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Watchdog Reporting


Montgomery Advertiser: Legacy of lynchings

(In conjunction with the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum, the Montgomery Advertiser is running a series of stories titled "Legacy of lynchings: America’s shameful history of racial terror.")

Each of the 4,384 names on each of the 805 columns has a story to tell. And Montgomery, birthplace of the Civil Rights Era and Cradle of the Confederacy, has a key role in the telling.

Bryan Stevenson is a nationally known attorney who has made a name defending the poor. In 1989, he founded what eventually became known as The Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery. He has argued landmark cases before the United States Supreme Court and overturned dozens of wrongful convictions of people sitting on death row. And he has a new mission, confronting a disturbing period in American history and bringing it to light. That’s the purpose of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum, which are opening April 26. The effort includes a museum that traces the roots of inequality and racism through slavery, lynching and racial segregation, and a memorial to victims of terror lynchings. The memorial to lynching victims is a first in the nation. The opening, which is expected to bring national leaders in law, advocacy and entertainment to Montgomery, is the culmination of a six-year effort.

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Sacramento Bee: State workers stay employed in spite of misconduct

Officials at the Porterville Developmental Center in the Sierra foothills won’t allow public tours so the privacy and dignity of the mentally disabled people who live there are protected. Behind the walls, though, the state facility allegedly was a hotspot of sexual harassment and retaliation among peace officers charged with protecting vulnerable residents. According to a 2013 federal lawsuit – which cost California taxpayers $1.6 million – five peace officers accused five fellow officers of groping, leering, making vulgar comments, spreading sexually explicit rumors, penning anonymous threatening notes, playing suggestively with a banana, displaying pornographic images on a work computer and other demeaning conduct. After the first $600,000 settlement was reached, the state acted: It promoted one of the accused officers, David L. Corral, gave him a new title, a 23 percent raise and sent him to a sister facility 200 miles away in Costa Mesa.

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Chicago Tribune: Lottery sells tickets after top prizes are gone

At $30 a ticket, the Illinois Lottery’s World Class Millions instant game was not only one of its priciest offerings — it was also potentially one of the most lucrative for players. “WIN UP TO $15,000,000! THE HIGHEST INSTANT PAYOUT IN ILLINOIS LOTTERY HISTORY,” shouted a banner across the magenta and silver ticket. But for the last five weeks the game was on sale this year, none of the three $15 million prizes remained. Yet players purchased an estimated 26,000 tickets during that time, spending about $793,000. Illinois’ practice of keeping some scratch-off games on the market indefinitely after top prizes have been awarded stands in contrast to states like South Carolina and Texas, whose lotteries are required to pull a game within a specific time frame once the last remaining top prize has been claimed. A Tribune investigation found that, since the end of October, World Class Millions was just one of 15 instant games the Illinois Lottery continued to sell for weeks or months after there were no more top prizes to win.

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Baltimore Sun: Hospitals struggle to handle mental health, drug abuse cases

Twelve-year-old Kristine Williams has logged a lot of time in the emergency room since she was diagnosed with mental health conditions about four years ago. But she has not been treated during any of her visits. Mostly, the Elkton girl sits and waits — for up to 24 hours a visit — as hospital staff search for appropriate care elsewhere. Emergency room physicians and hospital officials in Maryland say they have become overwhelmed with such patients in need of treatment for mental health or substance use problems. Emergency room visits in Maryland fell 8 percent from 2013 to 2016, but the number of patients with behavioral health problems jumped 18.5 percent. Such cases now make up roughly a quarter of all emergency visits in Maryland.

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New York Times: E.P.A. chief’s woes have echoes in the past

Early in Scott Pruitt’s political career, as a state senator from Tulsa, he attended a gathering at the Oklahoma City home of an influential telecommunications lobbyist who was nearing retirement and about to move away. The lobbyist said that after the 2003 gathering, Mr. Pruitt — who had a modest legal practice and a state salary of $38,400 — reached out to her. He wanted to buy her showplace home as a second residence for when he was in the state capital.

“For those ego-minded politicians, it would be pretty cool to have this house close to the capitol,” said the lobbyist, Marsha Lindsey. “It was stunning.” Soon Mr. Pruitt was staying there, and so was at least one other lawmaker, according to interviews. Mr. Pruitt even bought Ms. Lindsey’s dining room set, art and antique rugs, she said. A review of real estate and other public records shows that Mr. Pruitt was not the sole owner: The property was held by a shell company registered to a business partner and law school friend, Kenneth Wagner. Mr. Wagner now holds a top political job at the Environmental Protection Agency where Mr. Pruitt, 49, is the administrator. The mortgage on the Oklahoma City home, the records show, was issued by a local bank that was led by another business associate of Mr. Pruitt’s, Albert Kelly. Recently barred from working in the finance industry because of a banking violation, Mr. Kelly is now one of Mr. Pruitt’s top aides at the E.P.A. and runs the agency’s Superfund program.

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Philadelphia Inquirer: Police stops still target blacks

The controversial arrest of two black men at a Center City Starbucks last Thursday has reignited the debate about racial profiling by police and businesses in Philadelphia and around the country. An Inquirer and Daily News analysis of police data in the districts that cover Center City shows that while police stops have fallen sharply since 2014, blacks are still significantly more likely to be stopped than whites. When the police stops are listed as occurring indoors, such as in stores, the racial disparity is starker: Blacks account for more than two-thirds of those stops.

David Rudovsky, a civil rights attorney who has been monitoring the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices after a 2011 court settlement with the city, said Mayor Kenney’s administration has made progress in reducing the number of stops citywide and ensuring that a larger percentage are conducted only when police have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. He was uncertain why the racial breakdown differs so greatly between indoor and outdoor stops. “Good question,” Rudovsky said, speculating that some of the stops could originate with a call from a store employee, like in the Starbucks case.

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Wichita Eagle: Black residents most likely to be on receiving end of police action

Black residents find themselves at the receiving end of force by Wichita police at a rate higher than any other race. The Eagle analyzed newly released data that examines use of force within the Wichita Police Department. The data tracks how many times a Wichita officer threatened a resident with force and how many times physical force was used. The data categorizes race by white, black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian and unknown. Most of the data dates to 2009, but because of the newness of the data set, it's not complete. The data showed:

-- On average, a Taser is used during a traffic stop once a week in Wichita, and 12 percent of those residents who were stopped were black. Of all traffic stops in the same time period, less than 1 percent ended in the usage of a Taser.

-- Of the 11,290 instances where a resident was shoved, or “muscled,” by a Wichita officer, 33 percent of them were black and 11 percent were Hispanic. In comparison, blacks make up 11 percent of the city's population and Hispanics 15 percent.

-- Of the residents who were pepper sprayed, 57 percent of them were black and 12 percent Hispanic.

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Elderly prisoners rarely released early

A Wisconsin program that allows elderly and severely ill prisoners to be released early from prison could save state taxpayers millions of dollars a year. But thousands of the state’s elderly prisoners — many of whom prison officials acknowledge pose little or no risk of committing new crimes — aren’t allowed to apply, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found.  More than 1,200 people age 60 and older were serving time in Wisconsin prisons as of Dec. 31, 2016, the most recent count available. By one estimate, the average cost to incarcerate each of them is $70,000 a year — for an annual total of $84 million.  Last year, just six inmates were freed under the program. Among those who didn’t qualify were a blind quadriplegic and a 65-year-old breast cancer survivor who uses a breathing machine and needs a wheelchair to make it from her cell to the prison visiting room. Around the country, early release provisions for elderly and infirm prisoners are billed as a way to address problems such as prison overcrowding, skyrocketing budgets and civil rights lawsuits alleging inadequate medical care. But throughout the U.S., they are used so infrequently that they aren’t having much impact.

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Gazette-Times: Candidate faces questions on child support, diploma

Mark Page was elected to the Corvallis City Council in November 2016. In public meetings and now, as he runs for a seat on the Benton County Board of Commissioners, he has touted his background in business and financial education as key reasons why voters should support him.

A background check by the Gazette-Times of Corvallis, Oregon, into the candidates running for the commission seat shows that Page:

• Owes $140,000 in child support for children of three ex-wives, a debt he does not dispute but says he is trying to repay.

• Pleaded guilty in 2007 in a domestic violence case against one of the wives, Shannon Page, and was required to take anger management classes.

• Does not hold a diploma from Kansas State University, even though paperwork he filed to run for the City Council and the county commission says otherwise. An attorney for Page says the councilor earned a "certificate of completion" from Kansas State’s global campus facility at Fort Riley.

• Has been involved in a bankruptcy and a foreclosure.

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AP: Mystery grows over pro-Saudi tabloid

It landed with a thud on newsstands at Walmart and rural supermarkets last month: Ninety-seven fawning pages saluting Saudi Arabia, whose ambitious crown prince was soon to arrive in the U.S. on a PR blitz to transform his country's image. As questions swirled about the glossy magazine's origins, the Saudis said they were just as perplexed as everyone else, declaring on Twitter: "If you find out, we'd love to know." But files obtained by The Associated Press show that a digital copy of the magazine, produced by American Media Inc., was quietly shared with officials at the Saudi Embassy in Washington almost three weeks before its publication. How the early copy made it to the Saudis is unclear. Yet the revelation adds another mysterious twist to a murky tale playing out against the backdrop of bids by both President Donald Trump and David Pecker, the tabloid publisher who supports him, to build goodwill with the Saudi kingdom's leaders. The worlds of Trump, the Saudis and AMI have overlapped before, often in dizzying ways. The Trump administration has aggressively courted the Saudis and found a willing partner on a range of issues, including Iran, counterterrorism and Middle East peace, in the kingdom's royal family. And AMI's flagship publication, The National Enquirer, has been accused by critics of acting as a keeper of secrets for Trump.

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New York Times: Trump sought to fire Mueller in December

In early December, President Trump, furious over news reports about a new round of subpoenas from the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, told advisers in no uncertain terms that Mr. Mueller’s investigation had to be shut down, The New York Times reports. The president’s anger was fueled by reports that the subpoenas were for obtaining information about his business dealings with Deutsche Bank, according to interviews with eight White House officials, people close to the president and others familiar with the episode. To Mr. Trump, the subpoenas suggested that Mr. Mueller had expanded the investigation in a way that crossed the “red line” he had set last year. In the hours that followed Mr. Trump’s initial anger over the Deutsche Bank reports, his lawyers and advisers worked quickly to learn about the subpoenas, and ultimately were told by Mr. Mueller’s office that the reports were not accurate, leading the president to back down.

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AP: $30,000 rumor? Tabloid paid for, spiked, salacious Trump tip

Eight months before the company that owns the National Enquirer paid $150,000 to a former Playboy Playmate who claimed she'd had an affair with Donald Trump, the tabloid's parent made a $30,000 payment to a less famous individual: a former doorman at one of the real estate mogul's New York City buildings. As it did with the ex-Playmate, the Enquirer signed the ex-doorman to a contract that effectively prevented him from going public with a juicy tale that might hurt Trump's campaign for president. The payout to the former Playmate, Karen McDougal, stayed a secret until The Wall Street Journal published a story about it days before Election Day. Since then curiosity about that deal has spawned intense media coverage and, this week, helped prompt the FBI to raid the hotel room and offices of Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The story of the ex-doorman, Dino Sajudin, hasn't been told until now. The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer's payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Opioid-makers gushed dollars to state doctors

Makers of narcotic painkillers gave millions of dollars to Arkansas doctors between 2013 and 2016. At least 800 state residents died from opioid overdoses during the same period. Federal data reveal that opioid manufacturers directed $5 million in "general payments" to about three-quarters of the state's doctors for consulting, meals, travel and promotional speaking. A smaller group -- 1,600 physicians -- received a total of nearly $689,000 specifically to promote opioid products during the four-year period, an analysis of federal data by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette shows. Taking money from drug companies doesn't mean a doctor has done anything wrong, yet recent studies assert that these types of payments, even when under $50, affect how physicians prescribe.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Mexican journalist Emilio Gutierrez Soto remains detained by ICE

In early 2005, journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto wrote stories about the military being involved in a hotel takeover in a small Northern Mexico town. Mr. Gutiérrez was ordered to a face-to-face with a general who said, “You have written three articles full of lies. There will not be a fourth.” Faced with phone threats, soldiers ransacking his house at midnight and a report that he was facing a Mexican military death plot, Mr. Gutiérrez and his 15-year-old son drove across the U.S. border with only $58.14 in the summer of 2008. That landed him in an ICE detention center for seven months and began his decade-long bid for U.S. asylum.

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News Journal: Overtime, tensions rising in Delaware prisons

Overtime at the Delaware Department of Correction is projected to surpass $30 million this budget year – a 37.7 percent jump over the $22.2 million paid out in extra time last fiscal year.

The conditions that led to last year's deadly prison riot were blamed, in part, on severe understaffing, forcing administrators to ask – and even mandate – overtime shifts. Yet, despite DOC efforts to curb overtime, massive resignations since the riot have forced the use of more overtime. Because of that, many say tensions inside the state's prisons are escalating again.

The projection, based on more than $15 million in overtime already paid in the first half of this budget year, flies in the face of recommendations made in an independent review following the deadly February 2017 riot at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. That report urged the state DOC to reduce its dependency on overtime, particularly forced overtime – the practice of making guards stay for an extra shift. That practice, the report said, chipped away at security and behavior so much that "the unacceptable becomes acceptable." But despite the urging of the review team and promises from state lawmakers to curb mandatory overtime, the problem is getting worse.

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Washington Post: Dog rescuers, flush with donations, buy animals from breeders

An effort that animal rescuers began more than a decade ago to buy dogs for $5 or $10 apiece from commercial breeders has become a nationwide shadow market that today sees some rescuers, fueled by Internet fundraising, paying breeders $5,000 or more for a single dog.

The result is a river of rescue donations flowing from avowed dog saviors to the breeders, two groups that have long disparaged each other. The rescuers call many breeders heartless operators of inhumane “puppy mills” and work to ban the sale of their dogs in brick-and-mortar pet stores. The breeders call “retail rescuers” hypocritical dilettantes who hide behind nonprofit status while doing business as unregulated, online pet stores. But for years, they have come together at dog auctions where no cameras are allowed, with rescuers enriching breeders and some breeders saying more puppies are being bred for sale to the rescuers. Bidders affiliated with 86 rescue and advocacy groups and shelters throughout the United States and Canada have spent $2.68 million buying 5,761 dogs and puppies from breeders since 2009 at the nation’s two government-regulated dog auctions, both in Missouri, according to invoices, checks and other documents The Washington Post obtained from an industry insider.

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Chicago Tribune: Tests of tap water show lead dangers

Amid renewed national attention to the dangers of lead poisoning, hundreds of Chicagoans have taken the city up on its offer of free testing kits to determine if they are drinking tap water contaminated with the brain-damaging metal. A Tribune analysis of the results shows lead was found in water drawn from nearly 70 percent of the 2,797 homes tested during the past two years. Tap water in 3 of every 10 homes sampled had lead concentrations above 5 parts per billion, the maximum allowed in bottled water by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Alarming amounts of the toxic metal turned up in water samples collected throughout the city, the newspaper’s analysis found, largely because Chicago required the use of lead service lines between street mains and homes until Congress banned the practice in 1986.

