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Watchdog Reporting


Society of Environmental Journalists: WatchDog: Media Object as EPA Bars Reporters from Drinking Water ‘Summit’

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s antagonism toward news media is helping obscure its inaction on a drinking water contaminant of wide public concern. Coming months will show whether the public’s right to know and the public’s right to nontoxic water will suffer further.

The latest example: An EPA security guard shoved AP reporter (may require subscription) Ellen Knickmeyer out of the agency’s headquarters building in Washington on May 22 — emphasizing how little EPA wanted legitimate media coverage of its actions affecting the public.

The Society of Environmental Journalists has written EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt again, objecting to the most recent incident as an improper restriction on press access.

SEJ’s protest was echoed by other journalism groups, including the National Association of Science Writers, the National Press Club and the Journalism & Women Symposium.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker listed it as a “physical attack” and “denial of access” and wrote a pretty thorough article about what happened.

The May 22 incident was part of a larger flap over media access to information and “public” meetings. Left unanswered was the question of why EPA is going to such lengths to deflect public scrutiny.

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Washington Post: How can you avoid prosecution for a killing? Sometimes it's geography.

On June 6, The Washington Post, after a two-year effort analyzing 52,000 homicides in 50 U.S. cities, released a story and a database showing where in America killings go unpunished.

"There is no greater crime you can commit against another person than to take another's life," says Wesley Lowery, who spoke with me ahead of publication. He and a team of Post journalists — among them, deputy investigative editor David Fallis, investigative reporter Kimbriell Kelly and database reporter Steven Rich — realized one thing at the outset; "We can't evaluate something if we can't measure it."

Kelly spoke of haggling with police departments to get the kind of information the FBI doesn't include, such as where the killings occur. Presented with the processing of that kind of information, Kelly recalled a meeting with senior Indianapolis police officials: "It was like they were looking at it for the first time."

A twist: the data from this effort — data that goes far beyond uniform crime statistics released annually by the FBI — can be downloaded and used by all. Yes, including The New York Times. (This is an encouraging trend in the industry, and such data-sharing is a key principle of sites such as ProPublica and the Texas Tribune).

Kelly, Rich and Fallis emphasized that the Post effort got cooperation from all 50 police departments they contacted, and added that the data collection will expand as stories inspired by this data roll out over the next year. Fallis and Lowery see this project as an extension of the team's 2016 Pulitzer-winning effort that tracked victims of police shootings nationwide.

The team notes that that previous effort is still ongoing, as is its database. With 438 police killings as of Tuesday, the database appears set to register 1,000 killings this year, Fallis said.

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Anchorage Daily News: From criminal to cop, and back again, in Alaska’s most vulnerable villages

On the night a girl in skinny jeans and pink sneakers died in Selawik, it was city patrolman Brent Norton who dialed the first call for help.

That's his job.

Like many Alaska communities far removed from the road system, Selawik does not have a traditional police department. But state regulations allow Alaska's most remote local governments to hire special public safety employees. These officers, whose duties and titles vary, generally wear badges, make arrests and keep neighbors safe in a crisis.

16-year-old Lois Cleveland died in Selawik in 2015. (Photo courtesy of family attorney)

Norton, alternately described in his community as a village police officer or a patrolman, was hired by this lakeside city of 860 in Northwest Alaska to watch for violent crimes and deadly accidents. In late 2015, a month before the death of the girl, 16-year-old Lois Cleveland, he won a statewide law enforcement award.

But this time, when Norton checked Cleveland's pulse and began CPR, he didn't just happen across the tragedy.

He caused it.

The 29-year-old patrolman later admitted to getting Cleveland — an artistic girl known for swimming all day in the frigid village river — drunk with bootleg whiskey and raping her. He said he bought the bottle using an advance on his city paycheck and assaulted the girl the night she died from what the medical examiner called "undetermined" causes.

Investigators found what appeared to be fresh handcuff wounds on her wrists.

Like dozens of uncertified officers and patrolmen across Alaska, Brent Norton earned a living as someone the community put trust in to keep things safe. But he was never held to Alaska regulatory standards for police officers or even licensed security guards, who are subject to criminal background checks, drug tests and training requirements.

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Montgomery Advertiser: Justice delayed: Forensic scientists face crushing backlog that clogs judicial system

When does justice delayed become justice denied?

Because of a backlog in key departments at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, there is a delay in cases going to trial. It’s not unusual to see murder cases take two to three years to go before a jury, prosecutors in the state say. Drug cases often take longer, up to four years from time of arrest.

The result: Victims, or their families, wait for resolution to often life-shattering events. There is the flip side to consider as well. The accused have a right to clear their name. If they happen to be out on bond on an unrelated case, that bond is often revoked if they are arrested again. That means staying in jail until their trial date.

Which leads to overcrowding at the county jail level.

And sometimes, the wrong person is arrested.

That’s why forensics results, which often offer the key pieces of evidence in any trial, are so important, said Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey. In his circuit, it’s not unusual to have a two-year delay on murder cases going to court.

“No one wants to play a part in convicting the wrong person,” he said. “Our system depends on the public’s trust that the right person is held responsible. Also, if we don’t have the right person, the guilty party is still out there in the community. Still a threat. You can’t speed up forensics. They have to be given the time to do their jobs properly.

“What they do is that important.”

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Denver Post: Suspicions about Colorado funeral home’s body parts business grew amid lax state regulations

When Jerry Espinoza died, after a brief and punishing battle with cancer, his children chose to divide his ashes.

One son, also named Jerry, enshrined his share in necklaces for family members. A daughter, Stephanie, placed hers in a small urn she kept in her home. And another son, Bobby, traveled with his portion and a group of friends and family high into the San Juan mountains because his father had wanted to see Lizard Head Pass one more time.

This was in 2014.

They didn’t know then that the southwestern Colorado funeral home that performed the cremation, Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors, also housed a business that sold human body parts to research labs. They didn’t know about the complaints — which would come to number nearly a dozen — that Colorado regulators were receiving against Sunset Mesa but would spend years investigating before taking action. They didn’t know that Colorado’s oversight of the funeral industry is among the most lax in the country.

When they released the dust to the mountain winds, they felt at peace. But they didn’t know the heartache ahead.

“He told Bobby, ‘That’s where I want my ashes thrown,’ so that’s where we did it,” the younger Jerry Espinoza said of that day in the mountains.

Then he paused.

“Of course, it wasn’t his ashes.”

In Colorado, death is sometimes just the beginning of the story.

At funeral homes and crematories across the state, bodies have been lost, mistaken, stolen from and now, perhaps, even sold.

“We sort of have a black eye, nationally,” said Steffani Blackstock, the executive director of the Colorado Funeral Directors Association. “People think that anything goes in Colorado.”

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Sun-Sentinel: Broward school district failing to report many campus crimes to state as required

On paper, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High looked like one of the safest high schools in Florida.

The Broward school district reported to the state that no one was bullied or harassed, no one trespassed on campus, no one was violently attacked, no one broke into campus after hours and nothing expensive was stolen during the 2016-17 school year.

It wasn’t true.

The district reports only a portion of its actual crimes to the state, making it impossible to spot a school’s trouble spots and inform parents about safety, the South Florida Sun Sentinel has found.

Had school administrators reported every crime that actually happened at Stoneman Douglas, it might have raised an alarm that safety was a concern, said April Schentrup, whose daughter Carmen was killed in the Feb. 14 massacre at the school.

“It might help them to say, ‘I need another [police officer] on campus. Look we have all these incidents,’” said Schentrup, who is principal of Pembroke Pines Elementary.

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Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: Something. Must. Change. The search for solutions starts now

Editor's note: This story sets the stage for a major effort to reform Rochester's failing public schools. Something. Must. Change. The search for solutions starts now.

"Maybe it's a good thing," Angela Rivera says.

Her children go to Kodak Park School 41, which she can almost see from her front yard on Desmond Street in northwest Rochester. The school is closing at the end of this year — forced into closure by the state for failure to make academic progress — and she doesn't know what the future holds.

She loves the school and its principal, so much so that she has remained in the parent-teacher organization even after the president quit in disgust, leaving her as the only parent representative in a school of 510 students.

Her first-grader, though, came home with a bump on his head one day earlier this month, and no one at the school could explain to her how it got there. Her daughter wants to learn more about science, but the coursework is heavy on the math and English that dominate state testing.

School 41 is representative in many ways of the Rochester City School District, which makes a strong case as the worst district in the country over the last 20 years.

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Cleveland Plain Dealer: Soaring overtime for prison nurses costs taxpayers millions

CLEVELAND, Ohio - For years, registered nurses at the Franklin Medical Center, the state's prison hospital, have worked tens of thousands of hours of overtime caring for Ohio's sick and dying prison inmates.

One of them, Joshua Ndematebem, earned $222,988 last year. More than half of that, $114,772, was overtime pay, records show. In fact, because of the overtime, he made more money than his boss, Gary Mohr, the director of the prison system, who earned $143,700.

The prison nurses' workload underscores a growing problem that hits Ohio taxpayers in the wallet: Overtime for state employees has increased 20 percent since 2012. At the same time, extra pay for registered nurses has jumped nearly 60 percent, according to a Plain Dealer analysis of payroll records.

Their overtime hits taxpayers twice: Once when the nurses work extra shifts, and once after they retire. Their three highest-earning years are used to calculate their pensions.

In the next 10 years, overtime and medical costs in Ohio prisons are expected to balloon even more, as a greater number of inmates need additional, more expensive care, researchers said. Last year, for instance, taxpayers paid more than $1 million in overtime for staff to care for one inmate on a ventilator.

The higher costs come as the state struggles to find and retain qualified nurses to care for the increasingly aging prison population, according to interviews and budget estimates.

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Columbus Dispatch: Public kept in the dark for 2 years about plans to demolish Rt. 315 ramp

Columbus city officials worked for nearly two years on plans to demolish a ramp off of northbound Route 315 so that OhioHealth could build a parking garage and driveway for its new headquarters on that space.

But the public was largely kept in the dark about those plans until two months before demolition began in July 2017. When residents asked about changes to the highway during a public meeting about the office-campus project in April 2017, they were told that road changes were off limits for discussion.

And by the time plans to eliminate the ramp were unveiled a month later, the city already had applied for a state demolition permit, had begun cutting down trees along the doomed ramp, and had completed detailed traffic and interchange modification studies.

