- Get Involved
- About Us
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM THE PAST WEEK • Nov. 30
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Doctors and sex abuse: a nationwide study
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports a 50-state examination found that only one – Delaware -- has anything close to a comprehensive set of laws protecting patients from doctors who commit acts of sexual abuse. “Instead of looking out for victims or possible victims or protecting our society, we’re protecting doctors,” said Rep. Kimberly Williams, a member of the Delaware General Assembly who sponsored a patient-protection bill last year. As part of its ongoing “Doctors & Sex Abuse” series, the AJC studied five categories of laws in every state to determine the best and worst at shielding patients from sexually abusive doctors. Not a single state met the highest bar in every category the newspaper examined, although Delaware came the closest. Meanwhile, in 49 states and the District of Columbia, multiple gaps in laws can leave patients vulnerable to abusive physicians, according to the newspaper.
Arizona Daily Star: Critics decry tax breaks for Monsanto
The Arizona Daily Star reports the Pima County Board of Supervisors expects to hear hours of objections to a 7-acre greenhouse that global biotech giant Monsanto Co. wants to put in rural Avra Valley, northwest of Tucson. Critics are upset not just about Monsanto’s plans to operate here, but also about County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s support of incentives that would reduce the company’s property taxes by two-thirds. The company promises $95 million to $105 million in investments, 40 to 60 jobs paying an average of $44,000 a year and an emphasis on sustainability. The greenhouse will turn out a new generation of corn seed varieties, both conventional and genetically modified, that will help farmers around the world have more productive and resilient crops, Monsanto says. But critics — who have organized rallies and circulated petitions against the deal — say Monsanto’s presence would seriously damage Tucson’s burgeoning reputation as an international City of Gastronomy. UNESCO bestowed the title last December.
Los Angeles Times: Breitbart News, fiery and conservative, plans to go global
The Los Angeles Times reports that as Donald Trump prepares to take office as president, the Breitbart News Network stands poised to become one of the most influential conservative media companies in the country. Stephen K. Bannon, the site’s controversial executive chairman, was a key figure in Trump’s campaign and has been named chief White House strategist. For Breitbart, this could mean a direct line to the West Wing, a level of media access unprecedented in modern times, according to experts. While some believe this will turn the outlet into an extension of the Trump administration, leaders at Breitbart see it as an opportunity that will allow them to compete not only with conservative rivals like Fox News, but the entire media firmament, which it sees as dishonest about its left-leaning bias.
San Diego Union Tribune: Affordable housing additions don’t keep up
The San Diego Union Tribune reports that despite billions of taxpayer dollars spent to provide affordable housing, San Diego is apparently losing ground — opening up fewer low-income units than the ones that are shutting down. The newspaper says that a review of public meeting minutes and property and financial records, city officials agreed to remove 10,000 affordable dwellings from the rolls over the past six years — the same number the San Diego Housing Commission has opened since its inception in 1979. The city’s affordable housing laws generally require that the homes demolished, converted or otherwise removed from low-income housing stock be replaced. But in many cases, projects were granted waivers or found to be exempt from rules that would force developers to either pay a fee or set aside some percentage of new housing units as affordable.
Washington Post: Zuckerberg outlines Facebook’s ideas to battle fake news
The Washington Post reports that a week after trying to reassure the public that it was “extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg outlined several ways the company might try to stop the spread of fake news on the platform in the future. “We’ve been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously. We’ve made significant progress, but there is more work to be done,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post on his own Facebook page He then named seven approaches the company was considering to address the issue, including warning labels on false stories, easier user reporting methods and the integration of third-party verification. “The problems here are complex, both technically and philosophically,” he cautioned, repeating the company’s long-standing aversion to becoming the “arbiters of truth” — instead preferring to rely on third parties and users to make those distinctions.
“We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or mistakenly restricting accurate content,” he said.
Stamford Advocate: Schools demand more from next building contractor
The Stamford Advocate reports that on the night before the long Veterans Day weekend, school officials quietly released a document that could wean the district from its powerful, controversial contractor.. The document, a request for proposals, lays out everything the district wants from the next contractor it hires to manage school buildings. It will demand from any future company more than was demanded from its 16-year facilities director, AFB Construction Management. The document illustrates what the district should have asked from AFB all along. The Board of Education has a history of not questioning AFB but, eight months ago, the FBI began investigating whether the company used its position to solicit payments from another municipal contractor. The city was ordered to turn over all records pertaining to AFB to a federal grand jury in New Haven.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Housing agency skirts salary cap for top execs
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Atlanta Housing Authority’s publicly paid executives have evaded federal rules that were put in place to crack down on extravagant pay. An Atlanta Constitution-Journal investigation found that since 2012, the authority has supplemented six-figure salaries paid to its top executives by $4 million, using money from a little-known nonprofit that shares revenues with AHA and other Georgia housing authorities. The money could have been spent on housing services for the poor — that’s what some other housing agencies have done — but Atlanta officials elected to devote it to salaries instead.
Revenue AHA receives from National Housing Compliance in Tucker has kept top Atlanta authority salaries at levels higher than almost every other public housing authority in the nation — and well above the $158,700 annual cap on federal housing money that can be spent on those salaries.
Chicago Tribune: Illinois hides abuse and neglect of adults with disabilities
The Chicago Tribune reports that as Illinois steers thousands of low-income adults with disabilities into private group homes, the newspaper has found many casualties in a botched strategy to save money and give some of the state's poorest and most vulnerable residents a better life. In the first comprehensive accounting of mistreatment inside Illinois' taxpayer-funded group homes and their day programs, the Tribune uncovered a system where caregivers often failed to provide basic care while regulators cloaked harm and death with secrecy and silence. The Tribune identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 — hundreds more cases than publicly reported by the Illinois Department of Human Services. Confronted with those findings, Human Services officials retracted five years of erroneous reports and said the department had launched reforms to ensure accurate reporting. To circumvent state secrecy, the Tribune filed more than 100 public records requests with government agencies.
Des Moines Register: Speed cameras sang thousands from out of state
The Des Moines Register reports tens of thousands of out-of-state motorists were snagged last year by automated traffic enforcement speed cameras in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Sioux City. The three are the only U.S. cities that have speed enforcement cameras monitoring interstates, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation. Speed cameras in those three cities issued more than 200,000 speeding tickets in 2015 to motorists traveling on interstates, generating more than $13 million in revenue, according to a Des Moines Register review of data obtained through public-records requests. Two of every five citations, 78,228 in all, were sent to out-of-state motorists. And a majority of citations were issued to people who weren't residents of the city where they were ticketed.
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Rule breakers bring dark side to ride-share culture
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Uber and the rival service Lyft now provide more car rides than traditional taxicabs in the Twin Cities. Operating with little city oversight and less stringent rules than taxis, an informal and dangerous ride-sharing culture has emerged in which people casually hail unmarked cars and barter for rides. Uber and Lyft both tell customers they shouldn’t get in vehicles unless they first book their ride through the companies’ phone apps. But many people ignore the warnings, accepting rides from strangers who sometimes turn out to be predators. At least five women in the Twin Cities have been abducted or assaulted by men who presented themselves as Uber drivers in the past two years, police reports show. In Atlanta, Los Angeles and other cities, men pretending to work for Uber have been charged with attacking women after luring them into their cars. Chicago police warned last year of robbers posing as Uber drivers.
Houston Chronicle: Mentally ill lose out as special ed declines
The Houston Chronicle reports the Texas Education Agency's decision to set an 8.5 percent target for special education enrollment has led schools to cut services for children with all types of disabilities, but mentally ill students have been disproportionately affected, the Houston Chronicle has found. Federal law requires schools to provide counseling, therapy, protection from discipline and other support to children with "emotional disturbances," including severe anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Today, however, Texas schools serve 42 percent fewer of those students relative to overall enrollment, than when TEA set the benchmark in 2004. It is a bigger drop than has occurred in almost any other disability category. In all, an estimated 500,000 school-age children in Texas have a serious mental illness that interferes with their functioning in family, school or community activities, according to the state Health and Human Services Commission.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • NOV. 16
Houston Chronicle: Bad mix: Risky cargo in dense areas
The Houston Chronicle reports back in 1976 a tractor-trailer on Interstate 610 struck a bridge rail, rolled over the edge and fell about 15 feet onto the Southwest Freeway below. The tractor separated from the trailer, and its tank exploded, spewing 7,509 gallons of anhydrous ammonia. The toxic fog killed six people and injured 178. Afterward, the National Transportation Safety Board praised the city of Houston for having designated the 610 Loop as the official route for hazardous materials, keeping trucks from more populous areas. Forty years later, that route snakes through a city that has doubled in size, leaving Houston vulnerable to a catastrophic accident. About 400 trucks a day loaded with tons of hazardous chemicals, such as chlorine, butadiene and formaldehyde, inch along 610 in bumper-to-bumper traffic and pass within a mile of NRG Stadium, Memorial Park and the Galleria shopping center.
Austin American-Statesman: Feds shield employers who violated rights of vets
The Austin American-Statesman reports that as waves of National Guard reservists answered the call to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, they were protected by a 1994 law that required their employers to hold their jobs until they returned. But records show that hundreds of employers have been found to have violated the rights of veterans by firing them because of their military responsibilities, or failing to hire them back after their service ended, or denying them promotions. Some of those employers are government agencies. Yet the Department of Labor, which investigates potential USERRA violations on behalf of service members, refuses to disclose the identities of even the most frequent offenders, shielding the companies from public scrutiny despite repeated complaints and findings of fault. The department also shielded the identities of taxpayer-supported state, local and federal agencies that ran afoul of the law.
Columbus Dispatch: More “elder orphans” without family near needing help.
The Columbus Dispatch reports nearly a quarter of Americans older than 65 are — or are at risk of becoming — what some experts call “elder orphans.” They are people who are getting older without a spouse, partner or adult children — or at least any who live nearby. With an aging baby boomer population and a third of Americans ages 45 to 60 either choosing to be or finding themselves single, the number of seniors living alone will only grow, experts say. Many will need extra help with health care and household tasks as they age or their health deteriorates. “Most of us will have caregiving needs at one time or other,” said Dr. Maria Carney, a New York geriatrician. “Our goal is to highlight that this is a vulnerable population that’s likely to increase.” She’d like officials to determine what community, social services, emergency response and educational resources are needed to help, particularly as more people with multiple chronic diseases remain at home.
Democrat and Chronicle: Lead tainting Geneva’s soil kept hidden for 30 years
The Democrat and Chronicle reports New York state officials first uncovered evidence 30 years ago that toxic metals from an old foundry in the historic Finger Lakes city of Geneva had contaminated an adjoining neighborhood. A state environmental health expert concluded then that people were at risk of lead poisoning and neighbors should be warned. A decade later, consultants presented additional evidence to state and city and recommended that the lead-laden soil in yards be removed. But state and city officials never warned residents and the decision to clean it up was deferred 16 more years, a Democrat and Chronicle investigation has found. The silence ended only in early October, when state environmental officials mailed letters to nearly 100 properties near the former Geneva Foundry site, informing the owners their soil contained lead or arsenic in concentrations that are considered unsafe.
New York Times: Your cellphone is a 10-digit key code to your private life
The New York Times reports that the next time someone asks you for your cellphone number, you may want to think twice about giving it. The cellphone number is more than just a bunch of digits. It is increasingly used as a link to private information maintained by all sorts of companies, including moneylenders and social networks. It can be used to monitor and predict what you buy, look for online or even watch on television. It has become “kind of a key into the room of your life and information about you,” said Edward M. Stroz, a former high-tech crime agent for the F.B.I. who is co-president of Stroz Friedberg, a private investigator. Yet the cellphone number is not a legally regulated piece of information like a Social Security number, which companies are required to keep private. That is a growing issue for young people, since two sets of digits may well be with them for life: their Social Security number and their cellphone number.
Newark Star Ledger: Lobbyists reviled by Trump in campaign join transition
The Newark Star Ledger reports Donald Trump, who promised to "take our country back from the special interests," is staffing his presidential transition team with lobbyists and fundraisers. "It certainly veers drastically from the campaign rhetoric," said David Vance, a spokesman for Common Cause, which supports stronger ethics laws. "It's business as usual in Washington. He's gathering the same old guard around him. It hardly rings of change." Trump had called for new ethics rules, including limits on lobbyists and term limits for members of Congress. "My contract with the American voter begins with a plan to end government corruption – and to take our country back from the special interests," Trump said in Minnesota on Sunday. Trump's proposed ethics legislation doesn't fix the problem and likely won't pass, experts say.
Boston Globe: Organic farmers fight USDA to defend their turf
The Boston Globe reports that for the past 36 years Dave Chapman has dug his hands into the soil to plant, then pick, organic tomatoes from his fields and greenhouses in rural Vermont. His love of organics is rooted in a simple motto: “Feed the soil, not the plant.” So when he heard that hydroponic growers were starting to obtain USDA certification that declared their crops organic, Chapman was incensed. What is organic, he wondered, without the marvel of microbes inherent in dirt? “They try to pretend that they’re me,” he said. “They aren’t. It’s a lie.” Now Chapman is digging in his heels against what he calls the invasive growth of organic hydroponics, grown by farmers who use extensive watering systems and chemical nutrients. He’s pushing the USDA to, as he puts it, “keep the soil in organic” and prevent hydroponic farmers from gaining a designation that’s become both on-trend and remarkably lucrative.
