WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Oct. 19, 2017
AP: Pro-Trump states most affected by his health care decision
The Associated Press reported President Donald Trump's decision to end a provision of the Affordable Care Act that was benefiting roughly 6 million Americans helps fulfill a campaign promise, but it also risks harming some of the very people who helped him win the presidency. Nearly 70 percent of those benefiting from the so-called cost-sharing subsidies live in states Trump won last November, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. The number underscores the political risk for Trump and his party, which could end up owning the blame for increased costs and chaos in the insurance marketplace. The subsidies are paid to insurers by the federal government to help lower consumers' deductibles and co-pays.
Read more: http://www.modbee.com/news/article178887781.html
Arizona Republic: Phoenix Public Housing Project could lose in HUD cuts
The Arizona Republic reports how for 32 years the Edison-Eastlake neighborhood has crumbled along with so many of America's public housing projects. Federal money meant to maintain the country’s 1.2 million public housing units was never enough, and a backlog built up. The National Housing Preservation Database now counts more than 84,000 units in need of immediate investment. The three Edison-Eastlake projects were stuck in America’s old approach to public housing. It is an approach that everybody from Yvonne Bridges to U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson want to leave in the past. The city of Phoenix planned to rebuild Edison-Eastlake the new way. It wanted a community where people could thrive, and to pay for it the city eyed a $30 million grant from HUD’s popular Choice Neighborhoods grant program. Then the federal government outlined next year’s budget. Its proposals shrank HUD to help pay for drastic increases in defense spending.
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix-best-reads/2017/09/28/phoenix-public-housing-projects-threatened-hud-cuts/683632001/
Santa Fe New Mexican: Ankle monitors: Pretrial supervision or punishment?
The Santa Fe News Mexican reports how James Coriz was charged with intimidating a witness during a trial but said he hadn’t threatened anyone and refused to take a plea deal. About five months later, a jury found him not guilty. But by then, Coriz says, he had paid more than $1,000 to Santa Fe County for being on an ankle monitor while awaiting his trial and had spent 21 days in jail after program officials said he’d violated the electronic monitoring agreement that governed the conditions of his release. Had he been found guilty and sentenced to time in jail, Coriz would have been given time-served credit for every day he spent on electronic monitoring, plus the 21 days he spent in jail. But after being exonerated, he got no consideration for the time and money he spent on the court-ordered ankle bracelet — not even an apology, never mind a refund. The issues surrounding electronic monitoring — legal, financial and constitutional — are deep and complex.
Read more: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/pretrial-supervision-or-punishment/article_bf60ac9f-0cf3-56f4-a04f-41695587569d.html
Los Angeles Times: Santa Rosa suburb was exempt from fire regulations
The Los Angeles Times reports that when fire swept down the mountain, Coffey Park, a suburb of Santa Rosa, proved defenseless in its path. In a matter of hours, the neighborhood was almost totally consumed, leaving hundreds of houses burned to the ground and residents in disbelief. Surprising as it was to residents, the destruction of Coffey Park wasn’t a mystery to fire scientists. They view it as a rare, but predictable, event that has exposed flaws in the way fire risk is measured and mitigated in California. Because it was outside the officially mapped “very severe” hazard zone, more than five miles to the east, Coffey Park was exempt from regulations designed to make buildings fire resistant in high-risk areas.
Read more: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-coffey-park-explainer-20171011-story.html
San Diego Union-Tribune: Slow progress against sex trafficking in San Diego
The San Diego Union-Tribune report that as the director of programs for Generate Hope, an emergency shelter for victims of sex trafficking, part of Susan Munsey’s mission is telling people just how bad the problem is in San Diego. When she gets to the number of likely victims in the county — an average of 5,000 children and adults — “there is almost always an audible gasp,” she said. The number stunned even people like her, the most seasoned prosecutors and service providers, when they first heard it. The statistics that were revealed in October 2015 as part of a study to quantify the human-trafficking problem in San Diego served as a major wake-up call. A lot of victims were clearly slipping through a lot of cracks. Two years later, has anything changed? Yes and no.
Read more: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/sd-me-sex-trafficking-20171013-story.html#nt=oft12aH-2gp2
Washington Post: The drug industry’s triumph over the DEA
The Washington Post reports that in April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets. By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight. A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/investigations/dea-drug-industry-congress/?utm_term=.1ec459e7479c&hpid=hp_hp-banner-main_deanarrative-hed%3Ahomepage%2Fstory
Miami Herald: Fight Club: Investigating Florida’s juvenile justice system
The Miami Herald reports Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice calls its philosophy “tough love.” But a Miami Herald I-Team analysis of 10 years of seldom-seen records reveals an emphasis on the “tough.” Documents, interviews and surveillance videos show a disturbing pattern of beatings doled out or ordered by underpaid officers, hundreds of them prison system rejects. Youthful enforcers are rewarded with sweet pastries from the employee vending machines, a phenomenon known as “honey-bunning.” The Herald found fights staged for entertainment, wagering and to exert control, sex between staff and youthful detainees and a culture of see-nothing/say-nothing denial. Herald journalists also examined 12 questionable deaths of detained youths since 2000. In the end, untold numbers of already troubled youths have been further traumatized.
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/florida-prisons/article176773291.html
Honolulu Star Advertiser: “Aging in place” facilities trigger debate
The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports that over the past two years, dozens of unlicensed residential facilities offering elder care have opened in neighborhoods around Hawaii, embracing a new model that its proponents herald as safe, effective and the wave of the future. But critics contend the homes flout state law and circumvent oversight designed to protect vulnerable seniors. The debate over these businesses, called “aging in place” facilities, is expected to be taken to lawmakers in the upcoming state legislative session and likely will trigger broader discussions about the state’s ability — some say inability — to effectively oversee an industry that needs to grow substantially to care for Hawaii’s mushrooming elder population.
Read more: http://www.staradvertiser.com/2017/10/15/hawaii-news/aging-in-place-facilities-trigger-debate/?HSA=e3914d11ae6a8e98fd742f3a01332a7115076312
Indianapolis Star: Analysis of liquor stores shows surprising underage sales
The Indianapolis Star reports liquor stores sell to minors at a higher rate than other retailers, undermining a core argument used to justify the liquor store industry's virtual monopoly on cold beer sales. An IndyStar analysis of data from excise police compliance checks found liquor stores improperly sold to minors at twice the rate of convenience stores and three times the rate of pharmacies and big-box retailers.
That contradicts liquor store claims that their stores — with prominent signs warning customers must be 21 or older to enter — are best equipped to keep booze from underage buyers. The finding also flies in the face of what key lawmakers have been led to believe for years — and have left unchallenged.
Read more: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2017/10/10/liquor-store-grip-cold-beer-could-slip-if-record-protecting-minors-taken-inew-data-taken-into-accoun/587121001/
Minnesota Star-Tribune: Millions spent on patients who don’t need help
The Minnesota Star-Tribune reports that Minnesota taxpayers have shelled out more than $92 million over the past six years to house patients who no longer require mental health treatment at a state hospital but have nowhere else to go. The cost per patient, according to Department of Human Services records, now tops $1,300 a day – enough to rent an apartment in a Minneapolis for a month. The rising toll is largely hidden but a stark sign of gaps in the state’s mental health safety net, particularly for Minnesotans accused of a crime but deemed mentally unfit to face the charges. Courts now send those patients primarily to a state hospital in Anoka. But once doctors there say the treatment is complete, there is often no place for them to transition back to society.
Read more: http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-spends-90-million-on-mental-health-costs-for-patients-who-don-t-need-the-treatment/450926783/
Kansas City Star: Gun owners are making it easy to steal guns
The Kansas City Star reports there has been an unprecedented and alarming rash of gun thefts citywide in Kansas City since 2016, according to electronic police records it has obtained. The number of annual firearms thefts rose from 496 to 588 between 2008 and 2015, but it exploded in 2016. Thieves stole 804 a year ago — a 37 percent increase. And they are on pace to steal some 830 firearms in 2017. Too many gun owners are only making it easy for criminals to propel Kansas City’s harrowing gun violence. Too many are stowing their guns carelessly in cars, not securing them in locked boxes, and failing to record serial numbers to help law enforcement if they are stolen.
Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article178702531.html
St. Louis Post Dispatch: Farmers divide over dicamba
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that cupped and crinkled soybean leaves were a common sight across millions of acres of the nation’s farmland this year. The distinctive symptoms point to exposure to dicamba, a decades-old chemical the agriculture industry is now turning to in the fight against increasingly stubborn “superweeds” — a controversial shift that has borne different results for different farmers and left the agriculture community divided. The damage has been widespread across the Farm Belt, causing conflicts between neighbors, recriminations and lawsuits, culminating with the Environmental Protection Agency announcing that increased regulatory oversight will be required for dicamba applications in 2018. Sparking the controversy was a shift to new technology spearheaded by Monsanto, the seeds and traits giant that, for years, has counted the herbicide, Roundup, as its signature product.
Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/farmers-divide-over-dicamba/article_fa3ba16e-10ef-5220-b1a0-71a84bcd7668.html#tncms-source=home-top-story-1
New York Times: Wary of hackers, states upgrade voting systems
The New York Times reports state election officials, worried about the integrity of their voting systems, are pressing to make them more secure ahead of next year’s midterm elections. Reacting in large part to Russian efforts to hack the presidential election last year, a growing number of states are upgrading electoral databases and voting machines, and even adding cybersecurity experts to their election teams. The efforts — from both Democrats and Republicans — amount to the largest overhaul of the nation’s voting infrastructure since the contested presidential election in 2000 spelled an end to punch-card ballots and voting machines with mechanical levers. One aim is to prepare for the 2018 and 2020 elections by upgrading and securing electoral databases and voting machines that were cutting-edge before Facebook and Twitter even existed.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/14/us/voting-russians-hacking-states-.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Oct. 12, 2017
AP: Is NRA move to regulate “bump stocks” real or a ruse?
The Associated Press reported that when the National Rifle Association urged the government to revisit whether "bump stocks" should be restricted, it immediately raised eyebrows. Why would the nation's leading gun-rights organization, not known for compromise, be willing to bend even just a bit when it wields perhaps more influence than ever? Some gun-industry experts say the NRA's move is little more than a ruse to stall any momentum for wider gun control until outrage over the Las Vegas attack subsides. It also carries little risk. For one, it's rare for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to reverse course without a change in the law. For another, "bump stocks" are not big moneymakers for the gun industry. And by seeking an administrative change, rather than a new law, the NRA allows its supporters in Congress to avoid going on the record with a vote.
Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/nra-move-regulate-bump-stocks-real-ruse-50334558
Los Angeles Times: Trump’s pro-gun stance is new. Will Las Vegas change that?
The Los Angeles Times reports the pro-gun community had reason to be suspicious of Donald Trump. He wrote in favor of an assault weapons ban and a “slightly longer” waiting period before gun purchases in a 2000 book, and accused Republicans of walking “the NRA line.” And even as he rebranded himself a “2nd Amendment maven” in 2013, he sounded conflicted, suggesting he favored expanded background checks. No one on either side of the gun debate seems to know exactly when or why Trump shifted. But they agree that the mogul from Manhattan has become one of the most forceful pro-gun presidents in decades. Now, after the worst mass shooting in American history, Trump faces a gut-check moment on guns.