Highway engineers with the city and state grappled for months with complex state right-of-way issues that engineers said had to be approved by the Federal Highway Administration but never were. Officials feared that federal approval would delay the hospital campus project, scheduled to break ground by mid-2017.

Many members of the motoring public received their first hint of the plans in summer 2017, when a flashing highway sign showed up at the ramp to deliver a blunt message: “Closes July 25 Forever.”

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Columbus Dispatch: Side effects: ’Free' pain cream costs city more

Armed with prescription forms and a deceptive pitch, the pharmacy reps walked into a handful of Columbus police and fire stations.

The sales line went something like this: Here is a new topical cream that will ease your aches and pains. It also will improve your skin and even help eliminate stretch marks.

The cops and firefighters were told to try it, and handed a prescription form they could give to their doctor.

"It’s of no cost to you," was how the pitch ended.

What was not mentioned was that the cream — a compound drug that included little more than lotion and resveratrol, an inexpensive, nonprescriptive supplement derived from red-wine grapes — was being billed to the city’s health-care provider at more than $8,000 per prescription, according to documents provided by the city.

From February to June 2015, city employees submitted 283 prescriptions for the cream for a total of $2.3 million, city records show. That’s about $8,100 per prescription.

A 60-dose bottle of 500-milligram resveratrol capsules can be bought at a typical nutritional supplements store for about $60.

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Toledo Blade: Outside Toledo, fewer pay for unused water

While most Toledo residential water users are charged for water that never moves through their pipes, it appears most suburban customers are paying only for what they use.

Last month, The Blade reported 71 percent of Toledo’s residential customers — excluding seniors who receive a discount — use less water than they pay for, based on the city’s quarterly minimum charges. In places like Maumee, Perrysburg, and other parts of Lucas County, a much smaller percent of utility customers pay for water they never use.

In Lucas County, 44 percent of residential customers use less than the 2,000-cubic-foot minimum for which they’re billed. In Maumee and Perrysburg, the number is even less significant. Only 20 percent of residents in those communities pay for unused water, while Sylvania doesn’t require a minimum payment at all.

The discrepancies underscore some of the complications at stake as leaders from Toledo, Lucas County, Maumee, Perrysburg, Sylvania, Whitehouse, Fulton County, Monroe County, and the Northwestern Water & Sewer District continue to meet in an effort to form the Toledo Area Water Authority, a regional water system with a goal of equalizing water rates over time.

However, many entities involved are also exploring alternatives. Maumee, Perrysburg, and the Northwestern Water & Sewer District are conducting a study to evaluate the possibility of receiving water from Bowling Green, while Sylvania and Monroe County agreed to a similar study looking at tapping into Detroit’s regional system.

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The Missoulian: How firefighters gambled and lost the Sperry Chalet

As the Sprague fire danced slowly across the west side of Glacier National Park last summer, fire managers put the bulk of their resources into protecting Lake McDonald Lodge and nearby private homes.

They gambled that the fire would move west, toward the lake, and that rocky terrain, a sprinkler system, four firefighters and minimal fireproofing would protect the popular Sperry Chalet, about 2 miles to the east.

They lost the bet. The fire exploded. In a single night, it doubled in size, roaring north, south — and east. Now, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is proposing spending $12 million in public funds to rebuild the historic structure.

When the ember storm showered the Sperry Chalet on Aug. 31, 2017, photographs show that only a small portion of the structure’s wooden doors and shutters were covered, leaving the timbered roof and deck vulnerable.

An investigation is wrapping up on the firestorm that left only the chalet's stone walls and two chimneys intact. Official information about the Sprague fire is expected to be released “soon” as part of a Facilitated Learning Analysis, typically undertaken after an “incident within an incident” occurs. Until then, Glacier National Park officials and the U.S. Forest Service have declined to discuss in detail the events that led to the chalet’s demise.

However, documents requested by the Missoulian, known as Incident Action Plans or IAPs, outline what management actions were undertaken prior to the ember storm that burned the Sperry Chalet. The IAP is a roadmap of firefighting strategy.

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Tennessean: DCS continues progress nearly 1 year after judge lifted federal oversight

Tennessee child welfare officials continue to make progress in improving the quality of care months after longstanding federal oversight was removed, reports an independent watchdog.

The Tennessee Accountability Center, operated within Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, included its findings in the second of three reports planned to chronicle operations at the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

The report focuses on DCS performance through December 2017. While not a glowing endorsement, the center found services from DCS are “similar to past performance."

"With few exceptions, DCS investigators or assessment workers had their first face-to-face contact with the alleged child victim within DCS’ established time frames for over 95 percent of cases," the report states.

Other acknowledgements include:

• DCS is working faster in completing special investigations, where children are mistreated while in state care;

• On the 198 children with an overnight placement in 2017 at a DCS office, more than 92 percent of placements lasted only one day, and "six percent at most" lasted two days;

• More than 90 percent of foster care family service workers did not exceed the number of cases they are supposed to work at any given time.

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RI newspaper files federal complaint over juror contact case

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island newspaper has taken its First Amendment case against a judge who prevented reporters from contacting jurors to federal court.

The Providence Journal reports the paper filed a complaint last week asking a federal judge to clarify issues concerning a reporter's access to jurors.

Judge Netti Vogel had previously said she doesn't allow people to contact jurors before lifting the ban last month.

Vogel presided over the murder trial of Jorge DePina, who was convicted in April of killing his 10-year-old daughter.

The Providence Journal is asking a federal judge block Vogel from stopping members of the media from contacting jurors after a trial. The paper also asks that jury cards and jury pool lists remain public.

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Arizona Republic: Pay raises for teachers, staff vary across Arizona school districts after #RedForEd

Nearly a month after state lawmakers approved $306 million intended as the first down payment on Gov. Doug Ducey's promise to boost every Arizona teacher's pay 20 percent by 2020, some trends are becoming clear.

School districts are not only delivering on 10 percent teacher raises, most are also giving raises to other employees, such as bus drivers, janitors, nurses, administrators and educators who were not calculated into the state money.

School districts that had previously committed to giving their teachers raises — before the teacher-led #RedForEd movement changed the course of state budget discussions — are deciding to dole out even more money.

The pay stubs for teachers in these districts, such as the Washington Elementary and Tempe Union school districts, will look drastically different next school year. Some individual teachers will see pay bumps as high as nearly 20 percent.

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Modesto Bee: 360,000 Californians have unsafe drinking water. Are you one of them?

At the Shiloh elementary school near Modesto, drinking fountains sit abandoned, covered in clear plastic.

At Mom and Pop's Diner, a fixture in the Merced County town of Dos Palos, regulars ask for bottled water because they know better than to consume what comes out of the tap.

And in rural Alpaugh, a few miles west of Highway 99 in Tulare County, residents such as Sandra Meraz have spent more than four decades worrying about what flows from their faucets.

"You drink the water at your own risk," said Meraz, 77. "And that shouldn't be. We have families here with young children."

An estimated 360,000 Californians are served by water systems with unsafe drinking water, according to a McClatchy analysis of data compiled by the State Water Resources Control Board. In many communities, people drink, shower, cook and wash dishes with water containing excessive amounts of pollutants, including arsenic, nitrates and uranium.

The state's water problem, however, is far more pervasive than that number indicates. At least 6 million Californians are served by water providers that have been in violation of state standards at some point since 2012, according to McClatchy's analysis. In some areas, contaminated water is such a common occurrence, residents have almost come to expect it.

"It's ubiquitous," said Darrin Polhemus, the state water board's deputy director for drinking water. "It's pretty extensive across broad swaths."

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San Francisco Chronicle: Hunters Point shipyard soil scandal widens as analysis spots suspect parcels

Land deemed free of harmful radioactivity and safe for the city to occupy has now come under question as the scandal over the purported cleanup of San Francisco’s biggest redevelopment site continues to grow.

On four portions of the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard — an EPA Superfund waste site — almost all of the radioactivity measurements that were used to confirm the soil’s safety are “suspect,” according to a newly released analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and two state agencies.

The measurements were collected by the Navy contractor Tetra Tech. The EPA discovered “a widespread pattern of practices that appear to show deliberate falsification.” The Navy earlier flagged signs of fraud in the same data.

Over the past year, the Navy and EPA have found similar problems with soil data in other parcels at the shipyard. But those parcels haven’t been handed off to the city for development to begin. This is the first time that regulators have discovered evidence of probable fraud in shipyard land that was already turned over to the city.

Although the four parcels in question are relatively small, they sit next to a 75-acre tract known as Parcel A, where a developer already has built about 300 homes and where people live and work. Because by federal law no land at the site can be transferred to the city without extensive checks for pollution, the transfer of these parcels points to broader dysfunction in the vetting process for all land at the former shipyard.

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San Francisco Chronicle: Cal scrapped probe of football program promised after 2014 death of player

UC Berkeley’s football team practices at Memorial Stadium in 2014. A report effectively ends the prospect of a deep look inside the cloaked culture of Cal football training. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle 2014

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle 2014

IMAGE 1 OF 8 UC Berkeley’s football team practices at Memorial Stadium in 2014. A report effectively ends the prospect of a deep look inside the cloaked culture of Cal football training.

More than four years after a Cal football player with sickle cell trait died after a highly strenuous workout, and another player knocked out a teammate and gave him a concussion, internal correspondence shows that former UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks directed independent investigators last year to halt an examination of the football program and focus only on recommendations for the future.

The resulting report — a set of 45 “ideas” for improving health and safety practices “in a perfect world” — effectively ends the prospect of a deep look inside the cloaked culture of Cal football training. Dirks hired the investigators in 2016 after The Chronicle revealed that an earlier examination conducted after defensive lineman’s Ted Agu’s death was tainted by conflicts of interest.

“There’s nothing in (the new report) about actual current practices,” said Michael O’Hare, who teaches public management at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and reviewed the report at The Chronicle’s request. “If you want to know if they’re doing better than when they killed one guy and sent another to the hospital, there’s nothing in this report to tell us. It’s about what we should be doing.”

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Denver Post: “Hear me roar” — former Colorado foster youths speak out to improve system for those who follow

The collage of brightly colored sticky notes overlapping one another on the wall seems like a lighthearted art project, until the words scratched on each tiny paper come into view.

“I’m alone,” says a blue sticky.

“No place to live after foster care,” says another.

“Split up,” says a green one.

“Lots of support until 18 and then none.”