Baltimore Sun: Few doctors sign on to recommend marijuana in Maryland
The Baltimore Sun reports just 1 percent of the 16,000 doctors who treat patients in Maryland have signed up for the state's medical marijuana program, and two of the largest hospital systems in the state have banned their physicians from participating. The lack of enthusiasm threatens to undermine the fledgling program by limiting access to the drug that has shown promise in easing pain and other severe conditions. "Clearly there are not going to be enough physicians, given the level of demand anticipated," said Gene Ransom, CEO of MedChi, the state's professional association for physicians, which hasn't taken a position on medical marijuana. "That's going to create a problem."
Maine Sunday Telegram: Jacket sales at L.L. Bean indicate warmer winters
The Maine Sunday Telegram reports that just like shrinking Arctic sea ice, sales of jackets at L.L. Bean are an indicator of warming winters. Ten years ago, the best-selling jacket at Maine’s flagship outdoors retailer was a heavily insulated parka rated for temperatures between 10 degrees and minus 40. Today, the top seller is an ultralight down jacket rated between 25 and minus 25. Coming on strong is a down sweater that weighs almost nothing and is rated between 30 and minus 20. A warming climate might be hotly contested by some, but the appeal of a lighter winter jacket isn’t. It’s an industry-wide trend driven by consumer demand, not science or ideology. “It has been the biggest shift in the outerwear business in the past five years,” said A.J. Curran, product director for outerwear at L.L. Bean. “We call it seasonal versatility. People can use (these jackets) through a normal winter day, what has become the new normal.”
Courier-Journal: Diabetes a scourge in Kentucky
The Courier Journal reports that from Louisville to Pikeville, Paducah to Ashland, diabetes ravages Kentucky, striking more than one in nine adults — a statistic that has skyrocketed in the last two decades and shows no sign of slowing. Kentucky’s rate of diagnosed diabetes shot up from 4.3 percent in 1994 to 11.3 percent in 2014, ranking the state sixth-worst in a nation that has seen diabetes double over that time. That's according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, which ranks neighboring Indiana 18th with 9.7 percent, slightly above the national average. Diabetes takes thousands of lives each year and the American Diabetes Association estimates related medical costs and lost productivity total around $3.85 billion in Kentucky, $6.6 billion in Indiana, and $245 billion nationally. Kentucky is also plagued by all the social ills that cause diabetes to fester. Chief among them is poverty, which makes it tough to eat well, find safe places to exercise or get to the doctor and avoid complications such as blindness and amputations.
Des Moines Register: Iowa police killings prompt look at tougher penalties
The des Moines Register reports the recent ambush slayings of two Iowa police officers has pulled the state into a national debate on whether law enforcement officers need extra legal protections. Support is growing for an Iowa lawmaker’s proposal that would slap stiffer penalties on those who seriously injure or kill officers. And some in the state say they would not oppose reinstating the death penalty for cop killers. Iowa hasn't allowed capital punishment since 1965. At the federal level, momentum may grow to make attacks on law enforcement officers a hate crime, potentially boosted by last week’s election results, giving Republicans control of Congress and the Oval Office. President-elect Donald Trump billed himself as a "law and order" candidate and has been an ardent supporter of the Blue Lives Matter movement.
Sun Sentinel: A din of health concerns from courthouse employees
The Sun Sentinel reports that in dozens of emails sent to Broward County, courthouse prosecutors and judges say the building they work in is making them sick. They report rashes, hives, coughs that won't go away, migraine headaches, itchy eyes, sore throats, nosebleeds and cancer. While a new courthouse has been under construction next door, the county has quietly settled —while "expressly denying" liability — 13 lawsuits during the past two years filed by employees, according to public records examined by the Sun Sentinel. Each fell under the $15,000 threshold that requires a County Commission vote at a public meeting. Now that the new tower is more than a year behind schedule, the steady din of health grievances in the old courthouse is growing louder. In emails to county hall, 120 employees, some of them judges, many of them prosecutors, described health problems they said appear or worsen when they're at work.
Washington Post: Parents insisting on doctors who insist on vaccinations
The Washington Post reports that pediatricians around the country, faced with persistent opposition to childhood vaccinations, are increasingly grappling with the difficult decision of whether to dismiss those families from their practices to protect their other patients. Doctors say they are more willing to take this last-resort step because the anti-vaccine movement in recent years has contributed to a resurgence of preventable childhood diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough. Their practices also have been emboldened by families who say they will only choose physicians who require other families to vaccinate. But the decision is ethically fraught. Doctors must balance their obligation to care for individual children against the potential harm to other patients. They must respect parents’ right to make their own medical decisions. And they need to consider the public health consequences of a refusal to treat, which could result in non-vaccinating families clustered in certain practices, raising the risk of disease outbreaks.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/parents-are-insisting-on-doctors-who-insist-on-vaccinations/2016/11/12/81c1a684-a202-11e6-8d63-3e0a660f1f04_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories-2_vaccine-610pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory
Sacramento Bee: Is reservoir a savior for the Sacramento Valley?
The Sacramento Bee reports that an hour north of Sacramento, in a ghost town tucked into a remote mountain valley, California is poised to build a massive new reservoir – a water project of a size that hasn’t been undertaken since Jerry Brown’s first stint as governor in the 1970s. Sites Reservoir, all $4.4 billion of it, represents an about-face in a state where drought has become the norm and water users are told to scrimp and save. Promoters of Sites say the reservoir would significantly enhance water supplies for the rice farms of the Sacramento Valley as well as the cities of Southern California. The fact that it would be built just outside tiny Maxwell, in a poor and often-overlooked area of the state, has become a point of fierce regional pride. “Instead of the water going out to sea, the water will remain here,” said state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, during a recent media event at the Sites operations office a few miles east of the reservoir location. “That is a significant policy change.”
Arizona Daily Star: Pharmacy spending soars in Tucson area under Cenpatico
The Arizona Daily Star reports that Tucson behavioral-health providers say they have seen surging pharmacy spending since Cenpatico Integrated Care took over Southern Arizona’s public behavioral-health care system. At the same time, the number of prescriptions written for behavioral-health patients appears to have declined in the past year. Three local behavioral-health agency leaders say the limited pharmacy data they have from Cenpatico indicate average monthly pharmacy spending on their patients soared by 53 to 83 percent this year. “I’ve never seen anything like that level of increase in that short a period of time,” said Rod Cook, chief financial officer at COPE Community Services, where pharmacy spending has gone up 74 percent. Cenpatico and AHCCCS, the state’s Medicaid agency, attribute the spending rise to a drug-company rebate program that has resulted in more brand-name prescribing this year.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM THE PAST WEEK • NOV. 8
AP: Trump-Pence campaign aide stays on Indiana payroll
Sacramento Bee: Home for sex victims closed but non-profit still raised funds
The Sacramento Bee reports Courage House got the good news from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services on June 17: a $60,808 grant had been approved to help fund services at the Northern California home for young sex-trafficking victims. What the state agency didn’t know at the time was that the Courage House outside Sacramento had closed three days earlier, shuttling the four remaining girls off to other providers amid a rash of citations from regulators, including allegations of inadequate staffing and repeat violations of clients’ rights. Over the summer, Courage Worldwide Inc. emailed OES at least eight times without divulging the local facility’s status. While the Rocklin-based nonprofit was laying off much of its staff, a remaining worker was asking OES for advice on the forms and submitting documents for reimbursement, according to emails provided by OES.
New Haven Register: Police build voluntary DNA database; ACLU objects
The New Haven Register reports that four years ago the Branford Police Department started collecting voluntary cheek swabs from people suspected of a crime prior to arrest to build its own private DNA database of offenders. Five hundred and sixty-five samples have since been collected, and the department has been able to tie suspects to property crimes that would otherwise go unsolved. But the practice has drawn criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union’s Connecticut chapter about whether it violates a person’s constitutional rights and creates an unconscious racial bias. Collecting a person’s DNA is far more invasive than the search of a backpack or the taking of a fingerprint, said David McGuire, interim executive director of the ACLU’s Connecticut chapter.
Washington Post: Killings surge but Chicago police solve fewer homicides
The Washington Post reports Chicago’s growing body count of unsolved homicides puts it on pace to have one of its deadliest years in two decades, and some residents blame police for perpetuating the violence by leaving killers on the streets. Last year, Chicago police cleared homicides at one-third the rate they did 25 years ago — a time when they faced twice as many killings, according to a Washington Post analysis of police data obtained through a public records request. The department has gone from having one of the best clearance rates nationwide to one of the worst. In 1991, Chicago police solved about 80 percent of all homicides in the city, compared with about 62 percent by police nationwide, according to data from the FBI and Chicago police. Since then, the national rate has remained fairly constant, but Chicago’s dropped below 26 percent last year, the worst clearance rate for police in any large city in the country, The Post analysis shows.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/as-killings-surge-chicago-police-solve-fewer-homicides/2016/11/05/55e5af84-8c0d-11e6-875e-2c1bfe943b66_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories-2_chicagohomicides-610pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory
Sun Sentinel: Flood, mold hit new courthouse
The Sun Sentinel reports that meld, the very courthouse menace that prompted construction of a new, 20-story court tower, is now delaying its opening. In documents and interviews provided in response to a public records request, Broward officials revealed a stunning series of events that soaked the new $197 million tower with rainwater, and then toilet water, and provided the wet conditions for mold and other contaminants to grow. Walls, floors and ceilings were ripped out, repairs made, and independent tests showed air quality returned to normal, top county officials say. But the county’s worries linger. County officials haven’t publicly discussed the floods or mold, but said in an interview that they won’t open the new courthouse until their air quality concerns are put to rest.
Baltimore Sun: Schools not told bus driver in fatal crash lost driving privileges
The Baltimore Sun reports the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration informed Glenn Chappell in early September that he was "no longer authorized" to drive a school bus and could lose his license unless he provided documentation that a doctor had cleared him to be behind the wheel. But the state agency didn't inform the Baltimore school system that his driving privileges had been suspended. For 40 school days, Chappell continued to ferry 17 homeless and special-needs students across the city. Then this week, Chappell drove his school bus into a transit bus, killing himself and five other adults. The state did not revoke Chappell's commercial driver's license, which prompted an alert to the school system, until Wednesday — the day after the crash. That lag in flagging a potential safety risk has raised questions about how closely authorities monitor drivers of school buses and other commercial vehicles. It was not the first time Chappell's commercial driving privileges had lapsed for lacking proof of good health.
Philadelphia Inquirer: No candy-coating lack of charity at Hershey school
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the charitable Milton Hershey School, gushing with cash, has amassed more assets than every elite private college-prep school in the nation. Its endowment is about 25 percent larger than the University of Pennsylvania's and surpasses all but a half dozen of the country's best-endowed colleges. But few know about this rich school on Homestead Lane that has a one-of-a-kind dilemma: how to spend a $12.5 billion fortune on at-risk children in an isolated campus in central Pennsylvania? The Hershey School's answer: Expend only a tiny fraction of the charity's assets each year and do it lavishly on 2,000 students. The Hershey School's per-student expenditures of $118,400 a year are roughly double the tuition and room and board for Harvard University and nine times the per-pupil expenditures at the Philadelphia School District. Yet even this level of spending fails to dent the school's coffers,.
Dallas Morning News: Tough-love rehab for poor addicts
The Dallas Morning News reports that when Irving police raided a rundown rental house crammed with dozens of men, they first thought smugglers must be hiding illegal immigrants. After all, some of the residents said they were being held captive, tied up, even beaten. But the site on Penn Street was in fact a shoestring “sober house” for Spanish-speakers seeking help with alcoholism and drug addiction, according to interviews and police records obtained by The Dallas Morning News. At least three unlicensed rehab operations have been investigated recently by officers in Irving and Fort Worth; at two, residents complained of being held against their will. All three offered a cheap place to sleep and 12-step-style treatment, according to police records. Such unlicensed rehabs have long existed in poor neighborhoods but “are surfacing more often,” said Fred Dandoval, executive director for the National Latinio Behavioural Health Association.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK NOV. 1, 2016
AP: Trump University staff included drug trafficker, child molester
The Associated Press reports that while Donald Trump says he hand-picked only the best to teach success at Trump University, dozens of those hired by the company had checkered pasts — including serious financial problems and even convictions for cocaine trafficking or child molestation. An Associated Press investigation identified 107 people listed as speakers and staff on more than 21,000 pages of customer-satisfaction surveys the Republican presidential nominee has released as part of his defense against three lawsuits. Trump and his attorneys have said repeatedly that the surveys show the overwhelming majority of participants were satisfied. However, the suits allege his namesake real-estate seminars were a massive fraud designed to upsell students into buying course packages costing as much as $35,000.
Los Angeles Times: Top politicians. Unlikely donors.
An investigation by The Los Angeles Times has found more than 100 campaign contributors with a direct or indirect connection to Samuel Leung, a Torrance-based developer who was lobbying public officials to approve a 352-unit apartment complex. Those donors gave more than $600,000 to support U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Los Angeles), Mayor Eric Garcetti and other L.A.-area politicians between 2008 and 2015, as Leung was seeking city approval for the $72-million development in L.A.’s Harbor Gateway neighborhood, north of the Port of Los Angeles, The Times found. The fundraising effort is a case study in the myriad ways money can flow to City Hall when developers seek changes to local planning rules. The pattern of donations from unlikely sources, some of whom profess to have no knowledge of contributions made in their name, suggests an effort to bypass campaign finance laws designed to make political giving transparent to the public.
