheila McGlothlin, 57, stamping out a cigarette. “I’m ready,” Tyler said, walking across a small, decaying house wedged against a mountain and strewn with dirty dishes, soda cans and ashtrays. They went outside, stepping past bottles of vodka his father had discarded before disappearing into another jail cell, and climbed a dirt path toward a housemate’s car. He knew his plan was not a good one. But what choice did he have? … Tyler would hold a sign on the side of the road and beg for money. … To Tyler, the collapse of the coal industry had left two kinds of people in these mountains. There are those who work. And there are those who don’t: the unemployed, the disabled, the addicted, and the people who, like his family, belonged to all three groups.
Chicago Tribune: High cost of being a gunshot victim
The charges started racking up the moment Annette Johnson arrived at Mount Sinai Hospital with a gunshot wound to her left forearm. Doctors sliced open Johnson's arm and installed a $500 metal plate to shore up her shattered ulna, securing it with numerous bone screws that cost $246 apiece. There were morphine drips to quell pain, tetanus shots to prevent infection, blood screens and anesthesia. Two years earlier in a different part of the city, Leo Leyva arrived at a North Side hospital with a gunshot wound to his back. His last memory before going under anesthesia was a nurse telling him they were going to take good care of him and to count up to 10. As the 18-year-old drifted off, the emergency room team at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center went to work to save his life, starting IV lines and X-raying his chest and abdomen before performing an emergency surgery to remove the bullet and repair the damage. … The bills for their initial treatment were staggering. In his first 35 minutes at the hospital, Leyva had racked up $21,521 in charges, and by the time he was released three weeks later the bill totaled more than $157,000. For Johnson, who spent barely 24 hours at Mount Sinai, the hospital charges approached $27,000. An unprecedented analysis of state data by the Tribune reveals that the initial medical costs for treating Chicago gunshot victims like Johnson and Leyva add up to tens of millions of dollars each year. And those costs are rising. The data — obtained by the Tribune after months of negotiation with public officials — show that Chicago-area hospitals billed more than $447 million to treat some 12,000 documented victims of gun violence in the city between 2009 and mid-2016.
Lexington Herald-Leader: A child accidentally shoots a child every seven weeks
Christopher and Angelica San Martin were watching a basketball game in their Radcliff duplex one Sunday afternoon in 2012. During a commercial, Angelica went upstairs to use the bathroom. The San Martins’ 3-year-old son and 15-month-old daughter followed her to play in the master bedroom. A few minutes later, Angelica heard a loud crack from down the hall. Her son began screaming. “I’m sorry, Mom! I’m sorry, Mom!” Christopher, a soldier at nearby Fort Knox, later told police that he never locked up his gun at home. Sometimes he kept it on an upper shelf in his bedroom closet. That day, he left it in its customary unlocked case on a pile of clothes on his closet floor. It was a Smith & Wesson M&P .40 caliber pistol, a semi-automatic, advertised as what you need “when your life is on the line.” It was loaded with nine bullets. …
In the end, though, no charges were filed. They seldom are after a shooting like Bella’s, which happened over the last five years, on average, at least once every seven weeks somewhere in Kentucky.
Detroit Free Press: Drugged drivers causing more deaths on the road
The driver of a red pickup appeared to be drunk, according to witnesses who called 911, as he sped erratically through Kalamazoo County in June 2016. Before police could catch up to him, the driver plowed into a group of bicyclists on a rural road, killing five of them in a crash that would make international headlines. Investigators later learned the driver, Thomas Pickett Jr., wasn't drunk. Blood tests show he was high on drugs, including methamphetamine, pain killers and muscle relaxers. Prosecutors charged Pickett with 14 felonies, including second-degree murder and driving under the influence. … Drug users now cause almost as many traffic deaths in Michigan as drunken drivers, a trend police blame on prescription drugs, the opioid epidemic and the easy availability of marijuana, medical and otherwise.