They are the responses of former and current foster kids asked to write down the one thing they most want to change about the foster care system in Colorado. The young people who organized the activity call it the “Burning Wall,” and they spent months during the last year on a “listening tour” to group homes, youth homeless shelters and life skills programs to connect with other foster kids.

They are Project Foster Power, a group of teens and 20-somethings intent on improving Colorado law to help the thousands of children who enter the child welfare system each year.

“Whether we know it or not, our voice is powerful,” said Jayneanne Finch, lead organizer of Project Foster Power, which was initiated by Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center. “If we don’t continue to fight the good fight and show up for each other, change will never happen.”

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Hartford Courant: These Tenants Took On A Millionaire Absentee Landlord — And Won

They had no organizing experience, no legal representation and, for some, not even a high school diploma. But over the past 11 months, five tenants of a North End affordable housing complex emerged as the public faces of a successful campaign to oust their landlord, Queens, N.Y., resident Emmanuel Ku.

Taking on city hall, the federal government and Ku, the group met once a week, collecting signatures for petitions, posting flyers and helping other tenants fill out hundreds of complaint forms that they filed with Hartford City Hall.

And last Thursday, beleaguered residents living in 150 units in 26 apartment buildings found, taped to their doors, letters telling them the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was revoking its $1 million annual contract with Ku, who had left them to live with vermin and other health hazards for years. HUD had finally agreed to relocate his hundreds of tenants to “properties that are in decent, safe and sanitary condition.”

“We actually got [HUD] to come to the table for us — it’s kind of surreal to hear that,” said Josh Serrano, who along with Teri Morrison, Milagros Ortiz, Yulissa Espinal and Jeslyn Seyon took the campaign against Ku to city hall and HUD.

“It’s been rough dealing with them, but they’ve made what we call the righteous decision,’’ said Serrano, who has lived in a Ku-owned building for 13 years.

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Sun-Sentinel: Despite nursing home deaths, 84 percent of South Florida facilities not ready for hurricane season

Despite 12 people dying after a Hollywood nursing home lost power in Hurricane Irma last year, and a new law to prevent it happening again, most nursing homes and assisted living centers in Florida were not ready as the hurricane season kicked off June 1.

In South Florida, 84 percent of nursing homes and assisted living facilities had failed to comply with the new state law, and 74 percent statewide were not compliant as of May 25, in data provided by Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

In raw numbers, only nine assisted living facilities and 11 nursing homes in South Florida had an inspected alternative cooling system in place as of May 25, according to the data.

Statewide, only 91 assisted living facilities and 48 nursing homes had an alternative power system such as a generator that had been approved and inspected by fire marshals or other officials.

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Amid opioid crisis, drug-abusing nurses get secret sanctions

The nurse was seen on duty at the hospital with red, dilated eyes, her speech slurred, her behavior drowsy. Trusted to care for people at their most vulnerable and fragile, instead she had taken opioids intended for patients and injected herself.

Without a doctor’s OK, another nurse ordered Demerol and Benadryl for an emergency room patient, but that patient had already been discharged. Later, he found work in the hospital at Georgia State Prison, where he pilfered those same drugs and worked while he was impaired.

Yet another nurse went to work at a hospital so intoxicated she couldn’t operate a computer or an elevator, then she gave a patient the wrong medication.

All three are still on the job. So are most Georgia nurses ensnared in the opioid epidemic, even those who showed up at work stumbling, tampered with syringes to get a fix, or falsified patient records to cover up their addiction.

But the public can’t know who all the addicted nurses are, what they did, or the extent of what some call a crisis, because of the way the state’s regulatory board for nurses is operating, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found.

The Board of Nursing handles more than half of its disciplinary cases secretly, and it doesn’t keep statistics that would show how many nurses are addicted or how many relapse.

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Chicago Tribune: Groomed. Violated. Betrayed. CPS officials fail to protect students from sexual abuse by school workers

They were top athletes and honor-roll students, children struggling to read and teenagers seeking guidance.

But then they became prey, among the many students raped or sexually abused during the last decade by trusted adults working in the Chicago Public Schools as district officials repeated obvious child-protection mistakes.

Their lives were upended, their futures clouded and their pain unacknowledged as a districtwide problem was kept under wraps. A Tribune analysis indicates that hundreds of students were harmed.

Drawing on police data, public and confidential records, and interviews with teens and young adults who spoke out, a Tribune investigation broke through the silence and secrecy surrounding these cases and found that:

When students summoned the courage to disclose abuse, teachers and principals failed to alert child welfare investigators or police despite the state’s mandated reporter law.

Even in cases where school employees acted swiftly, they subjected young victims to repeated interrogations, inflicting more psychological pain and defying basic principles intended to preserve the integrity of an investigation.

Ineffective background checks exposed students to educators with criminal convictions and arrests for sex crimes against children. And CPS failed to disclose to other districts that past employees had resigned after investigators found credible evidence of abuse and harassment.

Whether the sexual attacks were brutal rapes, frightening verbal come-ons or “creepy,” groping touches, the students often felt betrayed by school officials and wounded for years.

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The Times-Picayune: Cops hurt on the job see their pensions slashed from a mistake years ago

When New Orleans Police Department Detective Chris Ahner came to, his body was wedged in the windshield of a drunk driver's car.

His last memory before blacking out was pulling onto the grassy shoulder of Interstate 10 in New Orleans East to assist in a traffic stop. Two officers already on the scene had run out of citation forms and asked Ahner to write up the driver for speeding.

He went to his car to grab his ticket book, Ahner recalled recently, nearly two decades after the Feb. 12, 2000 incident. Then, he said, he "turned around, stood up -- and fade to black."

An off-duty Gulfport Police Department officer driving from New Orleans back to Mississippi had smashed into him.

"It hits me in my shins, rips me out of my shoes," Ahner said.

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The New York Times: A Courtside View of Scott Pruitt’s Cozy Ties With a Billionaire Coal Baron

LEXINGTON, Ky. — It was one of the biggest games of the University of Kentucky basketball season, and Scott Pruitt had scored two of the best seats in the arena: a few feet from the action, in a section reserved for season-ticket holders who had donated at least $1 million to the university.

The special access for Mr. Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, also included watching from the players’ entrance as the team streamed onto the court, and posing for a photo with a star player in the locker room area.

But there was more to the game last December than a superfan experience for Mr. Pruitt and his son, who joined him. They sat in seats belonging to Joseph W. Craft III, a billionaire coal executive who has engaged in an aggressive campaign to reverse the Obama administration’s environmental crackdown on the coal industry. Mr. Craft and his wife donated more than $2 million to support President Trump’s candidacy and inauguration.

Mr. Pruitt’s attendance at the game, the details of which have not been previously reported, followed a year of regulatory victories for Mr. Craft, who maintains close ties to Mr. Pruitt even as he has lobbied the E.P.A. on issues important to his company, Alliance Resource Partners. And unlike other executives with whom Mr. Pruitt is known to have close ties — like the oilman Harold Hamm or the coal mogul Robert E. Murray — Mr. Craft has stayed relatively under the radar.

A major contributor to Mr. Pruitt’s campaigns in Oklahoma when Mr. Pruitt served in state government, Mr. Craft saw Mr. Pruitt at least seven times during his first 14 months at the E.P.A., agency records and emails show, and they were scheduled to appear together on at least two other occasions. That is more than Mr. Pruitt has met with representatives of any environmental group.

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News & Observer: NC cut landslide hazard program, despite dangers

The night the mountain crashed into the valley, Susan Tine stood near a window and watched while rain turned her backyard into “a little lake,” she said, that began to rise as high as a picnic table. The river at the end of her property overflowed, and then a tree floated by.

“Roots, the whole deal,” she said, and that’s how it began.

She’d been living here with her husband for 17 years, in a brick split-level ranch off of U.S. 176. They’d come from Long Island, seeking escape from the bustle. They found solitude in the Valhalla Valley in Polk County, near the South Carolina border, where the Piedmont transforms into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Tine knew the valley as a serene, pretty place. Yet she didn't know that geologists considered the area an ideal environment for the natural violence that transpired on May 18, when the floating tree served as an ominous prelude. Why Tine, and others in the valley, were unaware of dangers obvious to experts is a question that has lingered after deadly landslides in the North Carolina mountains.

It flowed down Warrior Mountain at a decline of approximately 60 degrees, between 25 and 30 miles per hour. The earthen path eventually spanned nearly a half-mile, and grew strong enough to uproot pines and move boulders heavier than cars.

The destructive trail began near the top of the mountain. It ended in the valley, next to Tine’s house. She and her husband emerged from it that night. She looked across the street, toward the neighbor’s house that sat up on the hillside.

“And half of it was gone,” she said. …

In addition to Patricia Case, two people died on Wednesday in Boone when a landslide led to the collapse of their home. The names of the victims haven’t yet been released. The three fatalities have made the past 12 days the state’s deadliest landslide event since 2004, when the deaths of five people in Macon County spurred state legislators to action.

They directed the North Carolina Geological Survey to create landslide hazard maps in 19 mountain counties. The work would have taken nearly two decades to complete, about a year per county. Yet the geologists who were a part of the initiative, led by Rick Wooten, a state geologist who specializes in mapping in geohazards, mapped only four counties before the state ceased funding.

And so while families and communities are mourning the loss of loved ones, Wooten and other geologists have borne an emotional weight of their own amid a haunting question: Would lives have been saved if North Carolina would have allowed their work to continue?

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Providence Journal: Providence is hoping the Scituate Reservoir can save its economy

Water-system lease payments could go toward the city’s pension obligations, freeing up city revenues to improve schools and streets and reduce dependence on state aid.

Sustaining the pension system is projected to get more expensive every year. Consultants have estimated that in 2024 the city will need to pay $101 million into its pension fund.

Tapping the value in the water system was a recommendation by the National Resource Network, part of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Its 2016 report on the city’s finances said monetizing the system “could meaningfully address the affordability for taxpayers and the sustainability of benefits for retirees.”

“We’re not asking for a bailout from the state,” Elorza said. “We own the system. We have the plan. All we need is authorization from the state.”

Others aren’t so sure. The Public Utilities Commission, which reviews water rates, says ratepayers, not the city, have paid to build up the system, and if there’s a leasing windfall to be had, it should be shared with them.

Mayors in cities and towns served by the water board say they don’t want to see their residents pay higher rates to cover Providence’s pension problem. Those communities include North Providence, Cranston, Warwick, Johnston, Smithfield, East Providence, Lincoln, Bristol and customers of the Kent County Water Authority.