New York Times: Justice Department discouraged move on Clinton e-mail case
The day before FBI director James B. Comey sent a letter to Congress announcing that new evidence had been discovered that might be related to the completed Hillary Clinton email investigation, the Justice Department strongly discouraged the step and told him that he would be breaking with longstanding policy, three law enforcement officials told The New York Times. Senior Justice Department officials did not move to stop him from sending the letter, officials said, but they did everything short of it, pointing to policies against talking about current criminal investigations or being seen as meddling in elections. That Mr. Comey moved ahead despite those protestations underscores the unusual nature of Friday’s revelations, which added a dramatic twist to the final days of the presidential campaign.
San Diego Union-Tribune: In failing homeless, San Diego stands apart
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports the soaring population of homeless people in San Diego represents a genuine crisis, yet most of the suffering is unnecessary. Far from being a hopeless cause, reducing or even ending homelessness seems quite possible, at least outside of San Diego. Federal statistics tell a story of abject local failure. From 2007 (when counting methods were standardized) to 2015, the nation’s overall number of unsheltered homeless people fell 32 percent to 173,268 people. Over the same eight years, the number increased 24 percent in San Diego County to 4,156. In San Diego, the number of chronically homeless soared 77 percent (to 1,249), while nationwide they fell 30 percent.
Sun Sentinel: Plan for traffic -- 'Make them suffer'
South Florida's public officials, faced with ever-increasing traffic jams, have come up with a plan: Make it worse, according to The Sun Sentinel. "Until you make it so painful that people want to come out of their cars, they're not going to come out of their cars," Anne Castro, chair of the Broward County Planning Council, said during a meeting last year. "We're going to make them suffer first, and then we're going to figure out ways to move them after that because they're going to scream at us to help them move." A Sun-Sentinel analysis of South Florida's roads and development plans reveals how planners are creating neighborhoods in urban areas where gridlock is the norm.
Maine Sunday Telegram: Maine a source for ‘crime guns'
The Maine Sunday Telegram says that every year, about 90 guns purchased in Maine turn up at crime scenes, are abandoned or get confiscated by police in Massachusetts. Those guns account for 8 or 9 percent of all “crime guns” recovered by police in Massachusetts – a figure that has held steady for the past decade amid rising and falling crime rates. Gun trafficking from Maine to other states is often cited by backers of Ballot Question 3 as a chief reason to require background checks prior to all private gun sales. Yet advocates on both sides of Question 3 acknowledge that tackling gun trafficking – which is intimately linked with drug trafficking – will require enforcing existing federal laws as well as better educating Maine gun sellers.
Baltimore Sun: Independent voters on rise in Maryland
Maryland's independent voters are the fastest-growing political bloc in the state, a trend expected to accelerate after a polarizing contest between two of the most unpopular presidential candidates in U.S. history, The Baltimore Sun reports. Voters across the country, especially millennials, have increasingly opted out of the two-party system. Maryland has twice as many unaffiliated voters as it did 15 years ago, and the rate of attrition from major parties is growing. Democrats on voter rolls still dwarf Republicans and independents in Maryland, outnumbering each by more than 2-1. But since 2008, the legion of unaffiliated voters has grown 46 percent, a rate more than three times that of either major political party.
Boston Globe: Law firm 'bonuses' tied to political donations
The Boston Globe reports a pattern of payments — contributions to political candidates by partners of the Thornton Law Firm offset by bonus payments by the firm to those same partners -- was commonplace, according to a review of law firm records by the Spotlight Team and the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based nonprofit that tracks campaign finance data. From 2010 through 2014, partners David C. Strouss and Garrett Bradley, along with founding partner Michael Thornton and his wife, donated nearly $1.6 million to Democratic Party fund-raising committees and a parade of politicians — from Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada to Hawaii gubernatorial candidate David Ige to Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Over the same span, the lawyers received $1.4 million listed as “bonuses” in Thornton Law Firm records; more than 280 of the contributions precisely matched bonuses that were paid within 10 days.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Bumblebee nominated for endangered species list
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports the rusty patched bumblebee, once one of the most common bees buzzing about Minnesota’s gardens, could be on the verge of extinction and is likely to be the first of its kind to find a place on the federal endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed legal protection for the bee, named for the distinctive orange marking on its back, after an extraordinarily swift decline in its numbers over the past two decades. Like dozens of other pollinators, the rusty patched is suffering from widespread use of chemical pesticides, an increasingly flowerless landscape, disease and climate change. But its decline also illustrates the often unexpected consequences for insects from the way people grow their food.
Las Vegas Review-Journal: Drug convictions rely on faulty police tests
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that for nearly three decades, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Clark County district attorney’s office have used cheap chemical field tests to identify illegal drugs and obtains tens of thousands of convictions. The tests seem simple. Officers placed suspected drugs in a pouch with chemicals and watch for colors to develop. But police and county prosecutors knew the tests were vulnerable to error all along, according to an investigation by ProPublica. Legal substances can create the same colors in the test kits as illegal drugs. Officers sometimes misinterpret results. In 2014, the police crime lab wrote a report arguing that officers should stop using most of the tests. But they did not stop.
The Democrat and Chronicle: Property tax exemptions -- Unfair share
The state of New York is home to 5.7 million parcels of property worth an estimated $2.8 trillion — with a ‘t.’ But when property-tax bills go out each year, nearly a third of that value — about $866 billion — never gets billed, The Democrat and Chronicle reports. Over the past six months, the USA Today Network combed through 17 years of extensive state data on property-tax exemptions at the county, municipal and school district level, examining trends and challenges presented by the state’s patchwork system of granting and enforcing tax breaks. The numbers show alarming growth in the number of completely untaxed properties owned by government and non-profits — from 179,420 in 1999 to 219,602 last year, a 22 percent jump.
Columbus Dispatch: Questions about scientist may cast doubt on convictions
Dozens, if not hundreds, of criminal convictions in Ohio could be in jeopardy because a longtime forensic scientist at the state crime lab now stands accused of slanting evidence to help cops and prosecutors build their cases, according to The Columbus Dispatch. The credibility of G. Michele Yezzo, who worked at the Ohio attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation for more than three decades, has been challenged in two cases in which men were convicted of aggravated murder. One has been freed from prison because of her now-suspect work. A review of her personnel records by The Dispatch shows that colleagues and supervisors raised questions about Yezzo time and again while she tested evidence and testified in an uncounted number of murder, rape and other criminal cases in the state.
The Tennessean: Sexual harassment in state government
The Tennessean says an analysis of data across state government shows at least 460 sexual harassment complaints have been lodged against state employees or contractors since 2010. Although the state has roughly 40,000 employees, that’s still more than one complaint every week for the past six years. A Tennessean review of complaints filed in 44 state departments and commissions reveals the process of investigating workplace sexual harassment and meting out punishments is inconsistent from agency to agency — even though all employees work for the same employer: the state of Tennessee. A review of complaints shows that employees at one agency were given minor sanctions, even for potentially criminal acts, while some workers at other agencies were terminated for verbal harassment. Nearly two-thirds of the investigations into complaints were closed because investigators said they found no wrongdoing.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Medical staff shortage plagues Milwaukee jails
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says the private contractor responsible for medical care at Milwaukee County's jails has failed to meet basic standards of care and staffing mandates, putting inmates' health at risk, newly obtained documents and interviews with former employees show. At one point this spring, a court-appointed watchdog found that 30 percent of all medical jobs at the county's two jails weren't filled, a rate he called "inconsistent with adequate quality of service." Inadequate staffing by Armor Correctional Health Services and poor record-keeping by employees have led to a failure to deliver timely medical treatment, according to the records and former employees. The problems mirror some found recently at two jails staffed by Armor in New York, where the company has been temporarily banned from bidding on contracts as part of a legal settlement.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK OCT. 25, 2016
AP Exclusive: 'High threat' Texas border busts aren't always
Drivers in Texas busted for drunken driving, not paying child support or low-level drug offenses are among thousands of "high-threat" criminal arrests being counted as part of a nearly $1 billion mission to secure the border with Mexico, an Associated Press analysis has found. Having once claimed that conventional crime data doesn't fully capture the dangers to public safety and homeland security, the Texas Department of Public Safety classified more than 1,800 offenders arrested near the border by highway troopers in 2015 as "high threat criminals." But not all live up to that menacing label or were anywhere close to the border — and they weren't caught entering the country illegally, as Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is Texas' chairman for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, has suggested.
AP: Bayh didn't stay overnight in Indiana condo once in 2010
The Associated Press reports that Evan Bayh says that his Indianapolis condominium has long been his home, and that he has spent "lots and lots" of time there since deciding to run for his old Senate seat. But a copy of his schedule shows Bayh did not stay overnight there once during his last year in office in 2010. The schedule provided to The Associated Press shows the Democrat spent taxpayer money, campaign funds or let other people pay for him to stay in Indianapolis hotels on the relatively rare occasions he returned from Washington, D.C. During the same period, he spent $3,000 in taxpayer money on what appeared to be job hunting trips to New York, despite the assertion of his campaign that the trips were devoted to official media appearances.
Arizona Star: Cartels recruiting drug, people smugglers in bars, high schools
Smuggling arrests in Southern Arizona often conjure up images of Mexican drug cartel foot soldiers sneaking across the border in the dead of night. But a decade of U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics — and a review of more than 100 federal court cases by the Arizona Daily Star — turn that idea on its head. Actually, most suspected smugglers arrested in Arizona and along the rest of the U.S.-Mexico border either are U.S. citizens or went through the years long process of becoming legal permanent residents. U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents — CBP statistics do not distinguish between the two — accounted for about two-thirds of smuggling arrests made by Tucson Sector Border Patrol agents in fiscal year 2015. Along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, citizens and legal residents accounted for 81 percent of smuggling arrests by agents.
Washington Post: DEA slowed enforcement while opioid epidemic soared
The Washington Post reported how a decade ago the Drug Enforcement Administration launched an aggressive campaign to curb a rising opioid epidemic that was claiming thousands of American lives each year. The DEA began to target wholesale companies that distributed hundreds of millions of highly addictive pills to the corrupt pharmacies and pill mills that illegally sold the drugs for street use. Leading the campaign was the agency’s Office of Diversion Control, whose investigators around the country began filing civil cases against the distributors, issuing orders to immediately suspend the flow of drugs and generating large fines. But the industry fought back. Former DEA and Justice Department officials hired by drug companies began pressing for a softer approach. In early 2012, the deputy attorney general summoned the DEA’s diversion chief to an unusual meeting over a case against two major drug companies. “That meeting was to chastise me for going after industry, and that’s all that meeting was about,” recalled Joseph T. Rannazzisi, who ran the diversion office for a decade before he was removed from his position and retired in 2015.
Maine Sunday Telegram: Maine sits on millions in federal welfare grant funds
Since 2012, when Gov. Paul LePage and his allies successfully established a 60-month lifetime cap on federal welfare benefits, Maine has drastically reduced both its caseload and its spending. The state still gets the same amount every year under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant program – about $78 million – but instead of shifting that extra money to other areas designed to assist low-income families with children, Maine has mostly sat on it, The Maine Sunday Telegram reports. In less than five years, the LePage administration has quietly stockpiled $155 million in unspent TANF funds, according to state budget data, an unused balance that has grown at a rate higher than any other state in that time. Maine’s total as a percentage of annual grant funding is among the highest in the country as well.
Seattle Times: Plan for megaquake “grossly inadequate,” review finds
The Seattle Times says the largest disaster drill ever conducted in the Pacific Northwest found that, despite decades of warnings, the region remains dangerously unprepared to deal with a Cascadia megaquake and tsunami. During the four-day “Cascadia Rising” exercise in June, 23,000 participants grappled with a hypothetical catastrophe that knocked out power, roads and communications and left communities battered, isolated — and with no hope of quick relief. Washington state officials called their own response plans “grossly inadequate,” according to a draft report and records reviewed by The Seattle Times. The report warns that “the state is at risk of a humanitarian disaster within 10 days” of the quake.
Houston Chronicle: Schools push students out of special education
The Houston Chronicle reports that few days before school began in Laredo, Texas, in 2007, district administrators called an emergency staff meeting. The Texas Education Agency had determined that they had too many students in special education, the administrators announced, and they had come up with a plan: Remove as many kids as possible. The staffers did as they were told, and during the school year, the Laredo Independent School District purged its rolls, discharging nearly a third of its special education students, according to district data. More than 700 children were forced out of special education and moved back into regular education. Only 78 new students entered services. The story illustrates how some schools across Texas have ousted children with disabilities from needed services in order to comply with an agency decree that no more than 8.5 percent of students should obtain specialized education.
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Authorities fail to charge rapist, student fights back
The bite marks and bruises were still fresh on Abby Honold’s body when she learned that the man who had raped her had been released from jail, The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The 19-year-old University of Minnesota junior did everything a rape victim was supposed to do. After she escaped, she immediately called 911. She went to a hospital for an exam. She reported everything that happened to her to the police. She agonized as she asked herself: How could there be no charges? What she didn’t know was that there had been more than 1,000 sex assaults reported since 2010 to the Aurora Center, the school’s rape prevention and victim advocacy department, according to a Star Tribune review of the center’s reports. Yet, according to the Aurora Center’s director, Katie Eichele, the total number of rapists who had been prosecuted was zero.
Los Angeles Times: Thousands of soldiers forced to repay enlistment bonuses
The California National Guard, short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war. Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back, The Los Angeles Times reports. Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade. Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets.