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Boston Globe: Rail safety system is off-track

Dean Walker’s license has been suspended 39 times for everything from driving to endanger to refusing a breathalyzer test. He’s been caught speeding 16 times and convicted of drunken driving twice. To fellow motorists, he’s a hazard. To the Registry of Motor Vehicles, he’s a chronic offender. But to Keolis, the MBTA’s commuter rail operator, Walker is something else entirely — an engineer. Despite his appalling driving history, Walker is entrusted with operating six-car trains, at speeds averaging 60 miles per hour, carrying hundreds of commuters to and from the city. And he has plenty of company among his peers. About 110 commuter rail engineers, more than half of them, have driving records that experts described as poor considering the sensitive line of work they’re in — at least three infractions such as speedin

speeding, causing accidents, and failing to stop. Nearly 50 engineers have had their driver’s licenses suspended — 44 of them more than once, according to Registry of Motor Vehicle records reviewed by the Globe.

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New York Times: Why cities and states are short of cash

A public university president in Oregon gives new meaning to the idea of a pensioner.

Joseph Robertson, an eye surgeon who retired as head of the Oregon Health & Science University last fall, receives the state’s largest government pension. It is $76,111. Per month.

That is considerably more than the average Oregon family earns in a year. Oregon — like many other states and cities, including New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut — is caught in a fiscal squeeze of its own making. Its economy is growing, but the cost of its state-run pension system is growing faster. More government workers are retiring, including more than 2,000, like Dr. Robertson, who get pensions exceeding $100,000 a year. The state is not the most profligate pension payer in America, but its spiraling costs are notable in part because Oregon enjoys a reputation for fiscal discipline. Its experience shows how faulty financial decisions by states can eventually swamp local communities.

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Philadelphia Inquirer: In Pennsylvania, open season on undocumented immigrants

From the time they first flirted at a party, Anne and Ludvin Franco were inseparable. It did not matter that Anne, a waitress, was Pennsylvania Dutch going back generations, while Ludvin, a cook, had grown up in the scrublands of eastern Guatemala. It also did not matter to Anne or her open-armed family that Lulu, as they called him, was undocumented. At their wedding in 2013, the Americans and the Guatemalans danced the night away with Latin DJs imported from Queens. On lawyers’ advice, the Francos waited to start legalizing his status through their marriage until late 2016, after he had lived a productive, crime-free decade in the United States. … But last spring, Franco was involved in an auto accident and got a couple of tickets. … A few weeks later, as Franco was leaving for work at dawn, lights flashed. Men in police vests approached: federal agents from the ICE section that normally pursues violent criminals. They knew about the crash. “Oh, God,’’ Franco thought. “I’m done.’’ By October, when his wife gave birth to their baby girl at an Allentown hospital, Franco had already been deported. He was 3,200 miles away, forced to watch the delivery on the tiny screen of his cellphone from his mother's sweltering house in Zacapa, Guatemala. Since Trump took office, deportation officers have been unshackled, as the White House describes it, from an Obama-era mandate to focus limited enforcement resources on deporting immigrants with serious criminal convictions. Across the country, they have been rounding up people like Franco who have sunk roots in this country, living for years, if not decades, with little fear of apprehension. Nowhere, however, have federal agents more aggressively embraced their newfound freedom than in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware, an investigation by ProPublica and the Inquirer and Daily News found.

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Dairy crisis forcing farmers out of business

Kyle Kurt fought to keep his emotions just below the surface as he talked about selling off his herd of Holstein dairy cows, which he's milked twice a day, 365 days a year, through good times and bad. Dairy farming has been Kurt's livelihood, and his passion, since he graduated from Lodi High School 18 years ago. But soon he's having an auction to sell his cows, his milking equipment, his tractors and other farm machinery that he's spent years acquiring. “It’s probably the toughest decision I have ever had to make,” Kurt said, "but I have been told it's going to be a big weight lifted off my back." Scores of Wisconsin farmers are in a similar predicament. And with them, a way of life that has defined much of the state for more than a century and a half is disintegrating. With collapsed prices of milk, grain and other commodities, farmers are losing money no matter how many 16-hour days they put in milking cows, caring for livestock, and planting and harvesting crops. … Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms in 2017, and about 150 have quit milking cows so far this year, putting the total number of milk-cow herds at around 7,600 — down 20 percent from five years ago.

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New York Times: How Liberty University built a billion-dollar empire online

Jerry Falwell Jr., who has led Liberty University since 2007, lacks the charisma and high profile of his father, who helped lead the rise of the religious right within the Republican Party, according to a joint project of The New York Times and ProPublica. Yet what the soft-spoken Falwell, 55, lacks in personal aura, he has more than made up for in institutional ambition. As Liberty has expanded over the past two decades, it has become a powerful force in the conservative movement. The Liberty campus is now a requisite stop for Republican candidates for president — with George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney all making the pilgrimage — and many of Liberty graduates end up working in Republican congressional offices and conservative think tanks. Liberty has also played a significant role in the rise of Donald Trump.

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New York Times: Problems in privately operated prisons

On the witness stand and under pressure, Frank Shaw, the warden of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, could not guarantee that the prison was capable of performing its most basic function. Asked if the guards were supposed to keep inmates in their cells, he said, wearily, “They do their best.” According to evidence and testimony at a federal civil rights trial, far worse things were happening at the prison than inmates strolling around during a lockdown: A mentally ill man on suicide watch hanged himself, gang members were allowed to beat other prisoners, and those whose cries for medical attention were ignored resorted to setting fires in their cells. So many shackled men have recounted instances of extraordinary violence and neglect in the prison that the judge has complained of exhaustion. The case, which has received little attention beyond the local news media, provides a rare glimpse into the cloistered world of privately operated prisons, at a time when the number of state inmates in private facilities is increasing and the Trump administration has indicated that it will expand their use. Management & Training Corporation, the private company that runs the East Mississippi facility near Meridian in Lauderdale County, already operates two federal prisons and more than 20 facilities around the nation. … More than two dozen states, including Mississippi, contract with privately managed prison companies as a way to reduce costs. Prisons are usually among the most expensive budget items for states. Since 2000, the number of people housed in privately operated prisons in the nation has increased by 45 percent, while the total number of prisoners has risen by only about 10 percent, according to an analysis by the Sentencing Project.

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Philadelphia Inquirer: Director of cadets resigns over sexual misconduct allegations

The decorated director of The Cadets drum and bugle corps resigned after nine women accused him of sexual harassment and assault. The allegations against George Hopkins spanned four decades. Youth Education in the Arts, the Allentown nonprofit that runs the Cadets, announced the decision on its website and called it a “painful moment for all those who care about The Cadets.” “Though he denies the allegations, he believes stepping aside is in the best interest of the organization. We agree. His resignation is effective immediately,” the board of directors for Youth Education in the Arts, the Allentown nonprofit that runs the Cadets, said in a statement posted on the website. Hopkins, 61, was hired by the Cadets in 1979 and became director in 1982. He has coached the troupe to an impressive 10 world championships. … The Inquirer and Daily News reported that nine women accused Hopkins of sexual assault and harassment. Their stories span from 1980 to as recently as a few years ago and include accusations of lewd comments, groping, and rape.

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Los Angeles Times: Metro sends social workers to deal with homeless on trains

The early morning commuters stepping off the Metro escalator paid little attention to the 10 people huddled under blankets and curled up in corners at the Hollywood and Vine station. John Gant, 60, lay sprawled on the tile floor, his hoodie drawn over his face. When three social workers stopped to ask if he wanted help, he nodded. Over hot coffee and pages of paperwork, Gant, who had been homeless for years, called his mother to share the news. He cracked a rare smile, saying: “They’re trying to find me a place to sleep.” The Metro system has been a refuge for homeless people for decades. But as Los Angeles County’s homeless population has surged, reaching more than 58,000 people last year, the sanitation and safety problems on trains and buses are approaching what officials and riders say are crisis levels. People looking for warm, dry places to sleep have barricaded themselves inside emergency exit stairwells in stations, leaving behind trash and human waste. Elevator doors coated in urine have stuck shut. Mentally ill and high passengers have assaulted bus drivers and other riders. Amid a wave of complaints about homelessness, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has bolstered spending on law enforcement and security by 37% this year. But the agency is testing a different approach, too: social workers on the subway.

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Washington Post: John Kelly fades as West Wing disciplinarian

After White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly pressured President Trump last fall to install his top deputy, Kirstjen Nielsen, atop the Department of Homeland Security, the president lost his temper when conservative allies argued that she wasn’t sufficiently hard line on immigration. “You didn’t tell me she was a [expletive] George W. Bush person,” Trump growled. After Kelly told Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier in a January interview that Trump’s immigration views had not been “fully informed” during the campaign and had since “evolved,” the president berated Kelly in the Oval Office — his shouts so loud they could be heard through the doors. And less than two weeks ago, Kelly grew so frustrated on the day that Trump fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin that Nielsen and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis both tried to calm him and offered pep talks, according to three people with knowledge of the incident. “I’m out of here, guys,” Kelly said — comments some interpreted as a resignation threat, but according to a senior administration official, he was venting his anger and leaving work an hour or two early to head home.  The recurring and escalating clashes between the president and his chief of staff trace the downward arc of Kelly’s eight months in the White House. Both his credibility and his influence have been severely diminished, administration officials said, a clear decline for the retired four-star Marine Corps general who arrived with a reputation for integrity and a mandate to bring order to a chaotic West Wing.

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AP: Security for EPA chief comes at a steep cost to taxpayers

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt's concern with his safety came at a steep cost to taxpayers as his swollen security detail blew through overtime budgets and at times diverted officers away from investigating environmental crimes. Altogether, the agency spent millions of dollars for a 20-member full-time detail that is more than three times the size of his predecessor's part-time security contingent. EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox cited "unprecedented" threats against Pruitt and his family as justification for extraordinary security expenses such as first-class airfare to keep him separate from most passengers — a perk generally not available to federal employees. But Pruitt apparently did not consider that upgrade vital to his safety when taxpayers weren't footing the bill for his ticket. An EPA official with direct knowledge of Pruitt's security spending said the EPA chief flew coach on personal trips back to his home state of Oklahoma. The EPA official spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. New details in Pruitt's expansive spending for security and travel emerged from agency sources and documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

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Indianapolis Star: Lottery often ends high-prize games early

Brittany Mowell and her husband purchase Hoosier Lottery scratch-off tickets a couple of times a week in hopes they’ll win big. The Indianapolis woman said she felt cheated out of that dream once she learned the lottery was pulling certain high-dollar scratch-off games off the market before all the big-money prizes could be won and paid out. It felt so unfair she questioned whether such a move was legal. “That really ticks me off,” Mowell said, “and I feel ripped off.”

Not only is the practice legal, but it is happening with much greater frequency since Indiana hired a private operator — IGT Indiana (formerly GTECH) — to run nearly all of the operations of the Hoosier Lottery. More than 51 percent of high prize scratch-off game tickets worth more than $1 million have gone unclaimed in the five years since IGT took over. That’s because the company pulled the plug on those games before about half of the tickets could be sold. In all, Hoosier Lottery players have lost out on $28.7 million worth of high-dollar scratch-off prizes since IGT signed the contract in 2012.

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South Bend (Indiana) Tribune: Doctors are backing off opioids

Dr. Todd Graham’s murder was a sobering event in the opioid epidemic. The doctor at South Bend Orthopaedics was shot and killed last summer by a patient’s husband for not prescribing opioid pain medication. A week after Graham’s death, local doctors came together at a news conference with a promise to act. A promise to reverse the mistakes they made in helping create a reservoir of available opioid prescription pills. “When Todd was killed, that galvanized everybody,” said Dr. Stephen Anderson, chief medical officer for Saint Joseph Health System. “I hate to say it, but it really took something like that to look at ourselves, our behaviors as prescribers and how that has contributed to the excess of narcotics in the community.” Now it’s a struggle to balance the needs of patients who legitimately need the medication while changing prescribing practices to avoid creating a new generation of addicts. The epidemic, meanwhile, continues to grow. … Now doctors appear to be changing their practices. The number of prescriptions in St. Joseph County has steadily decreased in recent years, totaling about 81 prescriptions per 100 people in 2016, according to the most recent data from CDC; that’s a drop from a 2012 high of 100 prescriptions per 100 people.

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Courier-Journal: Kentucky’s insurance bounty hunter

He divides his time between a 180-acre farm in Oldham County and the most expensive waterfront condominium ever sold in Palm Beach, Florida. He and his wife own the biggest private employer in Oldham County, where 1,500 people labor in a sprawling complex the size of four football fields. He has no children and has said he has no close friends. He plans to work until he dies. … His name is George Rawlings, and he may be the richest Kentuckian you’ve never heard of. “He is mysterious,” said David Bizianes, executive director of Oldham County’s chamber of commerce. “He works below the radar." The 72-year-old made his fortune as a bounty hunter, of sorts. Rawlings is the father of a multi-billion-dollar industry that hunts down people who get legal settlements related to injuries from car wrecks or from defective products. He recoups what their health care provider spent on their medical care, keeps about 20 percent and sends the rest to the insurer. This has made him rich, and spawned a $2.5 billion national industry. Critics say the practice can be cruel because severely injured people can lose most or even all of a settlement – money they counted on to defray lost wages or compensate for pain and suffering. And sometimes they lose that money without being made whole for their damages.

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Boston Globe: The troll in the Maine forest, living on lies

Christopher Blair was sitting quietly in the corner of Dunkin’ Donuts, not far from his home on an unpaved road in rural Maine, looking at his phone. People around him, absorbed in their own phones, paid no attention to the large man sitting alone among them. At 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, with a long scraggly beard, he looks the part of a construction worker, which he was, in his former life. Now he makes his living telling lies on the Internet. Fact-checking organizations like Snopes and PolitiFact have labeled Blair one of the Web’s most notorious creators of fake news. Hidden behind his Internet persona, “Busta Troll,” he has for several years pumped out geysers of newsy-looking posts for an audience eager to believe them, with headlines like “College Prank Kills 2 — Malia Obama a ‘Prime Suspect’ ” and “Emma Gonzales attacks a 2nd Amendment supporter’s truck at a March for Our Lives rally.” His headlines often pinball across the Internet, propelled by thousands of shares and “likes,” generating advertising revenue for Blair in the process — and bringing a chorus of critics who accuse him of fanning the flames of a divided country for personal gain.

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Oregonian: A disconnected series of clues before cliff plunge

Since 2008, long before their SUV sped off a scenic California cliff, red flags followed Jennifer and Sarah Hart. There were their adopted children's bruised bodies and later the sight of their teenage daughter with missing front teeth. There were the accounts of the kids themselves, told in police reports and by people who interacted with them in Oregon, Washington and Minnesota.

In at least two instances, there were beatings with belts or a closed first. There were outbursts by the parents at home and in public. There was a late-night visit by one child asking her new neighbors to protect her. And then there were the apparent lies. About which parent had struck Abigail in a fit of anger. About the actual age of Hannah. About Devonte getting pulled out of public schools he wasn't enrolled in. The moms had always been able to pivot from the troubles. They pulled their children out of public school -- twice. They severed relationships. They hit the road for fresh starts. But before the fatal plunge last month, which killed the couple and at least three of their kids, and which authorities believe was intentional, the Hart children's home life raised concerns and prompted calls to authorities in every state they lived.

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The Tennessean: Inside Megan Barry’s final days

After five weeks of hell, Mayor Megan Barry and her inner circle convened one more time.

The five longtime friends and aides and three lawyers joined Barry and her husband that Monday evening at the Belmont-area bungalow of the embattled politician whose career they were fighting to save. They knew it would be different than their other gatherings since the sex scandal erupted.  It was March 5. It was time for a final decision. Those closest to Barry felt sadness for the leader they loved, frustration about a situation they didn’t expect, and sheer anger at what they describe as an overzealous district attorney and an unfair media that wanted to take down Nashville’s first female mayor. Barry’s political career once seemed unstoppable. Revered as a rock star and profiled by national press, she was considered a contender for higher office. Her inner circle thought by publicly admitting to the nearly two-year affair with her former police bodyguard, Sgt. Rob Forrest, Barry could survive the scandal and remain in politics. She even held a prime-time news conference Jan. 31. But what they perceived to be a serious personal situation unexpectedly turned into a criminal one. And so they gathered together as she made the biggest decision of her career. The Tennessean interviewed more than three dozen friends, advisers and city officials, and examined thousands of pages of emails and documents for this story. Barry declined to comment.