Under the city’s proposed legislation, a new operator of the water system would be allowed to pass on to ratepayers — without regulators’ approval — the cost of what it had agreed in the lease to pay Providence. Business groups object to letting an operator pass on those costs unrestrained.

While Providence is the center of this debate, there are five other multi-town water authorities in Rhode Island that would also be covered by the legislation.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: UA's transfer of thousands a year to Razorback Foundation raises questions about 'public money'

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville transfers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to the nonprofit Razorback Foundation, raising questions about whether the booster club receives public money that would compel it to disclose business records it has shielded from the public, an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette investigation shows.

The money represents "donations" attached to some ticket prices -- for off-campus football games mostly -- and other contributions meant for the foundation but paid to the university, officials said. The university stores the money in campus accounts before settling up with the foundation, documents show.

It's one example of the intertwined financial ties between the nonprofit and the university's athletic department, which in turn relies on millions of dollars per year in foundation funding for an array of functions -- from paying the staff to upgrading facilities, printing promotional items and bankrolling holiday parties.

For example, the nonprofit last year declined to fulfill an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act request for its contract with a search firm to help find the Razorbacks a new head football coach. Separately, the university hired a different search firm to help vet candidates for athletic director -- the searches were happening at the same time -- and provided a copy of that contract when asked.

While the payments from UA to the foundation are not in dispute, the meaning of the term "public funds" in the context of the state's open-records law is contested. Even if the foundation's acceptance of the money sparked disclosure requirements, the range of the documents subject to release solely because of the money is difficult to pinpoint, law professor Robert Steinbuch said.

"This is where these things tend to get murky," said Steinbuch, an author of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act textbook, who has called the transparency law a "bulwark" against public corruption.

Transparency questions apply to more than just the Razorback Foundation, which is the largest athletics foundation in Arkansas but has many peers in a state where nonprofits support dozens of public agencies, universities and their sports programs.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Emails reveal internal struggle over North Allegheny security consultant's Facebook posts

As public outcry snowballed this spring over divisive and violent social media posts by the vendor then in charge of safety training in North Allegheny schools, district officials and school board members scrambled to avert a “PR nightmare,” as one member put it.

An image comparing Muslims to Nazis, a cartoon showing a child screaming as a man used a women’s restroom and a link to a video of a person being shot in the head appeared on INPAX founder and CEO Sam Rosenberg’s personal Facebook page — until parents raised concerns and a district spokeswoman showed him how to temporarily deactivate his account as officials debated how to respond.

“There is no way we are getting out of this without some egg on our face,” school board member Chris Disque wrote in a March 27 email to a fellow board member. “I would prefer it come in the form of indecisiveness about student safety than supporting a racist, homophobic bigot.”

Newly released emails, among close to 1,000 provided by the district in response to a Right-to-Know request by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, shed light on officials’ behind-the-scenes deliberations on how to respond to backlash over the Facebook posts.

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LA Times: Nikias' tenure as USC president was marked by growth and scandal

Just as C.L. Max Nikias was about to assume the responsibilities as the University of Southern California's president in 2010, the university was reeling from NCAA sanctions levied against its athletic program.

Citing a lack of institutional control and unethical conduct, the NCAA erased the accomplishments of nine years — two national football titles, a winning basketball season — with four years of penalties and the loss of millions of dollars.

Faced with angry alumni and a scornful public, Nikias managed to settle the crisis with calls for more transparency and tougher ethical standards.

Eight years later, the lack of transparency and attention to ethical standards led to Nikias' departure.

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Modesto Bee: Dodging Deportation: 2 women – one fearful, the other fierce – wait for the knock from ICE

Gloria Sanchez keeps a close eye on the large living room window with a wide view of the front yard of her Modesto home. Fear is what motivates her constant vigilance.

She says she's afraid officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will show up one day, detain her and start deportation proceedings to eventually return her to Mexico, tearing her apart from her six children, her husband and the life she's had in Modesto the past 26 years.

But it's the kind of fear she won't allow to debilitate her. She says it keeps her sharp; it empowers her to learn about her rights as an undocumented immigrant and to fight to protect her family.

"I'm already so used to it," Sanchez says about the fear she experiences every day. "I have to, because you never know when immigration is going to come."

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San Francisco Chronicle: Sanctuary split: While SF jail snubs ICE, Marin County does the opposite

One of the central features of the statewide sanctuary law that has pitted California against the Trump administration is that it seeks to put limits on when local jails may turn over undocumented immigrants to federal deportation officers.

But Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle, one of the 58 county sheriffs charged with enforcing SB54, provides no sanctuary to inmates in his lockup — and apparently doesn’t have to, thanks to an exception in the law.

If U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tells Marin County it wants to take custody of an inmate and requests the person’s release date, Doyle’s deputies comply if such a date exists. And if ICE officers show up to the San Rafael jail to take the inmate, they are brought to a private area for the transfer.

Doyle believes this approach avoids potential disturbances between ICE and those waiting for an inmate in the main lobby.

“A lot of people think SB54 makes us a sanctuary state. It doesn’t, at all,” Doyle said in an interview.

Justice by geography has long been a feature in a diverse state where counties differ in how they deal with everything from drug crimes to the death penalty. Now, sanctuary is getting the California treatment, despite the law that went into effect this year — and to the chagrin of immigrants and their advocates.

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Hartford Courant: From Vernal Pools To A 200-Foot Cliff: Tilcon And New Britain's Watershed

For nearly three hours, the scenery on a recent midweek hike through Bradley Mountain changed little: Bushes and trees, rock outcroppings and the occasional small marsh or stream.

All of that changed dramatically at the border between New Britain’s land and Tilcon Connecticut’s property. The forest abruptly vanished; at the bottom of a 200-foot cliff were hundreds of acres of gravel quarry.

Moved by the stunning change in the landscape, state environmental officials who had just explored the woodlands quickly ended all discussion of toad habitats and salamander breeding grounds. Instead, they talked of how many decades Tilcon has mined gravel there, and what would become of the quarry in the future.

“This convinces me the Tilcon plan is significant in terms of the environment,” Paul Zagorsky, head of Protect Our Watersheds Connecticut, said after the tour. “The impact to this significant environmental site is total annihilation to everything that lives, breeds, exists and grows there.”

Tilcon is looking for state permission to expand its quarry into 72 acres of New Britain-owned watershed just south of its existing gravel-mining operation.

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South Florida Sun-Sentinel: What went wrong on the third floor in Parkland school shooting?

It was a distant sound, like somebody knocking on a metal door. The class exchanged looks. The teacher asked what it was. It came closer, louder, in quicker succession – possibly from the second floor.

The fire alarm began to blare, sending a flood of students into the hall to evacuate.

Down the stairwell they went, only to be halted on the landing between the third and second floors by a student who had run ahead and doubled back. Desperate and in a panic, he urged: “Go back, go back!”

They returned to the hallway, now packed with confused students and teachers.

When the killing stopped, a bloody streak ran the length of the hallway, as if a body had been dragged. Dust and smoke so thick, the beginning and end of the third floor weren’t visible. Six people were dead.

While there was little time for anyone to intervene before 11 were murdered on the first floor at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, the fate of the people on the third floor is in question.

Dual investigations are looking at this and other critical factors, but a review of reports, timelines, audio and video recordings shows how a number of circumstances influenced the outcome that day.

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Miami Herald: 'Big brother' in Coral Gables? Police capture data that says a lot about people's lives

The Coral Gables Crime Intelligence Center has an air of futuristic sophistication, its technology so fantastic that it might remind you of a scene from the movie "The Dark Knight": Batman builds a machine that sweeps up data on everyone in Gotham and it works so well at helping him find the Joker — or potentially anyone else — that another good guy tells Batman it's "too much power for one person."

The biggest difference is the Coral Gables system is legal. Authorized users at the Crime Intelligence Center monitor the city's public spaces through 13 high-resolution screens, using advanced technology to help identify persons of interest and solve crimes faster than ever.

On one screen, software identifies patterns in video feeds — all vehicles that made a left turn at a particular intersection for example, or women who wore black blouses and blue jeans. Another program allows techs to generate rudimentary maps of where people have been over time.

Like Batman's machine, the crime intelligence system is so good at finding people that the center was specially designed to keep its users honest, said assistant city manager Frank Fernandez, who stressed the importance of balancing constitutional privacy rights with security. The center's glass walls give no privacy to those who might otherwise consider a clandestine search. And a video camera mounted to the ceiling monitors the technicians at all times. All users sign in with personalized credentials, and tracking anyone requires inputting a case number to ensure the system is being used for authorized investigations only.

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Atlanta Journal Constitution: Weak oversight of medical devices jeopardizes patient safety

Pain in her arm and lightheadedness sent Doris Jones to the emergency room at Savannah’s Memorial Health University Medical Center. A scan there soon revealed a shock. A filter placed in her bloodstream years before to catch clots had fractured, and debris was migrating toward her heart.

While the main part of the filter was removed, a broken piece is still lodged in the artery that carries blood to her lungs because doctors couldn’t safely get it out.

Others who received the filter, made by Bard, died after it shifted or broke apart. More than 3,000 other patients, including Jones, claim they were harmed by a device that went on the market without first being tested in clinical trials to make sure it was safe and effective.

It didn’t have to be.

Jones’ lawsuit, being heard this week, is the latest of hundreds of thousands involving medical devices blamed for sickening or killing patients, cases that point to a weak federal oversight system for some sensitive devices.

The cases are so many and so routine that federal courts have funneled many into a special multi-district system to consolidate them. Georgia lawyers, plaintiffs, hospitals, courts and medical device manufacturers — the state is now home to scores of them — are in the thick of many of them.

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The Times-Picayne: With new massive pumps online, New Orleans levee system faces 2018 hurricane season

It's been nearly 13 years since floodwall failures in two of the three New Orleans outfall canals unleashed a deadly flood across Lakeview, Gentilly, Mid-City and other parts of the city during Hurricane Katrina. In the aftermath, temporary pumps and barriers were placed in each canal at Lake Pontchartrain, while work on permanent pump stations dragged on for years.

Those massive new stations and barrier gates at the mouths of the 17th Street, Orleans Avenue and London Avenue canals are now finally complete -- the nearly-final pieces of the $14.6 billion remaking of New Orleans' storm defenses post-Katrina.