Denver Post: Train design questions causing travel delays raised in 2013
The Denver Post reports officials with the Regional Transportation District raised questions about a contractor’s design of the A-Line’s electric system as early as 2013, three years before the high-profile train to the airport suffered the first of several power-related outages during its first months of operation. Most prominent among the stoppages on the University of Colorado A-Line was a seven-hour shutdown on May 24 caused by a reported lightning strike that severed a critical electric wire and resulted in a dramatic evacuation of passengers atop a bridge. One RTD higher-up expressed exasperation at efforts by Denver Transit Partners, the private contractor on the project, to avoid responsibility for the incident by filing a “force majeure” — or act of God — claim that the strike was unforeseeable and thus unavoidable. Greg Straight, RTD FasTracks Eagle P3 project director, wrote in an e-mail the day after the outage that RTD had long ago urged Denver Transit to run a static wire above the overhead catenary system — the pole-mounted electric propulsion system for the train — to help shield the lines from lightning.
Sun Sentinel: Stricter scholarship requirements hit poor, minorities
Tens of thousands of Florida’s poorest students are finding it harder to afford college because of tougher qualifications for the state’s Bright Futures scholarship, The Sun Sentinel reports. The academic scholarship was created in 1997 to keep the state’s top students in Florida schools. But the legislature voted in 2011 to increase the required scores on ACT and SAT tests, fearing out-of-control costs caused by standards they considered too easy. Since then, the number of freshmen receiving the scholarship has dropped by about half, but the changes have hit hardest among those with the greatest need, according to a Sun-Sentinel analysis of Education Department data, including information from about 100 South Florida high schools.
Honolulu Advertiser: Options for primary care doctors are shrinking
The Honolulu Advertiser says nearly a third of Oahu’s primary care doctors are no longer accepting new patients. Many patients are left in limbo s their doctors retire, decline patients on Medicare or Medicaid – the government health insurance program for seniors and low income residents – or are unwilling to take on those with complicated medical problems due to new payment models that penalize providers for poor patient outcomes. A total of 145 of Oahu’s 463 primary care physicians have stopped taking new patients regardless of insurance coverage, according to a study by Crown Care LLC, a Honolulu patient advocacy company. In addition,. 72 primary care doctors, or 16 percent, are accepting only privately insured patients.
Des Moines Register: Iowa schools have millions of dollars they can’t spend
Iowa school districts are sitting on more than $145 million in funding that frustrated superintendents say they can't spend because of legislative restrictions, according to The Des Moines Register. The earmarked money has built up in dozens of funds over the years, growing from $130 million in 2013, according to a Des Moines Register review of state data. Now, education officials are lobbying to loosen the spending restrictions so they can use the money where they say it is needed most, rather than watching the categorized accounts build up year after year while they scramble to find funding in other areas. "It doesn’t make much sense to have this money sitting in banks around the state," said Mary Ellen Miller, a member of the Iowa Board of Education. "Clearly, it's time to look at it."
Courier-Journal: Yuck! Louisville still has $943M sewer problem
A decade after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet forced a court-approved, 19-year plan to clean up Jefferson County's wastewater system, a Courier-Journal analysis has found that while much progress has been made, Louisville is still dumping huge volumes of untreated sewage into waterways. In a series of articles, the CJ examines local Metropolitan Sewer District data on spills since 2005 and other records. Among other findings, MSD has stopped spills at some 340 locations, but records show that as much as 5.8 billion gallons of raw sewage may have poured into area waterways in 2015, due to heavy rainfall. That’s the most since at least 2012. Cleanup costs are projected to climb to $943 million, an 11 percent increase over the $850 million previously estimated, as MSD faces a quick turnaround on a new round of expensive and complicated construction jobs
Maine Sunday Telegram: State doesn’t know if school employees are qualified
The Maine Sunday Telegram says state education officials don’t know whether every employee who works with Maine students – from teachers to bus drivers – has passed a criminal background check or is properly credentialed. To ensure their employees are qualified and safe to work with children, local schools rely on an antiquated, paper-based system that has errors. Districts trying to hire employees regularly experience delays of more than a month when trying to determine whether there is proper certification. The certification process for the 34,811 public school employees in Maine has been under scrutiny since April, when an education technician in SAD 6 was charged with sexually assaulting a student. The charges were later dismissed because Zachariah Sherburne left the job before having sex with the student, but the Maine Sunday Telegram/Portland Press Herald learned that Sherburne did not hold any credentials despite already being employed in another district, SAD 55, before he worked at SAD 6.
Orlando Sentinel: Vets find military records often embellished
The Orlando Sentinel reports Groveland mayoral candidate George Rosario posted a picture on his campaign's Facebook page of himself wearing a hat declaring him "Purple Heart Combat Veteran." His campaign website also said he had been awarded two Bronze Stars in addition to a Purple Heart while serving in the Army. The problem is, Rosario doesn't have a Purple Heart, which is awarded to soldiers who were killed or injured in battle, nor a Bronze Star, awarded to soldiers who showed heroic or meritorious achievement — let alone two. The claims — which Rosario's campaign manager blamed on "miscommunication" — were spotted recently by a retired Army veteran who spends his free time catching people he believes are guilty of so-called "stolen valor." Embellishing one's military service is becoming more and more common nationwide, said Mike Vitale of Clermont, who met with Rosario about the misrepresentations, which have since been removed the candidate's website.
New York Times: Outside money favor Clinton 2-to-1 over Trump
The New York Times reports that six years after a Supreme Court decision opened vast new channels for money to flow into national elections, Democrats have built the largest and best-coordinated apparatus of outside groups operating in the 2016 presidential campaign, defying expectations that conservative and corporate wealth would dominate the race. A dozen different organizations raised over $200 million through the beginning of October and since May have spent more than $110 million on television, digital, and radio ads in support of Hillary Clinton, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission through Thursday, Oct. 20. The handful of organizations backing Donald J. Trump have raised less than half that amount, a steep dive from four years ago, when wealthy Republicans poured hundreds of millions of dollars into groups backing the Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
The Oregonian: University gained many students and a fed investigation
Concordia University now bestows more Master of Education degrees than any other public or private nonprofit school in the country, thanks to a popular online teaching program that helped quadruple the college's revenues in five years, The Oregonian reports. The meteoric growth came at a price to Concordia. The small Christian school has paid more than $160 million to a private contractor hired to handle aspects of the online graduate degree program. Students know little about the Silicon Valley company or its outsized role. Concordia and HotChalk Inc. drew rebuke last year after the U.S. Education Department concluded a two-year investigation into their relationship. A federal prosecutor said the arrangement appeared to violate laws that keep colleges from paying incentives for recruitment, or from outsourcing more than half an educational program to an unaccredited party.
Austin American-Statesman: Texas’ Hispanic population underrepresented
The Austin American-Statesman reports a first-of-its-kind analysis has found deep patterns of underrepresentation of the state’s fast growing Hispanic population on city councils and commissioners courts across Texas. More than 1.3 million Hispanics in Texas live in cities or counties with no Hispanic representation on their city council or commissioners court. The disparities remain high even when accounting for noncitizens. The imbalance is especially acute at the highest levels of local government. In a state where Hispanics make up 38 percent of the population, only about 10 percent of Texas mayors and county judges are Hispanic. In the halls of county government, Latino representation has largely stagnated over the past two decades. In 1994, Latinos made up 10 percent of county commissioner positions; today, the percentage has inched up just slightly to 13 percent — even though the state’s Hispanic population nearly doubled over that time.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK OCT. 18, 2016
AP: An accidental shooting kills a child every other day
The Associated Press and the USA TODAY Network report that during the first six months of this year, minors died from accidental shootings — at their own hands, or at the hands of other children or adults — at a pace of one every other day, far more than limited federal statistics indicate. Such tragedies play out repeatedly across the country. Curious toddlers find unsecured, loaded handguns in their homes and vehicles, and fatally shoot themselves and others. Teenagers, often showing off guns to their friends and siblings, end up shooting them instead.
Stamford Advocate: Connecticut day care inspections incomplete until now
As authorities probe the recent deaths of four infants in day care — including three in Connecticut’s Fairfield County — records show regulators did not annually inspect every licensed child care provider in the state until this year, according to The Stamford Advocate. In 2013, only 38 percent of nearly 2,500 family day care homes were inspected to ensure safety and quality of care, and 44 percent were inspected in 2014, a Hearst Connecticut Media examination of state records found. The inspection rate rose to 87 percent in 2015. The state Office of Early Childhoodsaid this year, all of the state’s nearly 4,000 child care providers will finally receive at least one yearly inspection, due to an infusion of state money to hire and train additional inspectors.
The Washington Post finds that opioid prescriptions have skyrocketed from 112 million in 1992 to nearly 249 million in 2015, the latest year for which numbers are available, and America’s dependence on the drugs has reached crisis levels. Millions are addicted to or abusing prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that, from 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people died in the United States from prescription-opioid overdoses, which have contributed to a startling increase in early mortality among whites, particularly women — a devastating toll that has hit hardest in small towns and rural areas. The pharmaceutical industry’s response has been more drugs. The opioid market — now worth nearly $10 billion a year in sales in the United States — has expanded to include a growing universe of medications aimed at treating secondary effects rather than controlling pain.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/the-drug-industrys-answer-to-opioid-addiction-more-pills/2016/10/15/181a529c-8ae4-11e6-bff0-d53f592f176e_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_movantik-630pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Retaking classes online won’t master subject
The number of Georgia students who have made up courses they failed by taking online classes has grown rapidly, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. But most students pass the online classes without mastering the material. Georgia students took more than 20,700 online “credit recovery” courses last year. State and local officials say the classes have helped Georgia improve its graduation rate, though it’s hard to pinpoint how much of the increase is due to credit recovery. About 90 percent of Georgia students who took one of these courses last year in subjects covered by state tests passed the course itself. But an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of results of the state-required tests found only about 10 percent of them were proficient in the subject.
Chicago Tribune: Two Chicago cops still sidelined decade after police scandal
A decade after one of the most damaging scandals in Chicago police history broke, two of the officers accused of wrongdoing remain on desk duty at full pay, filing papers or answering phones as they await the outcome of the city's slow-moving and much-criticized disciplinary process, The Chicago Tribune says. The two are just a fraction of about 85 officers who remain on the force but are barred from working on the street because of ongoing disciplinary cases that can take years to close. As Chicago police fight surging violence and Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledges the need for more police on the street, these sidelined officers are taking a toll on finances and available manpower. The group of about 85 officers — the size of some Police Academy graduating classes — is on track to cost the city at least $5 million in pay this year, according to a Tribune analysis of department records obtained through an open records request.
Des Moines Register: Iowa has little idea of cost of flooding protection
The Des Moines Resister reports Iowa is seeing heavier rains and more flooding as climate change takes its toll, yet the state has little idea how much it would cost to protect its homes, schools, factories and other infrastructure, let alone how to pay for it. Iowa cities and towns have put together $1.4 billion in plans to protect themselves from flooding, seeking to buy homes and businesses near rivers, build levees and flood walls and better protect utilities. But the state has failed to aggressively push to build wetlands, detention ponds and other upstream structures that can significantly reduce flooding risks for cities and towns. One senator says some Iowa lawmakers have discussed the need for increased flood mitigation that could also reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff. But that message has gotten lost amid intense budget fights over education, health care and other funding needs.
Courier-Journal: Unequal justice: Kentucky’s county incarceration rates vary
Figures from the National Corrections Reporting Program show that Kentucky’s Carroll County sent people to prison at a higher rate in 2014 than any county in the state – and more than any county in the United States with a population of more than 10,000 for which data are available, The Courier-Journal reports. Carroll imprisoned offenders at four times the rate of Jefferson or Fayette counties and 20 times the rate of nearby Oldham, which incarcerated at the state’s lowest rate. If every county had locked up residents at Carroll’s rate, about 60,000 inmates would have been added to the state’s prison rolls in 2014, nearly tripling Kentucky’s total prison population. The figures show such huge discrepancies in the incarceration rate among Kentucky counties that sentencing reform advocates say they undermine the very notion of equal justice under the law.
Minneapolis Star Tribune: No candidates for hundreds of local offices
The Minneapolis Star Tribune says that hundreds of local offices in Minnesota — mayor, council member, clerk — have no candidates running for them. In Minnetonka Beach, an upscale Twin Cities suburb, officials worry that the city’s business will grind to a halt because nobody is running for city treasurer. In Elmore, boyhood home of former Vice President Walter Mondale, they’re hoping somebody — anybody — will raise their hand to fill a vacant City Council seat. Along with the vacant ballot slots, 60 percent of all local offices in Minnesota have only a single candidate running unopposed. In all, two-thirds of local offices statewide have either no candidate running or just one. The dearth of candidates interested in political life has local officials struggling with where Minnesota will find its next generation of leaders.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Evictions in St. Louis remain stubbornly high
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that in the fallout of the housing crisis, the number of lawsuits filed in local courts against people for back rent or possession of property rose, primarily because banks and mortgage companies evicted people after a foreclosure. But as foreclosure-related evictions have since fallen sharply, the court dockets remain busy, as suits filed by traditional landlords against renters have risen. Years into the economic recovery, thousands of households at the bottom rung of the rental market have yet to find stability. Court filings suggest evictions remain as frequent as in the immediate aftermath of the recession. In 2015, nearly 16,000 lawsuits for back rent or possession were filed in St. Louis and St. Louis County courts, according to a Post-Dispatch analysis of court data. “No one wins in this eviction cycle,” said Lee Camp, a lawyer who represents tenants at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.