Read more: http://www.latimes.com/sns-bc-us--las-vegas-shooting-nra-20171006-story.html
New York Times: The “Resistance,” raising Big Money, Upends Liberal Politics
The New York Times reports that it started as a scrappy grass-roots protest movement against President Trump, but now the so-called resistance is attracting six- and seven-figure checks from major liberal donors, posing an insurgent challenge to some of the left’s most venerable institutions — and the Democratic Party itself. The jockeying between groups, donors and operatives for cash and turf is occurring mostly behind the scenes. But it has grown acrimonious at times, with upstarts complaining they are being boxed out by a liberal establishment that they say enables the sort of Democratic timidity that paved the way for the Trump presidency. If the newcomers prevail, they could pull the party further to the left, leading it to embrace policy positions like those advocated by Mr. Sanders, including single-payer health care and free tuition at public colleges.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/07/us/politics/democrats-resistance-fundraising.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0
San Francisco Chronicle: Prosecution of police sex scandal sees little success
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that in the year since Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley filed criminal charges against six East Bay law enforcement officers for what she called their “morally reprehensible” actions in Oakland’s sexual misconduct scandal, the most severe punishment handed down has been a $390 fine and three years of court probation. Half of the cases have been dismissed or their charges dropped due to insufficient evidence. Two cases were plea bargained, and one awaits trial. Critics who wanted to see greater consequences wonder whether the district attorney’s office mishandled the scandal. Some say the prosecution was frivolous.
Read more: http://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Prosecution-of-Oakland-police-sex-exploitation-12259732.php
Denver Post: Water drying up as farmers keep irrigating desert
The Denver Post reports that Colorado farmers who defied nature’s limits and nourished a pastoral paradise by irrigating drought-prone prairie are pushing ahead in the face of worsening environmental fallout: Overpumping of groundwater has drained the High Plains Aquifer to the point that streams are drying up at the rate of 6 miles a year. The drawdown has become so severe that highly resilient fish are disappearing, evidence of ecological collapse. A Denver Post analysis of federal data shows the aquifer shrank twice as fast over the past six years compared with the previous 60. While the drying out of America’s agricultural bread basket ($35 billion in crops a year) ultimately may pinch people in cities, it is hitting rural areas hardest.
Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/10/08/colorado-eastern-plains-groundwater-running-dry/
Washington Post: Fired/rehired: Three shootings in three years
The Washington Post reports how most police officers will never fire their weapons while on duty, but Cyrus Mann, a nine-year member of the Philadelphia Police Department, shot three people in just over three years. The shooting in an alley, on Aug. 9, 2012, would prove fatal and prompt the police commissioner to try to fire Mann. Like many police chiefs across the nation, he would fail. A Washington Post investigation found that hundreds of police officers who were fired for misconduct, including allegations of sexual assault and drug trafficking, have been reinstated. Since 2006, at least 451 of 1,800 officers fired from 37 of the nation’s largest departments have won their jobs back through appeals provided for in union contracts.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/investigations/fired-rehired-three-shootings-in-three-years/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_mannrevised-711pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.05a77f627c5d
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Bribery, corruption scandal looms over mayor’s race
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports a guilty plea in federal court and an FBI raid on a long-time city vendor are reshaping the Atlanta mayor’s race by throwing a white-hot spotlight back on the City Hall bribery investigation, just one month before voters choose Kasim Reed’s successor. Most of the major candidates have weaponized the scandal in their stump speeches and at forums since the federal probe netted a guilty plea from the city’s top purchasing official two weeks ago. Tough talk on ethics and procurement reform have joined pledges about affordable housing and transportation, issues that were driving the campaign’s early days. The mayor himself has been forced to defend his record and issue regular statements about how he’s cooperating with the probe.
Read more: http://www.myajc.com/news/local-govt--politics/bribery-corruption-scandal-looms-over-atlanta-mayor-race/IEM9S4tg00iWGJg8QL3ZIK/
Des Moines Register: Companies write off millions. Taxpayers reap little benefit
The Des Moines Register reports that a Polk County middle manager signed a nondescript sheet of paper last year attesting to heating and cooling work the Waldinger Corp. performed in 2012 on the county-owned Iowa Events Center. That paper wiped $1.1 million off the Des Moines-based mechanical contractor’s federal income tax liability. What did taxpayers get in return? Nothing they hadn't already paid for. The Events Center example is hardly unique. The Des Moines Register examined 70 Iowa projects in which the tax break was sought and documented 37 cases where governments gained little or nothing for authorizing the deduction on taxpayer-funded construction. That's just a tiny sample of more than 10,000 cases nationally in all 50 states — including at least 300 in Iowa — in which government officials have handed out tax breaks to private companies through an obscure giveaway known as the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction.
Read more: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2017/10/06/tax-deduction-nothing-private-companifederal-energy-efficiency-break-often-yields-no-taxpayer-benefi/456708001/
Courier-Journal: University of Louisville Athletic director highest paid in US
The Courier-Journal reports that suspended University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich was the highest paid in the land. Over the past seven years, through a byzantine array of longevity and performance bonuses, base pay raises and tax subsidies, Jurich collected total compensation of $19,279,710, an average of $2.76 million per year.
Last year, his taxable income – enriched by the vesting of a $1.8 million annuity plus $1.6 million from the university to pay his taxes on it – totaled $5.3 million. Although the annuity was earned over several years and will be paid out in $200,000 installments, his listed income last year was more than the university budgeted for its departments of biology ($3.3 million), English ($4 million), history ($2.4 million) or mathematics ($3.5 million).
Read more: http://www.courier-journal.com/story/sports/college/louisville/2017/10/05/university-louisville-tom-jurich-high-pay-unusual-perks/728901001/
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: University investigates but lawsuit expected
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports that trustees at the University of Rochester have hired Debevoise & Plimpton, one of the nation's priciest law firms, to investigate claims of sexual harassment and retaliation on campus. There is plenty of documentation to sort through, and that is where such investigations begin, experts say. But the review also faces obstacles — lacking cooperation from accusers, and needing to maneuver around myriad confidentiality and legal concerns. Meanwhile, a lawsuit appears imminent. The scope of the inquiry is broad, encompassing the whole of events that surround embattled professor Florian Jaeger and UR's Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) department. Jaeger allegedly had sex and used illegal drugs with students, made inappropriate and humiliating comments to and about female students and faculty, pressured them to meet with him alone, and conditioned access with being part of his social circle.
Read more: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2017/10/07/ur-investigation-running-night-and-day-but-lawsuit-expected-thanksgiving/733173001/
Seattle Times: City Light has paid $7.8 million to company of off-duty cops
The Seattle Times reports a retired Seattle police officer’s private company has exclusively billed Seattle City Light more than $7.8 million over the past five years to provide off-duty police officers for traffic control or security work, according to billing data obtained by the newspaper. The company, Seattle’s Finest Security & Traffic Control, has been chosen by utility crew chiefs for every job, even though another company, Seattle Security, also provides off-duty officers, the records show. Details of the lucrative relationship between Seattle’s Finest and City Light come at a time the FBI is investigating allegations of price-fixing and intimidation in the hiring of off-duty officers directing traffic at parking garages and construction sites. The allegations, made by a new startup company, Blucadia, and echoed by some downtown business owners, have renewed longstanding concerns about a murky off-duty employment arrangement controlled by few companies with little oversight.
Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/seattle-city-light-has-paid-7-8m-to-off-duty-cops-in-unusual-relationship/
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • OCT. 5, 2017
Toledo Blade: City leaders admit $9 Million in fund can be spent
The Toledo Blade reports that six weeks before Toledo’s mayoral election, city officials revealed there is $9 million in the fund that is used to pay for street repair — although the city’s top lawyer initially said $4 million of that amount was earmarked for debt. A day later, officials made an about-face and said all the money could be spent. City Law Director Adam Loukx said Sept. 29 he would investigate if the $4 million, which was informally set aside for a debt payment, could be spent on the kind of neighborhood capital improvements many councilmen have been clamoring to see all year. Hours later — following a series of questions about the money by The Blade — Loukx and Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson admitted it could be used for other purposes.
Read more: http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2017/09/29/Toledo-might-have-another-4-million-for-capital-projects(copy).html
Arizona Republic: Feds say border security toughest ever. Is wall still needed?
The Arizona Republic reports crews set to work on a strip of land on the outskirts of San Diego last week on eight possible versions of President Donald Trump's border wall. U.S. Customs and Border Protection marked the occasion with a news release and a short video showing a backhoe and loader digging foundations for the wall prototypes that will be built there over the next 30 days. But that image of a porous border came into question earlier this month when, with no fanfare, the Department of Homeland Security released a 20-page report that concluded "available data indicate that the southwest land border is more difficult to illegally cross today than ever before."
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2017/10/01/feds-say-border-security-toughest-ever-so-wall-still-needed/683818001/
Washington Post: The New reality of old age in America
The Washington Post reports people are living longer, more expensive lives, often without much of a safety net. As a result, record numbers of Americans older than 65 are working — now nearly 1 in 5. That proportion has risen steadily over the past decade, and at a far faster rate than any other age group. Today, 9 million senior citizens work, compared with 4 million in 2000. While some work by choice rather than need, millions of others are entering their golden years with alarmingly fragile finances. Fundamental changes in the U.S. retirement system have shifted responsibility for saving from the employer to the worker, exacerbating the nation’s rich-poor divide. Two recent recessions devastated personal savings. And at a time when 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, Social Security benefits have lost about a third of their purchasing power since 2000.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/national/seniors-financial-insecurity/?utm_term=.a41f81037a3a
Miami Herald: Florida braces for Puerto Ricans fleeing hurricane Maria
The Miami Herald reports that following the disaster caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico — which triggered floods and mudslides and left the island of 3.5 million people without electricity or potable water — thousands of Puerto Ricans are expected to leave their homes on the island to come to the United States. That exodus will have a significant impact in Florida, one of the main destinations of Puerto Rican migration, which has increased every year over the past decade because of the economic recession on the island. The tentacles of the crisis created by the storm are already being felt in South Florida. Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently announced that the Sunshine State will assist the displaced. The
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article176377791.html
Chicago Tribune: State allows educators to bypass some exams for licensing
The Chicago Tribune reports Illinois lawmakers and officials have in recent years eliminated some key requirements would-be teachers needed to get licensed, allowing applicants to bypass some coursework and exams before heading straight to the classroom, a Tribune analysis has found. The Illinois State Board of Education says the changes will streamline the licensing process and do not sacrifice the state's high standards. And some administrators say it will be easier to fill some jobs in areas short on teachers, particularly downstate. But advocates for tough licensing standards say eliminating coursework and testing requirements, among other changes, may not ensure educators have the credentials necessary to teach in the classroom or work in staff positions in public schools.
Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-teacher-certification-illinois-met-20170924-story.html
Baltimore Sun: New fundraising rules unleashing big cash in elections
The Baltimore Sun reports Maryland candidates have begun to hustle for dollars ahead of next year’s election, freed from a key obstacle that once hindered their ability to raise cash. The 2018 election cycle, which includes races for governor, attorney general, General Assembly and several county executives, is the first full cycle since a Supreme Court ruling lifted the cap on the total amount donors may contribute to candidates. That 2014 ruling and a 2010 high court ruling on political action committees, analysts say, could unleash campaign spending up and down the ballot unlike anything Maryland has seen. With the election still more than a year away, dozens of local donors already have contributed more money to candidates than was allowed in previous cycles, The Baltimore Sun has found. The limit for the 2014 cycle was $10,000.
Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/investigations/bs-md-money-in-campaigns-20170929-story.html
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Convicted, but still policing
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports there are hundreds of sworn officers in Minnesota who were convicted of criminal offenses in the past two decades yet kept their state law enforcement licenses, according to public records examined by the newspapers. Dozens of them are still on the job with a badge, a gun and the public’s trust that they will uphold the law. The cases reveal a state licensing system that is failing repeatedly to hold officers accountable for reckless, sometimes violent, conduct. In Minnesota, doctors and lawyers can lose their professional licenses for conduct that is unethical or unprofessional — even if they never break a law. Yet law enforcement officers can stay on the job for years even when a judge or jury finds them guilty of criminal behavior.
Read more: http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-police-officers-convicted-of-serious-crimes-still-on-the-job/437687453/
Columbus Dispatch: Net worth of Ohio’s congressional delegation booming
The Columbus Dispatch reports that members of Ohio’s congressional delegation have watched their net worth grow by an average of nearly 78 percent during their respective times in Congress, with some members becoming millionaires and some seeing their net worth more than double. While only 5 percent of Ohioans can claim to be millionaires, nearly 56 percent of the state’s congressional delegation can, with more than $1 million in assets, according to a Dispatch analysis. Overall, the state’s congressional delegation claimed collective assets of between $62 million and $182 million, reflecting what congressional watchdogs indicate is an increasing trend: Congress, which is supposed to be a microcosm of America, is increasingly a microcosm of the wealthiest part of the country.
Read more: http://www.dispatch.com/news/20171001/5-of-ohioans-are-millionaires-compared-with-56-of-congress
Oregonian: Oregon says day cares can’t afford to test water for lead
The Oregonian reports a state panel has decided Oregon won't require day cares to test drinking water for high levels of lead, ending a year-long review spurred by the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan. The action stands in stark contrast to Washington's approach. State officials there said all licensed day cares must test water for the dangerous neurotoxin before December because fixing lead-tainted plumbing is "critical for the safety of children." But members of Oregon's Early Learning Council decided testing would be too expensive for childcare providers, who collectively are licensed to watch more than 100,000 children statewide. Adding to their costs would cause some providers to close, limiting access to childcare, council members said. Testing was estimated to cost each day care $63.20 to $94.80.
Read more: http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2017/09/oregon_says_day_cares_cant_aff.html#incart_target2box_default_#incart_target2box_targeted_
Houston Chronicle: Harvey unveiled shortcomings of Houston Fire Department
The Houston Chronicle reports the Houston Fire Department's limitations quickly became clear as Harvey's floodwaters rose. Just one high-water rescue vehicle. Decades-old evacuation boats. Sparse training for swift-water rescues. And limited staffing after an 11th-hour decision not to call in major reinforcements to face the catastrophic storm. The department had been warned. Lethal flooding two years ago exposed shortcomings and prompted sweeping recommendations to improve future responses. And yet, when firefighters rushed fearlessly into Harvey's currents in late August, they were again hobbled by a lack of resources, old equipment and a shortage of manpower ready to go when the storm hit, according to a Chronicle review of internal reports and emails, and dozens of interviews with firefighters and other officials.
Read more: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Harvey-laid-bare-lack-of-resources-training-at-12243556.php?utm_campaign=btfpm
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Redistricting case may redraw election maps.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Wisconsin’s redistricting case isn’t just about Wisconsin. If the group of Democrats suing the Badger State is successful before the U.S. Supreme Court, all states will have to follow new rules on gerrymandering when they draw congressional and legislative maps after the 2020 census. And in the short term, several states could face lawsuits over the election maps they have been using since 2011. The nation’s high court will hear arguments in the case Tuesday and decide it by summer. A panel of federal judges last year ruled 2-1 that the maps were drawn so favorably for Republicans that they violated the constitutional rights of Democratic voters.
Read more: http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2017/09/29/wisconsin-redistricting-case-u-s-supreme-courtcould-rewrite-rules-how-states-draw-their-election-map/701253001/
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • SEPT. 28, 2017
Tennessean: What do taxpayers get for business subsidies?
The Tennessean reports state and local governments award Tennessee companies millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies every month to create long-lasting jobs. More than $2.5 billion in incentives are given to businesses in the state each year, according to one estimate. An investigation by the largest four media organizations in Tennessee — The Tennessean, The Commercial Appeal, Knoxville News Sentinel and (Chattanooga) Times Free Press — found statewide that many officials and agencies do not track or disclose the number of jobs created by subsidy deals. Are they good investments? The data proved elusive. Some agencies didn’t track the information. Others reported contradictory data. The lack of consistent, accurate records makes it difficult for the public to evaluate whether Tennesseans are getting what they paid for.
Read more: http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/investigations/2017/09/17/tennessee-business-subsidies-1-winner-1-loser-1-unknown/510815001/
Arizona Daily Star: Workers confront Arizona over safety penalty reductions
The Arizona Daily Star reports scores of frustrated union workers gathered in downtown Phoenix to confront members of the governor-appointed Industrial Commission of Arizona, whose unusual practices are under scrutiny from federal health and safety officials. The controversial practices include reducing employers’ penalties for safety violations, often without clear justification. About 160 members of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters accused the ICA — which oversees the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or ADOSH — of being too soft on companies that violate health and safety rules, at the expense of vulnerable employees. They also criticized the commission for failing to aggressively pursue allegations of wage theft and fraud they say is rampant in Arizona’s construction industry.
Read more: http://tucson.com/news/local/union-workers-confront-arizona-industrial-commission-over-penalty-reductions/article_67c61559-3ede-5617-94d4-43b3b6a65003.html
Santa Fe New Mexican: State’s proposed standards on teaching science divisive
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that if New Mexico’s proposed new standards for teaching science go into effect during the 2018-19 school year, there will be no mention of Earth’s age. Gone from the new standards, too, are the basic concepts of evolution and humans’ impact on climate change. Some 10 days after the state Public Education Department published the new standards on its website, scientists, educators and even faith leaders from around the state and nation are scratching their heads over some of the components, contending that religion and politics are seeping into the science classroom, and the results could be devastating for students.
Read more: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/inexact-science-state-s-proposed-standards-divide-leaders-educators/article_2384c8cb-0362-5b40-8ab0-114558843fd5.html
San Diego Union-Tribune: Critics say response to hepatitis crisis was lackluster
The San Diego Union Tribune reports three people were dead by the time San Diego County public health officials organized street teams to offer vaccinations against hepatitis A. It was early May and 80 cases had been confirmed since November, with 66 patients hospitalized. Epidemiologists had first identified the rash of hepatitis A two months earlier. Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer, put off declaring a local emergency until September, when 14 deaths were recorded and the patient rolls of mostly homeless people and illegal-drug users surpassed 350. Last week, at a joint news conference, officials from both agencies pushed the death toll to 16 and said nearly 450 cases were confirmed. The stepped-up attention that the outbreak has received in recent weeks is welcome news to activists and medical experts, but many see the crisis as the inevitable result of San Diego officials’ longstanding failure to deal with problems besetting the homeless community and working-poor families.
Read more: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sd-me-hepatitis-how-20170923-story.html
Sun Sentinel: Children with disabilities allegedly abused at group home
The Sun Sentinel reports a state-funded group home that is supposed to help South Florida children with disabilities has racked up a history of complaints including child abuse and neglect, police and state records show. The Tate Center Inc. is a nonprofit that runs group homes north of Palm Beach County as well as a destination for children with developmental disabilities and aggressive behavior. Its history is detailed in hundreds of pages of records the Sun Sentinel obtained from police, court cases and the Department of Children and Families. The Department of Children and Families, which investigated the abuse allegations, declined to comment on specifics about the cases, citing confidentiality laws.
Read more: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-reg-tate-center-investigation-20170817-story.html
Miami Herald: Billions spent preparing for storm. Why did lights go out?
The Miami Herald reports that when Hurricane Irma side-swiped South Florida, almost every home fell into darkness and tropical heat. Tens of thousands of customers suffered a week or more without power. Overall, nearly 4.5 million of Florida Power & Light’s 4.9 million customers had their power fail, including 92 percent of accounts in Miami-Dade County and 85 percent in Broward County. The widespread outages happened despite FPL spending nearly $3 billion over the past decade to “harden” its electrical grid against the next monster storm. The investor-owned utility — which by law makes a guaranteed profit for shareholders between 9.6 and 11.6 percent — says it responded quickly to restore outages and that its storm-hardening efforts are working. “There is no such thing as a hurricane-proof system,” added Robbins, explaining that no transmission systems failed and far fewer utility poles went down than in previous storms.
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article174521756.html
Honolulu Star Advertiser: Morale a major problem at police department
The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports that when Honolulu Police Department officer Denny Santiago went public earlier this month with allegations of widespread corruption within the department, it was only the latest public relations blow to Oahu’s 2,000-strong police force. For the past two years, a cloud has settled over HPD as developments in a federal grand jury probe have regularly hit the news. Leadership also has been in flux since Chief Louis Kealoha, one target of the investigation, announced his retirement in January amid the widening probe. Efforts to replace him have plodded along since then, adding to an air of uncertainty. And as a handful of officers have been named in civil lawsuits or criminal complaints, a debate has ensued at the Honolulu Police Commission on who is entitled to publicly funded legal counsel.
Read more: http://www.staradvertiser.com/2017/09/24/hawaii-news/morale-a-major-problem-at-embattled-police-department-some-say/?HSA=58926bde30273c0cf48fe02b549fc71a31390b5c
Chicago Tribune: Red lights approved for already safe intersections
The Chicago Tribune reports how Oakbrook Terrace wanted to put red light cameras at a busy but relatively safe intersection. The Illinois Department of Transportation must approve cameras on state routes in the suburbs, and it said no: Cameras are for boosting safety, and the intersection's "low crash rates" did not support a need for cameras. In just a few months, that no would turn into a yes. It was a yes that, records show, came after the intervention of a powerful state senator who received campaign cash from the red light camera firm that stood to make millions of dollars from those Oakbrook Terrace cameras. The senator's involvement prompted dozens of emails between IDOT officials — with large passages of that correspondence kept secret to this day by IDOT. What happened at Illinois Highway 83 and 22nd Street highlights the inconsistent and at times contradictory way IDOT has approved the controversial cameras at nearly 200 intersections across the suburbs.
Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/redlight/ct-idot-red-light-cameras-met-20170921-story.html
Indianapolis Star: Toxic coal pits are leaking into Indiana’s water
The Indianapolis Star reports the coal plants that dot Indiana's landscape generate much more than electricity. They also produce toxic ash that is filled with contaminants such as arsenic, chromium and boron that leach into nearby groundwater and waterways. That ash is stored in massive pits, almost all of which are unlined and thus provide no barrier between the toxic waste and whatever else it may come into contact with. Indiana has a lot of these pits -- roughly 85 of them, more than any other state – containing more than 60 million cubic yards of the polluting powder. It's a serious problem and state regulators are for the first time trying to set policy that could have widespread repercussions not only for the owners of Indiana's nearly 20 active and retired coal plants and for the environment, but also for the quality of life for people who live nearby.