The new stations are going online as the 2018 hurricane season begins June 1, nearly wrapping up construction of south shore levees, floodwalls and storm surge gates. The responsibility for operating and maintaining the system has been turned over to regional levee authorities set up after the storm.

With monumental infrastructure -- including a concrete surge barrier visible from space and the world’s largest pump station -- the new system gives metro New Orleans its best defenses ever, and greater protection than any other coastal community in the United States, officials say.

But they all also warn that the reduction in risk provided by the new system is limited by its design standards: It was built to withstand surges pushed by a hurricane that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any year, the so-called 100-year storm.

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Star Tribune: Police use-of-force incidents show 10-year decline in Minneapolis

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo highlighted several possible reasons for the falling use-of-force incidents over the last few years, including training on de-escalation techniques.

The use of force by Minneapolis police has plunged 50 percent in the last decade, signaling a broad shift away from the “warrior” mentality that favors aggressive policing to reduce crime.

Police used force about 22 times for every 10,000 police calls last year, the lowest per capita rate since at least 2008, according to a Star Tribune analysis of publicly available department statistics. The overall force rate is half of what it was 10 years ago — about 46 per 10,000 calls — when the department was dogged by criticism that some officers brutalized minorities following several high-profile episodes, including one in which SWAT officers mistakenly raided a North Side house while searching for evidence of illegal activity.

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The Star-Ledger: The judge did what? Here's why more people are formally protesting N.J. judges

What do you call someone who tells a rape victim to keep her legs closed, has a secretary do her son's homework, or in one case, allegedly hampered a police investigation of a boyfriend?

In New Jersey, you call them judges.

The number of grievances filed against judges has been growing, according to an examination by NJ Advance Media of never-before-released data from the state judiciary. And while the vast number of those grievances do not become formal complaints, several recent high-profile disciplinary cases have put a spotlight on judicial misconduct in courtrooms across New Jersey.

They include the ethics case against John F. Russo Jr., a family court judge in Ocean County, who told an alleged rape victim that she could have possibly avoided the situation if she "closed her legs," according to a complaint filed against him by the New Jersey Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, or ACJC.

While his case is still pending, Russo--the son of former Democratic Senate President John Russo Sr.--is currently on administrative leave after he was removed from his judicial duties last year by Ocean County's assignment judge in connection with other unrelated allegations.

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Austin American-Statesman: Hays County murder case evaporates as police lose a mystery informant

For this fast-growing university city that still prides itself on its friendly, small-town quality of life, the startling crime news residents woke up to three summers ago seemed like it came from another place.

In the still-dark morning of June 22, 2015, seven young men — most still teenagers — armed with guns and clubs had approached the Schawe Mobile Home Park on River Road, a neighborhood that swiftly turns rural as it moves away from Interstate 35 east of the city center. The residence was rumored to be a drug house, a tempting target for a quick-hit robbery.

Eighteen-year-old Reynaldo Lerma approached first, knocking on the door. Joel Espino, 21, answered and stepped outside. As he closed the door behind him, the gang rushed out of the dark, beating Espino and forcing him to unlock the door. Pushing him in front, they piled inside.

Watching the assault through a closed-circuit camera, Espino’s roommate, Andrew Alejandro, retrieved his gun. When the mob burst in he started shooting. Two of the invaders were injured. Espino was fatally shot in the head by his roommate.

Even though none of the invaders had pulled the trigger, Texas law is clear that a killing committed during a burglary or robbery is eligible for the most serious charge. Hays County District Attorney Wesley Mau charged six of the attackers with capital murder. The shooter, Alejandro, was not charged with any crime.

It seemed a straight-forward win for prosecutors. There was little question who the attackers were or how Espino had died; the shooting was caught on the house’s security video. Several of the men soon pleaded guilty and were sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Two months ago, however, the murder charge against one, Lerma, was quietly dismissed. He was released from jail and sent home. Documents and interviews show the case collapsed when a judge concluded he could not trust “the reliability and credibility” of an elite drug task force after its members shifted their stories about a mysterious police informant.

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Houston Chronicle: An iconic Houston surgeon's hidden history of conflicts of interest, poor outcomes

For five decades, Dr. O.H. "Bud" Frazier has obsessively pursued his goal of developing a complete mechanical replacement for the human heart. Today, devices he tested at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center and its research partner, the Texas Heart Institute, are credited with extending the lives of thousands of people worldwide each year.

But out of public view, Frazier has been accused of violating federal research rules and skirting ethical guidelines, putting his quest to make medical history ahead of the needs of some patients, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica has found.

Reporters reviewed internal hospital reports, federal court filings, financial disclosures and government documents. The records and interviews with former St. Luke's physicians show:

• Frazier and his team implanted experimental heart pumps in patients who did not meet medical criteria to be included in clinical trials, according to a hospital investigation a decade ago. The findings, which have never been disclosed publicly, prompted St. Luke's to report serious research violations to the federal government and repay millions of dollars to Medicare.

• A former top St. Luke's cardiologist said he believes that Frazier favored experimental heart pumps over more proven treatments and that Frazier was reluctant to acknowledge when the devices led to serious complications. Two other doctors made similar observations. In one instance, one of them said Frazier discouraged publication of research that found a high rate of strokes in the first group of patients implanted with a pump he championed.

• Frazier has often failed to publicly disclose consulting fees and research grants — and in one case, stock options he received and later transferred to his son — from companies that made the pumps he tested. Most medical journals require such disclosure so that other scientists and the public can judge whether personal interests may have influenced research findings.

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Politico: Ex-aides say congressman made them his servants

Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett and his wife turned the congressman’s staff into personal servants, multiple former employees to the freshman Republican told POLITICO — assigning them tasks from grocery shopping to fetching the congressman’s clothes to caring for their pet dog, all during work hours.

POLITICO has spoken with four former staffers who detailed a deeply dysfunctional office in which the congressman and his wife, Flanna, often demanded that staff run personal errands outside their typical congressional duties. The couple called on staff to pick up groceries, chauffeur Garrett’s daughters to and from his Virginia district, and fetch clothes that the congressman forgot at his Washington apartment. They were even expected to watch and clean up after Sophie, their Jack Russell-Pomeranian mix, the aides said.

The staffers said they feared that if they refused Garrett‘s or his wife’s orders — both were known for explosive tempers — they would struggle to advance in their careers. It wasn't just full-time staff: many of the allegedly inappropriate requests were made of interns, the former aides said.

“I didn’t know who I was working for: Was I working for him? Was I working for her?” said one of those staffers who, like others interviewed for this story, asked not to be named for fear of retribution. “We became their gofers.”

A spokesman for Garrett, Matt Missen, declined to address a detailed list of complaints about the office.

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Post and Courier: 1 in 4 aged-out foster kids in S.C. become homeless or teen moms, despite taxpayers' millions

When she was 5 or 6, her first foster mother beat her and locked her in a closet. Then she moved to a nice foster mom’s house. Then back to her biological mother, back to the nice foster mom, back to her biological mom, then back to foster care, this time a group home.

Five group homes, three foster homes. One childhood.

“There was no love at all.”

Katarina Wilkerson tears up saying this now, at 20, given she is the provider of that love, a young mother herself.

One in four other women her age who grew up in South Carolina’s foster care system also had children by the time they turned 19, the fourth-highest rate in the nation. It’s just one of many disturbing statistics that lurk in the early adulthoods of children raised by the foster care system.

For years, advocates and journalists have paid much-needed attention to children in foster care. But once those children become adults and age out, they go largely forgotten, often cast into the world with little more than traumatic memories and mistrust to guide them.

Nationally, one in five will become homeless by age 19.

In South Carolina, it's one in four.

Across South Carolina, the number of children being raised in foster care has grown 25 percent over the past five years. In mid-April, the state had custody of 4,509 abused and neglected children even as it struggled with a critical shortage of foster homes — especially those willing to care for teenagers.

About 200 of those children will linger in care each year until they turn 18.

By that time, they will have been moved six to seven times on average in a system that remains under the scrutiny of court-appointed monitors. The oversight began in 2016 when the state Department of Social Services settled a class-action lawsuit that alleged an array of unsettling problems.

Among key issues: Dire shortages of foster homes cause DSS to move children repeatedly from one inappropriate home or facility to another, separate children from their siblings, and raise far too many in group homes where the only adults to bond with are shift workers. So much instability and lack of attachment creates emotional and psychological stress in young, developing brains — on top of the abuse and neglect these children endured before landing in the state's care.

“How DSS cares for its foster children now will have enormous consequences for them as adults,” said Lustbader whose Children's Rights brought the lawsuit. "Trauma from a dysfunctional system can last a lifetime."

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Watchdog report to fault FBI for Clinton probe delay

WASHINGTON (AP) - An upcoming report from the Justice Department's internal watchdog is expected to criticize senior FBI leaders for not moving quickly enough to review a trove of Hillary Clinton emails discovered late in the 2016 campaign, according to people familiar with the findings.

The FBI's timing has been a sore point for Clinton supporters, who say then-director James Comey's announcement of the new review less than two weeks before the Nov. 8, 2016, election contributed to her loss. The agency's findings affirming its decision not to pursue criminal charges against Clinton were disclosed two days before the vote - too late, her supporters say, to undo the damage.

Some FBI officials knew in September 2016 of the emails on former Rep. Anthony Weiner's laptop but the bureau did not obtain a warrant to review them until the following month. Clinton allies say the candidate's name could have been cleared much faster if the FBI acted on the emails as soon as they knew of their existence.

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Chicago Tribune: Rauner administration mismanaged patronage positions

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration was scolded by a top state watchdog for “serious mismanagement” that allowed seven state employees to hold patronage positions when their duties did not justify the special job titles, according to a report released Monday.

The Republican governor’s office also was reprimanded for providing incomplete information to executive inspector general investigators.

The report resulted in the two-week suspension of a manager and elimination of the positions at issue. A top Rauner aide who had been in charge of the Department of Central Management Services at the time of the improper hiring and employment took responsibility for “a general management failure” at the agency, according to the report. That former CMS director, Michael Hoffman, is now Rauner’s point person on the Legionnaires’ disease crisis at the Quincy veterans home.

The use of exempt positions long has been controversial. In 2014, a state ethics investigator found that then-Gov. Pat Quinn had presided over hundreds of improper hirings of politically connected workers at the Department of Transportation. Then-candidate Rauner made it a campaign issue, calling Quinn a “phony reformer” and vowing that he would work “to root out Pat Quinn’s patronage and corruption.”