Newark Star Ledger: NJ taxed $1.4 billion for 911 system but never delivered
For more than a decade every person in New Jersey with a phone has paid a tax on their monthly bill to fund the 911 emergency phone system, handing over a whopping $1.37 billion to Trenton, according to The Newark Star Ledger. Then came the classic Jersey bait-and-switch. Rather than using the money for 911, lawmakers and governors have instead raided it time and again to balance the budget, leaving critical upgrades to the state's most important public safety system on hold. An NJ Advance Media analysis found that of the $1.37 billion the state has collected in 911 fees since 2004, only 15 percent, about $211 million, has been used to help pay for the 911 system. Investment in the upgrade, known as NextGen 911, has trickled to a halt.
Albuquerque Journal: NM has highest percentage of children on food stamps
The Albuquerque Journal reports New Mexico has the nation’s largest percentage of young children receiving food stamps, with nearly half of children age 4 and under participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to a report issued this week. The program, also known as food stamps, is the largest provider of nutrition assistance to children in poor families nationwide. In New Mexico, 196,300 children receive SNAP benefits, according to a report released this week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Forty-six percent of children age 4 and under receive the benefits, according to the report, compiled from U.S. Department of Agriculture data for 2014, the most recent year for which the information is available.
Philadelphia Inquirer: Pennsylvania bucks trend to early voting
People are making their voices heard early in 37 states that have expanded early voting, a movement expected to result in a third of all votes cast in this year's general election, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Early voting represents a return to an election practice that started before the Civil War, a way to allow rural voters time to get to a polling place. It expanded in recent decades to make voting more convenient and to shield against bad weather having an outsize impact on a major election. New Jersey began expanding early voting in 2009. Pennsylvania remains among the holdout states. While its goals are to expand voter participation, observers say early voting this year could boomerang against Donald Trump in particular, as the Republican presidential nominee has less time to recover from scandal in early-voting battlegrounds like Florida, Colorado, and Ohio.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: $3 billion market for “overactive bladder”
In 2001, an automated telephone survey paid for by a drug company asked adults a simple, uncomfortable question: How often do you go? The results produced a striking number: Nearly 17 percent of adults in the United States — some 33 million people — were declared to have overactive bladder disorder. And a massive new market for drug sales was born, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Last year, sales of drugs to manage overactive bladder, once simply known as incontinence, reached nearly $3 billion — even though experts in the field say the condition is best managed without drugs at all. At the center of the issue are two urologists who re-named the condition, developed a definition for it and organized drug-company sponsored conferences that advocated for using drugs to treat it.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK OCT. 11, 2016
Denver Post: Tax law costs some Colorado families their mobile homes
The Denver Post reports how a bewildered mobile homeowner loses a property over a tax lien of a few hundred dollars and ultimately faces a painful choice: Buy it back for thousands or face eviction. While perfectly legal in Colorado, the practice has given pause even to county treasurers, who have seen a sudden spike in this seldom-used facet of tax lien law. The proportionality of the trade-off — losing a home over a minor tax debt — and more stringent payment expectations for mobile home owners compared to owners of real property have prompted a re-examination of the process. Owners whose tax liens are purchased by an investor have only about a year to redeem them before the investor can start paperwork to take ownership. Owners of real property — fixed buildings and land — have about three years to repay the debt.
Washington Post: In safety and reliability, Metro ranks in middle of the pack
An analysis of federal data shows the region’s rail transit system had an average or above-average performance in overall safety and reliability among the nine largest U.S. subways over the past eight years, the Washington Post reports. Metro had one of the lowest rates for passenger injuries from 2008 through 2015. Its reliability, despite having slipped recently, was not among the worst. It ranked smack in the middle — fifth out of nine — in collisions and fires. It had the third-lowest rate of total mechanical failures from 2011 through 2014. Chicago and Philadelphia had higher rates of passenger injuries, collisions and total mechanical failures than did Washington. San Francisco ranked near the top for good reliability, whereas Boston was safest in terms of passenger injuries.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/in-safety-and-reliability-metro-ranks-in-middle-of-the-pack-of-nations-big-systems/2016/10/08/aa7bb5a6-59b4-11e6-831d-0324760ca856_story.html
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Education fundamentally changed in Wisconsin
Five years into the Act 10 era, the aftereffects of Wisconsin’s bruising battle over union power are fundamentally altering public education in the state, according to The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Once anchored in communities, teachers are moving from district to district, creating a year-round cycle of vacancies and turnover as fewer people enter the profession. The revolving schoolhouse door is rewarding the most sought-after educators with five-figure signing bonuses — giving better-paying districts an edge in recruiting away top talent. Newly empowered administrators are rooting out more underachievers, slowly but steadily linking pay to performance and prizing skill over seniority. Without real collective bargaining, unions have lost strength and membership, with many veteran teachers seething over bygone influence and compensation.
Courier-Journal: With jails crowded, Kentucky reconsiders prvate prisons
The Courier-Journal reports in the first of a two-part series that as jails across the commonwealth run out of beds amid a logjam of state prisoners, Kentucky officials are considering a controversial return to private prisons. Kentucky is grappling with an 18 percent rise in its prison population since 2013, according to a recent Pew Charitable Trusts presentation, which has helped overwhelm jails around the state, including Jefferson County’s. The state says its roughly 11,700-bed prison system has been coping with around 23,640 prisoners - about half of whom are held in county jails. State officials see private prisons as a potential, temporary fix, but experts say those institutions entail significant risks even when used only as a short-term solution. The state stopped using private prisons three years ago after female inmates were sexually abused by guards at the Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright.
Baltimore Sun: Untrained volunteers set up Maryland’s medical pot industry
The Baltimore Sun reports that when lawmakers first envisioned a medical marijuana commission, they created a panel of volunteers to look after what was supposed to be limited program of academic centers dispensing the drug. Three years later, those same untrained volunteers have become closely watched regulators who have presided over the rocky launch of Maryland's multimillion-dollar medical marijuana industry. Not even half of the preliminary licenses have been awarded, and the process is already mired in a lawsuit and ethics probe. The lack of diversity among licensees has drawn the ire of black lawmakers, including one who pushed to create the program.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune: County judge confronts police on “military tactics”
As Minnesota’s law enforcement agencies continue to arm themselves with more military weapons and tactics, critics of police militarization hope a court ruling will at least slow the use of SWAT teams when executing search warrants, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune says. Ben Feist, the legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, says: “Police are supposed to be out there protecting their communities, rather than treating people like they’re enemies in a combat zone.” Last November, 18 Hennepin County officials dressed in riot gear and carrying semi-automatic rifles stormed inside Michael Delgado’s home searching for drugs. Another 10 to 14 stood guard outside as an armored truck equipped with a sniper focused on the house. That search, Hennepin County District Judge Tanya Bransford ruled, was unconstitutional. She wrote that the “military style” tactics were a violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Oregonian: Was Portland’s lead crisis preventable?
The Oregonian reports that the lead crisis that gripped Portland's largest school district this summer might have been avoided if city leaders followed federal rules to minimize lead exposure in drinking water. An investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive found state regulators let Portland off the hook two decades ago as federal officials turned a blind eye. In November 1997, state officials approved a one-of-a-kind deal that let Portland ignore rules other cities across the country had to follow. New federal guidelines would have required Portland to add chemicals to its water to minimize pipe corrosion and the release of lead. But the city effectively bet it could reduce overall health risks — and save money — by focusing on lead paint instead of aggressively targeting lead in water. That decision affected not only schools but also thousands of homes, apartments and offices across the region connected to Portland's water supply.
Austin American-Statesman: Foster kids sleep in state offices
Since January, 330 foster children — more than four times as many as last year for the same period — have been forced to stay in hotels, Child Protective Services offices or emergency shelters across the state because CPS could not find a home for them, reports The Austin American-Statesman. And there’s no sign that the problem will abate anytime soon. The numbers have been consistently rising because of a shortage of foster placements. CPS has faced down this problem before. In 2007, local child placing agencies — private organizations that are paid by the state to find and oversee foster homes for kids — started rejecting more children with behavioral problems. There were foster homes available, they said, but families weren’t always equipped to handle challenging kids.
Houston Chronicle: MUDS sell bonds, levy taxes for developers who fund pols
The Houston Chronicle says that in Houston's conservative suburbs, where local governments are loath to raise taxes, the thankless task of hiking revenues has fallen to hundreds of so-called municipal utility districts created for developers to finance water and sewage systems, roads and other amenities. These MUDs, as they're called, have virtually unlimited power in bright red, anti-tax Texas to sell bonds and levy property taxes. The state's leading tea party conservatives, Comptroller Glenn Hegar and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have championed their creation in what ethics reformers say is a clear example of special interest influence in Austin. All told, lawmakers who carry bills creating MUDs and other water districts have collected $3.5 million in campaign contributions since 2001 from law firms that specialize in creating those districts on behalf of developers or do bond work on their multimillion-dollar deals, a Houston Chronicle investigation has found.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentnel: Refugee resettlement agency under investigation
A Milwaukee nonprofit that offers after-school programs for refugee children and other assistance for refugees is under investigation for alleged misuse of federal funds, according to The Milwaukee Journal. The Pan-African Community Association gave money to at least 32 people who were not eligible to receive funds, investigators with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement have found, according to records obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel under the Freedom of Information Act. In addition, the organization violated terms of federal grants by spending more than 35 percent of its annual budget on administrative costs and paying individuals in the form of money orders, rather than paying vendors directly for items purchased, the reports state. The association received more than $440,000 in federal funds from 2012 to 2015 to help refugees from Africa and around the world buy cars and houses and to open businesses in Milwaukee.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK OCT. 5, 2016
AP: Across US, police officers misuse confidential databases
An Associated Press investigation has found police officers across the country misuse confidential law enforcement databases to get information on romantic partners, business associates, neighbors, journalists and others for reasons unrelated to police work. Criminal-history and driver databases legitimately give officers critical information about people they encounter on the job. But the AP's review shows how those systems can also be exploited by officers who, motivated by romantic quarrels, personal conflicts or voyeuristic curiosity, sidestep policies and sometimes the law by snooping. No single agency tracks how often the abuse happens nationwide and record-keeping inconsistencies make it impossible to know how many violations occur.
The Los Angeles Times reports many thousands of Californians are dying every year from infections they caught while in hospitals. But you’d never know that from their death certificates. California does not track deaths from hospital-acquired infections. And unlike two dozen other states, California does not require hospitals to report when patients are sickened by the rare, lethal superbug that afflicted McMullen, raising questions about whether health officials are doing enough to stop its spread. University of Michigan researchers reported in a 2014 study that infections – both those acquired inside and outside hospitals – would replace heart disease and cancer as the leading causes of death in hospitals if the count was performed by looking at patients’ medical billing records, which show what they were being treated for, rather than death certificates.
The New York Times reported records it has obtained show Donald J. Trumpdeclared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, records obtained by The New York Times show. The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. Tax experts hired by The Times to analyze Mr. Trump’s 1995 records said that tax rules especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr. Trump to use his $916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period.
Washington Post: The cobalt pipeline
The Washington Post reports the world’s soaring demand for cobalt is at times met by workers, including children, who labor in harsh and dangerous conditions. An estimated 100,000 cobalt miners in Congo use hand tools to dig hundreds of feet underground with little oversight and few safety measures, according to workers, government officials and evidence found by The Washington Post during visits to remote mines. Deaths and injuries are common. And the mining activity exposes local communities to levels of toxic metals that appear to be linked to ailments that include breathing problems and birth defects, health officials say. The Post traced this cobalt pipeline and, for the first time, showed how cobalt mined in these harsh conditions ends up in popular consumer products.
Miami Herald: New intelligence upends Guantanamo assumptions
The Miami Herald reports that an ongoing review shows the U.S. intelligence community has been debunking long-held myths about some of the “worst of the worst” at Guantánamo, some of them still held today. The retreat emerges in a series of unclassified prisoner profiles released by the Pentagon in recent years, snapshots of much larger dossiers the public cannot see, prepared for the Periodic Review Board examining the Pentagon’s “forever prisoner” population. The new intelligence reports are not designed to help the panel decide a captive’s guilt or innocence. Rather they were prepared for representatives from the Departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, State and the Director of National Intelligence to evaluate each captive, a process that has whittled the detainee population down to 61 today.
Times-Picayune: Louisiana keeps prison costs down in new ways
The Times-Picayune reports that when it comes to prisons, Louisiana is first in many ways. The state has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with about one in 75 Louisiana adults in prison or jail at any given moment. Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly called Angola, is the largest maximum security prison in the country. But Louisiana is also the first to convert its two private prisons into jails -- yanking educational and medical services from thousands of state inmates -- to deal with state budget cuts. No other state has made a similar move, essentially using an administrative maneuver that allows the state to work around prison regulations and run a facility more cheaply.
Dallas Morning News: Reason for pregnancy-related deaths cloaked in secrecy
The Dallas Morning News reports the rate of pregnancy-related deaths among Texas women has nearly doubled in recent years, according to a national study, while a separate state-commissioned study found that black women are especially vulnerable. Researchers can't say why maternal death rates are higher in Texas than any other state, and the reasons are likely to remain hidden. That's because the data and records that could provide answers to the maternal death quandary are being kept secret by the Department of State Health Services, which has refused to disclose even an inventory of what data it keeps.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Bonds, delinquent bonds
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports bail bond companies that pledged bail money as guarantees that their clients would appear for criminal court proceedings now owe the state of Hawaii more than $2.4 million in forfeited bail bonds after the offenders failed to show up for their court dates. Data provided by the Hawaii State Judiciary in response to a public records request show the judiciary is owed money by companies doing business under three dozen names for bond forfeitures that is some cases date back to 2001 and 2002. A list of unpaid bail forfeitures in Family District and Circuit courts was compiled as of June 30 and includes amounts ranging from $100 to s much as $250,000 in one case.