Seattle Times: Needy students lured by sports, then neglected
Sixteen years ago, the federal government passed a law aimed at creating a bit of stability in the lives of homeless students. Kids whose families lacked a consistent address, migrating between shelters and friends’ couches, could sidestep standard residency requirements and remain at one school despite their transient lives. But for a growing number of Seattle athletes, the intent behind the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act has been turned upside down. For these ballplayers, homeless-student status allows them to move from school to school, following celebrity coaches and dreams of sports stardom while excused from rules that bind other athletes — such as maintaining a solid grade-point average. Framed as an important opportunity for kids in need, the law also has been used to exploit their hopes. Because when sports end, many of these students find themselves adrift.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • July 20, 2017
Orange County Register: Baby can wait
The pace of motherhood in California is slowing and its members are aging, a shift demographers expect to continue and contribute to far-reaching and uncertain changes in the decades to come. Last year, the state reached a historic milestone: the lowest birth rate on record – 12.4 births per thousand people. That rate was 12.3 for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties and a Southern California News Group analysis of state projections shows the region’s rate could fall another 24 percent by 2040. California outpaced the nation by another key measure: declining fertility rates in what is considered childbearing age for women by the National Center for Health Statistics, 15 to 44. According to provisional state data, California last year saw 60.5 births per thousand women, compared to an all-time low 62 births per thousand nationwide.
Denver Post: Oil in Colorado’s political machine
The oil and gas industry in the past four years has poured more than $80 million into Colorado to shape public opinion and influence campaigns and ballot initiatives, creating a political force that has had broad implications throughout the state. Environmentalists and industry officials alike call the effort one of the best-financed operations advocating for drilling in any state. Just two months ago, that political muscle came into play when the industry successfully lobbied Republican legislators to kill legislation tightening regulation in the wake of a fatal home explosion in Firestone that investigators have blamed on a severed gas pipeline. Energy interests also have helped elect local city council candidates more favorable to allowing drilling near housing and blunted efforts across the Front Range to restrict drilling rights. Last year, industry forces played a role in keeping the state Senate in Republican hands. … The new approach has been broad, sustained and effective in its reach, according to interviews and a review of industry documents, campaign-finance records and public remarks by an industry consultant who helped develop the strategy.
News Journal: Public in the dark on discretionary funding
Wilmington (Delaware) City Council members quietly dole out hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through a fund that essentially allows them to give money to any nonprofit they want with little transparency or oversight. The nearly $450,000 annual pot of discretionary funds is divvied up among council members, who get $10,000 each they mostly use for scholarships, and the president, who controls the remaining $327,000. That money is all spent on what one expert calls "political lubrication" – handouts to nonprofits, charities, civic associations and other groups of the council member's choosing. Unlike elsewhere in Delaware, the City Council does not limit how much money an organization can receive, does not vote on which organizations get grants and is not obligated to share grant information with council members or the public. In this atmosphere, then-Council President Theo Gregory granted nearly $600,000 over four years to Education Voices Inc. – a nonprofit he founded the month he took office.
Washington Post: Ivanka fashion line’s activities collide with White House principles
On Inauguration Day, President Trump stood in front of the U.S. Capitol and vowed that his “America First” agenda would bring jobs back to the United States. “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs,” he declared, adding: “We will follow two simple rules — buy American and hire American.” Looking on from the front of the stage was Trump’s daughter Ivanka, the celebrity and fashion entrepreneur who would soon join him in the White House. The first daughter’s cause would be improving the lives of working women, a theme she had developed at her clothing line. She also brought a direct link to the global economy the president was railing against — a connection that was playing out at that very moment on the Pacific coast.
As the Trumps stood on stage, a hulking container ship called the OOCL Ho Chi Minh City was pulling into the harbor of Long Beach, Calif., carrying around 500 pounds of foreign-made Ivanka Trump spandex-knit blouses. Another 10 ships hauling Ivanka Trump-branded shoes, cardigans and leather handbags bound for the United States were floating in the north Pacific and Atlantic oceans and off the coasts of Malta, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea and Yemen.