The probe focused on positions within the state’s Bureau of Property Management that were given a special classification that made them exempt from rules that are designed to keep politics out of state hiring. Such positions are valuable because they allow the governor to hire people who are aligned politically to develop and carry out policies.

The watchdog found that seven employees who were hired as “regional client managers” were not performing work that would justify their special job descriptions, and that their direct supervisors were unaware of the situation.

The report called it “shocking” that “for years no one at CMS identified this issue, brought it to anyone’s attention, or took any action to fix the problem.” While noting that it “did not find evidence that Governor’s Office staff placed individuals into exempt positions knowing they would not be doing exempt work,” the watchdog said it did find that the governor’s office “did not prioritize this issue and believed it was someone else’s responsibility.”

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AP: The princes, the president and the fortune seekers

WASHINGTON (AP) — After a year spent carefully cultivating two princes from the Arabian Peninsula, Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, thought he was finally close to nailing more than $1 billion in business.

He had ingratiated himself with crown princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who were seeking to alter U.S. foreign policy and punish Qatar, an archrival in the Gulf that he dubbed “the snake.”

To do that, the California businessman had helped spearhead a secret campaign to influence the White House and Congress, flooding Washington with political donations.

Broidy and his business partner, Lebanese-American George Nader, pitched themselves to the crown princes as a backchannel to the White House, passing the princes’ praise — and messaging — straight to the president’s ears.

Now, in December 2017, Broidy was ready to be rewarded for all his hard work.

It was time to cash in.

In return for pushing anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of America’s government, Broidy and Nader expected huge consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to an Associated Press investigation based on interviews with more than two dozen people and hundreds of pages of leaked emails between the two men. The emails reviewed by the AP included work summaries and contracting documents and proposals.

The AP has previously reported that Broidy and Nader sought to get an anti-Qatar bill through Congress while obscuring the source of the money behind their influence campaign. A new cache of emails obtained by the AP reveals an ambitious, secretive lobbying effort to isolate Qatar and undermine the Pentagon’s longstanding relationship with the Gulf country.

A lawyer for Broidy, Chris Clark, contended the AP’s reporting “is based on fraudulent and fabricated documents obtained from entities with a known agenda to harm Mr. Broidy.”

“To be clear, Mr. Nader is a U.S. citizen, and there is no evidence suggesting that he directed Mr. Broidy’s actions, let alone that he did so on behalf of a foreign entity,” Clark said.

The AP conducted an exhaustive review of the emails and documents, checking their content with dozens of sources, and determined that they tracked closely with real events, including efforts to cultivate the princes and lobby Congress and the White House.

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AP: Portrait of despair: Opioids land more women behind bars

This lone county jail in a remote corner of Appalachia offers an agonizing glimpse into how the tidal wave of opioids and methamphetamines has ravaged America. Here and in countless other places, addiction is driving skyrocketing rates of incarcerated women, tearing apart families while squeezing communities that lack money, treatment programs and permanent solutions to close the revolving door.

More than a decade ago, there were rarely more than 10 women in the Campbell County Jail in northeast Tennessee. Now the population is routinely around 60.

Most who end up here have followed a similar path: They’re arrested on a drug-related charge and confined to a cell 23 hours a day. Many of their bunkmates also are addicts. They receive no counseling. Then weeks, months or years later, they’re released into the same community where friends _ and in some cases, family _ are using drugs. Soon they are again, too.

And the cycle begins anew: Another arrest, another booking photo, another pink uniform and off to a cell to simmer in regret and despair.

Pills, though, aren’t the only problem. With 500 square miles of mountains, thick woods, winding back roads and deep hollows, this county on the Kentucky border has been a prime spot, too, for meth. While homegrown labs are on the wane, a powerful strain of the drug from Mexico has found its way here.

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State spends millions on settlements, often silently

Phillip G. Ramirez Jr., an Army National Guard veteran who served in Iraq and Kuwait, filed a lawsuit against the state of New Mexico in 2008, claiming his supervisors in the state Children, Youth and Families Department harassed and discriminated against him when he returned from more than a year of active duty.

They refused to make accommodations for his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, Ramirez claimed in the lawsuit, then tried to push him out by mandating what he called unreasonable job requirements that made it impossible for him to fulfill his role as a community support officer monitoring at-risk juvenile offenders.

Fired by the department in 2008, Ramirez claimed the department violated a federal law that protects the employment rights of service members deployed for more than 30 days.

“I felt betrayed,” said Ramirez, who had received positive performance reviews by CYFD for nearly a decade before his deployment, according to his suit. “I was fighting the enemy overseas and when I returned I was fighting the enemy, too,” he said. “Coming home should be peacetime and I felt the fight was still on my hands.”

In 2011, a Gallup jury found in Ramirez’s favor. He was to receive $36,000 in back pay. But rather than write the check and make accommodations for him, the state appealed the state District Court’s decision to the New Mexico Court of Appeals — a move that sparked a yearslong legal battle that eventually prompted a second lawsuit and ultimately concluded with the state Supreme Court ruling in favor of Ramirez.

In the end, the costs to the state were $598,857 in legal fees for the first lawsuit; $36,000 to satisfy the judgment in the case; $235,000 to cover Ramirez’s legal expenses; $74,108 to fight a second lawsuit; $115,000 to settle that case out of court.

Total bill: $1,058,965.

The Ramirez case illustrates the high risk and, at times, low visibility of cases overseen by the state’s Risk Management Division, which paid more than $5.5 million in fiscal year 2017 to settle 35 civil claims brought by individuals who said they’d been wronged by state departments and agencies, according to documents obtained by The New Mexican through public records requests.

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Denver Post: Alone in the world: Foster kids in Colorado leave system with no home, no family, little support

Emancipation is the worst way to exit foster care, aside from running away or dying.

It means a child wasn’t reunified with parents, wasn’t adopted and wasn’t set up with a legal guardian. Kids who emancipate are turned loose to figure out life on their own, often after years as wards of the state.

Over the past five years, 1,513 young people ages 17-21 have emancipated from Colorado’s foster care system.

Many call it “aging out,” a term the state child welfare division is loath to use because Colorado is among the states that allow foster youths to stay in the system until age 21.

But only a fraction of foster teens are choosing to remain in the system past 18. Among the 246 youths who aged out last year, the majority — 154 — were 18 years old, data received by The Denver Post under public records laws shows. Twenty were just 17, allowed to emancipate by getting married or joining the military.

“It’s a developmental task of young people in this age group to separate from authority figures and to go out on their own and take risks,” said Kristin Melton, youth services manager for the Colorado Department of Human Services. “What’s different is that this is a group of young people that doesn’t have family support to fall back on. They don’t have that safety net.”

In its most recent review, federal authorities found Colorado’s child welfare division had failed to meet national standards in efforts to find foster kids permanent homes.

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New Haven Register: White women: addicted, incarcerated and overlooked

As the country battles drug epidemics, mass incarceration and nationwide addiction, the people being increasingly affected by these issues are being left behind in the discussion. They are white women.

“Men and their behaviors have gotten the attention, especially when it comes to drinking and substance use treatment,” said Jonathan Lowe, executive director of clinical services at Turnbridge addiction treatment center in New Haven. “We’ve concentrated on the noisy person, but women had to keep things quiet because they were holding things together, certainly not expected to have addiction problem.”

Across the country, middle-aged white women are dying at higher rates, particularly from drug overdoses, suicides and excessive drinking. Alcohol-related deaths for white women have increased 130 percent in the last two decades, far surpassing alcohol-related deaths for Hispanic women, which climbed 27 percent, or for black women, which decreased 12 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Suicide rates for all women are among the sharpest increases compared with other demographics, according to the CDC, and drug poisoning was the most frequent method. From 1999 through 2014, the suicide rate for females rose by 45 percent, while rates for males increased 16 percent. The increases are more pronounced in age groups 25 to 50 years old.

Further, white women are increasingly binge drinking, suffering from addiction, being incarcerated and committing suicide. A number of combining factors make this population unique when addressing these issues, especially their status, stereotypes and cultural expectations.

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Stamford Advocate: Data shows black Stamford students punished disproportionately

The latest data from the U.S. Office for Civil Rights shows while black students comprise 15 percent of the 50 million children enrolled in public schools, they are involved in nearly a third of school-related arrests and referrals to police. And although students classified as learning disabled comprise 12 percent of the national enrollment, 28 percent of arrests and police referrals involve those special-needs students.

In contrast, white, Latino and Asian students were disciplined either proportionately or below their share of overall enrollment.

The glaring disparity for black and learning-disabled students is a red flag for schools that are required to provide equal opportunity for all children, the U.S. Department of Education said.

That goes for urban school districts like Stamford, where data shows black students and those with learning disabilities were suspended and expelled disproportionately.

In Stamford, black students represent 17.5 percent of the nearly 16,000 public-school children, but they accounted for 45.6 percent of in-school suspensions, 42.8 percent of out-of-school suspensions and 42 percent of expulsions. Black students also accounted for 40 percent of referrals to law enforcement.

Learning disabled students make up 11 percent of district enrollment, but account for 21 percent of in-school suspensions, 31 percent of out-of-school suspensions, 17 percent of expulsions and 21 referrals to law enforcement.

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Sun-Sentinel: Schools' culture of tolerance lets students like Nikolas Cruz slide

Broward Schools have grown so tolerant of misbehavior that students like Nikolas Cruz are able to slide by for years without strict punishment for conduct that could be criminal.

The culture of leniency allows children to engage in an endless loop of violations and second chances, creating a system where kids who commit the same offense for the 10th time may be treated like it’s the first, according to records and interviews with people familiar with the process.

Cruz was suspended at least 67 days over less than a year and a half at Westglades Middle School, and his problems continued at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, until he finally was forced to leave.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel obtained Cruz’s discipline records, reviewed discipline policies and found:

-- Students can be considered first-time offenders even if they commit the same offenses year after year.

-- The district’s claim of reforming bad behavior is exaggerated.

-- Lenient discipline has an added PR benefit for the district: lower suspensions, expulsions and arrests along with rising graduation rates.

No one heeded warning signs about Nikolas Cruz before school shooting

The forgiving attitude goes beyond the schools’ controversial Promise program, the target of considerable public scrutiny for enabling students to avoid criminal charges for misdemeanor offenses.

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Miami Herald: Behind lovely facade, allegations of slaps, bites, rapes, rats — and a horrific death

William James Lamson was born with a devastating form of autism that caused him to obsessively and explosively strike himself. Over time, the damage to Lamson's head was so severe that he became blind in his right eye.