Read more (online subscribers only): http://www.staradvertiser.com/2016/10/02/hawaii-news/several-bail-bond-companies-including-one-owned-by-dog-chapman-owe-the-state-more-than-2-4m/
San Francisco Chronicle: Resolutions benefit lawmakers as taxpayers foot bills
The San Francisco Chronicle reports almost 600 resolutions were introduced in the California Legislature during the past two-year session, which ended on Aug. 31. These legislative formalities, designed to honor individuals or groups or draw attention to issues, don’t create or change laws. Some considered this past session, for instance, asked Californians to celebrate cowboys and urged parents not to idle cars when picking up their kids from school. Taxpayer groups and other critics say they have become excessive and costly, and that there is little public benefit from them. Yet, there are, at times, clear personal benefits to lawmakers who push resolutions through the Legislature. A review by The Chronicle of all 578 legislative resolutions in the past two years found many instances where special interest groups made campaign contributions to the lawmakers who carried resolutions highlighting their organizations or causes.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK SEPT. 27, 2016
AP: California lawmakers collect thousands on top of salary while absent
The Associated Press reported from Sacramento that in addition to their six-figure salaries and benefits, California's 120 lawmakers are compensated for their cost of living and meals when they leave home and travel to Sacramento to write and pass bills. Unlike in many other states, however, California lawmakers have over time crafted loosely worded rules for themselves that allow them to collect those payments regardless of whether they even show up to work. It's a perk unlike anything typically available to workers in the private sector, allowing lawmakers such as Assemblyman Roger Hernandez to take unlimited time off and continue collecting a tax-free, daily allowance of $176.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: System shields doctor sex abuse nationwide
A national investigation by the newspaper identified more than 2,400 doctors disciplined for sexual misconduct involving patients since 1999,The The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Half are still licensed. But no state routinely requires doctors to tell patients when they have faced disciplinary action, the newspaper found. Four states post no disciplinary records online, and at least nine purge case files after as little as five years. Twenty-one states sometimes issue secret orders that allow doctors to continue practice with no public hearings and no public scrutiny. Even in states that publish disciplinary files online, getting to the details of a doctor’s offenses can be surprisingly difficult.
Daily Hampshire Gazette: Some restaurants pay less than minimum wage
The Daily Hampshire Gazette has identified at least seven Chinese and Japanese restaurants where workers seem to be making less than the legal minimum — and that’s without taking into account the time-and-a-half overtime pay many employers provide for work beyond the standard 40-hour week. The Gazette identified at least four Hampshire County restaurants whose managers acknowledged paying workers a sum that appears to be below the minimum wage. Additionally, workers at three other establishments reported wages that appear to be below the minimum. The Gazette attempted to interview owners or managers at 18 other Chinese and Japanese restaurants in Hampshire County. Some managers and owners either refused to comment or were said to be unavailable; others agreed to be interviewed but declined to comment on pay practices.
News Tribune: Secret studies say LNG plant poses no off-site danger
The News Tribune, of Tacoma, Wash., reports the safety studies of potential spills, leaks and fires at Puget Sound Energy’s proposed Tacoma Tideflats liquid natural gas plant appear to back up the company’s contention the hazards wouldn’t reach across the site’s property lines, The News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington, reported. Records, including a plant siting study, a fire protection evaluation and a series of video models of plant accidents, contemplate incidents from bad to worse as part of explaining the potential risks of building the plant. PSE has fought public disclosure of the documents. Among the scenarios envisioned in them: a leak in the natural gas pipeline that feeds the $275 million plant or a rupture and fire at the top of the storage tank that will hold 8 million gallons of liquid natural gas, or LNG.
Chicago Tribune: Other cities dig up toxic lead pipes, Chicago resists
The Chicago Tribune reports that as cities across the nation overhaul their aging, increasingly fragile drinking water systems, some municipal leaders are digging deeper to erase a toxic legacy that endangers millions of Americans: lead water pipes connecting homes to street mains. Other cities have plans in the works. Chicago has more lead service lines than any other city and required them by law until 1986, when Congress banned the use of the brain-damaging metal to convey drinking water. But as Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushes ahead with expensive plans to modernize Chicago's water system, administration officials say it is up to individual homeowners to decide whether it is worth replacing the pipes at their own expense. Of the $412 million Emanuel has borrowed from a federal-state loan fund during the past six years for water-related projects, none is going to replace lead pipes.
Los Angeles Times: Scope of Trump’s falsehoods unprecedented
Donald Trump says taxes in the United States are higher than almost anywhere else on earth, The Los Angeles Times reports. They’re not. He says he opposed the Iraq war from the start. He didn’t. Now, after years of spreading the lie that President Obama was born in Africa, Trump says that Hillary Clinton did it first (untrue) and that he’s the one who put the controversy to rest (also untrue). Never in modern presidential politics has a major candidate made false statements as routinely as Trump has. Over and over, independent researchers have examined what the Republican nominee says and concluded it was not the truth — but “pants on fire” (PolitiFact) or “four Pinocchios” (Washington Post Fact Checker).
Denver Post: Regulatory vacuum in oil and gas production compounds risks
A national legacy of encouraging oil and gas development — for energy security, for jobs, for the economy — has created a regulatory vacuum, according to The Denver Post. There is an entire federal agency devoted to mining safety, for instance, but nothing comparable exists for oil and gas. While OSHA has created specific safety standards that companies in other industries must follow, oil and gas businesses successfully beat back such regulations for themselves. Meanwhile, 1,333 workers died in the nation’s oil and gas fields between 2003 and 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nationwide death toll in 2014 of 144 was the highest in more than a decade. By another measurement — the number of worker deaths per active drilling rig — 2014 was the second-most lethal year in Colorado in a decade, according to a Denver Post analysis.
Miami Herald: How Miami-Dade was outgunned in war on Zika
The Miami Herald says that as the Zika virus spread across Miami-Dade County this summer, a staff of 17 that handles mosquito control for nearly 2.7 million people was outgunned, overwhelmed and maybe even a victim of its own success: in 2009 and 2010, the county managed to dodge a dengue outbreak that infected more than 100 people in Key West and four years later evaded a rash of Chikungunya. But Zika was something different, a mosquito-borne virus with terrifying implications for expectant parents that had ravaged parts of South America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention repeatedly warned it was a public health threat that called for serious advance planning. Despite the early alarms, records show Miami-Dade largely proceeded with business as usual as the summer mosquito season approached.
Des Moines Register: Police now say investigative records sealed forever
A relatively recent interpretation of a 45-year-old Iowa law claims any document created or collected as part of an investigation can be considered confidential forever, The Des Moines Register reports. The Department of Public Safety denied all or parts of 40 out of 59 record requests it received during the first six months of 2016, a Des Moines Register investigation found. And of the 40 denials, 28 were based on the investigative file exemption — regardless of whether the case is closed, remains under investigation or went cold three decades ago. A spot check showed that local law enforcement agencies rarely use the same exemption. Des Moines police had no record of any requests it has denied citing that exemption in the first six months of 2016.
Baltimore Sun: Program aimed at vacant homes gets slow start
The Baltimore Sun reports that after decades of stalled promises to tear down the vacant row homes that have become symbolic of Baltimore's woes, Gov. Larry Hogan pledged at the start of the year that "thousands" would come down over four years with an infusion of $75 million in state money. Nine months later, the program, dubbed Project CORE, has barely begun. Officials had identified more than 370 properties for demolition by the end of 2016, but just 53 properties have been approved for razing, and costs are mounting faster than anticipated — both troubling signs the program could fall short of its goals. In interviews, city and state officials backed away from previous projections but said it is too early to judge the effectiveness the program, a partnership between the state Department of Housing and Community Development, the Maryland Stadium Authority, and Baltimore's housing department.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin faces billions in retiree obligations
Over the next generation, Wisconsin's taxpayers and public workers reportedly must deal with at least $6.5 billion in unfunded retirement promises made by local governments, with more than $4.7 billion in the state's largest county alone. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation has found that from Milwaukee to Eau Claire, local governments face problems more severe than any in a generation. A review of thousands of pages of financial documents shows the biggest challenges lie in southeastern Wisconsin, with the city, county and schools in Racine, for instance, combining for at least $686 million in unfunded liabilities to retirees and workers — $3,500 for every person in the county. Local officials piled up these IOUs over decades by promising as much as $250,000 in health care benefits to individual retirees and putting nothing aside to pay for them.
Austin American-Statesman: Law change helps Texas graduation rate
Graduation rates in Texas once again have hit an all-time high — and the latest uptick can be attributed to a recent law that allows seniors to graduate high school without passing high-stakes, state mandated exams, according to The Austin American-Statesman. More than 5,800 students statewide, and at least 150 in the Austin area, were able to graduate in 2015 despite failing at least one of five end-of-course STAAR exams. The state’s graduation rates actually would have dipped slightly to 87.3 percent, had it not been for the law change. Preliminary data for the 2016 graduating class indicates that even more students were able to walk the stage in the spring under Senate Bill 149, which allows some students to bypass the requirement that they succeed on the exams to get a diploma.
San Francisco Chronicle: Climate change law has transformed California
The San Francisco Chronicle has found that more than 27 percent of California’s current demand for electricity is being met by renewable sources — primarily the sun, the wind and the Earth’s own heat. Just a few short years ago, that would have been considered astonishing. Now it happens on a regular basis. Next summer, the percentage will be even higher. State law requires that California get 33 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020 and 50 percent 10 years later. “Think about it — we’re sitting here right now, and there’s 7,000-plus megawatts of solar on our system,” says Eric Schmitt, vice president of operations for the California Independent System Operator. “That’s eight nuclear reactors’ worth of electricity on our system — just from solar.” Tuesday, Sept. 27, marks 10 years since then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger committed California to stopping climate change.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK SEPT. 20, 2016
AP: Drug makers fought state opioid limits amid crisis
The Associated Press reported the makers of prescription painkillers have adopted a 50-state strategy that includes hundreds of lobbyists and millions in campaign contributions to help kill or weaken measures aimed at stemming the tide of prescription opioids, the drugs at the heart of a crisis that has cost 165,000 Americans their lives and pushed countless more to crippling addiction. The drug makers vow they're combating the addiction epidemic, but The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that they often employ a statehouse playbook of delay and defend that includes funding advocacy groups that use the veneer of independence to fight limits on their drugs, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and fentanyl, the narcotic linked to Prince's death.
Denver Post: Endangered sucker fish bouncing back after a 25-year rescue
The Denver Post reports that for millions of years, razorback sucker fish thrived in a raging, flood-prone Colorado River and were so abundant that settlers caught them on pitchforks and fed them to cows. But over the past 50 years, the razorbacks — yellow-bellied with humped, green heads and frenzied, fleshy lips — fell victim to dams, development and voracious nonnative predators that ate them nearly to extinction. Now they’re making a major turnaround, beneficiaries of a 25-year, $360 million government-run rescue. The recovery has reached a point scientists are calling a “critical mass.” Yet, even though razorback numbers appear to have more than doubled since 2010, questions remain about whether humans will be trapped in a role of perpetual caretakers.
Washington Post: In open-carry America, a trip to Walmart can require an AR-15
The Washington Post reports that in a country of relaxing gun laws where it’s now legal to open-carry in 45 states and there are 14.5 million carry permits, every day seems to bring a new version of what open-carry can mean. In Kentucky, it’s now legal to open-carry in city buildings. In downtown Cleveland, people carried military-style rifles during the Republican National Convention. In Howell, Mich., last month, a father went openly armed to his child’s middle-school orientation. In Mississippi, it’s now legal to open-carry without a permit at all. And Georgia, which has passed a “guns everywhere” bill, has issued nearly 1 million carry permits.
Sun Sentinel: The Gulf of Mexico’s deadly harvest
More than 700 people in the United States have become seriously ill from deadly bacteria found in raw oysters from the Gulf of Mexico since 1989, the Sun Sentinel reports. Nearly half died. Other foodborne illnesses sicken far more people, but none is as lethal. Vibrio vulnificus causes excruciating pain as the infection eats through skin and muscle, often leading to amputations and death within days. Food safety authorities know how to prevent this. California in 2003 prohibited the sale of raw Gulf oysters in the warm, high-risk months of April through October unless they’ve been treated to kill the bacteria. Since then, just one death has been linked to raw oysters in that state. But when food regulators tried to require treatment of Gulf oysters nationwide, the industry and its allies in Congress quickly defeated the effort. They said the expense would devastate the oyster business. Those who become seriously ill or die, they said, are chronically ill people who should know better than to eat raw oysters.
Miami Herald: Opa-locka spent millions, despite warnings of financial troubles
While the city was fending off creditors threatening to sue for unpaid bills, officials spent hundreds of thousands on parties, travel and bonuses since 2012 — with few controls on how the tax dollars were spent, According to The Miami Herald. The newspaper found they doled out $300,000 in holiday bonuses for city employees, despite repeated warnings the city would have to lay off workers. They gave out raises that cost hundreds of thousands in additional expenses just in the past six months. Using a city credit card, Mayor Myra Taylor charged airfare for family members to join her on trips across the country, while she was spending thousands on dinners and fruit baskets that she sent to supporters. The spending by Opa-locka officials in the years leading to its fiscal emergency in June represents the most troubling example of what went wrong in one of Florida’s poorest cities and the practices by elected officials that undermined its financial future.