Those global journeys — along with millions of pounds of Ivanka Trump products imported into the United States in more than 2,000 shipments since 2010 — illustrate how her business practices collide with some of the key principles she and her father have championed in the White House.
Miami Herald: Some felons wait decades to regain right to vote
Adam McCracken has a Ph.D., practices psychology in Orlando and is married with two sons.
But for 25 years, the state of Florida said he couldn’t be a full-fledged citizen because of a long-ago drug conviction. McCracken served 10 months in a federal prison and five years on probation for possession with intent to distribute LSD. It was a serious mistake. It happened in 1991. He was 21. The case is so old that a Google search turns up nothing. The state of Florida allows McCracken to practice psychology. But he can’t vote. A law-abiding citizen for 26 years, he wants to bury his past. But the state won’t let him. Florida is one of three states that permanently revokes the civil rights of anyone convicted of a felony, a system that has disenfranchised an estimated 1.5 million people. Even after felons complete their sentences, pay their fines and serve probation, they must wait at least five years to ask the state to restore their rights, and that can take a decade or more. Most people don’t bother. Many who try will die before their cases are heard. McCracken, 47, is one of the lucky ones. He regained his rights at a hearing in June.
Baltimore Sun: More guns seized at US airports
The number of guns seized at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport is climbing sharply, authorities say, mirroring a years-long increase at airports throughout the region and across the country.
Seizures at BWI rose 50 percent in 2016, and are on pace to climb another 33 percent this year. Nationwide, they increased last year by nearly 28 percent. Officials with the federal Transportation Security Administration, which staffs the security screening areas at BWI and other airports, say they don't know why seizures are rising. … The numbers remain small: TSA agents confiscated 24 guns at BWI in 2016. But they have increased four straight years, outpacing the growth in air passengers through the region's busiest airport; they're matched by similar increases at Washington Dulles International Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and airports nationwide; and they're up again this year. Nationwide, TSA agents confiscated 3,391 firearms — an average of more than nine per day — in 2016, more than double the number seized in 2012.
Boston Globe: VA hospital rated four star, but problems mount
This is what the US Department of Veterans Affairs says a four-star hospital looks like:
One operating room has been abandoned since last October because exterminators couldn’t get rid of the flies. Doctors had to cancel surgeries in another OR last month after they discovered what appeared to be rust or blood on two sets of surgical instruments that were supposedly sterile. Thousands of patients, including some with life-threatening conditions, struggle to get any care at all because the program for setting up appointments with outside specialists has broken down. One man still hadn’t gotten an appointment to see an oncologist this spring, more than four weeks after a diagnosis of lung cancer, according to a hospital document obtained by the Globe. And when patients from the Manchester (New Hampshire) Veterans Affairs Medical Center are referred to outside specialists, those physicians are sometimes dismayed by their condition and medical history. A Boston neurosurgeon lamented that several Manchester patients sent to him had suffered needless spinal damage, including paralysis, because the hospital had not provided proper care for a treatable spine condition called cervical myelopathy. … Late last year, the veterans affairs department raised Manchester’s quality rating from three stars to four, putting it in the top third of the entire VA system.
New York Times: In clash over health bill, fear of ‘junk insurance’
Julie Arkison remembers what it was like to buy health insurance before the Affordable Care Act created standards for coverage. The policy she had was from the same insurer that covers her now, but it did not pay for doctor visits, except for a yearly checkup and gynecological exam.
“I couldn’t even go to my regular doctor when was I sick,” said Ms. Arkison, 53, a self-employed horseback-riding teacher in Saline, Mich. The plan did not cover her exams before and after hip surgery, her physical therapy after her operation, the crutches she needed while she recovered, or any of her medications. She estimates that she spent $20,000 on medical care in the seven years before she could buy a plan through the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.