Caregivers at the Carlton Palms Educational Center were told to keep a football-like helmet on Lamson's head to protect him from the blows.

But there was no one to protect Lamson from his caregivers.

When the Mount Dora police were called to investigate Lamson's death on March 1, officers were told the 26-year-old "was a self-harmer, and was constantly banging his head." Authorities were led to believe that Lamson's neurological demons had finally won the battle being waged in his brain.

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But a police report offered significant grounds for skepticism: Investigators "did not observe any blood in his bedroom," the report said. Nor did they see "any obvious injuries."

Lamson's death now is a manslaughter investigation. And sources with knowledge of the case say the young man, called "Willie" by his family, died of asphyxiation — not head trauma.

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Idaho Statesman: Idaho Youth Ranch in trouble and failing to help children, say former employees

When her husband said he wanted to work for the Idaho Youth Ranch, the Boise woman was apprehensive. It didn’t have a good reputation among nonprofits, she said.

Her husband followed his heart anyway and took a job there in 2016 – getting an up-close look at what the couple and many former employees say has become a dysfunctional business and has lost touch in recent years with its mission to help at-risk children and teens.

“As a community member, I had no idea they served such few kids in residential treatment, for the amount of fundraising they take from the community,” the woman told the Statesman in an interview. Her husband no longer works for the nonprofit.

The couple adopted a girl in 2017 who had lived for a time in a Youth Ranch facility.

“We have spent numerous counseling sessions, missed time from work, missed time from school and yes, money, to undo the trauma caused by the unprofessional and uneducated staff at [the Youth Ranch facility],” the woman would later write to Youth Ranch administration. “In 21 days, she left worse than when she arrived.”

The Statesman agreed not to use the couple’s names in order to protect their adopted daughter’s identity.

Interviews and documents reviewed by the Statesman suggest that the Idaho Youth Ranch – a revered, 65-year-old organization with popular thrift stores around the state – is struggling to serve the mental health needs of local at-risk youths and their families. It has become more like a thrift-store chain than a social-service organization, critics say.

But a new, temporary CEO says the organization is trying to right its course.

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Chicago Tribune: Electronic monitoring the latest battleground in the fight to reform bond

Eight men sat in Cook County Jail at the center of a firestorm.

All had been charged with serious felonies and ordered by a judge to be released to home confinement on ankle bracelets to await trial.

But Sheriff Tom Dart’s office, which runs the electronic monitoring program, blocked each of the releases earlier this year, saying the risk was too high to release detainees who in some cases were charged with violent crimes and had extensive criminal backgrounds. A new policy — ultimately short-lived — aimed to keep “high-risk” defendants in jail and off electronic monitors.

The backlash was swift: a federal lawsuit, petitions to hold Dart in contempt of court and accusations of fearmongering and racism.

Electronic monitoring — instituted nearly three decades ago as a safety valve for an overcrowded county jail — has emerged as the latest battleground in the fight to reform bond court in Cook County, sparking heated debate over public safety in a city struggling to contain gun violence.

Ultimately, about 55 detainees were caught up in the sheriff’s new policy during the 10 days it was in place, authorities said. Under fire from other county officials, Dart’s office quietly halted the policy, authorities said. Every one of the 55 detainees who had a place to stay was released on an electronic monitor no matter their criminal history.

But the debate over the role of electronic monitoring in the bond reform landscape is still raging, in part because of sheriff's officials' concern over the number of gun offenders being released on the ankle bracelets.

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Courier Journal: Churches are putting faith in these old vans that could kill

A Ford Motor Company employee test-driving a 15-passenger van flipped it while swerving through a series of cones in 1990.

He didn’t report it. He blamed himself, not the van — and his superiors agreed. That vehicle, the E350, dominated the large-van market for years.

But a Florida jury in March blamed that same make and model van for a woman’s death, granting her four children and husband nearly $20 million in damages.

The left-rear tire on the 2002 E350 had shredded. The van flipped, and passenger Michalanne Salliotte, 44, was tossed from the vehicle and crushed on Feb. 21, 2014.

Salliotte and the driver, who also died, were among five people thrown out as the van tumbled. One was a teenager who had to repeat a year of school because of brain damage. Seven others were injured.

The jury also found the First Baptist Church of New Port Richey negligent for not keeping seat belts in the van within reach.

Transportation safety officials have known since 2001 that 15-passenger vans like the E350 are prone to roll in a crash when loaded with people. Federal officials have issued repeated safety warnings to carmakers and the public. Some insurance companies refuse to cover them. A major religious denomination advises member churches to avoid them. And at least 28 states prohibit public schools from using them to transport students.

Yet many churches around the country still use the old vans to haul kids to swimming pools, take parishioners to services or deliver members to conferences and revival meetings.

And people still die.

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Times-Picayune: Nurse sounded alarm over inmate's death and sexual harassment at Orleans jail -- then was fired: lawsuit

When Dennis Edwards was taken to the Orleans Parish jail's medical clinic early on Dec. 15, nurse Natalie Henderson first noticed the jerky movements in his arms. His upper body moved so widely that someone had handcuffed his wrist to the stretcher, she said. Edwards was coming down from some kind of drugs, she thought, and was clearly "in distress." He kept flailing around. He was "not coherent," she said.

Edwards' heart rate was "knocking on 200," twice the normal threshold, Henderson said, recalling his vitals from memory at a recent interview. His oxygen saturation was below normal, and his blood pressure "at stroke levels," she said. She recognized a smell coming from his body - a foul mix of blood and feces - indicating he could have gastrointestinal bleeding, she said.

"I said, 'He needs to go to the hospital. He is going to die,'" Henderson recalled telling a supervisor at Correct Care Solutions, the company that provides inmate medical care for the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office.

Edwards, 41, was not taken to a hospital. Instead, sheriff's office officials said, he died on the floor of the Orleans Justice Center jail's medical clinic after EMS personnel were unable to revive him. It was only his second night at the jail, records show.

Four months later, Henderson was fired April 25 by Correct Care Solutions, according to a lawsuit she filed May 1 against Sheriff Marlin Gusman and her former employer, claiming her firing was retaliatory and violated Louisiana's whistleblower protection law. Her lawsuit claims she complained to jail staff about alleged "improper care" of Edwards and other inmates, "but her complaints were not answered." The suit also claims Henderson "and other nurses were being physically and psychologically sexually assaulted on numerous occasions by inmates," and that CCS supervisors and jail staff in some instances "ignored" the "assaults."

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Boston Globe: In Boston, some female firefighters allege dismissive treatment — and much worse

After she got out of the Army in 2004, Nathalie Delsoin wanted to follow in her godfather’s footsteps and join the Boston Fire Department. She passed the civil service test and the arduous physical examination, proving that, just like the men, she could cut it as a firefighter.

But when she started, she said, she felt tormented — not because her skills were lacking, but because she was the only woman in her Charlestown firehouse.

An officer asked her to fold his laundry. Her colleagues took her toiletries from the bathroom. Another firefighter referenced the size of her breasts.

There are just 16 female firefighters in the department’s force of 1,500. Of the 16 women, four are white, 10 are black, and two are Hispanic. Only one is a commanding officer. As firefighters, they live, sleep, and work alongside their colleagues on 24-hour shifts and in close quarters. They make runs to people in distress, put out blazes, and serve on specialized teams that handle hazardous materials. Often, they find themselves the only woman on a shift.

In interviews with three female firefighters, a former liaison for the women on the force, and two female retirees from the department, the women described a pattern of harassment, discrimination, and sexism in the Fire Department. They say they have experienced unnecessary touching, disparaging comments, and isolation, but said they don’t often speak up because they don’t feel believed by the administration and fear being treated as though they did something wrong — or just can’t handle the job.

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Star Tribune: Minnesota's Clark, Castile cases were used in Russian-made Facebook posts

Thousands of newly disclosed fake Facebook posts and ads show for the first time how Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 election directly targeted Minnesotans with divisive, racially charged messages.

Among the scores of often incendiary ads released last week by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, about a dozen referenced Minnesota events, including the police shootings of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile, a Star Tribune analysis shows. Dozens more mentioned controversies elsewhere, but were funneled to Facebook users in Minnesota.

The ads appeared to be part of what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as a sophisticated Russian campaign meant to use the social media giant’s platforms to sow discord in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

According to estimates, more than 80,000 ads and other posts were seen at least 126 million times on Facebook and its photo-sharing site, Instagram, from mid-2015 to mid-2017.

They offer a rare window into how Russian operatives used Facebook’s targeted advertising tools to deliver propaganda or divisive content to narrow categories of users — for instance, black or LGBT readers. Most of the ads were meant to intensify ethnic and regional divisions, often taking multiple sides on controversial issues, such as immigration and gun rights.

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Democrat & Chronicle: 40-year mystery: Where were the police when mobster 'Sammy G' Gingello was murdered?

On the early April morning 40 years ago when "Sammy G" Gingello was killed — murdered by a bomb detonated beneath his Buick Park Avenue sedan — the downtown streets were eerily empty.

Typically, Rochester Police Investigator Gus D'Aprile would have been nearby, shadowing Gingello as he and his partner, Jerry Luciano, had done for weeks and weeks.

But D'Aprile was instead home in bed; he and Luciano had finally been given the time off that they'd long — and previously unsuccessfully — requested from their supervisors.

For years thereafter, and until his death in December, D'Aprile would wonder whether it was pure coincidence that he and Luciano finally got the night off, or if, instead, there was knowledge in police circles that a hit was planned on Gingello.

D'Aprile once told me that police colleagues and even mobsters later asked him and Luciano about their whereabouts the night Gingello died.

"Everybody had the same questions: 'Who hit (Gingello) and where were Gus and Jerry?' " D'Aprile said in an interview.

I was first told this story by D'Aprile in 2004. Over the next 13 years he and I discussed that night at least five times, both in face-to-face meetings or in telephone calls. There were times when D'Aprile was willing to tell me the story publicly, and other times when he had second thoughts, concerned that it might prove an embarrassment to law enforcement.

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The News & Observer: NC inmates died when jailers weren't watching. Critics say these fixes aren't enough.

Early this year, detention officers evacuated inmates from an older section of the Watauga County jail as sewage backed up into the hallway.

But inmate Lincoln Horner was later returned there from a medical check, by staff who didn't know about the evacuation. He was left alone for 45 minutes. A short-staffed detention crew thought the section no longer had any inmates and had stopped checking.