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New York Times: Many find they can’t quit antidepressants

Victoria Toline would hunch over the kitchen table, steady her hands and draw a bead of liquid from a vial with a small dropper. It was a delicate operation that had become a daily routine — extracting ever tinier doses of the antidepressant she had taken for three years, on and off, and was desperately trying to quit. “Basically that’s all I have been doing — dealing with the dizziness, the confusion, the fatigue, all the symptoms of withdrawal,” said Ms. Toline, 27, of Tacoma, Washington. It took nine months to wean herself from the drug, Zoloft, by taking increasingly smaller doses. “I couldn’t finish my college degree,” she said. “Only now am I feeling well enough to try to re-enter society and go back to work.” Long-term use of antidepressants is surging in the United States, according to a new analysis of federal data by The New York Times. Some 15.5 million Americans have been taking the medications for at least five years. The rate has almost doubled since 2010, and more than tripled since 2000.

Nearly 25 million adults, like Ms. Toline, have been on antidepressants for at least two years, a 60 percent increase since 2010.

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Politico: How Trump favored Texas over Puerto Rico

As Hurricane Maria unleashed its fury on Puerto Rico in mid-September, knocking out the island’s electrical system and damaging hundreds of thousands of homes, disaster recovery experts expected that only one man could handle the enormity of the task ahead: Mike Byrne. But Byrne, a widely acknowledged star of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, remained in Houston, which had been ravaged by Hurricane Harvey less than a month earlier.

Today, disaster recovery experts still express shock that FEMA kept Byrne in an already stabilizing Texas and didn’t send him to Puerto Rico for three more weeks. But now, the decision strikes many as emblematic of a double standard within the Trump administration. A POLITICO review of public documents, newly obtained FEMA records and interviews with more than 50 people involved with disaster response indicates that the Trump administration — and the president himself — responded far more aggressively to Texas than to Puerto Rico. … A comparison of government statistics relating to the two recovery efforts strongly supports the views of disaster-recovery experts that FEMA and the Trump administration exerted a faster, and initially greater, effort in Texas, even though the damage in Puerto Rico exceeded that in Houston. Within six days of Hurricane Harvey, U.S. Northern Command had deployed 73 helicopters over Houston, which are critical for saving victims and delivering emergency supplies. It took at least three weeks after Maria before it had more than 70 helicopters flying above Puerto Rico. Nine days after the respective hurricanes, FEMA had approved $141.8 million in individual assistance to Harvey victims, versus just $6.2 million for Maria victims.

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Times-Tribune: The Area's Most Fearsome Potholes

The Times-Tribune of Scranton, Pennsylvania, reports that Boulevard Avenue is a real monster.

The beast chews up rubber tires, spits out wheel lugs and uses your alignment as a toothpick.

Stretches of the road, in the vicinity of the Lackawanna County Recycling Center and Green Ridge Health Care Center, earned top dishonor in the Sunday Times’ inaugural Slammies, awarded to the most disgraceful, teeth-rattling, hubcap-stealing, compact-car-swallowing potholes on area roadways. Times-Tribune readers suggested nominees on Facebook. In the 3300 block of Olyphant Avenue, Throop-bound cars slowed and swerved to avoid pocked pavement not far from Sarah Hannon’s home. Pothole dodging — considered a spring sport by many in Northeast Pennsylvania — is particularly robust on the Scranton/Throop border. The stretches of Boulevard Avenue and Olyphant Avenue both earned People’s Choice Slammies.

Olyphant Avenue is in the poorest shape she’s seen it, said Hannon, who has lived there for 55 years.

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Los Angeles Times: Danger around every corner

The boy looked tentative as he took his seat at the sixth-grade graduation. Bone-thin with thick glasses, Jose turned to look for his parents in the auditorium. Moments like this filled his father, Pascual, with a combination of pride and dread. Watching from a few rows back, he studied his son’s body language. “Hey, champion,” he called out. Jose, 11, smiled and relaxed. The boy, who is autistic, still depended on his parents to get through social events in their Lincoln Heights neighborhood. That made his parents anxious, but the unease was compounded by a secret they guarded. They were living in the U.S. illegally, and the boy they had raised since he was an infant was not, in the eyes of the law, their son. They had always been too scared to enter the court system to formally adopt him, but these days they regret not having done it before, during what felt like more lenient times. Jose, born in Los Angeles, is a U.S. citizen — and any day he could be taken from them. Across the country, the presidency of Donald Trump has put immigrants who lack legal status on edge. In Lincoln Heights, a neighborhood of more than 28,000 just northeast of downtown Los Angeles, that tension has become a part of daily life. A team of Times reporters spent months there last year to capture how one of California’s oldest ports of call for immigrants has wrestled with the changing tone of the national debate — and made adjustments in day-to-day life.

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Des Moines Register: Towns working to solve rural housing crisis

The tidy brick ranch on Frankfort Street doesn't seem like anything special, with its hulking Chevrolet Silverado parked in the driveway and Easter decorations adorning the lawn.  But this three-bedroom home was the start of something big in the tiny town of Stanton, where community members have again and again invested in housing to keep their town alive. Throughout Iowa, small towns are enlisting creative ways to spur new homes and renovations.

The Stanton Industrial Foundation has built or refurbished 24 homes — more than one-10th of the city's 209 owner-occupied homes, according to U.S. Census figures. "We just recognized that we had to do something or we wouldn’t be here," said Mickey Anderson, who leads a foundation in Stanton that has built spec homes since the 1980s.

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Portland Press Herald: Soaring health premiums send thousands over health care cliff

Escalating premiums and deductibles have driven about 10,000 Mainers over a health care “cliff,” where they can barely afford coverage thanks to a vulnerability in the Affordable Care Act exploited by the actions of the Trump administration. Depending on the plan chosen, premiums have increased by about 70 percent or more since 2014 for people who earn too much to qualify for subsidies for the federal health care program. By contrast, ACA enrollees with subsidies have been mostly shielded from rate increases. The lack of a cap on premium increases, or other cost controls, for ACA enrollees who earn more than 400 percent of the federal poverty limit leaves them unprotected, making the “affordable” part of the program for some impossible.

Those cost hikes have accelerated since President Trump took office, and ratepayers are expected to be pummeled with giant rate increases again in 2019. Rates haven’t yet been filed with the Maine Bureau of Insurance, but will be by May. “The cliff is real,” said Erik Wengle, a research analyst with the Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank. “These plans have gotten quite expensive, and as they’ve gotten more expensive, we’re seeing people getting priced out.” People earning more than 400 percent of the federal poverty limit – about $81,000 for a family of three, $65,000 for a two-person family or $48,000 for a single person – are not eligible for subsidies in the ACA marketplace.

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Boston Globe: Colleges in peril as enrollments dwindle

Joseph Chillo has a luxurious office in a beautiful building with a view of a leafy neighborhood in this wealthy town of Brookline. But while his perch may look idyllic, his job is not. As the leader of Newbury College, a small, struggling, liberal arts college where enrollment has declined 86 percent over the past 20 years, he has a lot of sleepless nights. Chillo worries about a lot of things: Will next fall’s crop of students materialize, will there be enough financial aid, which majors should be cut, how much will the school get for a building it is selling, and will that be enough to close a 10 percent budget deficit. They are all facets of the same nagging question: How can schools like Newbury survive? … A Globe review of undergraduate enrollment trends across New England over the past 20 years shows that 20 percent of the 118 four-year, private colleges in the region have seen their enrollment drop by at least 10 percent.

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New York Times: When bail feels more like extortion

Most bail bond agents make it their business to get their clients to court. But when Ronald Egana showed up at the criminal courthouse in New Orleans, he was surprised to find that his bondsman wanted to stop him. A bounty hunter was waiting at the courthouse metal detector to intercept Mr. Egana and haul him to the bond company office, he said. The reason: The bondsman wanted to get paid. Mr. Egana ended up in handcuffs, missing his court appearance while the agency got his mother on the phone and demanded more than $1,500 in overdue payments, according to a lawsuit. It was not the first time Mr. Egana had been held captive by the bond company, he said, nor would it be the last. Each time, his friends or family was forced to pay more to get him released, he said. As commercial bail has grown into a $2 billion industry, bond agents have become the payday lenders of the criminal justice world, offering quick relief to desperate customers at high prices. When clients like Mr. Egana cannot afford to pay the bond company’s fee to get them out, bond agents simply loan them the money, allowing them to go on a payment plan. But bondsmen have extraordinary powers that most lenders do not. They are supposed to return their clients to jail if they skip court or do something illegal. But some states give them broad latitude to arrest their clients for any reason — or none at all. A credit card company cannot jail someone for missing a payment. A bondsman, in many instances, can.

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Democrat and Chronicle: Local food truck builder burns customers

For the past decade, gourmet food trucks have been one of the hottest trends in the national food scene, says the Rochester (New York) Democrat and Chronicle. The concept looks so simple: With a clever idea, eye-catching graphics and a few good recipes, chefs and home cooks alike can launch their own businesses at a fraction of the cost of opening brick-and-mortar restaurants.  But a large number of entrepreneurs who have hitched their culinary dreams, and often their life savings, to food trucks have found their fingers burned by a Rochester food truck fabrication company called M Design Vehicles. Owned by husband-and-wife team Ian MacDonald and Maggie Tobin, M Design was, until the summer of 2017, the largest manufacturer of the vehicles in the Rochester area. … After hearing complaints about the company, the Democrat and Chronicle conducted an extensive six-month inquiry that included interviews with more than 30 food truck owners and industry experts, and the review of hundreds of pages of documents, contracts and records.

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New York Times: Schools struggle with vaping explosion

The student had been caught vaping in school three times before he sat in the vice principal’s office at Cape Elizabeth High School in Maine this winter and shamefacedly admitted what by then was obvious. “I can’t stop,” he told the vice principal, Nate Carpenter. So Mr. Carpenter asked the school nurse about getting the teenager nicotine gum or a patch, to help him get through the school day without violating the rules prohibiting vaping. E-cigarettes have been touted by their makers and some public health experts as devices to help adult smokers kick the habit. But school officials, struggling to control an explosion of vaping among high school and middle school students across the country, fear that the devices are creating a new generation of nicotine addicts. In his four years at Cape Elizabeth, Mr. Carpenter says he can’t recall seeing a single student smoke a cigarette. But vaping is suddenly everywhere. “It’s our demon,” he said. “It’s the one risky thing that you can do in your life — with little consequence, in their mind — to show that you’re a little bit of a rebel.”

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Washington Post: A $10,000 offer with Senate seat at stake

Days after a woman accused U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual impropriety, two Moore supporters approached her attorney with an unusual request. They asked lawyer Eddie Sexton to drop the woman as a client and say publicly that he did not believe her. The damaging statement would be given to Breitbart News, then run by former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon. In exchange, Sexton said in recent interviews, the men offered to pay him $10,000 and promised to introduce him to Bannon and others in the nation’s capital. Parts of Sexton’s account are supported by recorded phone conversations, text messages and people in whom he confided at the time. …  In the phone conversations and texts, copies of which were obtained by The Washington Post, one of the men spoke of ties to Moore and Bannon while urging Sexton to help “cloud” the allegations, which included other women’s claims that Moore pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Florida cult leader unmasked

It was the smell that first grabbed John Neal’s attention. The elderly woman was wearing a denim skirt, a head wrap and too much perfume when she ambled by as he waited in the self-checkout line at a Walmart in Marietta last summer. The 6-foot-5-inch Air Force combat veteran’s stomach tightened and his heart raced as he watched her move slowly toward the frozen food aisle and out of sight. In the parking lot, he took pictures of her burgundy minivan. “Forgiven,” read one of the religious bumper stickers on the back. He quickly dialed a cold case detective in north central Florida more than 325 miles away to tell him one thing: “I saw her.”

A few months later, Anna Elizabeth Young was arrested at her Marietta home. Young, 76, had been living a quiet life there for the past 15 years. Now she stands charged with beating and starving a toddler to death decades ago at a religious cult authorities say she ran outside of Gainesville, Florida. Young has pleaded not guilty. Her attorney declined The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s request for an interview.

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Peoria Journal Star: Uphill battle against opioid deaths

In 2015, Peoria police responded to 50 drug overdoses resulting in 18 deaths. In December of that year, Mayor Jim Ardis formed the Community Coalition Against Heroin to fight the opioid problem. Since then, the number of overdoses rose to 76, with 16 deaths, in 2016 and rocketed to 280 overdoses, with 32 deaths, in 2017. As of March 22 of this year, first responders have been called to 48 overdoses within the city of Peoria, with 12 of those fatal. An additional four people died outside the city limits, but in Peoria County, according to the Peoria County Coroner’s office. Despite those alarming numbers, members of the Peoria Police Department, the county’s State’s Attorney’s office and others say the coalition has been a force in the battle against opioids. In Peoria, police officers and firefighters respond weekly to suspected heroin overdoses. Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood said the problem affects all ages, races, neighborhoods and incomes. “I would say about half of those people don’t reside in the city. A lot of those deaths are occurring where they are purchasing the drugs, but it might not be where they reside,” the coroner said, a contention that coincides with what city and law enforcement officials say, that Peoria is viewed as a “source city” for street drugs such as heroin.

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Des Moines Register: Low-income college students struggle despite Pell Grants

Joni Landeros-Cisneros was ecstatic when he learned he could attend Iowa State University with little out-of-pocket expense. He had thought going to college was financially impossible. His parents, immigrants from Mexico, earned just enough money from their Sioux City factory jobs to pay for food, housing and living expenses. Landeros-Cisneros expected he would work in a factory after graduating from high school. But he got a scholarship that covered his tuition and a federal Pell Grant that helped pick up his room and board. Despite the financial help and a summer program on the Ames campus that helped him learn about support services, take classes and meet students, Landeros-Cisneros felt overwhelmed. He struggled academically and financially and in December 2016, left Iowa State. "I didn't let anyone know — I just took matters into my own hands and dropped out." For many Pell Grant recipients, Landeros-Cisneros' story is all too common. … Nationwide, just 42 percent of the more than 608,000 Pell recipients that enrolled in four-year public or private institutions in fall 2010 had graduated by spring 2016, a Des Moines Register review of the new data found.

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Courier-Journal: Kids with Hepatitis C have trouble getting care

Since she was four years old, Kaylee Ferrell guarded a secret. A dangerous virus lived in her small body, a germ relatives described as “a cold in her blood.” She’d been born with hepatitis C, an insidious liver disease her mother got shooting up drugs. To keep other kids safe, Kaylee stashed a couple dozen pairs of latex gloves in her school backpack so she could clean up her own skinned knees and bloody noses. She spent a lot of time riding horses because they couldn't judge her like people could. And she rarely spoke of her illness because “it made me feel extremely odd and different.” Today, at 18, Kaylee realizes she’s one of thousands of people born with hep C. A Courier Journal investigation found hepatitis C has skyrocketed among Kentucky births amid the state’s raging drug epidemic, but attempts to prevent, track and control the infectious, curable disease have fallen short. That means many kids don’t get the care they need, risking cirrhosis and liver cancer in adulthood — or even early death.