Indianapolis Star: Left in the dark: Indy’s deadly streets
City officials stopped adding streetlights more than 35 years ago to save money on the city’s $2.9 million annual electric bill. Compounding the problem, they also failed to build any new sidewalks for 20 years during that time. It has made for a lethal combination. An Indianapolis Star investigation found that 585 pedestrians have been killed in Marion County since the streetlight ban in 1980. Last year, 27 pedestrians were run down, more than in any year since the moratorium started. The vast majority of those killed were struck at night, usually on streets lacking lights, sidewalks or both. Their deaths not only raise questions about whether the city is doing enough to protect its residents, but also call into question the city’s spending priorities over the years.
Read more: http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2016/09/18/left-dark-indys-deadly-streets/88838610/?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=FeedBlitzRss&utm_content=Left+in+the+dark%3a+Indy%27s+deadly+streets
Des Moines Register: Data show big increase in property seizures
The Des Moines Register reports Iowa law enforcement agencies confiscate cash, vehicles and real estate from at least 1,000 people each year as part of a state program in which no proof of crime is required before the government lays claim to personal belongings. That represents a massive increase since the 1980s, when state and local governments reported fewer than two dozen such cases annually, according to data obtained by The Des Moines Register through a public records request. Those data detail for the first time how Iowa's civil forfeiture laws are being widely used to pump millions of dollars into local law enforcement agency budgets every year, mostly in uncontested cases. In many instances, no criminal charges are ever filed against the person whose property was seized.
Los Angeles Times: California’s pension crisis
A Los Angeles Times report says that with the stroke of a pen, California Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation that gave prison guards, park rangers, Cal State professors and other state employees the kind of retirement security normally reserved for the wealthy. More than 200,000 civil servants became eligible to retire at 55 — and in many cases collect more than half their highest salary for life. California Highway Patrol officers could retire at 50 and receive as much as 90 percent of their peak pay for as long as they lived. Proponents sold the measure in 1999 with the promise that it would impose no new costs on California taxpayers. The state employees’ pension fund, they said, would grow fast enough to pay the bill in full. They were off — by billions of dollars — and taxpayers will bear the consequences for decades to come.
Arizona Republic: School buses fail almost 30 percent of 2015 safety inspections
Almost three out of 10 school bus safety inspections conducted by the state last year resulted in a failure because of a "major defect," the Arizona Republic reports. The investigation found Arizona's safety inspection failure rate nearly doubled from 2013 to 2015, from 15.4 to about 29 percent. That rate ranks as one of the highest in the nation. By comparison, the failure rate is 2.7 percent in California; 12 percent in Utah; and 15 percent in New Mexico. The Arizona school buses failed for having cracked and rotted tires and emergency exits and alarms that don't function like they should. They failed for having seats that either weren't completely secured to the floor or had their steel frames exposed.
Montgomery Advertiser: Alabama’s Elmore prison sees spike in homicides
Three inmate homicides at Elmore County Correctional Facility in the past 18 months should signal a crisis within Alabama's overcrowded prison system, a reform advocate said. From 2010 to 2014, one inmate homicide occurred at Elmore, despite a relatively stagnant occupancy rate at about 196 percent, the Montgomery Advertiser reports. The recent Elmore deaths account for one-third of all Alabama Department of Corrections inmate homicides in the past 18 months. “That should be setting off alarm bells that the (ADOC) is a system in crisis at all levels, and needs to be treated as such," said Charlotte Morrison, an attorney with the Equal Justice Initiative.
Tennessean: Representative’s campaign invested in company of GOP donor
The Tennessean reports that state Rep. Jeremy Durham invested money from his campaign, his political action committee and his personal bank accounts into the company of well-known Republican donor and activist Andrew Miller, according to a state election finance official. Miller, who was scrutinized in 2014 after another GOP lawmaker invested money in his company, confirmed Monday he's been contacted by the state about Durham's investment. The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, an entity within the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, is investigating whether Durham, R-Franklin, used his campaign funds for personal use or anything else that would be deemed a violation of state law. Tennessee law states candidates can't use campaign funds for personal purposes.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK SEPT. 13 2016
Los Angeles Times: Toll of violence mounts in San Bernardino
The sound of gunfire and sirens drew about a dozen people out of their homes on San Bernardino’s west side one recent night, the Los Angeles Times reports. A beat-up Honda sat in the street — a small cross dangling from the rearview mirror, two bullet holes in the door. Rescue workers pulled Alejandro Herrera, 28, from the driver’s seat and wheeled him into an ambulance. “The other day, they killed someone down the street,” said a middle-aged woman, leaning against a fence next to her husband. All around this part of the city, she said, there are candlelight memorials to victims of violence. And soon enough, Herrera, who died at the hospital, had his own candlelight memorial on the sidewalk in the neighborhood where he was shot. San Bernardino, still healing from the Dec. 2 terror attack, has seen a surge in violence this year unlike any it has faced in decades. With four months left in 2016, there have been 150 shootings and 47 slayings in the city of 216,000 residents. It had 44 homicides all of last year, including the 14 people killed by terrorists at the Inland Regional Center.
AP: Police losing battle to get drivers to put down their phones
State troopers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, have been known to patrol in a tractor-trailer so they can sit up high and spot drivers texting behind the wheel, The Associated Press reports. In Bethesda, Maryland, a police officer disguised himself as a homeless man, stood near a busy intersection and radioed ahead to officers down the road about texting drivers. In two hours last October, police gave out 56 tickets. And in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, south of Boston, an officer regularly tools around town on his bicycle, pedals up to drivers at stoplights and hands them $105 tickets. Texting while driving in the U.S. is not just a dangerous habit, but also an infuriatingly widespread one, practiced both brazenly and surreptitiously by so many motorists that police are being forced to get creative — and still can't seem to make much headway.
News Journal: Fatal accidents prove farming is risky business
You would never mistake Bill Brown for anything other than a poultry grower, with a chicken farm in Maryland and a full-time job as an extension agent for the University of Delaware, according to the News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware. Based in Georgetown, he taught and traveled to agricultural operations all around Delaware, spreading advice, including safety tips, to farmers. He knew his way around a chicken house and had done maintenance work on feed motors in poultry houses — lightly powered motors that ration out feed — countless times. But in April, Brown went to touch a feed motor on his farm, not knowing a wire had come loose and energized the motor housing. The shock was enough to kill him. Brown's death rattled and saddened farmers and growers in Delaware and Maryland. Brown, married and the father of two, wasn't just any farmer; his full-time job involved coaching and training poultry growers on how to keep their birds healthy while keeping themselves out of harm's way. For 21 years before coming to UD, he'd worked for Perdue Farms as a flock supervisor, ventilation specialist and hatchery manager. Brown's fatal accident was a reminder of a truth they already knew: Farming is dangerous work, more dangerous that most people realize.
Washington Post: Trump’s charity runs on few of his dollars
The Washington Post reports that Donald Trump was in a tuxedo, standing next to his award: a statue of a palm tree, as tall as a toddler. It was 2010, and Trump was being honored by a charity — the Palm Beach Police Foundation — for his “selfless support” of its cause. His support did not include any of his own money. Instead, Trump had found a way to give away somebody else’s money and claim the credit for himself. Trump had earlier gone to a charity in New Jersey — the Charles Evans Foundation, named for a deceased businessman — and asked for a donation. Trump said he was raising money for the Palm Beach Police Foundation. The Evans Foundation said yes. In 2009 and 2010, it gave a total of $150,000 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a small charity that the Republican presidential nominee founded in 1987. Then, Trump’s foundation turned around and made donations to the police group in South Florida. In those years, the Trump Foundation’s gifts totaled $150,000. Trump had effectively turned the Evans Foundation’s gifts into his own gifts, without adding any money of his own.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-donald-trump-retooled-his-charity-to-spend-other-peoples-money/2016/09/10/da8cce64-75df-11e6-8149-b8d05321db62_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_trumpfoundation607pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory
Boston Globe: Nursing home addiction care falls short
Kenneth “Bubba” Levesque was taking medicine to quell his cravings for heroin when he entered Braemoor Health Center last summer, the Boston Globe reports. Massive infections had forced the amputation of his lower left leg, and he needed help learning how to walk again with a prosthetic limb. Levesque, a teddy bear of a man, seesawed between addiction and recovery many times over the years, and told his family that this was his wake-up call, that he was finally going to “get clean” while in the Brockton nursing home. But state records show that three days after Levesque was discharged from Braemoor in March, the 43-year-old was dead from an opioid overdose, a grim coda to his seven months at the nursing home. During those months, according to state reports and Levesque’s family, he received escalating doses of opioid medications and no substance abuse counseling — at the very time he had vowed to banish narcotics from his life. Even as regulators and health leaders have launched myriad initiatives to combat the opioid crisis in Massachusetts, nursing homes — where potent pain medications are routinely administered — remain distant outposts.
New York Times: Officers with troubled pasts often end up back in blue
As a police officer in a small Oregon town in 2004, Sean Sullivan was caught kissing a 10-year-old girl on the mouth, The New York Times says. Mr. Sullivan’s sentence barred him from taking another job as a police officer. But three months later, in August 2005, Mr. Sullivan was hired, after a cursory check, not just as a police officer on another force but as the police chief. As the head of the department in Cedar Vale, Kan., according to court records and law enforcement officials, he was again investigated for a suspected sexual relationship with a girl and eventually convicted on charges that included burglary and criminal conspiracy. “It was very irritating because he should never have been a police officer,” said Larry Markle, the prosecutor for Montgomery and Chautauqua counties in Kansas. It is unclear how far-reaching such problems may be, but some experts say thousands of law enforcement officers may have drifted from police department to police department even after having been fired, forced to resign or convicted of a crime.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/11/us/whereabouts-of-cast-out-police-officers-other-cities-often-hire-them.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: ADHD treatment causes problems for adults
Public health officials have focused on the national plague of narcotic painkillers. But another scourge is looming largely unnoticed: The drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults. Since 2013, there have been more than 19,000 reports of complications from ADHD drugs, most of which are stimulants like Adderall, made to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today analysis. Of those, adults were far more likely than children to suffer severe complications, such as death and hospitalization. Meanwhile, among those 26 and older, recreational use of Adderall, an amphetamine, rose fourfold, from 345,000 people in 2006 to 1.4 million in 2014, according to the latest available federal data. In emergency departments around the country, the number of cases involving two common ADHD drugs nearly quadrupled over seven years. And at morgues in Florida, a bellwether state for drug abuse problems, overdose deaths involving amphetamines increased more than 450% between 2008 and 2014. Taken together, the data shows the drugs — which have been heavily promoted by the pharmaceutical industry — have left a trail of misuse, addiction and death, a Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today investigation found.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK SEPT. 6, 2016
Arizona Daily Star: Truancy pervasive in Tucson-area schools
The Arizona Daily Star quotes education and justice officials as saying that truancy is pervasive in Tucson-area schools — and there are fewer measures to push kids to show up for class or to lure them back if they become chronically truant. About one in five Pima County students missed 15 or more days of the 2013-2014 school year, new data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights show. That’s higher than the national average of about 13 percent. Most of the schools with the worst truancy rates are alternative district or charter schools, where half of all enrolled students missed 15 or more of the school year’s roughly 180 days.
News Journal: Medical marijuana patients in limbo
Five years after medical marijuana was legalized in Delaware, patients still struggle to gain access to the controversial drug they say is the only way to relieve their debilitating conditions, according to the News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware. Marijuana in Delaware and nationwide still operates in a gray area and in defiance of federal law. The result is that patients often pay exorbitant prices, must drive hours every week to buy the drug legally, sometimes have to buy it off drug dealers and often can't use the drug when they need it most. "There are thousands of people that need this as medicine, and there is too much greed and backdoor politics going on here," said Todd Boone, a medical marijuana cardholder.
Chicago Tribune: City wrestles with crisis of youth unemployment
The Chicago Tribune reports that Margo Strotter, who runs a busy sandwich shop in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, makes it a point to hire people with "blemishes." But young people? She sighs and shakes her head. They often lack "the fundamental stuff" — arriving on time, ironing their shirts, communicating well, taking direction — she said. She doesn't have time to train workers in the basics, and worries she's not alone. As Chicago tackles what some have termed a crisis of youth joblessness, it must reckon with the consequences of a failure to invest in its low-income neighborhoods and the people who live there. There aren't enough jobs, and the young people vying for them are frequently woefully unprepared because of gaps in their schooling and upbringing. The system has pushed them to the back of the hiring line.
Des Moines Register: Seven teachers dodge prison time
Some Iowa teachers convicted of sexually abusing students have been placed on probation rather than sentenced to prison, despite a state law requiring they spend time behind bars, a Des Moines Register investigation has found. The law, passed in 1997, specifically prohibits anyone who is a "mandatory reporter" of child abuse — such as a teacher, social worker or psychologist — from eligibility for probation. It was passed to hold educators and others in positions of power and influence over children to higher standards of accountability. But the Register's review of such cases over the past five years revealed at least seven instances in which teachers served no prison time after being convicted of sex crimes involving children attending their schools. Some judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys acknowledged the mistakes, which they said resulted from misunderstandings involving the sentencing requirements for such cases. Legal experts said discovery of the mistakes could prompt courts to set aside the sentencing agreements or retry the cases.