Read more: http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2017/09/24/ipl-duke-coal-ash-contaminants-polluting-indiana-waterways/597873001/
Times-Picayune: Study finds dispersant used in BP oil spill sickened workers
The Time Picayune reports the chemicals that were used to break up oil from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon blowout have long been suspected of sickening workers who responded to the disaster. Now a federal health agency is backing some of their assertions. The National Institutes of Health this month published a study saying workers exposed to oil dispersants suffered a range of symptoms, including cough, shortness of breath and eye and lung irritation. The authors make for the most prominent group of scientists to examine the human health effects of dispersants. For 87 days after the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded off the Louisiana coast, the Macondo well spewed oil largely unchecked into the Gulf of Mexico. At 172 million gallons lost, it was the world's largest oil disaster.
Read more: http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2017/09/dispersant_used_in_bp_spill_ma.html
New York Times: At Florida nursing home, calls for help made no difference
The New York Times reports eight residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills nursing home, where air-conditioning had failed after Hurricane Irma chewed up power lines across Florida, were dead by the end of the day, Sept. 13, and three who were among the 140 evacuated have died since. The Hollywood police have opened a criminal investigation, while the state has all but shut down the residence. That same day, about 160 other nursing homes across Florida had no electricity, and most of those, like Hollywood Hills, had no generator capable of powering air-conditioning. But of all those places, the only one where a power loss is known to have caused multiple deaths was the home that advertised being “directly across the street from Hollywood’s Memorial Regional Hospital — so patients receive the finest health care day and night.”
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/23/us/nursing-home-deaths.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0
Columbus Dispatch: Poor, black kids do worse on standardized school tests
The Columbus Dispatch reports that even as Ohio students have improved their performance on state tests, bad news regarding a poverty-related achievement gap is splattered across the latest state report cards. The number of economically disadvantaged students who scored proficient in third-grade reading was 31 percentage points below that of other students on the most-recent report cards. Economically disadvantaged is defined as those in households making 185 percent of the federal poverty level or less, or $37,297 for a family of three. As in the past, Ohio’s latest report-card results show that districts with higher concentrations of poverty also struggle the most on state testing and other metrics. However, people shouldn’t conclude that the data show that low-income students can’t learn, said Howard Fleeter, analyst for the policy institute. “That’s not what we’re showing. What we’re showing is they’re not learning,” he said.
Read more: http://www.dispatch.com/news/20170924/why-do-poor-black-kids-continue-to-do-worse-on-ohios-standardized-tests
Philadelphia Inquirer: Lawyers, doctors and pharmacies “an unholy alliance”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Pond Lehocky is the biggest player in town for workers’ compensation cases, targeting employees who get hurt on the job with TV ads and billboards that seem to loom on every stretch of Philadelphia’s highways. Pond Lehocky’s top lawyers have also been doing more to get more for themselves, according to an Inquirer and Daily News investigation. Three partners at the firm and its chief financial officer are majority owners of a mail-order pharmacy in the Philadelphia suburbs that has teamed up with a secretive network of doctors that prescribes unproven and exorbitantly priced pain creams to injured workers — some creams costing more than $4,000 per tube. Pond Lehocky sends clients to preferred doctors and asks them to send those new patients to the law firm’s pharmacy, Workers First. The pharmacy then charges employers or their insurance companies for the workers’ pain medicine, sometimes at sky-high prices, records show.
Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/business/workers-comp-insurance-pennsylvania-pond-lehocky-referrals-20170922.html
Seattle Times: Washington’s child-welfare system accused of “critical errors”
The Seattle Times reports there are deep and persistent problems in Washington’s child-welfare system, whose 2,400 staffers serve around 100,000 children — 7 percent of the state’s juvenile population. A series of troubling events leading up to the death of Gary Blanton, who died in the care of an aunt struggling with six kids in a “chaotic home,” also shows what the new Department of Children, Youth and Families is up against. Red flags have gone ignored amid crushing caseloads, lack of adequate supervision and a shortage of homes to place children. Over the past decade, Department of Social and Health Services has paid $141 million for personal-injury claims to children. Such claims, including for starvation and rape, never seem to end.
Read more: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/everyone-failed-him-boys-aunt-accused-of-murder-dshs-accused-of-critical-errors/
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • SEPT. 21, 2017
AP: Water project's cost falls to more Californians
The Associated Press reported that water districts and households across California could be compelled to help pay for Gov. Jerry Brown's plans to build two giant tunnels to ferry water to cities and farms mainly in central and Southern California, under newly revealed plans to shore up funding for the struggling $16 billion project. The tougher state funding demands pivot from longstanding state and federal assurances that only local water districts that seek to take part in the mega-project would have to pay for the twin tunnels, the most ambitious re-engineering of California's complex north-to-south water system in more than a half-century. The Associated Press obtained new documents from the state's largest agricultural water agency and confirmed the expanded funding demands in phone and email interviews with state and local water officials.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/newswires/news/business/apnewsbreak-water-project-cost-falls-californians-article-1.3503881
Bay Area News Group: Police visited Oakland warehouse months before fire
The Bay Area News Group reported that a body camera video shows a police officer ordering the shutdown of a suspected illegal rave at an Oakland, California, warehouse nearly two years before a fire killed 36 partygoers in the ramshackle building. The video of the arts collective known as the "Ghost Ship" was obtained and made public by the Bay Area News Group on Thursday, Sept. 15. "I will be talking to the city, and we'll be dealing with this place," the officer says on the video. Late Thursday, the Police Department released a police report that the officer wrote, and said that it had been forwarded to the vice unit then to the department's Alcohol Beverage Action Team. But, the department said, such infractions at the time were views as low-priority.
Read more: http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/09/14/exclusive-body-cam-footage-shows-cop-promising-to-report-illegal-party-at-ghost-ship-in-2015/
Arizona Republic: Homeowner associations lead surge in Phoenix foreclosures
The Arizona Republic reports homeowners associations, the enforcers of neighborhood paint colors, holiday decorations and trash bins, are leading the latest surge in Phoenix-area foreclosures. HOAs are foreclosing on a record number of homeowners for as little as $1,200 in missed maintenance payments, according to an Arizona Republic investigation. And homeowners who thought only their mortgage lender could seize property are losing their houses at sheriff’s auctions, sometimes for just $100 more than they owe. “It’s become a huge issue,” Arizona Real Estate Commissioner Judy Lowe said. “Most homeowners don’t understand the foreclosure process and don’t know their HOA can foreclose.”
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-investigations/2017/09/14/phoenix-area-homeowners-associations-foreclosing-record-number-homeowners/595816001/
Santa Fe New Mexican: Reform laws aimed at campaign donations full of loopholes
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that reform measures in 2006 and 2007 barred contractors from plying politicians with campaign donations or other gifts while vying for government business. And the changes required contractors to report donations they make to public officials. But a decade later, those laws are full of loopholes. A recent review by the State Auditor’s Office found 2 in 5 government contracts did not include the paperwork contractors are required to submit reporting their donations to public officials. For about a decade, the standard forms even included inaccurate language. And The New Mexican has obtained documents showing how corporations, along with political action committees, can skirt the rules altogether. State Auditor Tim Keller described enforcement and compliance of the laws as so poor, the statutes themselves are almost meaningless.
Read more: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/reform-laws-spurred-by-treasurer-scandals-full-of-loopholes/article_fa177390-370d-5737-9c98-cc5d6f4a0688.html
Modesto Bee: Councilman says he led big Modesto projects, but others differ
The Modesto Bee reports that as Councilman Tony Madrigal campaigns for a second term in the November election, he is claiming credit for two big wins for downtown: the opening of a hugely popular ice rink and the effort to bring UC Merced to Modesto. Here’s how Madrigal spelled out his accomplishments in a campaign questionnaire he filled out for The Bee: “Led effort to bring a UC Merced presence to downtown Modesto” and “Led the effort to bring an ice-skating rink to downtown.” But when asked by The Bee, others involved in these efforts say while Madrgial has been part of the effort in one project and advocated for both, the projects involved the work of many people.
Read more: http://www.modbee.com/news/local/article173331461.html
San Francisco Chronicle: Violations cited at Sacramento foster care campus
The San Francisco Chronicle reports a Sacramento agency running one of the few remaining foster care shelters in California has violated health and safety laws and the personal rights of children more than 120 times in recent years — a number matched only by state-licensed facilities that have been shut down or placed on probation. State citations since 2012 at the Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento describe poorly trained staff, mishandled medications and filthy dorms. This year, an employee was terminated for an “inappropriate relationship” with an underage client and for smoking marijuana with runaway foster youth. On Sept. 8, a state inspector was unable to remain in a bedroom because the stench of urine overwhelmed her.
Read more: http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Numerous-violations-cited-at-Sacramento-foster-12203449.php
Washington Post: Almost two dozen children shot in U.S. every day
The Washington Post reports that, on average, 23 children were shot each day in the United States in 2015, according to a Post review of the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s at least one bullet striking a growing body every 63 minutes. In total, an estimated 8,400 children were hit, and more died — 1,458 — than in any year since at least 2010. That death toll exceeds the entire number of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan this decade. Many incidents, though, never become public because they happen in small towns or the injuries aren’t deemed newsworthy or the triggers are pulled by teens committing suicide.
Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/local/2017/09/15/road-rage-a-bullet-to-the-head-and-the-frantic-effort-to-save-a-4-year-old/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.f95339da85e0
Miami Herald: Nursing home emergency plan ignored of air conditioning
The Miami Herald reports that when the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, Florida, submitted its 43-page emergency management plan to county administrators in July, it included details on how the home would maintain clean linen, distribute canned food and ensure residents had access to hand sanitizers. It made no mention of how residents would be kept cool if the home’s power was lost. That was a tragic oversight: Health regulators now say eight residents of the rehabilitation center succumbed to cardiac and respiratory failure after a portable air cooling system malfunctioned. The home’s failure to foresee the catastrophic consequences of an air-conditioning meltdown — and Broward County’s failure to insist that the home do so — point to a serious statewide problem.
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article173729181.html
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Atlanta’s top companies benefit from tax breaks
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports metro Atlanta’s defining landmarks and marquee companies, from the upscale Avalon development in Alpharetta to Bank of America Plaza in Midtown, from Town Brookhaven to Coca-Cola, are among the biggest beneficiaries of tax breaks doled out by local governments in 2016. Together, in the name of economic development, governments in Atlanta’s four core counties — Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cobb — ceded tens of millions in taxes last year, an amount that now can be tallied for the first time because of more rigorous national auditing requirements. Among the businesses receiving public financial aid are Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, State Farm, SunTrust and more than a dozen other Fortune 500 companies.
Read more: http://www.myajc.com/news/local-govt--politics/new-disclosures-show-atlanta-companies-that-profit-from-tax-breaks/yucUJNyGk1ldpKt9wsGeZJ/
Des Moines Register: Iowa rape victims wait months for evidence testing
The Des Moines Register reports frustrated Iowa rape victims are waiting months — or sometimes even more than a year — for Iowa's overwhelmed crime lab to process DNA evidence that is crucial to their cases, allowing their suspected attackers to avoid arrest. Iowa, already trying to resolve a backlog of more than 4,000 untested rape evidence kits dating back to the 1990s, finds its state crime lab buried by new requests for evidence testing. At the same time, the lab is wrestling with a stagnant budget and potential cuts that prevent it from filling vacant positions or adding new ones. At the end of August, the state crime lab had 405 DNA sexual assault case assignments waiting to be processed, lab information provided to The Des Moines Register shows.