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New York Times: Call for privacy hands a crisis to tech giants

The contemporary internet was built on a bargain: Show us who you really are and the digital world will be free to search or share. People detailed their interests and obsessions on Facebook and Google, generating a river of data that could be collected and harnessed for advertising. The companies became very rich. Users seemed happy. Privacy was deemed obsolete, like bloodletting and milkmen. Now, the consumer surveillance model underlying Facebook and Google’s free services is under siege from users, regulators and legislators on both sides of the Atlantic. It amounts to a crisis for an internet industry that up until now had taken a reactive, whack-a-mole approach to problems like the spread of fraudulent news and misuse of personal data. The recent revelation that Cambridge Analytica, a voter profiling company that had worked with Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, harvested data from 50 million Facebook users, raised the current uproar, even if the origins lie as far back as the 2016 election. It has been many months of allegations and arguments that the internet in general and social media in particular are pulling society down instead of lifting it up.

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Boston Globe: Seven steps, 27,000 lives

(This is an interactive editorial that shows how many deaths there would be, state by state, if others had the same death rate as Massachusetts.)

Many factors contribute to the prevalence of gun deaths. Rates of gun ownership — also relatively low in Massachusetts — and factors such as geography, education, and availability of health care all contribute. Yet the death rate in Massachusetts is low not just because of good hospitals and favorable demographics, but also because our laws foster a more careful coexistence with guns. Our laws could and should go further, but they recognize this much: Focusing on the cause of death — the weapons — is the best chance we have to keep more people alive.

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New York Times: Trump consultants exploited Facebook data of millions

As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem. The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work. So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

An examination by The New York Times and The Observer of London reveals how Cambridge Analytica’s drive to bring to market a potentially powerful new weapon put the firm — and wealthy conservative investors seeking to reshape politics — under scrutiny from investigators and lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

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AP Exclusive: Kushner Cos. filed false documents with NYC

When the Kushner Cos. bought three apartment buildings in a gentrifying neighborhood of Queens in 2015, most of the tenants were protected by special rules that prevent developers from pushing them out, raising rents and turning a tidy profit. But that's exactly what the company then run by Jared Kushner did, and with remarkable speed. Two years later, it sold all three buildings for $60 million, nearly 50 percent more than it paid. Now a clue has emerged as to how President Donald Trump's son-in-law's firm was able to move so fast: The Kushner Cos. routinely filed false paperwork with the city declaring it had zero rent-regulated tenants in dozens of buildings it owned across the city when, in fact, it had hundreds. While none of the documents during a three-year period when Kushner was CEO bore his personal signature, they provide a window into the ethics of the business empire he ran before he went on to become one of the most trusted advisers to the president of the United States. "It's bare-faced greed," said Aaron Carr, founder of Housing Rights Initiative, a tenants' rights watchdog that compiled the work permit application documents and shared them with The Associated Press.

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Los Angeles Times: Drivers out of control

Valentina D’Alessandro was at a party with a few girlfriends in 2013 when one of them got sick. They accepted another teenager’s offer to drive the girls home in his red Mustang. In a commercial area of Wilmington, at the intersection of two four-lane boulevards, a car pulled up alongside the Mustang. The race began. Minutes later, Valentina, 16, was dead, her body wedged in a passenger side window following a crash. Police found her high school identification card at the scene. She was one of at least 179 people who have died in Los Angeles County since 2000 in accidents where street racing was suspected, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of coroner’s records, police reports and media accounts from 2000 to 2017.

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Commercial Appeal: A look at the paper’s coverage of black events

On a rainy afternoon a half-century ago, the accidental deaths of two African-American sanitation workers in Memphis unloosed long-suppressed racial tensions and ripped open a new chapter in the civil rights movement, one that began with a bitter labor walkout and culminated with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But as far as much of the Memphis media was concerned, there was a bigger story to chase that soggy Feb. 1, 1968: Elvis Presley’s daughter was born. “Newest Presley Has Audience,” beamed a section-front headline accompanied by three photos in the next day’s edition of the Memphis Press-Scimitar, an afternoon newspaper that devoted days of coverage to the birth of the singer’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. Deep inside the Feb. 2 paper, on Page 10, was a story documenting the deaths of Robert Walker, 29, and Echol Cole, 35, who had been crushed when a packer on a garbage truck malfunctioned. A grim reminder of the workers' low pay, nonexistent benefits and brutal working conditions, the fatalities galvanized some 1,300 employees to launch a strike that convulsed the city. The coverage of that seminal event foreshadowed how one of the biggest stories in Memphis’ history — an unfolding drama that garnered national and global attention — befell a local media establishment stuck in a different era. In contrast to the reporting that lent moral force to civil rights crusades elsewhere, the city’s media generally responded with tepid interest to the workers’ plight and unalloyed hostility to the walkout and “outsiders” like King.

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Washington Post: Trump Cabinet accused of living large on taxpayer money

During a Cabinet meeting at the White House last October, President Trump extolled the virtues of the men and women surrounding him at the table. “A great trust has been placed upon each member of our Cabinet,” he declared. “We have a Cabinet that — there are those that are saying it’s one of the finest group of people ever assembled . . . as a Cabinet. And I happen to agree with that.” Less than five months later, Trump finds himself presiding over a Cabinet in which a number of members stand accused of living large at taxpayer expense — often by aggressively embracing the trappings of their high government posts. At least a half-dozen current or former Trump Cabinet officials have been mired in federal investigations over everything from high-end travel and spending on items such as a soundproof phone booth to the role of family members weighing in on official business.

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Trump wildlife protection board stuffed with trophy hunters

A new U.S. advisory board created to help rewrite federal rules for importing the heads and hides of African elephants, lions and rhinos is stacked with trophy hunters, including some members with direct ties to President Donald Trump and his family. A review by The Associated Press of the backgrounds and social media posts of the 16 board members appointed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke indicates they will agree with his position that the best way to protect critically threatened or endangered species is by encouraging wealthy Americans to shoot some of them. One appointee co-owns a private New York hunting preserve with Trump's adult sons. The oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., drew the ire of animal rights activists after a 2011 photo emerged of him holding a bloody knife and the severed tail of an elephant he killed in Zimbabwe.

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Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: ‘Buy local’ programs often deceive shoppers

If you live in New York, you have likely spotted the state's food branding programs pop up on product packaging, store signs and billboards. But what do they really mean? And should you pay more for those products? The growing movement to support locally sourced food has increased awareness and scrutiny of where the food you put on your family’s table came from and whether it was produced safely.  A nationwide USA TODAY Network investigation found that state-branding programs designed to help inform consumers and support local farmers are largely deceptive and virtually unregulated.  A team of reporters reviewed programs in every state and found a hodgepodge of rules and regulations far more focused on marketing than enforcement. More than half the states put “local” labels on products even if 50 percent of the ingredients come from outside the state, and more than a dozen states have no minimum ingredient requirement at all. In short, shoppers across the country are being sold a bill of goods — and they likely are paying extra for those products.

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New York Times: ‘Testilying’ happens in NY police cases

Officer Nector Martinez took the witness stand in a Bronx courtroom on Oct. 10, 2017, and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God. There had been a shooting, Officer Martinez testified, and he wanted to search a nearby apartment for evidence. A woman stood in the doorway, carrying a laundry bag. Officer Martinez said she set the bag down “in the middle of the doorway” — directly in his path. “I picked it up to move it out of the way so we could get in.” The laundry bag felt heavy. When he put it down, he said, he heard a “clunk, a thud.” What might be inside? Officer Martinez tapped the bag with his foot and felt something hard, he testified. He opened the bag, leading to the discovery of a Ruger 9-millimeter handgun and the arrest of the woman. But a hallway surveillance camera captured the true story: There’s no laundry bag or gun in sight as Officer Martinez and other investigators question the woman in the doorway and then stride into the apartment. Inside, they did find a gun, but little to link it to the woman, Kimberly Thomas. Still, had the camera not captured the hallway scene, Officer Martinez’s testimony might well have sent her to prison. … “Behind closed doors, we call it testilying,” a New York City police officer, Pedro Serrano, said in a recent interview, echoing a word that officers coined at least 25 years ago. “You take the truth and stretch it out a little bit.” An investigation by The New York Times has found that on more than 25 occasions since January 2015, judges or prosecutors determined that a key aspect of a New York City police officer’s testimony was probably untrue.

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Kansas City Star: Missouri is destination wedding spot -- for 15-year-old brides

In the dark before sunrise, high school sophomore Brittany Koerselman, belly bulging, seven months pregnant and feeling like a cow, tucked herself into the borrowed white prom dress that would be her wedding gown. The Iowa teen didn’t want to be a child bride. But the cops were coming. She was 15, not even old enough to drive on her own. Jeremie Rook, her boyfriend and the father of her baby, was 21. It didn’t matter how “infatuatedly in love” she was then with everything about Jeremie — his long chocolate hair, his bad-boy attitude, tongue stud and 28 tattoos. In Iowa, a 21-year-old having sex with a 15-year-old is statutory rape. The evidence was alive in her womb. “I never wanted to get married, ever, like in my life,” Brittany recalled recently. “But I did it anyway, because it was either that or he go to prison, like, forever.” So on a cold morning in March 2014, she piled into a car with her family and sped south for six hours and 400 miles from Little Rock, Iowa, near the Minnesota border, to get to the one state that possesses the most lenient law in the nation allowing 15-year-olds to wed: Missouri. The Kansas City Star publishes a series of stories investigating the phenomenon.

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Asheville Citizen Times: Video shows Asheville policeman beating man

Police in January launched a criminal investigation into whether an officer used excessive force in the arrest of a man suspected of jaywalking and trespassing after he walked across the parking lot of a business already closed for the day. Police body camera video obtained by the Citizen Times shows Officer Chris Hickman beating Johnnie Jermaine Rush with punches to the head while Rush was being restrained by Hickman and another officer. In the video, from a camera worn by Hickman, Rush says multiple times that he can't breathe as he is restrained. He also was shocked twice with a stun gun while being held on the ground. Hickman, who had been awarded a department medal of honor for actions taken in 2014, resigned sometime before Jan. 19, according to a memo obtained by the Citizen Times.  … Police body camera video is not considered public record. A copy of the recording was given to the Citizen Times.

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Los Angeles Times: EPA chief excludes public from policy discussions

As Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt jetted around the country last year, regularly flying first or business class at hefty taxpayer expense, his stated mission was often a noble one: to hear from Americans about how Washington could most effectively and fairly enforce the Clean Water Act. Yet when Pruitt showed up in North Dakota in August to seek guidance on how to rewrite a landmark Obama-era water protection rule, it was clear there were some voices he did not care to hear. The general public was barred from participating in the roundtable Pruitt presided over at the University of North Dakota. An EPA official even threatened to call security on reporters who tried to linger. What happened at the meeting is still a mystery to all but the invitees, a list dominated by industry and Pruitt's political allies. The same is true of many of the other 16 such roundtables Pruitt held as he developed his plan to weaken a federal rule that protects the drinking water of 117 million Americans.

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Water agency in turmoil

DeKalb County’s crippling water main break last week marked the latest large-scale failure of metro Atlanta’s fragile infrastructure, while amplifying a new chapter of turmoil in an agency that’s been at the center of a series of scandals for more than a decade. The break in an underground pipe off Buford Highway upended the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, compromising the water supply stretching from Decatur to Perimeter Mall. Doctors couldn’t perform surgeries. Students couldn’t go to school. Businesses hemorrhaged revenue as employees went home and restaurants shut their doors. But even as the DeKalb Watershed Management Department scrambled to return service, an unrelated drama was unfolding behind the scenes. The department’s top leader — an engineer who stepped down two days before — lodged explosive allegations against top county officials in his resignation letter, accusing them of blocking him from carrying out his duty to protect residents from water pollution. The accusations, detailed in documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, raise questions about whether the state’s fourth-largest county has the will to fix the dysfunctional department and the county’s never-ending water and sewer problems.

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Sarasota Herald Tribune: Legislation follows paper’s investigation on racial disparity

The Florida Legislature has approved a bill to bolster transparency in the criminal justice system, a reform experts hope will address rampant racial disparities in sentencing exposed in reporting by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The effort to improve data collection in the criminal justice system passed as part of a swap between the Florida House and Senate of priority criminal justice reforms. House leaders agreed to a plan pushed by Senate President Joe Negron aimed at increasing the use of civil citations and pre-arrest diversion programs for juveniles who commit minor crimes. Senate leaders agreed to the data-collection proposal, which had cleared the House last month. The legislation now goes to Gov. Rick Scott for approval. … Herald-Tribune investigations — “Bias on the bench” and “One War. Two Races” — found that when a black and white defendant commit the same crime under similar circumstances, Florida courts sentence the black offender to far longer in lockup on average. The disparities are exacerbated in the war on drugs.

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Indianapolis Star: The making of a monster

The phone rang. It was Dr. Larry Nassar. "Hey, man, what’s going on?" Dr. Steven Karageanes recalls saying. Nassar got straight to the point: "I just wanted to call and let you know that I’ve been accused of sexual assault." It was Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, just four days before allegations against Nassar would be made public. Karageanes, a former president of the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine, said he took his phone into another room, away from his family. For the next 21 minutes, he listened as a fellow osteopath he had known for 25 years strongly denied the allegations of two former patients. Nassar asked whether Karageanes would speak to Michigan State University Police and explain pelvic medical procedures, Nassar’s chosen specialty. Nassar also asked his friend to write a letter of support and help gather other doctors. … It was only after additional evidence piled up that he and others realized how fully Nassar had used them. "He groomed me for 28 years to help him commit sexual assault," Karageanes said in a statement read by a prosecutor during Nassar’s January sentencing on seven counts of criminal sexual conduct. … What comes through loudly in his and more than 150 other court statements — and in interviews conducted by USA TODAY Network reporters in Michigan and Indiana — is that the hundreds of girls Nassar molested over three decades were not the only people groomed to perpetuate his abuse. When the truth came out, parents, coaches, trainers and medical professionals felt they had been duped for years into believing in a man who had carefully cultivated a wholesome, helpful image, and attained near celebrity status as the foremost medical expert in a niche sport.

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Courier-Journal: It’s all relative

Nearly a decade, 10 raises and three job title changes after he was hired to his first full-time job at the University of Louisville, Mark Jurich left the school last month as the athletic department’s eighth-highest paid administrator, yet university records reveal a spotty paper trail documenting his meteoric rise. Less than six months since the University of Louisville's new policy on hiring relatives took effect, a months-long Courier Journal analysis has uncovered a pattern of undocumented pay increases and promotions to positions that appear to have been created specifically for him while he effectively worked under his father, former athletic director Tom Jurich. The analysis also revealed disputed fundraising records that call into question just how much money Mark Jurich brought to the university.

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Baltimore Sun: Abuses in early release program

In February 2017, armed robber Sheirod Saunders had served less than three years of an eight-year prison sentence when a judge ordered him released to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Baltimore. Saunders promptly escaped from the unsecured facility, authorities say. He scooped up bags holding the belongings of other patients, they say, ran out the front door, jumped into a light green car and headed off. They’ve been searching for him ever since. Across the state, dozens of inmates convicted of violent crimes — carjackings, shootings and attempted murder — are using a Maryland law intended to help addicted offenders get drug treatment to win early release, sometimes years before they are eligible for parole. … In the last fiscal year, 152 people convicted of violent crimes were released from prison early through what the legal community calls the 8-505 or 8-507 program, after the laws that authorize evaluations and drug treatment instead of incarceration. The offenders are supposed to remain in treatment, often for a year, and then typically are released under state supervision. But the treatment centers are not secure facilities, and the convicts routinely abscond. In the past five months, 47 of 164 individuals placed into treatment facilities went missing, state records show. State health officials couldn’t say if any have been located.