As Senate Republican leaders struggle to secure enough votes to repeal and replace the health law, the centerpiece of their effort to win conservative support is a provision that would allow insurers to sell such bare-bones plans again. The new version of the bill incorporates an idea from Senator Ted Cruz of Texas that would permit insurers to market all types of plans as long as they offer ones that comply with Affordable Care Act standards. The measure would also allow companies to take into account people’s health status in determining whether to insure them and at what price. State insurance regulators say the proposal harks back to the days when insurance companies, even household names like Aetna and Blue Cross, sold policies so skimpy they could hardly be called coverage at all. Derided as “junk insurance,” the plans had very low premiums but often came with five-figure deductibles. Many failed to pay for medical care that is now deemed essential.
Sacramento Bee: Startling surge in homeless people
Shawn Porter woke up in William Land Park on a recent day and smoked a Marlboro Red for breakfast not far from the zoo where he worked selling popcorn as a kid. A few miles away, behind a south Sacramento dumpster, Steve Devlin used the morning light to search for a set of dice his displeased lady-friend chucked into the bushes at his street camp close to the mobile home park where his parents once lived. Deja Sturdevan’s day began by pushing past prickly branches guarding her sleeping quarters in shrubbery near a heavily trafficked boulevard in Antelope, blocks from a house she said she lived in for 14 years with her ex-husband before divorce and drugs put her in the weeds. “This is my neighborhood,” said Sturdevan, blond hair in a ponytail and nails painted with glittery polish. “I’m comfortable here.” This trio are among the 3,665 people living without permanent shelter in Sacramento County, according to a new count by Sacramento Steps Forward, the agency that coordinates local efforts to aid the homeless.
Homelessness rose by a startling 30 percent from 2,822 people the last time the transient population was counted in 2015, it said. It is the highest number of people living without permanent housing Sacramento has ever recorded.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • July 13, 2017
Los Angeles Times: Air filters don’t protect residences near traffic
Despite growing warnings about the health problems tied to traffic pollution, Los Angeles officials continue to approve a surge in residential development along freeways. And the crux of their effort to protect people’s lungs is a requirement that developers install air filters. But even the highest-quality filters capture only some of the dangerous ingredients of car and truck exhaust, and to be effective, experts say, they must be frequently replaced and the building’s ventilation system must run virtually full time with all doors and windows closed. The city inspects new projects’ air-filtration systems, but the head of the Department of Building and Safety concedes that his office has no procedures for documenting whether the proper filters were installed and does not conduct follow-up inspections to ensure that they’re being maintained and replaced.
Miami Herald: Trump earns thousands from club membership payments
Even as he serves as president, Donald Trump earns a tidy sum — tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars — every time a new member joins one of his tony clubs. Whether it’s the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., where the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Championship starts soon; the club outside the nation’s capital, where the president often spends time over the weekend; the historic Mar-a-Lago Club, where he hosted the president of China and the prime minister of Japan; or one of his other exclusive addresses, each collects a hefty initiation fee from new members — up to $450,000 per person, with annual dues on top of that. Trump has benefited greatly from these initiation fees for years.