Read more: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2017/09/14/rape-kit-testing-backlog-crime-lab-iowa/609585001/
Boston Globe: VA hospitals flooded with complaints about care
The Boston Globe reports that Veterans Affairs employees filed nearly 2,000 complaints last year with the Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency that investigates employee concerns — more than the next four most-complained-about departments combined. VA employee complaints doubled from 2013 to 2016 and now account for at least one-third of the agency’s caseload even though they represent only about 18 percent of federal workers. “To put it in perspective,” wrote Carolyn Lerner, the special counsel, in her 2018 budget request for an extra $2.4 million to handle all the complaints, “OSC anticipates receiving more cases in [fiscal] 2017 from VA alone than the total number of cases we received from all agencies just over a decade ago.”
Read more: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/09/16/staff-veterans-hospitals-lead-federal-government-criticizing-their-employer-far/gHc8SYqcVze3tk2Xn8YAeI/story.html
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Student exodus puts pressure on Minnesota schools
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Minnesota students have had the right to attend school in other districts since 1990, but the number of elementary and high school students exercising that option is surging. Last year, about 132,000 Minnesota students enrolled in schools outside their home district, four times the number making that choice in 2000, a Star Tribune analysis shows. School choice options — open enrollment and charter schools — have proved especially popular with nonwhite or minority students, according to the Star Tribune’s analysis of the racial breakdown of students who opt out of their home district. Because state education funding follows the pupil, the student exodus from their home district to other cities and charter schools is magnifying budget pressures in districts that lose more students than they gain. It’s also transforming the racial diversity of schools across the Twin Cities.
Read more: http://www.startribune.com/students-in-flight-part-1-st-paul-enrollment-declines-force-hard-budget-choices-exodus-puts-pressure-minnesota-schools/443065933/#1
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Special ed crisis for preschoolers
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports hundreds of young children in Monroe County, and more across New York state, are facing delays in receiving speech services, physical therapy and occupational therapy, the early medical and educational interventions to which they're entitled. This puts them at a developmental disadvantage, greatly increasing the chances they'll need more, costlier help later in life. In the 2016-17 school year alone, nearly 400 3- and 4-year-olds in Monroe County were not evaluated for developmental delays within 60 days of their referral as required by law, according to local school district records. That is more than a quarter of all children who were referred and that number is almost certainly underreported. Those who are evaluated often struggle to get the services they're prescribed.
Read more: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/investigations/2017/09/14/watchdog-crisis-special-ed-services-preschoolers-leaves-families-scrambling/620257001/
Oregonian: Nepotism runs rampant in the Oregon legislature
The Oregonian reports that one out of every four elected state legislators in Oregon has employed a family member at taxpayer expense this year. Records show the price tag for hiring spouses, children or in-laws is more than $519,000 so far, according to state salary data. Oregon is one of the few states in the U.S. that allows lawmakers to hire family members. The Legislature passed a bill a decade ago granting lawmakers an exception to state anti-nepotism laws. Legislators defend the practice, noting that it has been something of a time-honored tradition to hire family members. Oregon's citizen legislators are paid about $23,000. Hiring a family member can help make it possible to put their jobs on hold during sessions. Lawmakers, who've been doing it for decades, say it benefits lawmakers and constituents alike.
Read more: http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/09/nepotism_runs_rampant_in_the_o.html
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Industrial barrel investigation goes national
The Milwaukee journal reports Federal regulators have expanded their investigation of industrial barrel refurbishing plants nationwide, examining operations and safety at 13 facilities in nine states. The multi-agency investigation initially focused on three such facilities in the Milwaukee area, where a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation uncovered a host of problems endangering workers and residents. The action comes following a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation in February that revealed environmental problems and dangerous working conditions at the three Milwaukee-area plants, as well as facilities in Arkansas, Indiana and Tennessee.
Read more: http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2017/09/15/industrial-barrel-plants-hit-more-violations/655918001
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Sept. 14, 2017
AP: Most Florida flood zone property not insured
The Associated Press reported that as Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida, an APanalysis shows a steep drop in flood insurance across the state, including the areas most endangered by what could be a devastating storm surge. In just five years, the state's total number of federal flood insurance policies has fallen by 15 percent, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency data. Florida's property owners still buy far more federal flood insurance than any other state — 1.7 million policies, covering about $42 billion in assets — but most residents in hazard zones are badly exposed.
Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2017-09-07/ap-exclusive-most-florida-flood-zone-property-not-insured
Security clearance backlog leads to risky interim passes
A government backlog of 700,000 security clearance reviews has led agencies like the Defense Department to inadvertently issue interim passes to criminals — even rapists and killers — fueling calls for better and faster vetting of people with access to the nation's secrets. The pileup, which is government-wide, is causing work delays for both federal and private intelligence efforts. It takes about four months to acquire a clearance to gain access to "secret" information on a need-to-know basis, and nine to 10 months for "top-secret" clearance. Efforts to reduce the backlog coincide with pressure to tighten the reins on classified material. In recent years, intelligence agencies have suffered some of the worst leaks of classified information in U.S. history. Still, calls for a faster clearance process are getting louder.
Read more: https://apnews.com/4e34f7952c5b434faab5ddb26941ac6d
Arizona Star: Arizona may add work requirements to Medicaid
The Arizona Daily Star reports Arizona could become one of the first states in the country to impose work requirements and five-year lifetime limits on “able-bodied” adult enrollees in Medicaid. Arizona’s request to the federal government to tighten its Medicaid eligibility has been delayed by more than five months, but state officials say they are still moving forward. An answer is expected in 2018 — and the Trump administration appears favorable to the plan. Critics worry that kicking people off Medicaid for not having a job will penalize vulnerable Arizonans, and force them to get care in emergency rooms, which in the end is more costly for the health-care system.
Read more: http://tucson.com/news/local/arizona-moving-ahead-with-proposal-to-add-ahcccs-work-requirements/article_51047730-bff6-5b27-bc72-fb56bb0d3306.html
San Francisco Chronicle: Berkeley protests expensive for East Bay police
The San Francisco Chronicle reports politically charged rallies and protests in Berkeley this year have cost East Bay police departments more than $1.5 million to keep the peace, according to law enforcement data reviewed by The Chronicle. The expenses will climb as UC Berkeley girds itself for a talk Thursday, by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, a Free Speech Week at the end of the month that is expected to feature author Milo Yiannopoulos, and protests that the events may draw. Seven police departments and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office provided data. UC Berkeley shelled out nearly $700,000 for expenses including the assistance of East Bay police departments as well as the lodging, meals and equipment of officers from other UC campuses, including Irvine, Los Angeles, Riverside and Santa Barbara.
Read more: http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Berkeley-protests-prove-costly-for-police-12185790.php
Denver Post: Broadband gaps threaten to leave rural areas in the dust.
The Denver Post reported Internet speeds in Meeker, a town of 2,500 in one of the most remote stretches of northwest Colorado, can reach breakneck download speeds of 1 gigabit per second. That’s fast enough to capture a two-hour movie in about 30 seconds and far quicker than connection speeds most urbanites get on the Front Range. For Hannah Turner, who spends her day on a computer processing data-heavy reports for a large bank, the lightning online speed in Meeker — the result of a multimillion-dollar initiative by Rio Blanco County to upgrade its internet infrastructure — is what has kept her from fleeing to the Front Range. Rio Blanco’s experiment with broadband is the exception in rural Colorado. The state’s broadband map shows vast stretches of the state — especially on the Eastern Plains and across the mountains — with slow to no internet service. Meanwhile, the urban Interstate 25 corridor is lit up in speedy green.
Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/09/08/rural-colorado-broadband-gaps/
Miami Herald: Will your insurance company be strong enough for Irma?
The Miami Herald questions whether Florida’s homeowner insurance business, shattered 25 years ago by Hurricane Andrew, is ready to stand up to the even more powerful Irma. Insurance companies say yes. Other experts say probably — but it’s a worrisome challenge to a largely untested industry. “We’re going to learn a lot about the Florida insurance business in the next week,” said Christopher Grimes, who follows the insurance industry for Fitch Ratings, an international credit rating and research company. Hurricane Andrew’s $27 billion in damages — at the time, a record — sent many of the big-name national insurance companies, like Prudential and State Farm, fleeing from Florida’s property-insurance business. State-backed Citizens stepped in. But over the past five years, it has shed policies to limit its risk, encouraging the creation of new insurers such as Universal Property and Heritage Property.
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article171971572.html
Louisville Courier-Journal: Air in home often more toxic than you think
The Louisville Courier-Journal reports the Louisville area is known for struggling with air pollution but the worst may actually be inside our kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms. And in many cases, it's our own fault for buying chemical-laden products or not taking steps to reduce their toxic vapors. Beware, for example, of those strong-smelling, cling-free dryer sheets, advertised as being able to "lock in the crispness of a spring morning." Or your gas range and cooking oils, gas-powered hot water heater and that collection of cleaning agents under the kitchen sink. Even a hot shower brings a potentially dangerous chemical into your home, new research from the University of Louisville is showing.
Read more: http://www.courier-journal.com/story/tech/science/environment/2017/09/07/louisville-air-quality-worst-home/525908001/
Maine Sunday Telegram: Researchers find summer heat lasts in Gulf of Maine
The Maine Sunday Telegram reports that new scientific research has revealed that summer temperatures in the Gulf of Maine, the second fastest warming part of the world’s oceans, are persisting two months longer than they were as recently as the early 1980s. The findings, by a Maine-led team of scientists, have ramifications for marine life, fishermen and the strength of hurricanes, which appear in late summer and are fueled by warm water. “What we found was quite astonishing in that almost all the warming is in the late summer and the winter is not contributing very much at all,” says the project’s lead scientist, University of Maine oceanographer Andrew Thomas. “You can think of impacts all across the food chain, from animals that have actual temperature tolerances to the distribution of species, their prey, and even their predators, not to mention the bacteria and viruses, which we have no idea how they will react.”
Read more: http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/10/researchers-find-summer-lasting-longer-in-gulf-of-maine-creating-new-hurricane-and-ecological-risks/
Baltimore Sun: One cop left after indictment of Gun Trace Task Force
The Baltimore Sun reports Baltimore Police Det. John Clewell worked nearly two years on the department’s gun trace task force — an elite unit that raided homes throughout the city searching for firearms in an effort to quell historic rates of violence. Now Clewell is the only member of the task force who has not been indicted on federal racketeering charges.
The rest of the unit has been accused of robbing suspects, filing false paperwork and committing overtime fraud. Seven members were indicted by a federal grand jury in March; an eighth was indicted in August. Clewell, a 32-year-old former Marine who joined the Baltimore Police Departmentin 2009, has been suspended, with pay, while the unit remains under investigation. Clewell’s attorney says his client did not participate in the unit’s alleged schemes. Attorney Chaz Ball says Clewell is a witness, not a suspect, in the federal investigation.
Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-clewell-gun-task-force-20170905-story.html
Boston Globe: Humane care arrives at state’s harshest hospital
The Boston Globe reports the Massachusetts prison for men with a mental illness has long been known as a rough place where guards often strapped patients down or locked them in isolation cells for misbehavior — and where some patients met gruesome deaths. It was an appalling, often inhumane place, an embarrassment to the state that seemed — to the mentally ill and their advocates — like it would never change. But it has. In April, a private firm hired by the Baker administration replaced almost all the guards at Bridgewater State Hospital with a specially trained security force, along with psychiatrists and other clinicians equipped to provide more humane methods of handling distressed patients. Governor Charlie Baker called it “a culture change.” Five months in, the results are remarkable, beyond the imagining of mental health advocates. Since Correct Care Recovery Solutions took over management of the facility, the staff has cut the seclusion of patients by 99 percent and the practice of strapping them down by their wrists and ankles by 98 percent.
Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/09/09/humane-treatment-comes-last-bridgewater-state-hospital-where-prisoners-have-become-persons-served/YXvoxK2XUpSQubwV8E4X2L/story.html
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Minnesota teen driving deaths plummet
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports the number of Minnesota teenagers dying in car crashes has plummeted over the past 15 years, a trend that appears to reflect more restrictive licensing laws and changes in teen interests and behavior in the social media era. A Star Tribune review of state and federal death certificates found that the number of 15- to 19-year-olds who died in motor vehicle crashes dropped from 102 in 2003 to 23 last year, a historic low for the state. As a public health achievement, that decline matches the sharp reduction in AIDS deaths in Minnesota since 1984 and the historic drop in teen pregnancies since 1990. The drop is so big that it has cut Minnesota’s overall child mortality rate — which includes deaths from cancer, influenza and other types of accidents such as falls — even as the adult death rate has increased. Even more surprising, the Star Tribune analysis found that the per-capita rate of teens dying on Minnesota roads is now lower than the rate for adults. That rate measures deaths regardless of whether crash victims are drivers, passengers or pedestrians.
Read more: http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-teen-driving-deaths-plummet-better-drivers-or-just-fewer-teens/443472633/
Albuquerque Journal: Court nominee’s lack of New Mexico roots prompts concern
The Albuquerque Journal reports from Washinton that the White House is considering five names to replace retiring Judge Paul Kelly Jr. of Santa Fe on the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals – including one surprise contender who is raising eyebrows in New Mexico’s legal community because of his lack of roots and legal experience in the state. The list submitted by the White House to the state’s congressional delegation for review includes four candidates who fit the typical profile for what has traditionally been a New Mexico “seat” on the federal appeals court. The surprising fifth name is William Levi, a 33-year-old Washington lawyer with the Sidley Austin firm, whose relatively short legal career has included stints clerking for Judge Anthony J. Scirica on the U.S. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. He also served as chief counsel for Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Read more: https://www.abqjournal.com/1061212/court-nominees-lack-of-nm-roots-prompts-concern.html
New York Times: New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio faces a diminished mayoralty.
The New York Times reports Mayor Bill de Blasio should be at the peak of his powers. Crime is down. The economy is up. He has scared away his most serious possible challengers this election year. But in two dozen interviews, with Mr. de Blasio’s own aides and allies, city officials, leading political strategists and veterans of New York politics, there was near-universal agreement that though Mr. de Blasio is on more of a glide path to re-election in New York City than any mayor in a generation, he is still struggling to project his political voice in a job that has long produced towering national figures. He has spent the second half of his first term bogged down in internecine fights with the governor, battling with and lecturing the press, and fending off federal and state pay-to-play investigations involving his donors. His ventures to expand his influence beyond New York City have mostly flopped: An effort to organize a presidential forum in Iowa collapsed; his nonprofit to pursue a national progressive agenda is in mothballs; he’s been passed over for prominent national speaking roles.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/09/nyregion/bill-de-blasio-diminished-mayoralty-national-profile.html?mcubz=0&_r=0
Columbus Dispatch: 1 in 6 central Ohio schools has chronic attendance problems
The Columbus Dispatch reports that students who are not at school and not being home-schooled are unlikely to be learning. If they are missing school frequently, they are falling farther and farther behind classmates. At 1 in 10 public schools in America, 30 percent or more of the students are chronically absent. At another tenth of schools, 20 to 29 percent are gone too often. In central Ohio, one-sixth of all schools find themselves in that most extreme category, of 30 percent or more of their students not consistently attending school. Ohio is taking steps to address the issue with a new law in effect this school year that requires school districts to work with parents to try to correct the problem, using an intervention team if necessary.
Read more: http://www.dispatch.com/news/20170910/1-in-6-central-ohio-schools-has-chronic-attendance-problems
Austin American-Statesman: When Tasers set their targets on fire
The Austin American-Statesman reports that though extremely uncommon, incidents of Taser-initiated combustion have occurred occasionally through the years. Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Axon Enterprises (formerly Taser International), said the company has recorded 9 fatalities since 1993. News reports show uncounted other incidents in which a person was burned by a fire ignited by a stun gun, though not killed. In several cases, police claimed they were unaware of the presence of combustible fumes. In others, Tuttle said, officers often were presented with deciding whether to allow people to hurt themselves or others, or take a chance the electric charge itself might prove harmful. Used properly, law enforcement experts say, Tasers save both officer and civilian lives by defusing otherwise dangerous encounters.
Read more: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/crime--law/uncommon-but-horrific-when-tasers-set-their-targets-fire/KxGJuOzq0luN3J6Wdfjy8L/
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Sept. 6, 2017
AP EXCLUSIVE: Toxic waste sites flooded in Houston area
The Associated Press reported that the Houston metro area, long a center of the nation's petrochemical industry, has more than a dozen Superfund sites, designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as being among America's most intensely contaminated places. Many are now flooded, with the risk that waters were stirring dangerous sediment. The Highlands Acid Pit, for example, was filled in the 1950s with toxic sludge and sulfuric acid from oil and gas operations. Though 22,000 cubic yards of hazardous waste and soil were excavated from the acid pits in the 1980s, the site is still considered a potential threat to groundwater, and the EPA maintains monitoring wells there. The Associated Press surveyed seven Superfund sites in and around Houston during the flooding. All had been inundated with water, in some cases many feet deep.
Read more: https://www.apnews.com/27796dd13b9549b0ac76aded58a15122/AP-EXCLUSIVE:-Toxic-waste-sites-flooded-in-Houston-area
AP Exclusive: Flood insurance policies plunged before Harvey
Houston's population is growing quickly, but when Harvey hit last weekend there were far fewer homes and other properties in the area with flood insurance than just five years ago, according to an Associated Press investigation. The sharp, 9 percent drop in coverage means many residents fleeing Harvey's floodwaters have no financial backup to fix up their homes and will have to draw on savings or go into debt — or perhaps be forced to sell. A former head of the federal flood insurance program called the drops "unbelievable" and criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the program. "When you start to see policies drop like this, FEMA should have done something about this," said Robert Hunter, who ran the program in the late '70s. He estimates that fewer than two of 10 homeowners with flood damage have flood insurance
Read more: http://www.bostonherald.com/business/business_markets/2017/08/ap_exclusive_flood_insurance_policies_plunged_before_harvey
Chicago Tribune: In small towns, empty stores, economic challenges loom large
The Chicago Tribune reports that since the start of the year, U.S. retailers have announced 5,699 store closures, according to Fung Global Retail & Technology, driven by retail bankruptcies, cost-cutting moves and, for a growing number of department stores and big-box chains, decisions to invest in top-performing stores that fit their new strategies. And when a Sears, J.C. Penney or Macy's pulls out of small-town America, the same factors that sent those retailers packing can make the big vacant storefronts they leave behind challenging to fill. "The sad part to me is the malls. Walmart and Menards opened stores in all those markets, and they already killed the downtown. Now if these boxes are going to close, what's left?" said Meredith Oliver, managing director with Cushman & Wakefield's Retail Services Group. "These communities will get horribly hurt from a revenue perspective with sales tax dollars."
Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-small-town-department-store-closing-0903-biz-20170830-story.html
Los Angeles Times: Behind $13 shirt is a $6-an-hour worker
The Los Angeles Times reports Norma Ulloa left her two-bedroom apartment before dawn six days a week and boarded a bus that took her to a stifling factory on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles. She spent 11 hours a day there, pinning Forever 21 tags on trendy little shirts and snipping away their loose threads in the one-room workshop. On a good day, the 44-year-old could get through 700 shirts. That work earned Ulloa about $6 an hour, well below minimum wage in Los Angeles, according to a wage claim she filed with the state. Ulloa’s claim is one of nearly 300 filed since 2007 by workers demanding back pay for producing Forever 21 clothing, according to a Los Angeles Times review of nearly 2,000 pages of state labor records. Sewing factories and wholesale manufacturers have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle those workers’ claims. Forever 21 has not had to pay a cent.
Read more: http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-fi-forever-21-factory-workers/
Sun Sentinel: Florida issued warnings, not charges against illegal gun range
The Sun Sentinel reports state wildlife officers routinely catch people firing guns in an area considered South Florida’s top illegal target range. But they let the vast majority off with warnings. The illegal shooting may have cost the life of Lawrence Ramdass, a Plantation fisherman killed there in July by a mysterious hail of bullets. In the past three years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has issued more than 125 warnings and three citations for illegal shooting on or near the L-5 levee, a road that runs through swampy wilderness on the border of Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to records obtained by the Sun Sentinel. Ramdass’ sister, Sandy Stallone, is outraged that the state issues warnings rather than criminal charges.
Read more: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-fisherman-shot-illegal-shootings-20170830-story.html
Washington Post: Consulting fees mount at DC’s only public hospital.
The Washington Post reports the consulting firm Veritas of Washington had been in business just over a year when it won a lucrative contract to salvage D.C.’s only public hospital. Key members of its management team had led a New York hospital that filed for bankruptcy. The District would become its sole client. After the administration of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) — who received more than $35,000 in political donations from the firm’s founders, family and affiliated companies, campaign-finance records show — authorized a no-bid contract for consultants to stanch financial losses at United Medical Center, Veritas began work for a fee of $300,000 per month. A year and a half later, the hospital continues to face financial uncertainty and is coping with new medical crises — including regulators’ closure of the obstetrics ward last month because of unsafe conditions. And public records reviewed by The Washington Post show Veritas has failed to meet a number of the city’s standards for managing the hospital.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/at-the-districts-only-public-hospital-consultants-fees-mount--along-with-trouble/2017/09/02/2a36df9e-899f-11e7-961d-2f373b3977ee_story.html?utm_term=.cef9d7b9b40e
Miami Herald: The gig economy is here to stay. Here’s how to strive and survive
The Miami Herald reports Tiffany Zadi and Joseph Nay both leverage their skills, experience and passions into a diverse portfolio of multiple work assignments and revenue streams to thrive in the Gig Economy, a fast-growing worker movement that includes consulting and contracting, temping, freelancing, self-employment, side gigs and on-demand workers. While Zadi and Nay enthusiastically jumped into the Gig Economy – in fact, Zadi gave up a law career to pursue her passions – others are thrust into it by necessity, as full-time jobs have slipped away. Some want the supplemental income as wages remain largely stagnant while still others use it as a buffer as they ease into retirement.