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Oregonian: Failed mill cost taxpayers $7 million

When state and federal officials approved $8 million in taxpayer financing for a Southern Oregon sawmill project, they did so on the premise the investment would bring back jobs, The Oregonian reports. But officials greenlighted the project despite warning signs the plan to retool the mothballed mill was likely doomed to fail. Sure enough, even with the expensive taxpayer-provided upgrades, the reopened Rough & Ready mill operated for less than 20 months before shutting down for good. Its equipment has been auctioned off, the land sold and the promised jobs only briefly delivered. The failed project was overseen by Portland environmental nonprofit Ecotrust. Taxpayers ultimately poured more than $12 million into the small-scale family-owned mill. On the day the land was sold, only $5 million of it remained.

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Indianapolis Star: Are America’s surgery centers safe?

The surgery went fine. Her doctors left for the day. Four hours later, Paulina Tam started gasping for air. Internal bleeding was cutting off her windpipe, a well-known complication of the spine surgery she had undergone.  But a Medicare inspection report describing the event says that nobody who remained on duty that evening at the Northern California surgery center knew what to do. In desperation, a nurse did something that would not happen in a hospital. She dialed 911. By the time an ambulance delivered Tam to the emergency room, the 58-year-old mother of three was lifeless, according to the report. If Tam had been operated on at a hospital, a few simple steps could have saved her life. But like hundreds of thousands of other patients each year, Tam went to one of the nation’s 5,600-plus surgery centers. … An investigation by Kaiser Health News and the USA TODAY Network has discovered that more than 260 patients have died since 2013 after in-and-out procedures at surgery centers across the country. Dozens — some as young as 2 — have perished after routine operations, such as colonoscopies and tonsillectomies.

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Prescription for secrecy

Like traveling medicine hucksters of old, doctors who run into trouble today can hopscotch from state to state, staying ahead of regulators, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Instead of snake oil, some peddle opioids. Others have sex with patients, bungle surgeries, misdiagnose conditions or are implicated in patient deaths. Even after being caught in one state, they can practice free and clear in another; many hold a fistful of medical licenses. Stories about individual doctors avoiding discipline in a second state have been reported before. An investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today shows how widespread the problem is: At least 500 physicians who have been publicly disciplined, chastised or barred from practicing by one state medical board have been allowed to practice elsewhere with a clean license.

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Boston Globe: In the maestro’s thrall

As Albin Ifsich, a young violin student, stood in the doorway, the conductor wanted to know one thing: If he could save just one person, who would it be — the conductor or the violinist’s own mother? “If you pick your mother,” Ifsich recalled the conductor telling him, “you will walk out this door and never see me again. If you pick me, you will close the door, step into this house, and be with me forever.” It was the fall of 1968, and for Ifsich, a 20-year-old student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the answer was clear: He must choose James Levine, the magnetic conductor who’d developed a provocative cult-like following among a small group of students at the institute and who, 50 years later, would be accused of sexual assault while leading the school’s University Circle Orchestra. Rumors of Levine’s alleged sexual improprieties have hounded the conductor for decades, even as he became one of the country’s most revered artists during his 40-year reign as music director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. … Interviews with nearly two dozen former students and musicians from Levine’s Cleveland days, including six from the maestro’s inner circle, indicate the conductor’s alleged sexual behavior was part of a sweeping system to control this core group. As Levine yoked his musical gifts and position to a bid for power, he dictated what they read, how they dressed, what they ate, when they slept — even whom they loved.

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Arizona Republic: Dozens of charter schools at risk of closing

The abrupt closure of a Goodyear charter school in January left hundreds of parents scrambling to find a new school and teachers without jobs. An Arizona Republic analysis of charter-school finances statewide shows dozens of other schools could be on the brink of similar financial ruin, and the state has little power to intervene. Charter holders of 40 schools were labeled as "going concerns" by their auditors in the 2016-17 school year, a subjective measure meaning there was concern that they could close within a year due to their finances, according to The Republic's analysis. Charter holders of 125 schools — 28 percent of those with available data —  failed at least three of four quantifiable measures of financial health set by the state charter board, according to the newspaper's analysis of financial reports of operators representing 454 schools.

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Orange County Register: Addiction advertising can trick you to death

People looking to quit alcohol or other drugs typically find treatment the same way they might search for take-out food or a mechanic – by typing search words into Google. Once there, addicts and their families can get trapped in a tangle of lies, the Orange County Register reports. The deception has taken many forms:

— Competitors hijack online traffic from established centers by buying common misspellings and iterations of rehab names and key phrases.

— Rogue treatment centers create hundreds of blogs and websites hammering crucial keywords to take advantage of Search Engine Optimization, directing addicts to sites that promise far more than they actually deliver.

— Phone banks and boiler rooms have paid hundreds of dollars for choice Google AdWords, making their sites come up first in searches such as “drug treatment Los Angeles.”

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New York Times: Kushner’s family business got loans after White House meetings

Early last year, a private equity billionaire started paying regular visits to the White House.

Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said three people familiar with the meetings. Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris. The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies. The loan was to refinance the mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper. Even by the standards of Apollo, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, the previously unreported transaction with the Kushners was a big deal: It was triple the size of the average property loan made by Apollo’s real estate lending arm, securities filings show. It was one of the largest loans Kushner Companies received last year. An even larger loan came from Citigroup, which lent the firm and one of its partners $325 million to help finance a group of office buildings in Brooklyn.

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Washington Post: Kushner’s overseas contacts raise concerns

Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter. Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the current and former officials said.  It is unclear if any of those countries acted on the discussions, but Kushner’s contacts with certain foreign government officials have raised concerns inside the White House and are a reason he has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance, the officials said.

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Los Angeles Times: Dozens race to register as foreign lobbyists in US

No one knows how special counsel Robert S. Mueller's sprawling investigation into Russian political interference and potential White House obstruction will end, but Mueller is already changing how the nation's capital does business. His prosecutors have taken the rare step of pursuing some of President Trump's former senior aides for failing to register as lobbyists for foreign governments, rattling the rarefied world of highly-paid professionals who advocate in Washington for traditional foreign allies, unsavory strongmen and other overseas clients. Partly as a result, the number of people registering as "foreign agents" for new clients — meaning they lobby for foreign interests — jumped from 68 in 2016 to 102 in 2017. A total of 422 such lobbyists are currently registered, although some lawmakers believe many more are still in the shadows.

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Orange County Register: Forensic work isn’t always like what you see on TV

Bite marks and blood spatter? Any fan of any iteration of television’s “CSI” franchise knows full well that both can be used to easily solve crimes. Same for tire impressions, hair comparisons, knife analysis. All those fields are science, right? And, as such, they’re inviolate and solid; sources of evidence that, when artfully described by a prosecutor in a court of law, can erase the “reasonable doubt” level of uncertainty that jurors are supposed to evict from their heart before voting to convict. Too bad much of that science is bogus. Or, short of bogus, it’s questionable. In real life, the staples of crime scene TV shows — in fact, most forensic evidence other than human DNA — are viewed by scientists as anything from potentially fallible to pure hokum. Many once-solid fields were debunked in a groundbreaking 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences, entitled: “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.” Since then, little has changed, even as experts around the country — including defense lawyers and forensic scientists — have debated the merits of using different types of scientific evidence in court. … The report noted a second, potentially deeper problem: The vast majority of crime labs in the United States aren’t truly independent. Most (including most of the crime labs in Southern California) are run by prosecutors, law enforcement departments, or both — entities that have a vested interest in convicting people.

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Des Moines Register: Debt rising for college students

Zane Satre expects to have about $27,000 in student loans to repay when he graduates in May from Iowa State University with a degree in meteorology. His hopes to land a television job as a meteorologist that will likely pay him $30,000 or less — barely enough to make payments and still support himself. "Finances will be tight, and it won't be pretty," said Satre, 22, who grew up in Ogden. "I know I won't be able to start a savings account or buy a new car. "But I will be able to at least pay on the loan." In the past decade, average student-loan debt among the nation's college graduates has swelled nearly 70 percent to about $34,000, according to a recent Federal Reserve of New York report. In Iowa, the student debt load has grown at a slower but still alarming pace, rising 28 percent over the past decade to an average $29,800, according to The Institute for College Access & Success. … And there are worrisome signs that future students will be forced to borrow even more to get their degrees.

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Detroit Free Press: 250,000 jobs gone forever?

Judging by the past few years, Michigan’s economy has come roaring back from the Great Recession. Unemployment has dropped dramatically, the state has added roughly a half-million jobs since 2011 and auto companies have posted record or near-record sales for several years in a row. But that upbeat narrative masks the deep trough that Michigan fell into during its lost decade of the early 2000s. It is yet to fully climb out — and may never. Donald Grimes, an economist with the University of Michigan, said something vanished forever when the domestic auto industry imploded and Michigan shed jobs for 10 years in a row. “That was a permanent adjustment of the auto industry to the loss of its monopoly power,” Grimes said of 2001-10. “We’ll never get back to where we were in the year 2000.” Statistics bear that out. Michigan hit peak employment in 2000 and today, despite recent growth, remains about 250,000 jobs below that mark.

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Akron Beacon Journal: Who does NRA back in Ohio politics?

In the week since a school shooting in Florida claimed 17 lives, survivors seeking gun reform are questioning how the political influence of the National Rifle Association will affect the gun debate. “Sen. [Marco] Rubio, can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?” asked Cameron Kasky, a junior who survived the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “The answer is that people buy into my agenda, and I do support the Second Amendment,” said Rubio, who pressed on through boos at the CNN town hall to explain that he would support any law that “would keep guns out of the hands of a deranged killer.” The NRA is spending unprecedented amounts in American politics, with record spending in the 2016 election cycle. For perspective, the $30.3 million spent to elect Donald Trump as president was more than the gun lobby spent in all federal elections — including all U.S. Senate and House races — in 2008 and 2012 combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog that tracks political spending. Trump and six federal candidates received 96 percent of campaign spending in 2016, including $2.2 million for the re-election of Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. … Federal Elections Commission reports show that the National Rifle Association of America Political Action Fund spent $5.1 million in the past 13 months, all while nearly doubling its cash reserves from $1.5 million to $2.9 million. Some of that money, paid out of the organization’s political operation in Fairfax, Virginia, has trickled to Ohio.

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Philadelphia Inquirer: City’s trash tirade

Jonathan Jacobs’ one-mile trek from Point Breeze to the Center City nonprofit where he works is a minefield of dirty distractions - a shattered TV on the sidewalk, trash bags overflowing with discarded clothes, storm drains stuffed with food wrappers. As much a part of his morning routine as his bowl of Raisin Bran and mug of coffee, Jacobs stops repeatedly along the way to snap photos of the litter and report it on the city’s 311-complaint app. In three years he has submitted 4,000 complaints — yes, that’s an average of four per day — in the hopes the city will clean up the filth. “It drives me nuts,” said Jacobs, 43, who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and has also lived in Orlando, Chicago, and Virginia. “This has got to be the dirtiest neighborhood I’ve ever seen. Ever. I can clear the block today, and it’s filthy by tomorrow.”

Jacobs may be 311’s most prolific user, but he is among thousands of Philadelphians who have complained about litter to the city’s main hotline for quality-of-life issues. And residents are complaining more than ever.

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Tennessean: Mayor’s bodyguard earned thousands in overtime

Super Bowl Sunday at the mayor’s house. Loretta Lynn and Jason Isbell concerts at the Ryman. Late-night dinner at a posh Gulch seafood restaurant. An evening at Brad Paisley’s home.

Mayor Megan Barry’s official calendar included these engagements, and many more, during 2017. Often at her side was Sgt. Rob Forrest, the former police bodyguard with whom she had an affair starting in spring 2016. Out-of-state trips have been a focus of the scandal involving Barry and Forrest. But a USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee review of Forrest’s schedule and Barry’s calendar for 2017 shows Forrest racked up hundreds of hours of overtime in Nashville, escorting the mayor to hot yoga classes and hockey games, late-night concerts and trendy restaurants.

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Montgomery Advertiser: Sex offenders in school

The parents of a young Alabama sex crime victim want something done. Three years ago, their daughter was victimized by a then-14-year-old boy. What happened next combines the heartache of a family trying to get back to “normal,” a young man paying his debt to society, old wounds being reopened and a bureaucratic maze of board of education meetings and potential legislative action. … The names of the victim’s parents in this story are not used, so as not to identify the victim. The young man was found guilty — or “adjudicated delinquent” in juvenile court terms — of enticing a child for immoral purposes, the victim’s parents said. They attended the hearing before Autauga County District Judge Joy Booth, who handles juvenile case in the county. At the time of the incident, their daughter was younger than 12, the parents said. There are no jury trials in juvenile court; the judge makes the decisions. Under Alabama law, the young man is considered a sex offender. At the time, the young man was enrolled in an Autauga County high school. In the wake of the court’s action, he was expelled from Autauga County Schools for one year, the girl’s parents said. It was time to try and put the pieces back together. … At the start of this academic year, the victim’s older brother was an incoming freshman at an Autauga County high school. When getting ready to start school, the brother spotted the convicted juvenile sex offender at the school. The young man had re-enrolled. … The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is charged with maintaining the registry of juvenile sex offenders. ALEA also maintains the statewide adult sex offender registry, which is open to public view.

As of Jan. 16, there were 1,305 juvenile sex offenders on the registry, ALEA data shows.

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New York Times: Louisiana communities left  to the tides

From a Cessna flying 4,000 feet above Louisiana’s coast, what strikes you first is how much is already lost. Northward from the Gulf, slivers of barrier island give way to the open water of Barataria Bay as it billows toward an inevitable merger with Little Lake, its name now a lie. Ever-widening bayous course through what were once dense wetlands, and a cross-stitch of oil field canals stamp the marsh like Chinese characters. Saltwater intrusion, the result of subsidence, sea-level rise and erosion, has killed off the live oaks and bald cypress. Stands of roseau cane and native grasses have been reduced to brown pulp by feral hogs, orange-fanged nutria and a voracious aphid-like invader from Asia. A relentless succession of hurricanes and tropical storms — three last season alone — has accelerated the decay. In all, more than 2,000 square miles _ an expanse larger than the state of Delaware _ have disappeared since 1932.

Out toward the horizon, a fishing village appears on a fingerling of land, tenuously gripping the banks of a bending bayou. It sits defenseless, all but surrounded by encroaching basins of water. Just two miles north is the jagged tip of a fortresslike levee, a primary line of defense for greater New Orleans, whose skyline looms in the distance. Everything south of that 14-foot wall of demarcation, including the gritty little town of Jean Lafitte, has effectively been left to the tides. Jean Lafitte may be just a pinprick on the map, but it is also a harbinger of an uncertain future. As climate change contributes to rising sea levels, threatening to submerge land from Miami to Bangladesh, the question for Lafitte, as for many coastal areas across the globe, is less whether it will succumb than when — and to what degree scarce public resources should be invested in artificially extending its life.

(New York Times with Times Picayune)

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Medical College knew about claims of unnecessary surgery

A few days before cardiothoracic surgeon Christopher Stone was to begin treating patients for the Medical College of Wisconsin, one of his fellow doctors warned the dean that Stone had allegedly performed unnecessary surgery at another hospital, according to records in a civil lawsuit, interviews and a trail of emails obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. So serious was the charge that soon afterward, Dean Joseph E. Kerschner met with other senior staff, then sent an email saying: “We believe that the case brought forward suggests that Dr. Stone performed unnecessary surgery.” But the dean’s email, sent to five other colleagues on Aug. 31, 2012, cautioned that if the Medical College terminated Stone’s contract, it risked losing the considerable amount of surgeries and income he had been bringing into his small group practice. Moreover, he could be hired away by a local rival, United Hospital System in Kenosha. On Aug. 11, 2014 — five months after receiving two more complaints about Stone surgeries — the Medical College told the doctor his contract would not be renewed when it expired one year later.