New York Times: Trump son met with Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer amid campaign
President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it. The meeting was also attended by his campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times. The Times initially reported the existence of the meeting, but in subsequent interviews, the advisers and others revealed the motivation behind it. The meeting was at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican nomination.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/09/us/politics/trump-russia-kushner-manafort.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news
Miami Herald: President dreamed of Trump towers across ex-Soviet empire
Weeks before his inauguration, Donald Trump was allied with a company in the former Soviet republic of Georgia that planned to build a 47-story luxury tower in the Black Sea resort of Batumi. The tower, nixed in early January, was to bear Trump’s name – in exchange for which he would receive royalties, as he does from similar arrangements around the world. But the company, Silk Road Group, had business ties and relationships that could have been problematic for a sitting U.S. president. Over the years it had oil trading and transport deals with companies in both Russia and Iran, countries currently facing varying degrees of U.S. and European financial sanctions. It was also a strategic fuel supplier to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, and had partnered with a Kazakh bank whose former leader is accused of stealing billions and laundering some of it through luxury real estate in the United States, including Trump-branded condos. None of this is revealed in Trump’s financial disclosure statements. And since he hasn’t released his tax returns, these sorts of relationships are not apparent. The Trump Organization’s push into Georgia and the broader region called Eurasia offers a made-to-order example of how little is publicly known about its foreign commitments, both past and present, and the sometimes conflicted activities of overseas associates. A McClatchy investigation reveals that Trump ventured more aggressively into the former Soviet empire from 2005 to 2015 than has previously been known, even seeking to have his name atop a massive shimmering glass tower in Astana, the post-Soviet capital of Kazakhstan. And Trump sought a trademark in Iran, a country he has sought to isolate as president, that would reserve use of his name among other things for real estate and hotels.
Idaho Statesman: Saving the salmon of the Northwest
The salmon of the Northwest are the stuff of legends. Pioneers talked of rivers so thick that they were tempted to cross on the backs of the fish. When Meriwether Lewis led his band of explorers through the Northwest in 1805, he marveled in his journal of “almost inconceivable” numbers of salmon. At one time, 8 million to 16 million Columbia and Snake river salmon rode spring flows from tributaries such as the cold, clear Salmon and Clearwater rivers to the ocean, living one to three years before making the daunting upstream trip to their native waters to spawn and die. By 1995, that number had plunged to fewer than 1 million, and 13 species of Northwest salmon were placed on the Endangered Species List. Over the past quarter-century, research, tenacious advocates and $16 billion in federal investment have helped keep Northwest salmon from tipping over the brink into extinction. With bad ocean conditions this year, salmon returns are depressed again and fishing seasons are shortened.
Courier-Journal: Drug epidemic’s smallest victims
Face down on the floor, wedged between a bed and the wall, a 4-month-old Bell County boy died after falling off the mattress where he had been sleeping with an adult using opioids. In Mason County, a 6-week-old girl was found blue and not breathing in bed with her uncomprehending mother who, when told the infant was dead, protested, "No way!" The baby had suffered at birth from drug withdrawal; after her death, the mother tested positive for marijuana, opioids and methamphetamine. And in Kenton County, a mother awoke next to her dead 6-month-old after a night of drinking and using drugs with no recollection of how she and the baby wound up sleeping on the couch together. These deaths are among a growing group of Kentucky's smallest and largely unnoticed casualties of the state's substance abuse epidemic.
Detroit Free Press: How problem cops stay on the street
The police officer pulled over the 2011 Cadillac on a cold, darkened street. And then everything went wrong. The cop stepped out, and with the aid of his partner, muscled the driver out of his car, riding the man’s back to the pavement. Pinning the man down, the officer hooked his powerful left arm around his throat, then began pummeling him in the head with a gloved right fist. Once. Three times. Sixteen punches in all, in 10 seconds. The beating in January 2015 of motorist Floyd Dent in Inkster came at the hands of William Melendez, an officer known widely as “Robocop.” The bloody encounter was avoidable. Robocop, an officer with a checkered history, never should have been on the streets that night. A Detroit Free Press investigation found he’s a prime example of how lax oversight of police officers in Michigan puts citizens at risk by allowing cops to slip from community to community despite alarming conduct, criminal histories and lawsuits that cost taxpayers millions.