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article170394627.html
Atlanta Journal Constitution: Video games spawn charges of payoffs, bribery
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the Georgia Lottery Corporation began regulating the 22,000 coin-operated video games three years ago in gas stations, bars and convenience stores. Since then a steady stream of tawdry allegations have exposed
a side of the flashing, noisy games that most Georgians never see. Welcome to the underbelly of Georgia’s $675 million-a-year video gaming industry, which produces enough accusations of fraud and corruption to fill a season of “The Sopranos.” The new enforcement responsibility has exposed the Lottery to a messy underworld in which companies regularly accuse one another of breaking the law; try to steal one another’s business; and ask the Lottery to play referee.
Read more: http://www.myajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/georgia-video-games-spawn-charges-payoffs-bribery-and-betrayal/d4jKSnTpWMfbKh9qQVrNyJ/
Des Moines Register: How Iowa ended overtime for thousands of workers
The Des Moines Register reports Iowa has revoked overtime eligibility for about 2,800 state workers, a move critics say could cripple government services if employees leave for the private sector and better jobs. In all,167 job classifications, including nurses, public defenders and social workers, can now be required to work more than 40 hours a week without additional pay or comp time. And for 12,800 state workers who remain eligible for overtime, the state has altered how it calculates overtime in ways that reduce their pay and the circumstances when employees qualify for it. For example, the hours that count toward overtime must be those actually worked in a week. Before, sick or vacation days counted toward the calculation. The state estimates the changes will save $5 million a year.
Read more: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2017/09/02/extra-work-and-no-pay-how-iowa-ended-overtime-thousands-state-workers/588260001/
Louisville Courier-Journal: IRS could fine University of Louisville foundation execs
The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that ousted University of Louisville Foundation President James Ramsey was the nation's highest-paid officer at a public university foundation, and that could make him liable for big IRS penalties if his pay is deemed excessive. Ramsey's foundation compensation was $2.4 million in 2014, the most recent year for which figures are available. That was the most for any public university foundation officer or employee in the United States, excluding payments to coaches for major college sports programs. A Courier-Journal review of nearly 1,600 officers and employees of 1,146 foundations also shows three other university officials came in right behind their president: Dr. Donald Miller, director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, $1.79 million; Shirley Willihnganz, executive vice president and university provost; $1.1 million; Kathleen Smith, assistant secretary and university chief of staff, $675,848.
Read more: http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2017/08/30/james-ramsey-uofl-foundation-officers-highest-paid-nation/552372001/
Kansas City Star: A university student in Kansas now carries a gun to class
The Kansas City star reports a 21-year-old business major at the University of Kansas now totes, as of the beginning of classes, a Glock 19 semi-automatic handgun, with a 15-round magazine locked into position. His professors are unaware. And only a handful of his closest of friends even know he carries it. But to Tom — a college senior who didn’t want his last named revealed because, first, he knows that Kansas’ new law that allows him to carry concealed handguns on campus is charged with controversy and, second, because he doesn’t want others viewing him negatively or trying to steal his gun — having a handgun at the ready just makes him feel less vulnerable, more prepared. Meantime, KU film and media professor Kevin Willmott made a statement of his own, strapping on a bulletproof vest, which he plans to wear to class all school year.
Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article170444307.html
Newark Star Ledger: This N.J. block is dying one abandoned property at a time
The Newark Star Ledger reports that abandoned and vacant homes are a headache for cities across the country and not just in urban centers like Newark. But it's aggravating longtime homeowners who say the city needs to do more to fix the problem and protect those who want to remain in Newark. According to Newark's abandoned property registry, there are more than 2,000 abandoned or vacant properties in the city. Properties with no legal occupants for six months are considered vacant; those in need of rehabilitation, behind on property taxes or threatening community safety are defined as abandoned. Along a one-block stretch on Mt. Prospect Avenue, for example, the unkept corners of homes hang loose. Windows are boarded up with crumbling plywood. Empty liquor bottles, a child's blue plastic chair and cigarettes collect along the sidewalks.
Read more: http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2017/09/newark_abandoned_properties_pushing_longtime_homeo.html
New York Times: Fentanyl overtakes heroin as leading cause of drug deaths
The New York Times reports drug overdoses killed roughly 64,000 people in the United States last year, according to the first governmental account of nationwide drug deaths to cover all of 2016. It’s a staggering rise of more than 22 percent over the 52,404 drug deaths recorded the previous year — and even higher than The New York Times estimate in une, which was based on earlier preliminary data. Drug overdoses are expected to remain the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, as synthetic opioids — primarily fentanyl and its analogues — continue to push the death count higher. Drug deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled from 2015 to 2016, accompanied by an upturn in deaths involving cocaine and methamphetamines. Together they add up to an epidemic of drug overdoses that is killing people at a faster rate than the H.I.V. epidemic at its peak.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/02/upshot/fentanyl-drug-overdose-deaths.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fus&action=click&contentCollection=us®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Aug. 31, 2017
Orange County Register: ‘Chicken winging’ can damage inmates arms
Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Wesley Dean was admittedly agitated and looking to inflict pain on inmate Charles Huntsman when he wrenched the man’s hand high behind his back, breaking his arm just above the elbow, the Orange County Register reports. After the inmate sued the county, Dean admitted during a sworn deposition that he used excessive force. He apologized for snapping the suspected drunken driver’s humerus bone while using an unsanctioned technique inmates in Southern California jails call “chicken winging.” … The issue has resurfaced repeatedly in recent years in claims for damages filed against the agency, lawsuits and settlements, as well as a recent high-profile critique of the jail system by a civil rights group. How frequently improper control-holds are used on Orange County jail inmates – and how many injuries may result – isn’t clear. Detailed data on complaints involving such encounters wasn’t readily available from the department. … Arm-holds have figured in legal claims and court battles – including a $227,000 settlement in the Huntsman case last month – against the Orange County Sheriff’s Department dating back to at least 2008.They were cited prominently in a two-year investigation of the county jail system released in June by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
Read more: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/08/25/video-are-southern-california-jailers-injuring-inmates-with-abusive-chicken-winging-holds/
Denver Post: Pot has seat in fatal crashes
The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana has risen sharply each year since 2013, more than doubling in that time, federal and state data show. A Denver Post analysis of the data and coroner reports provides the most comprehensive look yet into whether roads in the state have become more dangerous since the drug’s legalization. Increasingly potent levels of marijuana were found in positive-testing drivers who died in crashes in Front Range counties, according to coroner data since 2013 compiled by the paper. Nearly a dozen in 2016 had levels five times the amount allowed by law, and one was at 22 times the limit. Levels were not as elevated in earlier years. Last year, all of the drivers who survived and tested positive for marijuana use had the drug at levels that indicated use within a few hours of being tested, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. … The trends coincide with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado that began with adult use in late 2012, followed by sales in 2014.
Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/08/25/colorado-marijuana-traffic-fatalities/
Chicago Tribune: Reliance on Tasers raises red flags
The Chicago Police Department plans to own as many as 6,900 Tasers by the end of 2017, a ninefold increase from just two years ago and enough to give every officer on patrol an electric shock weapon that can drop a person in an instant, the Chicago Tribune reports. Saying Tasers were part of his plan to "ensure the safety of every resident," Mayor Rahm Emanuel embraced the devices as an alternative to guns after Laquan McDonald's fatal shooting by an officer sparked widespread outrage in late 2015. But a Chicago Tribune examination of thousands of pages of city records and data on about 4,700 Taser uses over the last decade has raised questions about the department's reliance on the weapon. Among the findings:
• Some officers have used Tasers with unusual regularity. Cops who deployed a Taser did so twice on average, but 16 officers each used a Taser 15 or more times over the last decade.
• A Tribune review of city Law Department data as well as court records found that the city has paid or agreed to pay at least $23.1 million in lawsuits involving Taser use since 2005.
• Nearly three-fourths of those targeted with Tasers were black, though African-Americans comprise about one-third of the city's residents.
Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-police-tasers-met-20170825-story.html
Boston Globe: Promised care isn’t delivered at Recovery Centers
The advertisements are everywhere. On television, a sleek black sedan pulls up to a sprawling estate with a rolling green lawn as a mother recounts how Recovery Centers of America saved her child from drugs. On Facebook, radio, highway billboards, and commuter trains, people are urged to call the company’s instantly memorable hotline: 1-800-RECOVERY. The marketing blitz and an infusion of private equity money have helped make Recovery Centers of America into the self-described fastest-growing addiction treatment provider in the country. Launched less than three years ago by a high-end real estate developer, it’s part of a rush of entrepreneurs who see opportunity in the treatment business as the opioid crisis sweeps the country.
But an investigation by STAT (a health news site) and The Boston Globe has uncovered evidence of shoddy care and turmoil inside the walls of the company’s two Massachusetts treatment centers. This report is based on interviews with more than a dozen former and current employees, internal RCA documents, and state investigative reports — depicting a company that spends lavishly on facilities and marketing while skimping on giving patients basic care.
Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2017/08/25/behind-luxury-turmoil-and-shoddy-care-inside-five-star-addiction-treatment-centers/HzNBLYyMCIjSkaKyUZgfSN/story.html
New York Times: Health insurers start to prosper with ACA
It has not been a market for the faint of heart. Supporters of the Affordable Care Act achieved a major victory this past week when, thanks to cajoling and arm-twisting by state regulators, the last “bare” county in America — in rural Ohio — found an insurer willing to sell health coverage through the law’s marketplace there. So despite earlier indications that insurance companies would stop offering coverage under the law in large parts of the country, insurers have now agreed to sell policies everywhere. But a moment of truth still looms for the industry in the coming weeks under the law known as Obamacare. Companies must set their final plans and premiums by late September, even as the Trump administration continues to threaten to cut off billions of dollars in government subsidies promised by the legislation. Insurers are also awaiting Senate hearings set to start on Sept. 6 for a hint of what steps, if any, lawmakers may take to stabilize the market. … When the law passed seven years ago, insurers saw a potential bonanza: tens of millions of brand-new paying customers, many backed by generous government subsidies and required by the new law to have health coverage. Now, about four years after the law’s marketplaces opened for business, most of the industry’s biggest players have pulled out. … Yet the continuing churn among insurers and the anxiety pervading the industry -- stirred largely by President Trump’s predictions of collapse and threats to withhold critical government payments to insurers -- have obscured an encouraging fact: Many of the remaining companies have sharply narrowed their losses, analysts say, and some are even beginning to prosper.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/26/health/obamacare-market-insurance.html?mcubz=0&_r=0
Philadelphia Inquirer: Fired officer who shot three is back on beat
Shortly after worshiping at his Germantown mosque on the night of June 25, 2014, Gregory Porterfield was shot eight times on a street in Lawncrest. The bullets pierced his chest, back, leg, shoulder, wrist, buttocks, and an index finger, nearly killing him. On June 17, 2011, gunfire rained down on Jeremy May after he had dropped two friends at a hospital with gunshot wounds around 2 a.m. and drove his Chevrolet Suburban in the 5100 block of Duffield Street. May suffered a graze wound to an arm. Less fortunate was Hassan Pratt, an unarmed 325-pound man. Just after 6:30 p.m. Aug. 9, 2012, in a West Philadelphia alley, he was shot three times in the chest and died. Porterfield, May, and Pratt were shot by the same man — a defendant in at least six lawsuits, including three that have been settled for a combined $615,000. He was fired from his job in 2015 for killing Pratt but was rehired last year with the help of his union. The gunman’s name is Cyrus Mann, and he’s a Philadelphia police officer.
Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/crime/philly-cop-shot-3-men-was-fired-is-back-on-the-beat-20170825.html
Tennessean: Opioid deaths undercounted in Tennessee
In 2015, state officials reported at least 1,451 men, women and children died from drug overdoses in Tennessee -- but that’s far from an accurate count. There are likely hundreds more. No one knows the true number. Drug deaths reported in Tennessee are fundamentally flawed and represent an undercount of the toll taken by opioids, the nation’s most deadly drug epidemic, a USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee investigation found. USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee found multiple levels of breakdowns in death investigations, making it impossible to sketch the mortality rate from drug abuse or overdoses, including:
• Inconsistencies in how medical examiners, hospitals and law enforcement officials flag possible overdose deaths.
• County budget constraints that limit the number of autopsies performed.
• Incomplete or inaccurate information recorded on death certificates.
Read more: http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/investigations/2017/08/25/opioid-heroin-tennessee-autopsy-oxycodone-opioid-crisis/590149001/
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Aug. 24, 2017
Rockford Register Star: Segregated again. But equal?
Xica Davis-Flannigan never thought her daughters would attend schools that are less integrated than the ones she attended 20 years ago. As a black girl growing up in Rockford during the People Who Care desegregation lawsuit, Davis-Flannigan attended schools that she and her parents chose for her, schools she describes as racially mixed. Today, choosing schools is a thing of the past, and the schools Davis-Flannigan’s daughters can attend — based on geographic boundaries called “zones” — tend to test poorly and are filled with black and Hispanic children. “You have your zone, and you can’t go outside of your zone,” said the 33-year-old mom. “Zoning took away our choices. Schools are full of African-American and Mexican kids, and I don’t think they’re getting what they need.” Davis-Flannigan is talking about the resegregation of Rockford schools. After decades of costly legal battles, court orders and fiery public debate surrounding the desegregation of Rockford Public Schools, today’s schools look strikingly similar to their pre-desegregation counterparts, where white children attended better-performing east side schools and black children attended failing west side schools. A Rockford Register Star analysis of student race and achievement at Rockford Public Schools shows the district’s top-performing schools are predominantly white — some have as few as 15 black children — and the district’s worst-performing schools are predominantly minority — some with as few as 20 white children.
Read more: http://www.rrstar.com/news/20170806/segregated-again-but-equal
Minneapolis Star Tribune: State law blocks adoptees’ efforts to discover roots
Adopted as an infant, Sara Heller-Zimprich devotes her nights and weekends to a single-minded hunt for her birth family, The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. After work, she sometimes doesn’t change out of her nurse’s scrubs before logging on to two laptop computers to click through nine genealogy websites and family trees in search of a match that could lead to her birth family. Her all-consuming quest is shared by thousands of adoptees in Minnesota and across the nation, but one that is frustrated by a patchwork of state laws that deny them access to their own birth and adoption records. In recent years, many states have relaxed their laws and cracked open long-sealed adoption records, but Minnesota’s Legislature has stood firm and kept those records closed. An adoption agency knows the first name of Heller-Zimprich’s father, but says it can’t provide it. The Minnesota Department of Health has the name of Heller-Zimprich’s birth mother, but it will not hand it over. “I just want to know where I’m from,” said Heller-Zimprich, 53. “It’s definitely a right. You need to know where your roots are.” A national movement led by adoptees has improved access to adoption records in 19 states since 1997. This year, thousands of people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania will see their original birth certificates for the first time. Adoptees in Missouri and Arkansas will get that chance starting next year.
Read more: http://www.startribune.com/state-law-thwarts-adoptees-quest-to-know-their-roots/441039553/
Montgomery Advertiser: Too young for justice
Roderick Demar Williams was 14 when he was charged with murder in connection with a 2016 Prattville homicide. Devonte Raymon Hill was 15 when he was charged with murder in the same case in connection with the May 21, 2016, robbery and shooting death of a 56-year-old Prattville man. In June, Autauga County District Judge Joy Booth ruled that the teens would face the charges as adults, in adult court. That means that if convicted, they would serve time in adult prisons. In May, a 14-year-old and 15-year-old allegedly stole a car in Millbrook and led officers from that city on a high speed chase that ended in a crash in Prattville. Jimmy S. Ward, 69, of Montgomery, was driving the other car, and died of the injuries he sustained in the crash. The district attorney’s office filed court documents to have those two teenage boys charged as adults with murder. In Montgomery, there are eight murder investigations where juveniles are suspects.
Where does it end, the charging of younger and younger suspects? In Alabama, by law, it's 14, that’s the youngest a person can be charged as an adult. It’s an “exceptional” request to have a 14-year-old charged as an adult, Chief Assistant District Attorney C.J. Robinson said. He serves the 19th Judicial Circuit, which includes Autauga, Chilton and Elmore counties. … There are more than 2,000 people convicted as juveniles nationwide serving life without parole sentences, according to data collected by The Associated Press. At least 72 juveniles have been sentenced to life without parole in Alabama, the AP reports show. Most of those have applied for new sentences in light of the high court’s decisions.
Read more: http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/2017/08/18/14-year-old-can-go-adult-prison-alabama-but-justice/541007001/
Arizona Republic: Fewer hotline complaints investigated in child-abuse cases
Investigations into reports of child neglect have dropped 8 percent over the last year, even as the number of calls coming into Arizona's child-abuse hotline has held steady. The Department of Child Safety attributes the decline to changes made in the last year in how the hotline is operated, saying it has taken steps to cull out reports that do not need state intervention. The agency says all reports of abuse are still checked out, and the changes free up its investigators to focus on only the credible reports of the less-dire allegation known as neglect. But some worry the state might be missing a chance to do early intervention that could prevent a family situation from becoming more severe. The year-over-year decline in investigations reflects larger DCS trends. After the number of Arizona children in out-of-home care peaked around 19,000 in March 2016, data now shows that total declining. Fewer kids are being taken into state custody and more kids are exiting state care.
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-investigations/2017/08/11/arizona-dcs-child-abuse-hotline-calls-not-investigated/518354001/
New York Times: Deal with Saudis underlines benefit of backing Trump
He heaped praise on Jared Kushner at a private gathering of bankers and corporate executives in December, congratulating President Trump’s son-in-law on the surprise election triumph.
He stood up again in May before a group of corporate leaders on the 39th floor of Citigroup’s offices to remind them of all the good the Trump administration could do for the economy and the country. And at a recent meeting with his employees, as Mr. Trump’s support in corporate America began to crumble over remarks about white nationalists, he condemned the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, but not the president’s response to it. By week’s end, a rebellion among corporate leaders led to the disbanding of business advisory councils to the president.
Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the private equity giant Blackstone and the leader of one of the councils, has not been alone on Wall Street in his embrace of the Trump presidency, particularly after the corporate world endured eight years of Obama-era regulation. But in each of these private meetings, recounted by people who attended them, Mr. Schwarzman emerged as one of the president’s most respected and reliable allies in high finance. People close to Mr. Schwarzman say he does not view himself as a member of the president’s inner circle, but rather as an independent businessman who gives the White House advice on trade and the economy. But Mr. Schwarzman’s stature in both the world of finance and in Mr. Trump’s Washington helped Blackstone nail down one of the biggest deals on Wall Street this year — its selection by Saudi Arabia to manage a new $20 billion fund, to according to a person with knowledge of the selection process.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/19/business/the-benefits-of-standing-by-the-president.html?mcubz=0&_r=0
Philadelphia Inquirer: Private prisons get new life under Trump
GEO and other leading for-profit prison corporations have been plagued by health and safety issues for years, with prisoner and staff complaints and wrongful-death lawsuits piling up like mounds of unopened jail mail. But the companies have enjoyed a lucrative relationship with the federal government. Since 1997, they’ve been paid billions by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to annually house more than 34,000 federal inmates. It was a convenient arrangement for a nation with the world’s highest prison population, underpinned by a belief that private corporations could do the job cheaper and better. The government’s stance toward companies like GEO underwent a dramatic shift last summer. In early August, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General released a troubling report that showed contract prisons had far higher rates of violence and lockdowns, and poorer access to medical care, than comparable federally run facilities. … A few weeks later, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates issued a memo that directed the Bureau of Prisons to phase out its use of private-run prisons altogether. This was a potentially fatal blow to the industry; the stock price of publicly traded GEO plummeted 40 percent that day. Then history intervened. Since the election of President Trump, GEO — which donated $170,000 to a Trump political action committee last year, and $250,000 to his inaugural bash — has seen its stock price nearly quadruple. One of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' first moves after taking office in February was to rescind Yates’ memo. So instead of being cut off, GEO is raking in the money. The company has signed $774 million worth of federal contracts so far this year, including a $110 million deal to build an immigration detention center in Texas.
Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/crime/private-prisons-sessions-yates-geo-assault-death.html
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Silencing a witness
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has begun a six-part series on attacks aimed at silencing witnesses. Its begins by reporting that Eddie Powe, before he died, told police who had shot him: Tone. The killing of Powe came during the violent summer of 2015 when the number of homicides in Milwaukee soared to a high not seen since the early 1990s. It set off a cascade of violence as the man who shot him tried to methodically eliminate witnesses he believed had cooperated with police to put him behind bars. And it is only one of a number of high-stakes witness intimidation cases in Milwaukee County. In the past two years, prosecutors have filed charges in at least five homicides, five attempted homicides and two conspiracies to commit a homicide — all cases involving efforts to permanently silence a witness. In 2015, prosecutors charged nearly 190 people with witness intimidation — a 250 percent increase from a decade before, a Journal Sentinel analysis of court data found.
Read more: https://projects.jsonline.com/news/2017/8/18/intimidator.html
AP: Sex offenders can live next door to victims in many states
A convicted sex offender who molested his niece when she was 7 years old moved in next door to his victim in Edmond, Oklahoma, nearly a dozen years after he was sent to prison for the crime. Outraged, the Oklahoma woman, now 21, called lawmakers, the police and advocacy groups to plead with them to take action. Danyelle Dyer soon discovered that what Harold Dwayne English did in June is perfectly legal in the state — as well as in 44 others that don't specifically bar sex offenders from living near their victims, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. "I always felt safe in my home, but it made me feel like I couldn't go home, I couldn't have my safe space anymore," Dyer told The Associated Press, which typically doesn't identify victims of sexual assault, but is doing so in Dyer's case because she agreed to allow her name to be used in hopes of drawing attention to the issue. "He would mow in between our houses. Him moving in brought back a lot of those feelings." Advocacy groups say the Oklahoma case appears to be among the first in the U.S. where a sex offender has exploited the loophole, which helps explain why dozens of other states have unknowingly allowed it to exist. … Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia have laws dictating how far away sex offenders must stay from their victims — 1,000 feet in Tennessee, for example, and 2,000 feet in Arkansas. Other states haven't addressed the issue, though like Oklahoma they have laws prohibiting sex offenders from living within a certain distance of a church, school, day care, park or other facility where children are present.