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Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: New York’s grocery stores are being graded

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports New York state shoppers will soon have a better sense of the cleanliness of their local grocery store or corner deli. On Jan. 1, the state Agriculture Department started a new letter rating system for its food safety inspections of retail food stores. It's pretty simple: It's an A, B or C grade. The aim of the extra measure of transparency is to help assure shoppers that the food they gather for themselves and their families is safe. In January, nearly 2,200 stores statewide received grades, according to data obtained by USA TODAY Network’s Albany bureau. By year's end, about 28,000 supermarkets and convenience stores will get a grade that needs to be posted in a visible location for customers, the department said. Consumers want to know now more than ever about their food, including how it was handled from farm to table," said state Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball.

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New York Times: To stir discord in 2016, Russians most often turned to Facebook

The New York Times reports that in 2014, Russians working for a shadowy firm called the Internet Research Agency started gathering American followers in online groups focused on issues like religion and immigration. Around mid-2015, the Russians began buying digital ads to spread their messages. A year later, they tapped their followers to help organize political rallies across the United States. Their digital instrument of choice for all of these actions? Facebook and its photo-sharing site Instagram. The social network, more than any other technology tool, was singled out Feb. 16 by the Justice Department when prosecutors charged 13 Russians and three companies for executing a scheme to subvert the 2016 election and support Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign. In a 37-page indictment, officials detailed how the Russians repeatedly turned to Facebook and Instagram, often using stolen identities to pose as Americans, to sow discord among the electorate by creating Facebook groups, distributing divisive ads and posting inflammatory images.

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Newark Star Ledger: New law is driving big time coaches out of high school sports

The Newark Star Ledger reports that seven years after New Jersey enacted landmark anti-bullying legislation, the law is being used to target an unlikely group: high school sports coaches. Don’t like your daughter’s playing time? The coach is a bully. Someone on the school board upset their son was cut from varsity? The coach is abusive. Your kid unhappy on the bench after losing the starting job? Time to run the coach out of town. The impact of a law meant to stamp out kid-on-kid bullying is being felt by coaches around the state. Thirteen public school coaches with at least 175 years of combined experience have lost their jobs or moved on since the law was enacted after being accused of some form of bullying, according to an NJ Advance Media analysis. Others have been accused and have fought for their jobs but the allegations never come to light, attorneys say. Coaches describe an uneasiness hanging over the profession, worried that one allegation — legitimate or not — can derail their career.

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Boston Globe: Modeling’s glamour hides web of abuse

The Boston Globe reports that the fashion world offers the prospect of glamour, celebrity, and wealth for adolescents blessed with willowy good looks, but, for many, the beginning of a modeling career can be something quite different. On her first test shoot as a 15-year-old, Dasha Alexander said, a photographer held a camera in one hand and digitally penetrated her with his other — a move, he explained, that would make the pictures more “raw” and “sensual.”

When Coco Rocha refused to get naked on set as a 16-year-old, she said, the photographer replaced her with a girl who was younger and more obedient. Emboldened by the #MeToo movement, more than 50 models spoke to the Globe Spotlight Team about sexual misconduct they experienced on the job, from inappropriate touching to assaults. Some are seeking to expose serial predators and those who enable them. Others are demanding new legal protections and calling for radical reform of a youth-obsessed industry they say has left them feeling exploited, treated like “meat” and “clothes hangers,” and, in the words of one model, “pimped out” by their agents.

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Baltimore Sun: Police records remain shielded despite evidence of misconduct

The Baltimore Sun reports that while federal authorities continue to probe Baltimore’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force, police commanders are pledging internal investigations aimed at finding and rooting out corruption. But by law, those findings will never see the light of day. Maryland is one of nearly two dozen states that shield the personnel and disciplinary records of police officers from public disclosure. With the convictions of eight task force members on federal racketeering charges — and leaked documents that showed that some of the officers had histories of discipline — some are calling for change. “Given everything that was brought to light recently, the issue of disclosure and transparency warrants a fresh look,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said through a spokeswoman. City solicitor Andre Davis said last week that Mayor Cather9ije E. Pugh is planning to propose legislation that “will among other things make it possible to bring greater transparency and fairness to the entire process of police discipline.” He did not provide details.

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Indianapolis Star: Potholes plague Indianapolis’ streets

The Indianapolis Star reports Indianapolis’ decaying, pothole-ridden roads are on the cusp of a catastrophic collapse unless hundreds of millions of dollars are spent to fix them quickly. An internal city analysis paints a bleak picture of future road conditions, calling the amount of work and money needed to repair 8,100 miles of streets lanes “staggering.” Years of neglect and a lack of funding are the culprits, according to the review. “This deferred maintenance and lack of improvement have resulted in severe deterioration to the city’s transportation facilities,’ the audit, conducted by the Department of Public Works, concluded. Officials estimate it will cost $732 million for city streets to be upgraded to fair condition from the current rating of poor. To keep the streets in fair condition — a 4 on a 10-point scale — another $178 million a year would be needed for upkeep, more than double the current annual funding that Indianapolis has available for all roads, bridge and sidewalk projects.

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Washington Post: Aide to mayor resigns after school lottery investigation

The Washington Post reports the top education aide to D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) resigned after helping the public schools chancellor bypass the city’s notoriously competitive lottery system and secure a coveted slot for his teenage daughter at a top high school. The lottery system, used to place students in the District’s traditional public and charter schools, is intended to ensure that all families have an equal shot at the best schools. But it has been a longstanding source of tension, and was engulfed in scandal not even a year ago when investigators discovered that a previous chancellor allowed well-connected parents and government officials to skirt lottery rules. The revelation emerged as the D.C. Public Schools struggled to address a separate crisis involving high school graduation, and it threatened to further erode public confidence in a school system heralded as a model of urban education.

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Hartford Courant: Drug overdose deaths top 1,000 in Connecticut

The Hartford Courant reports that accidental deaths involving the synthetic drug fentanyl jumped in 2017 as overall drug overdose deaths exceeded 1,000 for likely the first time in Connecticut. Accidental drug overdoses have increased by nearly 200 percent from 2012 to 2017, according to data released by State Medical Examiner Dr. James Gill. Gill said preliminary numbers show that about 1,040 people died of drug overdoses in 2017. In 2016 that number was 917. It marks the fifth straight year that drug overdose deaths have risen. Gill testified before the legislature’s appropriations committee, seeking more funding to hire additional medical examiners to handle the increase in autopsies. The medical examiner performs autopsies and toxicology tests on all suspected drug overdose deaths. The number of autopsies actually decreased in 2017 when the office did 2,349 after doing 2,386 in 2017. But just five years ago the office did only 1,382 autopsies, Gill said.

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Denver Post: Is Colorado ready for electric cars?

The Denver Post reports that, ready or not, the electric vehicle revolution is here. That’s the key takeaway from auto manufacturers, that — propelled in part by governmental pressure across the globe to boost fuel efficiency and cut back on pollution — are now investing heavily in electric drive trains with one foreign automaker, Volvo, planning to drop out of the gasoline-powered market entirely as soon as next year. One industry forecast from Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that electric cars could be as cheap as their traditional counterparts by 2025 — and could overtake them in sales by 2038. So whether Colorado has nearly 1 million electric cars by 2030, as Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed, or merely a few hundred thousand, electric vehicles are primed to multiply. And that’s going to change not only how we use our roads, but also how we pay for them.

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San Francisco Chronicle: Republicans struggle to raise money in California

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that if campaign cash is a signal of political enthusiasm, California’s beleaguered congressional Republicans are a dour-looking bunch these days. Already outnumbered 39-14 in the state delegation, GOP House incumbents are finding it harder than ever to raise re-election money in a strong Democratic state that’s trending even bluer. Of the 10 Republicans targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in this year’s midterm elections, five of the GOP incumbents raised less money than their Democratic opponents in the final quarter of 2017 and two others abruptly announced their retirements rather than face an uncertain re-election. In a sign of the breadth of the Republican cash crunch — and the extent of Democratic optimism — incumbents in two of the GOP’s safest seats  found themselves out-raised by little-known opponents with only a long-shot chance of winning in November.

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Sacramento Bee: Science project on race tests boundaries of free speech

The Sacramento Bee reports that as society grows ever more polarized and controversial statements quickly go viral on social media, school leaders are increasingly confronting the boundaries of when freedom of speech crosses the line on a school campus. A sciemncefair project at McClatchy High School in Sacramento drew nationwide media attention when it attempted to link IQ and race to explain racial disparities in the campus’ high-achieving program. The project was on display for two days before school officials removed it, saying that it had disrupted the learning environment. While students questioned why the project was allowed to remain for days despite complaints, some conservatives wondered if the student’s free speech rights were violated when it was taken down.

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Houston Chronicle: Business along Texas border fear future without NAFTA

The Houston Chronicle reports that despite the international border, El Paso and its Mexican neighbor, Ciudad Juarez, have knitted themselves into a single, interdependent economy, especially since 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement lowered barriers to trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada. As trucks owned by Erives and other local companies carry billions of dollars in merchandise in long, lumbering lines across the border, at least one in every four jobs in El Paso can be traced to manufacturing plants in Juarez. But the fate of this link between Mexican factories and Texas companies hinges on fraught negotiations to update NAFTA, scheduled to resume in Mexico City later this month. Businesses on both sides of the border are increasingly worried that President Donald Trump will follow through on his threat to pull the United States out of the treaty, undermining the free flow of goods and services that has sustained them for more than two decades.

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Oregonian: Low vaccination rates put some charter schools at risk for measles

The Oregonian reports that many charter schools in Oregon have such low student vaccination rates for measles that they'd be at risk if the bug – once declared eliminated in the United States – infected anyone in their school. An analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive shows that nearly 65 percent of the state's public charter schools lack what scientists call herd immunity against measles, meaning not enough children are immunized to prevent the disease from sweeping through their immediate community. Those charter schools serve nearly 13,000 students across the state, from Portland to Grants Pass and Silverton to Baker City. A much smaller percentage of traditional public schools fall into the same category, but they have more students, so the potential exposure is greater. Just over 60,000 students attend those schools, also spread across the state. The risk worries health officials. Measles is highly contagious, potentially fatal and has made a resurgence in recent years.

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New York Times: Kentucky rushes to remake Medicaid, other states to follow

The New York Times reports that with approval from the Trump administration fresh in hand, Kentucky is rushing to roll out its first-in-the-nation plan to require many Medicaid recipients to work, volunteer or train for a job — even as critics mount a legal challenge to stop it on the grounds that it violates the basic tenets of the program. At least eight other Republican-led states are hoping to follow — a ninth, Indiana, has already won permission to do so — and some want to go even further by imposing time limits on coverage. Such restrictions are central to Republican efforts to profoundly change Medicaid, the safety net program that has provided free health insurance to tens of millions of low-income Americans for more than 50 years. The ballooning deficits created by the budget deal that President Trump signed into law Friday and the recent tax bill are likely to add urgency to the party’s attempts to wring savings from entitlement programs.

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Boston Globe: Look at the arrest record of a commuter rail engineer

The Boston Globe reports Roberto Ronquillo III was so drunk that August night in 2012 that his girlfriend begged him to let her out of the car. Instead, Roberto Ronquillo III drove on until his gray BMW veered up onto the sidewalk of Commonwealth Avenue and smashed into a parked car, a witness told police. Then, he drove off, but police found him a few blocks away, passed out in the driver’s seat with the engine still running.

Within days, Ronquillo went back to work — learning to drive trains for the MBTA commuter rail. The next month, he was certified as a professional train engineer. Ronquillo, 35, has a long, notably poor driving record — printed out, it exceeds 80 pages — including multiple stops for drunken driving and 10 license suspensions. But that didn’t prevent him from working as a full-time engineer for almost four years on a commuter rail system that carries more than 100,000 people daily. His most serious violations apparently went undetected by rail operators, raising questions about whether the vetting process for engineers is rigorous enough.

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Maine Sunday Telegram: Maine sees worrisome increase in sex diseases

The Maine Sunday Telegram reports sexually transmitted diseases are climbing at an alarming pace in Maine and across the country, especially common bacterial infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea, threatening the long-term health of thousands of Mainers and millions of Americans. Chlamydia cases climbed to 4,551 in 2017, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, compared to 2,586 cases in 2010, a 76 percent increase. The cases have been rising steadily every year. Meanwhile, gonorrhea cases rose sharply in 2017 to 577, after 451 cases in 2016, a 28 percent increase. There were 162 gonorrhea cases in 2010. Syphilis cases also increased, from 48 in 2016 to 84 in 2017, an 83 percent increase. In one bright spot, HIV-positive cases declined from 47 in 2016 to 32 last year, down 47 percent. The overall trends are worrisome to Maine public health experts, who are puzzled by the increases. Sexually transmitted diseases are also on the rise across the United States.

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgians now immersed in health care changes

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that on Jan. 1, the Washington politics roiling health insurance hit home for Georgians. Overnight, policyholders on Georgia’s individual market saw their premiums spike about 50 percent. Blue Cross stopped insuring individuals in metro Atlanta and Columbus. The ones who bought new insurance were forced into health management organizations. Others just didn’t buy insurance. Insurers, analysts and health care advocates warned all lst year that the changes coming from Congress and the White House would result in trouble for patients. For many people, it did. Patients across the country and in Georgia are seeing momentous shifts in the 2018 individual market. They’re mostly driven by money. Among the Georgians trying to ensure coverage for their families on the individual market, there have been winners and losers — and some who left the playing field in search of a new game.

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Miami Herald: Travelers keep falling for “free’ cruise schemes

The Miami Herald reports nearly everyone is familiar with the call: A too-good-to-be-true offer for a “free” cruise, promising a stress-free Caribbean getaway — as long as you BUY NOW. But it’s when would-be travelers actually start to look at the details of their “free” vacation that things can get messy. Available dates may be severely limited. The seller may try to add on a hotel stay — for a price. Travelers may find out they’ll need to first sit through a timeshare presentation or pay government taxes or port fees — despite the prohibition by Florida law that the only allowable charge for a prize is the cost of delivery. And those who cancel may find getting a refund to be nearly impossible. Still, many travelers bite, lured by a steeply marked-down vacation. All too often, such “free” travel offers can be deceptive schemes perpetrated by Florida-based companies trying to piggyback on South Florida’s status as the Cruise Capital of the World.

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Sun Sentinel: For cash and prostitutes, agent helped drug lord avoid arrest

The Sun Sentinel reports that when a federal agent by the name of Christopher Ciccione decided to sell out to a powerful Cali cartel drug lord, the price of his integrity was surprisingly cheap. For $20,000 in cash bribes, a sex party with Colombian prostitutes at a Marriott hotel in Bogota, a Rolex watch, cocktails and an expensive dinner, the former Homeland Security Investigations agent altered criminal records and told bold-faced lies to his colleagues, bosses and federal prosecutors. The former South Florida-based agent’s corruption paid off hugely for his cartel buddy. He succeeded in getting federal drug-trafficking charges dropped against Jose Bayron Piedrahita Ceballos in one of the biggest cocaine-smuggling cases in U.S. history. The drug lord, Piedrahita, will likely never face justice on the dismissed charges in the U.S., prosecutors said. But he was recently arrested in Colombia and may be extradited to face conspiracy, corruption, bribery and fraud charges linked to the agent’s prosecution.

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Washington Post: Is Kraton a natural pain remedy or an addictive killer?