Courier-Journal: County school arrest numbers unclear
The word “arrested” was written in all-caps across the Western High student's publicly available arrest citation, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. The 18-year-old was handcuffed in school after what police said was a classroom confrontation over a cellphone that turned physical. He was charged with two counts of third-degree assault and one count of second-degree disorderly conduct in the April 2015 incident. He got a jail booking number and a mugshot. Yet his arrest was not counted by Jefferson County Public Schools in data that it is required to send to the state. Neither was the arrest in October 2014 of Andre Banks, who shot a classmate at Fern Creek High School. Nor was the arrest of an Eastern High student in March 2015 on drug charges. A monthslong review conducted by the Courier-Journal found JCPS did not report hundreds of arrest cases to the state — many of which it contends it didn't have to — leaving parents and the public with an incomplete picture of what’s going on in the state’s largest school district.
Boston Globe: Housing opportunities limited for the poor
The Boston Globe reports that low-income families who use housing subsidies to move from struggling to thriving communities represent perhaps the country’s best shot at breaking intergenerational poverty. Landmark research from Harvard University last year showed that children from poor families who make the transition at a young age are more likely to go to college, less likely to become single parents, and earn more money than those who remain behind. But despite the success of some families, their story remains an exception. A Globe examination finds that politics and inertia have conspired to create this lopsided geography of affordable housing — undercutting the region’s best hope for racial and economic integration. Researchers at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management have mapped the whole phenomenon at the Globe’s request. And the results are striking. Just 21 percent of federally subsidized units in Eastern Massachusetts are in so-called high-opportunity neighborhoods, with ready access to jobs, healthy food, and quality schools. That leaves 79 percent in moderate- and low-opportunity neighborhoods, block after block of housing projects and apartment complexes lining Franklin Park, surrounding Mattapan Square, and filling out struggling sections of Brockton and Lawrence.
New York Times: Global warming’s mark is coastal inundation
Huge vertical rulers are sprouting beside low spots in the streets in Norfolk, Virginia, so people can judge if the tidal floods that increasingly inundate their roads are too deep to drive through, The New York Times reports. Five hundred miles down the Atlantic Coast, the only road to Tybee Island, Georgia, is disappearing beneath the sea several times a year, cutting the town off from the mainland. And another 500 miles on, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, increased tidal flooding is forcing the city to spend millions fixing battered roads and drains — and, at times, to send out giant vacuum trucks to suck saltwater off the streets. For decades, as the global warming created by human emissions caused land ice to melt and ocean water to expand, scientists warned that the accelerating rise of the sea would eventually imperil the United States’ coastline. Now, those warnings are no longer theoretical: The inundation of the coast has begun. The sea has crept up to the point that a high tide and a brisk wind are all it takes to send water pouring into streets and homes.
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Red Cross chapters go dark
When the Red Cross chapter closed in northern Livingston County, "it happened in an instant," a local volunteer coordinator says — with no apparent plan for valued programs, including one that provided the elderly and disabled with rides to medical appointments. That was one scene from a series of consolidations that eliminated most American Red Cross chapters across the nation over several years. New York has seen its Red Cross chapters cut from 35 in 2008 to 10 in 2015. In western and central New York, the number has fallen from 19 to five, leaving much of the Southern Tier without a local office. The village of Dansville, New York, where the first local chapter of the American Red Cross was founded in 1881, no longer has one.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK
Arizona Republic: Fostering a crisis
The Arizona Republic reports that Jasmine Flores entered the Arizona foster care system when she was 13 years old. She stayed in the system, moving from group home to group home to group home and changing schools along the way. When she approached her 18th birthday, she began to think about life outside of the state care system. She’s now 19, the proud owner of a car and a thriving college student, after participating in the transitional programs for aging foster youth. Flores’s transition story, though, is not typical for the roughly 800 young adults expected to “age-out” of the foster care system in Arizona in 2016. There are state programs and charitable agencies aimed at helping youth as they age out of foster care, but only about one quarter of them take advantage, according to Beverlee Kroll, an independent living and youth services manager for the Department of Child Safety. … Ken Lynch, chief of communications for Tumbleweed, an organization that works with at-risk young people, estimates that 35 percent of the young people his organization serves have left the foster care system “without support, life skills, directly to homelessness.”
News Journal: Delaware lawmakers eye caps on changing payday industry
Delaware lawmakers thought they were cracking down on predatory lending when they passed legislation in 2012 that limited the number of payday loans a person could get each year, the News Journal says. But payday lenders in Delaware and nationwide responded by changing the types of loans they offer to avoid strict laws that only apply to payday advances. This means that, despite the state's efforts, thousands of Delawareans are still paying three- or even four-digit interest rates on loans that are supposed to help them in financial emergencies but can leave them in a cycle of debt.
Washington Post: A fortress against fear
Don and Jonna Bradway recently cashed out of the stock market and invested in gold and silver, the Washington Post reports. They have stockpiled food and ammunition in the event of a total economic collapse or some other calamity commonly known around here as “The End of the World As We Know It” or “SHTF” — the day something hits the fan. The Bradways fled California, a state they said is run by “leftists and non-Constitutionalists and anti-freedom people,” and settled on several wooded acres of north Idaho five years ago. They live among like-minded conservative neighbors, host Monday night Bible study around their fire pit, hike in the mountains and fish from their boat. They melt lead to make their own bullets for sport shooting and hunting — or to defend themselves against marauders in a world-ending cataclysm. “I’m not paranoid, I’m really not,” said Bradway, 68, a cheerful Army veteran with a bushy handlebar mustache who favors Hawaiian shirts. “But we’re prepared. Anybody who knows us knows that Don and Jonna are prepared if and when it hits the fan.” The Bradways are among the vanguard moving to an area of the Pacific Northwest known as the American Redoubt, a term coined in 2011 by survivalist author and blogger James Wesley, Rawles (the comma is deliberate) to describe a settlement of the God-fearing in a lightly populated territory that includes Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the eastern parts of Washington and Oregon.
Miami Herald: Overstaffed at Guantanamo
The Miami Herald reports that recently 100 or so Military Police from California and Maryland were overlapping with departing troops at the most expensive prison on earth — a routine Army rotation that meant there were at least 33 soldiers and civilians at the prison complex for each Guantánamo captive. In Indianapolis earlier this month, family and friends bade farewell to 60 National Guard infantrymen bound for Fort Bliss, Texas, to train for a nine-month Guantánamo prison tour. And at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, a unit of Puerto Rican Army Reserve MPs trained at a mock prison camp compound for a Spring 2017 call-up to Guantánamo Bay. Even as the Obama administration expects to empty its wartime prison of all but the last 40 or so detainees, the military has declined to downsize the staff that surged past 2,000 in 2013 when more than 100 captives waged a mass hunger strike.
Des Moines Register: Danger lurks in Iowa wells
The Des Moines Register says that when Sandy Davis holds up her hand, it is gnarled and shaking. She blames it on drinking well water for about 25 years that was heavily laced with arsenic, a highly toxic element that's naturally occurring in Iowa. Sandy and her husband, Jack, had no idea their water wasn't safe to drink. Many Iowans probably don't, officials say. With nearly 300,000 Iowans who rely on private wells, "there could be thousands of people across the state who are in the same boat and don't even know it," said Brian Hanft, environmental services manager at Cerro Gordo Health Department. Unlike public drinking water systems in cities and towns, no state or federal law requires existing private wells to be tested for contaminants such as nitrates, bacteria and arsenic. And few Iowans test their wells.
Baltimore Sun: Private fund, public mistrust
The Baltimore Police Foundation for years covered the cost of equipment and initiatives that the city's tight budget couldn't cover. It had an executive director, a board of directors and a police commissioner committed to personally raising funds, the Baltimore Sun reports. But the integrity of the charity crumbled when former Commissioner Edward T. Norris was caught and sent to prison in 2004 for misspending donations made to another police account meant to provide money for the needy. Charitable donations to police continued to flow, however, to two funds at the Baltimore Community Foundation. Only these funds wouldn't have the independent oversight of a board and wouldn't be required to publicly disclose donations or spending. That arrangement allowed the Baltimore Police Department to conduct an aerial surveillance program for more than six months without telling residents that a plane overhead was recording their movements.
Boston Globe: The broken covenant
Nearly a third of community mental health providers in Massachusetts reported closing clinics from 2013 to 2015, according to one study, a trend that has continued this year, the Boston Globe reports. Two intensive day programs for adults in the Boston area with severe mental illness closed in recent months, displacing 100 more people. State Hospital, which closed in 2010, once housed 2,000 patients, back in an era when people suffering from mental illness were confined to state mental institutions. The shutdowns underscored a truth that providers have long known: Mental health care is often a money loser, in large part because of the state’s long-term neglect. The state Medicaid program, MassHealth, has for years reimbursed providers at rates far below the cost of treatment, meaning they lose money on every person they serve. “We just couldn’t sustain the loss over time,” said Nancy Gajee, a top psychologist at the nonprofit May Institute, which in March closed one of the two adult day programs, Crossroads in West Roxbury. The daily struggle to find and pay for care is an indictment of political leadership in Massachusetts and beyond that spans generations.
New York Times: Trump’s start in real estate included allegations of bias
She seemed like the model tenant, The New York Times said. A 33-year-old nurse who was living at the Y.W.C.A. in Harlem, she had come to rent a one-bedroom at the still-unfinished Wilshire Apartments in the Jamaica Estates neighborhood of Queens. She filled out what the rental agent remembers as a “beautiful application.” She did not even want to look at the unit. There was just one hitch: Maxine Brown was black. Stanley Leibowitz, the rental agent, talked to his boss, Fred C. Trump. “I asked him what to do and he says, ‘Take the application and put it in a drawer and leave it there,’” Mr. Leibowitz, now 88, recalled in an interview. It was late 1963. Over the next decade, as Donald J. Trump assumed an increasingly prominent role in the business, the company’s practice of turning away potential black tenants was painstakingly documented by activists and organizations that viewed equal housing as the next frontier in the civil rights struggle. An investigation by The New York Times — drawing on decades-old files from the New York City Commission on Human Rights, internal Justice Department records, court documents and interviews with tenants, civil rights activists and prosecutors — uncovered a long history of racial bias at his family’s properties, in New York and beyond.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/28/us/politics/donald-trump-housing-race.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0
Columbus Dispatch: Mounting gambling losses in Ohio
People love to gamble in Ohio, the Columbus Dispatch reports. From a $1 scratch-off lottery ticket to a $10,000 bet at a casino, Ohio has it all. The lure of gambling, of course, is winning big. But those betting at the state’s four casinos, seven racinos at horse-race tracks, and the Ohio Lottery have lost $9.7 billion in the past four years, according to a Dispatch analysis. Including all major forms of legal gambling, nearly $62.9 billion was bet and $53.3 billion was won from 2012 to 2015. Gamblers’ losses have a silver lining, however, because much of the money provides a financial boost to Ohio schools, cities and counties. The lottery sent more than $1 billion this year alone to public education.
Seattle Times: FBI’s porn sting puts privacy in crossfire
The Seattle Times reports that for two weeks in the spring of 2015, the FBI was one of the largest purveyors of child pornography on the internet. After arresting the North Carolina administrator of The Playpen, a “dark web” child-pornography internet bulletin board, agents seized the site’s server and moved it to an FBI warehouse in Virginia. They then initiated “Operation Pacifier,” a sting and computer-hacking operation of unparalleled scope that has thus far led to criminal charges against 186 people, including at least five in Washington state. The investigation has sparked a growing social and legal controversy over the FBI’s tactics and the impact on internet privacy. Some critics have compared the sting to the notorious Operation Fast and Furious, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed the illegal sales of thousands of guns to drug smugglers, who later used them in crimes. Defense attorneys and some legal scholars suggest the FBI committed more serious crimes than those they’ve arrested — distributing pornography, compared with viewing or receiving it. Moreover, the FBI’s refusal to discuss Operation Pacifier and reveal exactly how it was conducted — even in court — has threatened some of the resulting criminal prosecutions.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK AUG. 23, 2016
Boston Globe: Medical examiners can be a jury of one
When Dr. Peter Cummings was a state medical examiner, he didn’t often receive emails or phone calls from lawyers, except for prosecutors just before trial, the Boston Globe reports. But shortly after he ruled that a 6-month-old Malden baby had died violently of shaken-baby syndrome, he received an email from a defense attorney on the case — the first of a number of contacts he would have with the team hired to represent the child’s father. Cummings later stunned prosecutors when, before trial, he said he was changing his finding on the manner of death from homicide to undetermined, devastating the prospects for a criminal conviction. When prosecutors sought a second opinion, fearful that the murder case would be derailed, Cummings became angry. Not even the chief of the medical examiner’s office, he said, can override him. A Globe review of Cummings’s changed decision, and two subsequent retractions of shaken-baby rulings by other medical examiners, found a highly decentralized system of ruling on suspicious deaths in Massachusetts, in which forensic pathologists are given extraordinary freedom to make — and change — their rulings, with little scrutiny of what factors, including personal ones, may have influenced them.
Denver Post: Heroin leaves mark in rural areas of Colorado
On a hot June night in La Junta, a group of Otero County sheriff’s deputies and local police officers stormed the one-bedroom apartment of a suspected drug dealer on the west