Kansas City Star: African-Americans aren’t sharing in housing recovery
Michelle Coleman has never owned a home. Ideally, she’d like a small house with a yard for gardening and room for her children and grandchildren to visit. She lives in a four-plex in Kansas City for $600 a month, and hers is the only one that doesn’t have a working air conditioner — a big problem in July. She doesn’t want to spend her own money to fix the air conditioner, and of course her landlord still expects her to pay her rent even though it has not been fixed. “I’m just tired of renting,” Coleman said. “Any extra I get, I want to put into a home, not lining someone else’s pockets.” She’s one of a growing number of African-Americans in Kansas City — and the nation — who don’t own a home. Across the U.S., homeownership rates appear to be stabilizing as people rebound from the 2007 recession that left millions unemployed and home values underwater, according to a report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. But the report found African-Americans aren’t sharing in the recovery, even as whites, Asian-Americans and Latinos slowly see gains in home-buying. The center said the disparity between whites and blacks is at its highest in 70-plus years of data. …
Homeownership rates among African-Americans in the Kansas City metro area slipped from an estimated 45.7 percent to an estimated 37.7 percent from 2005 to 2015, according to American Community Survey data analyzed by The Associated Press.
Denver Post: Colorado has massive shortage of construction workers
In a large warehouse that smells of freshly cut wood in north Denver, 20 adults — including a refugee family from Somalia, a math teacher and a laid-off retail worker — gather in the unfinished frame of a house to take notes on the Pythagorean theorem. They are hoping that the equation, along with other basic measuring principles, will help them find work at the end of an eight-week construction course. “When the market crashed in 2008, a lot of people were forced to do something else. Now that the industry is booming, there’s really not that quality craftsmanship anymore,” said Tim Reyna, who enrolled in the class at the Colorado Homebuilding Academy after he lost his retail job. “I definitely think there’s a ton of opportunity.”
As far as the construction industry is concerned, Reyna and his classmates can’t hit the job market quickly enough. Industry officials in Colorado say the shortage of skilled laborers is at a crisis level. … Construction leaders say the problem was caused by a perfect storm: record low unemployment, an aging workforce, the narrative that everyone has to go to college, massive layoffs of construction workers during the recession who never returned, a lack of affordable housing and a huge demand for construction work across Colorado.
Washington Post: No let up in pace of police killings
Police nationwide shot and killed 492 people in the first six months of this year, a number nearly identical to the count for the same period in each of the prior two years. Fatal shootings by police in 2017 have so closely tracked last year’s numbers that on June 16, the tally was the same. Although the number of unarmed people killed by police dropped slightly, the overall pace for 2017 through Friday was on track to approach 1,000 killed for a third year in a row. The Washington Post began tracking all fatal shootings by on-duty police in 2015 in the aftermath of the 2014 killing in Ferguson, Mo., of Michael Brown, who was unarmed and had an altercation with the officer who shot him. The ongoing Post project has documented twice as many shootings by police in 2015 and 2016 as ever recorded in a single year by the FBI’s tracking of such shootings, a pattern that is emerging again in 2017.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/number-of-fatal-shootings-by-police-is-nearly-identical-to-last-year/2017/07/01/98726cc6-5b5f-11e7-9fc6-c7ef4bc58d13_story.html?utm_term=.15dc49a815c8
Star-Ledger: Deadly drug’s dirty secret
The most powerful opioid ever mass-marketed was designed to ease cancer patients into death.
It's ideal for that: the drug is fast acting, powerful enough to tame pain that other opioids can't and comes in a variety of easy delivery methods -- from patches to lollipops. But a dose the size of a grain of sand can kill you. Meet fentanyl. It's heroin on steroids. It’s killing people in droves. And, in New Jersey, you can get it after having your tonsils removed. In fact, doctors who treat children's colds and adult's sore knees are prescribing it with alarming frequency, far more than oncologists easing end-of-life cancer pain. The surge is stoked by companies that shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to doctors, wining and dining them in hopes of convincing them that their particular brand of fentanyl is the solution to all their patients' pain problems. Evidently, it's working. An NJ Advance Media analysis has found that eight medical specialties in New Jersey have filed more Medicare claims for fentanyl than those by oncologists. Family practitioners, for example, filed at least five times as many claims for fentanyl from 2013 to 2015 than did cancer doctors.