The Washington Post reports kratom, an herbal supplement, is rapidly rising in popularity as a readily available pain remedy that is safer than traditional opioids (such as oxycodone), an effective addiction withdrawal aid and a pleasurable recreational tonic. Kratom also is assailed as a dangerous and unregulated drug that can be purchased on the Internet, a habit-forming substance that authorities say can result in opioid-like abuse and death. Now, the compound is at the center of an acrimonious battle on social media, in federal agencies and at all levels of government — a fight over whether kratom could help curb the nation’s opioid epidemic or make it dramatically worse. The Drug Enforcement Administration is weighing whether to place kratom, which comes from a leafy Southeast Asian tree, in the same category of illegal drugs as heroin. It’s the second time the agency has tried to curb access to kratom, delaying a final decision in 2016 after an outcry from the public, dozens of members of Congress and a demonstration at the White House.

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Hartford Courant: Police to get drones, but city has no rules

The Hartford Courant asks how far can law enforcement go in flying drones over public protests or rallies? In Hartford, there are no rules. And while police are still months away from using the machines to fight crime, concerns about them have started to mount. Skeptics fear the devices will have a chilling effect on protests, that they could undermine Hartford’s reputation as a welcoming city for immigrants and that they would violate people’s privacy. Days after learning that Hartford had received a state grant to purchase two drones – and as many as 200 new cameras – the head of Connecticut’s American Civil Liberties Union authored an internet post on the pitfalls of increased surveillance. The flood of new cameras, paired with the drones, “could be a nightmare for anyone who cares about safety, justice, equality and freedom,” executive director David McGuire wrote.

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Arizona Daily Star: Drug-smuggling sentences vary wildly along Mexico border

The Arizona Daily Star reports prison terms for drug smugglers vary drastically depending on where arrests are made, federal data show. Courts in the District of Arizona hand down far shorter sentences on average than in other districts, particularly in the Southern District of Texas where defense lawyers say federal prosecutors draw a harder line with plea offers. Arizona’s federal courts issued 10 times more prison sentences for conspiracy to smuggle drugs, one of the most-common charges used along the length of the border, than South Texas courts in fiscal 2017. But average prison terms for conspiracy charges were nearly eight times longer in South Texas than in Arizona, according to federal data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which has a longstanding public records request with the Department of Justice and other agencies.

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Indianapolis Star: Buyers who fuel the sex trade seldom held accountable

On the day she met Marcus Thompson, the girl later told the FBI, she had been ready to leap from a bridge to end her life. She was only 15, pregnant and alone on the streets. And in this wounded child, Thompson saw a means to make money. He promised that if she left her small Illinois town with him, he would make her a model. Grasping for hope, she climbed into his truck.
But the promise was a lie. Instead, in the summer of 2015, Thompson and his wife, Robin, forced the girl on a nightmarish six-week trek across the southern United States. Photographed in suggestive poses and marketed online, she was sold out of hotel rooms and truck stops to any man with the money and the desire to buy sex. In this case, the victim was rescued and provided with treatment. The traffickers who exploited her pleaded guilty and were sent to prison. But what of the men who paid to rape this child? What consequences did they suffer?
Not a single one was ever charged. That same breach of justice is the norm in thousands of trafficking cases. About 10,000 children a year suffer the horrors of commercial sexual exploitation in the United States. Globally, according to the International Labour Organization, buyers pay to abuse more than 1 million children a year. Yet the buyers are seldom held accountable.

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Los Angeles Times: Homeless caught in vicious cycle

Los Angeles police found Reed Segovia slumped in a folding chair near the Venice boardwalk early one spring morning in 2016 and shook him awake. The officers handed the homeless street artist a ticket for sleeping on the sidewalk. Three months later, LAPD officers were citing Segovia again when they discovered an unpaid ticket for sleeping on the beach. This time, they handcuffed him, loaded him into a squad car and took him to jail. L.A. officials have denounced "criminalizing" homelessness. But as Los Angeles struggles with a growing homelessness crisis, arrests of homeless people have gone up significantly, a Times analysis of police data shows. And the most common offense — the one Segovia was arrested for — was failure to appear in court for an unpaid citation. Officers made 14,000 arrests of homeless people in the city in 2016, a 31% increase over 2011, the Times analysis found. The rise came as LAPD arrests overall went down 15%. Two-thirds of those arrested were black or Latino, and the top five charges were for nonviolent or minor offenses.

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Orange County Register: Students in crisis

Health science and policy major Nayana Bhaskar was about midway through her sophomore year at UC Irvine, when she felt herself falling apart. She’d always been a driven student, landing a 4.0 grade point average in her first quarter. She relished intellectual conversations with professors and friends. She joined school clubs. But by her second year, that initial excitement of college was waning. In its place, feelings of despair and isolation were seeping in — feelings strong enough that, eventually, they proved overwhelming. Bhaskar, who grew up in Orange County, had struggled with similar sensations on and off since middle school. But this time, distanced from the hometown friends she once confided in, the feelings were more profound.

She began skipping classes. When she did go to lectures, she was so filled with anxiety that she had to leave. “I was like, I need to do something. I have no choice but to seek help.” Thousands of people Bhaskar’s age are making similar choices. Across Southern California and nationwide, unprecedented numbers of college students are seeking counseling for mental and emotional difficulties. In a 2013 survey by the RAND Corp., almost 1 in 5 California college students reported psychological distress within the prior 30 days, a rate of crisis that’s more than five times higher than the general population. Nationally, between 2009 and 2015, campus counseling centers saw a 30 percent jump in the number of students seeking help, according to Penn State’s Center for Collegiate Mental Health.

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Chicago Tribune: Pollution-related penalties fall under Republican governor

Well before the Trump administration began shifting responsibility for enforcing environmental laws to the states, Illinois already had slowed down the policing of air and water pollution under Gov. Bruce Rauner. A Tribune analysis of enforcement data shows that since the Republican businessman took office in 2015, penalties sought from Illinois polluters have dropped to $6.1 million — about two-thirds less than the inflation-adjusted amount demanded during the first three years under Rauner’s two predecessors, Democrats Pat Quinn and Rod Blagojevich.

Rauner’s enforcement record during the past three years also pales in comparison to the final year in office of the state’s last Republican governor, George Ryan. Adjusted for inflation, the penalties sought since Rauner took office are less than half the amount demanded as Ryan wrapped up his four-year term in 2002.

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Indianapolis Star: Police shootings don’t get required review

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is supposed to conduct a review every time an officer shoots at somebody. But the Indianapolis Star found that in 19 incidents over two years, including in at least six fatal shootings, that never happened. … No one in IMPD leadership seems to know why these particular 19 shootings were never reviewed. A few others were reviewed at the time. All of the shootings, which happened in 2015 and 2016, were investigated by criminal detectives when necessary to ensure no crimes were committed, IMPD says.

But the cases lacked a crucial step of oversight: the convening of a firearms review board, comprised of three commanders and two other officers. Policy requires the boards to look through both criminal and internal investigations before delivering a report to the desk of the chief. IMPD chiefs use that report — and the board members' findings — to determine whether an officer's use of force meets standards set by the department. Falling short of those standards can result in a firing or other discipline.

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Detroit Free Press: Banking on benefactors

Executives at some of the nation's top investment firms donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the University of Michigan while the university invested as much as $4 billion in those companies' funds, a Detroit Free Press investigation found. More than $400 million of that amount was sent into funds managed by three alumni who advise the university on its investments. Critics worry Michigan’s approach of investing with some of its top donors, who also help guide the university's nearly $11-billion endowment, creates a conflict. … Thousands of miles from the Ann Arbor campus, the university's Investment Advisory Committee last May joined top university officials, including its chief financial officer, at dinner for 22 inside the historic bay-view home of San Francisco technology investor Sanford Robertson. The next morning, the group reconvened for a closed-door university briefing and strategy session at the Four Seasons hotel. Records show the University of Michigan invested in companies at the time owned or co-led by at least four of its nine current committee members, including Robertson. On top of working capital, their companies, based on industry practice, likely charged millions of dollars in fees and profit-sharing as a price for managing the university's money; exact figures remain secret.

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New York Times: Molested as FBI case plodded for a year

For more than a year, an F.B.I. inquiry into allegations that Lawrence G. Nassar, a respected sports doctor, had molested three elite teenage gymnasts followed a plodding pace as it moved back and forth among agents in three cities. The accumulating information included instructional videos of the doctor’s unusual treatment methods, showing his ungloved hands working about the private areas of girls lying facedown on tables. But as the inquiry moved with little evident urgency, a cost was being paid. The New York Times has identified at least 40 girls and women who say that Dr. Nassar molested them between July 2015, when he first fell under F.B.I. scrutiny, and September 2016, when he was exposed by an Indianapolis Star investigation. Some are among the youngest of the now-convicted predator’s many accusers — 265, and counting. … The F.B.I. declined to answer detailed questions about the speed and nature of its investigation, or to provide an official who might put the case in context. Instead, it issued a 112-word statement asserting that the sexual exploitation of children “is an especially heinous crime,” and that “the safety and well-being of our youth is a top priority for the F.B.I.”

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New York Times: The Follower Factory

The real Jessica Rychly is a Minnesota teenager with a broad smile and wavy hair. She likes reading and the rapper Post Malone. When she goes on Facebook or Twitter, she sometimes muses about being bored or trades jokes with friends. Occasionally, like many teenagers, she posts a duck-face selfie. But on Twitter, there is a version of Jessica that none of her friends or family would recognize. While the two Jessicas share a name, photograph and whimsical bio — “I have issues” — the other Jessica promoted accounts hawking Canadian real estate investments, cryptocurrency and a radio station in Ghana. The fake Jessica followed or retweeted accounts using Arabic and Indonesian, languages the real Jessica does not speak. While she was a 17-year-old high school senior, her fake counterpart frequently promoted graphic pornography, retweeting accounts called Squirtamania and Porno Dan. All these accounts belong to customers of an obscure American company named Devumi that has collected millions of dollars in a shadowy global marketplace for social media fraud. Devumi sells Twitter followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online. Drawing on an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each sold many times over, the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers, a New York Times investigation found.

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Arizona Daily Star: School district blacklisted hundreds of former workers

Hundreds of former employees of Arizona's second largest school district by enrollment were blacklisted from ever working for the district again, despite never having serious disciplinary issues on their employment records, the Arizona Daily Star reports. And it's unclear why many of the ex-workers for the Tucson Unified School District were ever put on a long-rumored blacklist or who put them on it. Many of the former employees were never told they were blacklisted, the paper reported. District officials say the former employees were put on the blacklist because of "personality clashes" with supervisors, poor evaluation scores and using all of their vacation time. None of those infractions are grounds for firing or blacklisting, the newspaper reported. The district recently publicly acknowledged for the first time that it kept a secret "Do Not Hire List" that dated back two decades and contained as many as 1,400 entries.

Newly-hired district Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo ordered an audit of the list, which found only 516 people had been justifiably blacklisted. Those people had either been fired for cause or had resigned and signed a separation agreement stating they would not be eligible to work in the district again. The other roughly 900 employees had been wrongly blacklisted.

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Modesto Bee: Sexual harassment costs state millions

Four young men who were locked in a youth correctional facility in Southern California accused a male staff counselor of coercing them into sex acts in exchange for contraband and special treatment. The cost to taxpayers to settle their lawsuit: $10 million. At California State University, Fullerton, a female student in her 20s reported that her professor encouraged her to drink whiskey with him in his office and advised her to masturbate during the week to relax, then report back to him on her progress. The cost? The CSU system paid $92,000 to settle her case, while the student became fearful and anxious after the encounters and her “quality of life declined,” her lawsuit contended. And at California State Prison-Corcoran, which has housed the likes of Juan Corona and Charles Manson until his recent death, a female correctional officer said a fellow guard repeatedly made explicit sexual comments, stared at her breasts and crotch, touched her with his hands and pelvis and called her at home,according to court documents and interviews. The state settled her case for $750,000. While public attention has been riveted on sexual harassment allegations in the California Legislature, with sordid charges and counter-charges swirling around a handful of lawmakers, the issue and its related costs extend far beyond the Capitol dome.

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Hartford Courant: Addiction on the job

Out of work and addicted to the anti-anxiety medication Klonopin, Heather Delaney, a licensed practical nurse from Stratford, checked herself into Bridgeport Hospital in 2011 when she could no longer handle withdrawal without medical help. After a brief hospitalization following a suicide attempt the previous fall, Delaney spent two horrific months on her own in the throes of withdrawal. The corners of her eyes felt “chapped,” and “it felt like somebody had wrapped me up in a scratchy blanket of needles,” said Delaney, who had given up her nursing license after being caught altering her Klonopin prescription. Sara Kaiser, an LPN living in Manchester, stole morphine from the nursing homes where she worked and was addicted to heroin from age 18 to 24. She spent time homeless and in prison, ultimately going through 14 rehab programs before getting sober in 2010. Both were disciplined by the state Board of Examiners for Nursing, but after years of hard work, they are among 18 nurses who have gotten their licenses back in the past three years. Delaney, 40, now sober and living in Oxford, is a certified nursing assistant who is looking for a nursing job. Kaiser, 32, works in addiction recovery. … A Conn. Health I-Team analysis of the board’s cases between 2015 and 2017 shows that drug use is common among the disciplined nurses in Connecticut. Of its 282 cases, 82 percent involved substance abuse: 23 percent related to alcohol, and 77 percent were drug-related. More than 64 percent of those drug-related cases—113—involved opioids, including oxycodone, morphine, heroin and Fentanyl.

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Miami Herald: Citizenship census question floated

The Department of Justice wants the U.S. Census Bureau to ask people about their citizenship status on the 2020 census, and the additional questioning could lead to an undercount in immigrant-heavy Miami. Undercounting the number of people living in Florida’s most populous county could affect how billions of federal dollars are distributed and diminish the state’s clout in the nation’s capital. The Census Bureau will choose whether or not to include the citizenship status question by March 31, when it finalizes the 2020 questionnaire. “The purpose of the census is simple: collecting appropriate data on the people that reside in our communities so that we can distribute federal resources for the needs of the population,” Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “Any question, including one regarding citizenship, that could in any way discourage an accurate count, must be omitted.” The Justice Department argued that including the citizenship status question would help it enforce the Voting Rights Act, according to a letter from the DOJ to the Census Bureau obtained by ProPublica.

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Boston Globe: Theft at nonprofits ‘shockingly common’

A board member for the Somerville Homeless Coalition was reviewing the nonprofit’s annual financial documents in 2015 when he spotted something odd. The forms said the chief operating officer, the No. 2 executive, earned $12,000 more than the organization’s top executive the previous year. Could that really be correct, he asked? Turns out it wasn’t a typo. It was theft.

Somerville Homeless soon discovered that the COO — who handled all the finances — allegedly embezzled approximately $108,000 over 18 months. The charity said he brazenly added some of the money directly into his paycheck — where it showed up on the group’s annual financial forms — used the organization’s credit card for personal expenses, and added his middle-aged son to the group’s health insurance. “The whole thing has been a nightmare,” said Mark Alston-Follansbee, executive director of the Somerville nonprofit, which provides food, shelter, and other assistance to about 2,000 people annually. “The money he stole from us could have prevented 100 families from going homeless.” More than 1,100 tax-exempt organizations nationwide have reported theft, embezzlement, or other major diversions of assets over the past seven years, according to electronic filings with the Internal Revenue Service. And experts say the total number of thefts is almost certainly far higher, because most cases of fraud are either never detected or reported in the digital filings.

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Philadelphia Inquirer: Father. Son. Cellmates.

As the bus rattled toward the State Correctional Institution-Graterford, Jorge Cintron Jr. could barely contain his excitement, a nearly childlike giddiness. Though the journey had been 14 hours, most of it in shackles, he wasn’t close to tired. To the other weary inmates in mustard-yellow “D.O.C.” jumpsuits, what loomed ahead was just another prison: same bars and barbed wire, same bland food, same thin mattresses. But Cintron was about to be with his father, his namesake — the role model he had followed into the drug world, into court on murder charges, and then into prison, their twin life sentences imposed eight years apart. It had been 20 years since he had last seen the man everyone said he took after. “Lil Lolo,” his father’s friends from Philadelphia’s Fairhill section would call him. Now, he was about to come face to face with Jorge Cintron Sr., Lolo himself. “I hadn’t hugged my father in so many years, or heard his voice,” Cintron Jr. said. “It was bittersweet, because we’re both in prison and having to see each other in here.” Since that day in 2011, Cintron Jr., 38, has lived on the same cell block as his father, who is 58. … All around them are inmates who come from the same neighborhoods, the same city blocks or even the same households. … According to one criminologist’s analysis of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, 5 percent of families account for more than 50 percent of all arrests.

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AP: Hundreds of New Mexico inmates held past parole date

Joleen Valencia had resisted the temptation to count her days to freedom. She had learned inside a New Mexico prison that tracking time only added to the anxiety of serving a two-year drug-trafficking sentence that started in the spring of 2015 — especially after her mother died and granddaughter had been born. She wanted nothing more than to return to her family's home amid mesas on a reservation north of Albuquerque, and to stay clean after recovering from a heroin addiction. But rather than agonize, she kept busy. She worked daily dishwashing shifts, some lasting as long as 12 hours, to earn 10 cents an hour and eventually enough "good time" for what authorities said would be her new parole date: July 13, 2016. "They would tell you, don't count your days, because it's going to make it hard," said Valencia, now 50. But she couldn't resist as her parole date neared. And that made it all the more frustrating when the day came and went. For three more months, Valencia remained incarcerated, one of more than 1,000 inmates identified in New Mexico Corrections Department documents as serving what's known as "in-house parole." Often, those who should be freed are held because they are unable to find or afford suitable housing outside prison. Other times, missing paperwork or administrative backlogs can rob them of the freedom they've earned.

(This report is part of the CJ Project, an initiative to broaden the news coverage of criminal justice issues affecting New Mexico's diverse communities, created by the Asian American Journalists Association with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information:

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Los Angeles Times: Borrow $5,000, repay $42,000

JoAnn Hesson, sick with diabetes for years, was desperate. After medical bills for a leg amputation and kidney transplant wiped out most of her retirement nest egg, she found that her Social Security and small pension weren’t enough to make ends meet. As the Marine Corps veteran waited for approval for a special pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs, she racked up debt with a series of increasingly pricey online loans. In May 2015, the Rancho Santa Margarita resident borrowed $5,125 from Anaheim lender LoanMe at the eye-popping annual interest rate of 116%. The following month, she borrowed $2,501 from Ohio firm Cash Central at an even higher APR: 183%. “I don’t consider myself a dumb person,” said Hesson, 68. “I knew the rates were high, but I did it out of desperation.” Not long ago, personal loans of this size with sky-high interest rates were nearly unheard of in California. But over the last decade, they’ve exploded in popularity as struggling households — typically with poor credit scores — have found a new source of quick cash from an emerging class of online lenders. … Hesson’s $5,125 loan was scheduled to be repaid over more than seven years, with $495 due monthly, for a total of $42,099.85 — that’s nearly $37,000 in interest.

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Washington Post: At Trump’s inauguration, eager Russian Elites

In the days before Donald Trump’s inauguration, a wealthy Russian pharmaceutical executive named Alexey Repik arrived in Washington, expressing excitement about the new administration. He posted a photo on Facebook of a clutch of inauguration credentials arranged next to a white “Make America Great Again” hat, writing in Russian: “I believe that President Donald Trump will open a new page in American history.” Throughout his trip, Repik had prime access. He wrote on Facebook that he got close enough to the president-elect at a pre-inaugural event to “check the handshake strength of Donald Trump.” He and his wife, Polina Repik, witnessed Trump’s swearing-in from ticketed seats in front of the U.S. Capitol. … The attendance of members of Russia’s elite at Trump’s inauguration was evidence of the high anticipation in Moscow for a thaw in U.S.-Russia relations following a campaign in which Trump stunned U.S. foreign-policy experts by repeatedly praising Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

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Miami Herald: Dirty gold, clean cash

When Juan Granda ventured into Peru’s Amazon rainforest to score another illicit load of gold, he boasted that he felt like legendary Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. “I’m like Pablo coming ... to get the coke,” he told two co-workers in a text message in 2014. A 36-year-old Florida State University graduate who once sold subprime loans, Granda was no cartel kingpin. But his offhand comparison was apt: Gold has become the secret ingredient in the criminal alchemy of Latin American narco-traffickers who make billions turning cocaine into clean cash by exporting the metal to Miami. The previous year, Granda’s employer, NTR Metals, a South Florida precious-metals trading company, had bought nearly $1 billion worth of Peruvian gold supplied by narcos — and Granda and NTR needed more.

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Idaho Statesman: Health care battery law results in felony charges against patients

Amy Johnson was in the Ada County Jail and didn’t know what she’d done. Two days earlier, Johnson had called a friend to pick her up from work. She has bipolar disorder and felt a manic episode coming on. Colors were getting brighter. Her thoughts ricocheted from one thing to another. She couldn’t sleep. Her friend and boyfriend were ready to help her through it — with written instructions Amy had given them in case this ever happened. But instead of getting well at a psychiatric hospital, the 41-year-old university employee was arrested. She could face up to six years in prison. … Johnson is one of hundreds of Idahoans charged under a law passed in 2014 making battery against health care workers a felony. … A 2014 law was intended to protect those workers. It also had cultural importance — making it clear that healthcare workers are specifically worth defending. But as it made its way through the Idaho Legislature, an exemption for mental illness was removed.

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Indianapolis Star: Trump makes first year bountiful for religious right

A year after President Trump moved into the White House, many of the Christian conservatives who helped put him there are counting their blessings. Johnnie Moore, an informal spokesman for the group of evangelicals who advise President Trump, says the administration has “been a dream.” The head of Focus on the Family estimates the administration has taken about 17 actions on the pro-life agenda alone — a tally that Jim Daly said adds up to the greatest gains by an administration since the Supreme Court legalized abortion. And Paula White, the televangelist and spiritual adviser to Trump, calls the president’s first year of accomplishments “absolutely astounding.” It’s not just leaders of the Christian conservative community who think Trump has been delivering on his promises to them — from judicial appointments to policy changes, and from personnel appointments to access to the White House. … Religious conservatives had high hopes for their agenda once Trump chose Christian conservative Mike Pence as his running mate and promised on the campaign trail that the “first priority of my administration will be to preserve and protect our religious liberty.”

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Des Moines Register: Pay gap remains for state workers

Median pay for women working in Iowa state government is about $5,300 less a year than men, a dollar gap that has changed little over the past decade, a Register analysis has found. In fiscal year 2017, median pay for male government workers was $55,879, about 11 percent more than the $50,537 median for female workers. While the gap in median salaries between the two genders has dropped in the last decade from 15 percent to 11 percent as pay for both rose, the dollar gap remains virtually unchanged. A typical male worker earned $5,476 more than a female worker in 2007 and $5,342 more in 2017. The pay gap is much larger in several university jobs, such as assistant and associate professors and lecturers, where men make 25 percent to 33 percent more than their female co-workers, the Register found. It's an issue that, if left unaddressed, exposes the state to class-action lawsuits, as well as an erosion of talent within its workforce, state and national critics contend.

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New York Times: He fought harassment, then settled own case

Representative Patrick Meehan, a Pennsylvania Republican who has taken a leading role in fighting sexual harassment in Congress, used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle his own misconduct complaint after a former aide accused him last year of making unwanted romantic overtures to her, according to several people familiar with the settlement. A married father of three, Mr. Meehan, 62, had long expressed interest in the personal life of the aide, who was decades younger and had regarded the congressman as a father figure, according to three people who worked with the office and four others with whom she discussed her tenure there.

But after the woman became involved in a serious relationship with someone outside the office last year, Mr. Meehan professed his romantic desires for her — first in person, and then in a handwritten letter — and he grew hostile when she did not reciprocate, the people familiar with her time in the office said. Life in the office became untenable, so she initiated the complaint process, started working from home and ultimately left the job. She later reached a confidential agreement with Mr. Meehan’s office that included a settlement for an undisclosed amount to be paid from Mr. Meehan’s congressional office fund.

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Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Lunch shaming

The cafeteria cashier at Greece Odyssey Academy told David Leonard that his mom needed to add more money to his account, but — typical eighth-grader — he forgot to let her know. He qualified for reduced-price lunch, just 25 cents, so a small deposit would have gone a long way. As it was, though, he went back through the lunch line the following day and got to the register with a hot meal with no money to pay for it. No money, no food, the cashier told him. She took his tray and sent him away empty-handed, according to his mother, without even the peanut butter and jelly sandwich mentioned in the school district's written policy. … Every day in schools across Monroe County, children likely have the same experience as David Leonard, even as districts move to change their policies on 'lunch shaming.'

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: City’s ‘single stream’ recycling doesn’t quite work

Kyle Winkler follows his gut: he jumps from the back of the hulking blue recycling truck to inspect a plastic “Grandma’s Original Recipes” potato salad container on the curb of Midland Street in Brookline. Inside, the city’s recycling supervisor finds some shriveled cherry tomatoes mixed in with a clump of black dog hair, large enough to fill the entire container. A disposable foil pan sits beside it, cake mashed and stuck to the sides. He declares both items too contaminated to toss into the truck. “We see a lot of, let’s say, situations,” says the driver, Tyrone Wright, 66, of Manchester. Mr. Wright says he doesn’t always have time to scrutinize but employs his “spidey senses” to detect things that are non-recyclable — clamshell take-out containers, porcelain dishes, or yard debris stuffed into blue bags. … Because the city doesn’t require residents to sort recyclables, it means they pay someone else to do so, increasing costs and decreasing the value of the recycling effort. A portion of what you put in the bag ends up in a landfill, on a boat to China, or sitting in a warehouse waiting for prices to improve. And city officials can't say exactly how much of what's collected is actually recycled, or where the recycling goes after city trucks drop it off. Despite the good intentions of household recyclers, several waste experts and recycling industry workers say the city’s program — and American recycling in general — is broken.

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Appleton Post-Crescent: Wisconsin fumbles fixes for teen suicide

Youth suicide rates have been rising nationwide since 2007. Wisconsin's numbers have been worse than the national average every year.  For the past two years, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin has been examining the root causes of this rise with a “Kids in Crisis” series. Each suicide triggers the question: How did this happen? Whispers spread. Fingers point. Sometimes another suicide follows. Pursuit of the question can be a debilitating spiral.

But through the fog of grief, there's another question. How do we stop this from happening again?

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Arizona Republic: ‘Loophole’ in DACA provokes criticism

Carlos Mundo and Dulce Hernandez were once among the 800,000 young undocumented immigrants temporarily shielded from deportation and granted work permits under former President Barack Obama's DACA program. But while DACA recipients are now anxiously waiting to see if Congress passes legislation allowing them to stay permanently in the U.S. or whether they will once again face possible deportation, Mundo and Hernandez are home free.

They are among a little-known but sizable group of nearly 40,000 DACA recipients who have already obtained green cards. Many of them were able to permanently legalize their status by taking advantage of a provision within Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The provision allowed DACA recipients to travel outside the U.S. and then return legally through what's known as advance parole, which made some DACA recipients eligible to get green cards, an opportunity that otherwise didn't exist for them. … Some critics, among them several Republican lawmakers in Congress, have labeled the advance parole provision a "loophole" they say improperly allowed some DACA recipients to exploit the immigration system to get green cards.

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Washington Post: 24-year-old helps lead Trump drug policy office

In May 2016, Taylor Weyeneth was an undergraduate at St. John’s University in New York, a legal studies student and fraternity member who organized a golf tournament and other events to raise money for veterans and their families. Less than a year later, at 23, Weyeneth, was a political appointee and rising star at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the White House office responsible for coordinating the federal government’s multibillion dollar anti-drug initiatives and supporting President Trump’s efforts to curb the opioid epidemic. Weyeneth would soon become deputy chief of staff. His brief biography offers few clues that he would so quickly assume a leading role in the drug policy office, a job recently occupied by a lawyer and a veteran government official. Weyeneth’s only professional experience after college and before becoming an appointee was working on Trump’s presidential campaign.

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Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Officials vow changes after alert system goes awry

After people across the state were told for months to prepare for a possible nuclear attack from North Korea, for 38 terrifying minutes on Saturday morning the deadly moment seemed to have arrived. A state employee in a Diamond Head bunker clicked his mouse twice and informed a million and a half residents and tourists that the missile was on its way. “THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” the warning stated. No, it wasn’t a drill. It was a mistake. “Human error,” said Gov. David Ige.

A mistake that left many shaken, angry and questioning the credibility of their government.

Tourists in Waikiki were asked to go into the basement of their hotels, passengers at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport were not allowed to check in and were sent down to the baggage claim area, and families at parks ran to their cars for shelter.

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Chicago Tribune: Murder on the margins

More than 10 years have passed, but Margaret Gomez’s family members still look for the man they believe strangled the 22-year-old and left her in a muddy lot in the shadow of the Stevenson Expressway. They don’t expect to find him but feel it’s something they must do. That and pray. “Lately, I said a prayer to the Virgin Mary,” the mother, who shares the same name as her daughter, told a reporter in a quiet voice. “And then you called. Maybe it’s a sign?” Other families have waited even longer for an answer. Over the last 17 years, at least 75 women have been strangled or smothered in Chicago and their bodies dumped in vacant buildings, alleys, garbage cans, snow banks. Arrests have been made in only a third of the cases, according to a first-ever analysis by the Tribune.

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Minneapolis Star Tribune: Worker shortage worst in decades

Kevin Yakes spends so much time trying to keep his Golden Valley construction firm staffed, he sometimes feels like a full-time recruiter. During a recent family getaway in Florida, Yakes hopped in the car and drove more than an hour to have beers with a refrigeration technician he wanted to attract to Minnesota. “It’s like dating,” Yakes said. “I’ve never, ever, had such a hard time trying to find people.” Nearly a decade after the U.S. economy collapsed and construction workers fled the industry, Twin Cities builders and contractors are in the midst of one of their busiest years. But a shortage of skilled workers means that new projects — from modest office renovations to soaring new apartment towers — are costing more and taking longer to finish.

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New York Times: Male models accuse photographers of sexual exploitation

For a fashion model, success is the ability to incite desire. The job requirements often include nudity and feigning seduction; provocation is a lever for sales. In the industry, boundaries between the acceptable and the unacceptable treatment of models have been etched in shades of gray. This has allowed prominent photographers to cross the line with impunity for decades, sexually exploiting models and assistants. The experience, once seen as the price models had to pay for their careers, is now being called something else: abuse of power and sexual harassment. Fifteen current and former male models who worked with Bruce Weber, whose racy advertisements for companies like Calvin Klein and Abercrombie & Fitch helped turn him into one of the foremost commercial and fine art photographers, have described to The New York Times a pattern of what they said was unnecessary nudity and coercive sexual behavior, often during photo shoots. … In accounts going back to the mid-1990s, 13 male assistants and models who have worked with the photographer Mario Testino, a favorite of the English royal family and Vogue, told The Times that he subjected them to sexual advances that in some cases included groping and masturbation.

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