That gave Horner, 40, plenty of time to use a blanket to hang himself. He's now among more than 70 inmates who have died after supervision lapses in North Carolina jails since 2012.

It's a problem the News & Observer exposed in a recent five-part series, Jailed to Death. Some state officials — including Senate leader Phil Berger — found the number of supervision failures troubling. But lawmakers on a legislative oversight committee that looked into jail deaths didn't address the issue.

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The Oregonian: Portland Public Schools loses records secrecy lawsuit

A Multnomah County judge on Friday sided with a reporter and a parent seeking records that Portland Public Schools hid from public view.

The school district is now preparing to release records disclosing the names of employees on paid administrative leave and how long that leave has gone on.

Early in 2017, reporter Beth Slovic and crusading parent Kim Sordyl filed public records requests, seeking the names of all district employees on paid administrative leave.

District officials refused, so the women asked the Multnomah County district attorney to order the district to make public the names. The district attorney did so.

But the district again refused to make them public and filed suit against the pair. District officials said then, and reiterated Friday, that they were seeking clarity from the courts, not trying to be vindictive to people seeking public records.

Friday, Multnomah District Judge Judith Matarazzo provided that clarity. From the bench, she verbally granted the two women's legal motions. She ordered the school district to make public a document showing the names of employees on leave and the date the leave began.

Disclosure of the records is important, Sordyl said, because administrative leave is intended to be a short short-term paid exile while allegations against an employee are checked. The district normally is forced to pay both the employee on leave and a second person to do the employee's work while he or she is away.

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Philadelphia Inquirer: At aging Philadelphia schools, asbestos is a lurking health threat to children and staff

The beloved teacher in Room 302 at Lewis C. Cassidy elementary school was out on medical leave. Entrusted to a revolving cast of substitute teachers, her fifth graders started to run amok.

By this spring, the 10- and 11-year-olds had turned the narrow closet that stretched the length of Room 302 into an indoor playground. They darted through its doorways, threw play punches, and wrestled on the wood floor.

The children didn’t know it, but they were kicking up something invisible and deadly — asbestos fibers. They likely got them on their hands or in their mouths or even worse — inhaled them, which can take a toxic toll.

At three different spots in this classroom, including the closet, tests by the Inquirer and Daily News have revealed high levels of asbestos fibers in surface dust. As part of an investigation into building conditions at Philadelphia district schools, a Cassidy staffer had taken dust wipe samples in the classroom and an accredited lab analyzed them for the newspapers.

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The Tennessean: Special report: State investigated abuse involving 460 Tennessee schools. Was your child's one of them?

At Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis last year, a male teaching aide reportedly touched the bottom of an 18-year-old female student as she waited in a school lunch line. He also showed her pictures of his private parts, she said.

The allegation became public after the aide, who resigned amid an investigation, was indicted.

In East Tennessee, a Lenoir City High School teacher's assistant was accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with two students — a 17-year-old and his 21-year-old sister, who has intellectual disabilities.

School officials learned of the April 2017 encounters after reviewing pictures of the female teacher kissing the boy and placing her hands on the young woman's breasts.

Those allegations about the former teacher also emerged in a criminal indictment.

In Middle Tennessee, a Maury County girl at Joseph Brown Elementary School was injured in January 2016 after an educator grabbed her right arm and then tried to restrain her, leaving scratches and contusions on her leg and chest — allegations revealed after the parents filed a lawsuit.

The three cases represent a fraction of investigations by child welfare officials into abuse at schools in Tennessee.

A USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee analysis found the Department of Children's Services investigated 647 allegations of child abuse or neglect involving students in Tennessee schools during a recent 20-month period.

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Seattle Times: Behind Seattle’s rising pension costs: Past mismanagement adds to taxpayers’ burden

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Journal Sentinel: A long-haul defense lawyer makes do with Wisconsin's lowest-in-nation pay

Matthew Kirkpatrick represents criminal defendants who can't afford their own attorney,  traveling the reaches of northwestern Wisconsin as a kind of long-haul lawyer.

Last year he took on cases for the State Public Defender in 19 rural counties, putting more than 46,000 miles on his 2012 Dodge Durango, sometimes driving 350 miles round-trip for a single case.

He keeps his expenses low — home office, no staff — because Wisconsin pays him just $40 an hour for his legal work, the lowest rate in the nation that hasn't changed since it was reduced from $50 in 1995. Travel time is paid at $25 an hour.

He hits the road so often because fewer and fewer lawyers, especially in northern Wisconsin, will accept the public defender cases, creating what justice system stakeholders call a constitutional crisis.

"If someone needs an attorney, you don’t want them to go without, especially if they’re in jail," Kirkpatrick, 38, said in an interview.

On Wednesday,  the Supreme Court will — again — consider a petition to raise the $40 rate. More than 100 lawyers, judges, officials and organizations have submitted comments heavily supporting the change, which will be discussed at a morning public hearing before the justices.

"We have a shot," said John Birdsall, a Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer who co-authored the petition on behalf of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and other groups.

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The Toledo Blade: What it pays to be at the top: A look at the salaries of local CEOs

Public companies have long been required to tell investors how much they pay their top executives but, starting this year, that information must be paired with another disclosure — how much they pay their median worker.

As one might expect given the rapid rise in CEO compensation over the past few decades, that’s leading to some eye-popping figures that critics say illustrate just how vast income inequality has become in the United States.

“I think people are going to be really interested in seeing these pay gap numbers come out and we’ll see where it heads,” said Sarah Anderson, director of the global economy project at the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies. “There is interest to build on the disclosure and to put real teeth into the issue of corporate pay equity.”

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Washington Post: Lobbyist helped arrange Scott Pruitt’s $100,000 trip to Morocco

MARRAKESH, Morocco — A controversial trip to Morocco by Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt last December was partly arranged by a longtime friend and lobbyist, who accompanied Pruitt and his entourage at multiple stops and served as an informal liaison at both official and social events during the visit.

Richard Smotkin, a former Comcast lobbyist who has known the EPA administrator for years, worked for months with Pruitt’s aides to hammer out logistics, according to four individuals familiar with those preparations. In April, Smotkin won a $40,000-a-month contract, retroactive to Jan. 1, with the Moroccan government to promote the kingdom’s cultural and economic interests. He recently registered as a foreign agent representing that government.

The four-day journey has drawn scrutiny from lawmakers and the EPA’s inspector general, who is investigating its high costs and whether it adhered to the agency’s mission to “protect human health and the environment.”

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Modesto Bee: California could restart executions. These counties are most likely to condemn murderers.

California’s death row has ballooned to nearly 750 inmates, and the state hasn’t executed a murderer in more than 12 years.

That could change soon.

California voters in 2016 approved Proposition 66, which attempted to remove regulatory hurdles to executions. The California Supreme Court upheld much of the proposition last year. A judge in April lifted an order blocking the state from carrying out death sentences by lethal injection, though some legal challenges to resuming executions remain.

The state has executed 13 men since 1978. Condemned men are held at San Quentin State Prison, and the 23 women on death row are held at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in the late 1970s, California counties have condemned murderers to death at widely divergent rates.

The Bee compared the number of murderers on death row to the number of homicides in each county between 1985 and 2016. About 90 percent of the current inmates on death row were sentenced during those years.

Among the 35 largest counties in the state, Kings, Riverside, Shasta and El Dorado counties have the highest rates of death row inmates per 1,000 homicides. The lowest rates were in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Merced and Solano counties.

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Santa Fe New Mexican: Big missteps, flaws revealed in treatment foster care system

The 11-year-old boy’s explanation didn’t make sense.

He had shown up Sept. 25, 2017, at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington — purple bruises covering his body, ligature marks on his neck, a patch of hair ripped from his head and black eyes so badly swollen he couldn’t latch his glasses behind his ears. Doctors feared he had a skull fracture.

He insisted he’d tripped in his front yard while practicing soccer.

It didn’t take long for police investigators to uncover what they believed was an appalling chain of abuse. Their reports laid out their allegations in vivid detail: The boy had been starved, forced to eat his own vomit and made to exercise till his body gave out. He had been locked in his room, his doors outfitted with alarms and motion sensors. The bruises on his face had nothing to do with soccer, he later admitted; they were the result of a savage beating by Graciano with a metal piece of a bed frame — punishment for getting a math question wrong on his homework, he told police.

The case shines a light on the opaque world of what is known as treatment foster care, a specialized branch of care reserved for the most traumatized children in state custody and run by private nonprofit and for-profit companies — companies that operate with minimal oversight from state officials, according to an investigation by Searchlight New Mexico.

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San Francisco Chronicle: At tainted San Francisco shipyard, is ‘safe’ site really safe?

Bert Bowers had never seen anything like the EPA van. It pulled into the old Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in 2002, a white vehicle about the size of a U-Haul truck, with what looked like a small, air-conditioned laboratory inside, hooked up to a radiation-scanning device.

He was intrigued. Bowers, a lanky 43-year-old with a South Carolina drawl, had worked as a radiation technician and safety trainer for 25 years, mostly at nuclear power plants. Recently he had taken a job at the San Francisco Shipyard project along the city’s southeast coast — a 500-acre redevelopment site that promised homes, playgrounds and businesses for a space-constrained city with a huge housing shortage.

Much of the site was still laced with dangerous, long-lasting, radioactive isotopes from the 1940s, when the Navy used the shipyard to perform animal experiments with radiation and to decontaminate ships exposed to atomic-bomb tests in the Pacific Ocean. Before houses and storefronts could be built there, radioactive material had to be identified and removed.

On that day in 2002, the EPA van didn’t find any hot spots on Parcel A — “no radiation above natural background levels,” according to one EPA document. Based partly on the results from the scanner van, Parcel A was given a clean bill of health by federal, state and local officials.

No further searches for radioactivity were ordered there.

The Navy transferred the parcel to the city in 2004. The following year the city turned it over to a commercial developer, Lennar / FivePoint, which broke ground on new homes in 2013.

Since then, Parcel A has lurched back to life, with 300 housing units already completed and another 150 under construction. But as Parcel A became a place where people live, work, and play, other parts of the shipyard have been engulfed by a growing scandal.

At the center of it is Tetra Tech, the Navy’s favored cleanup contractor. In the last decade, several former shipyard workers, including Bowers, have complained about safety violations and outright fraud at the heart of the cleanup effort. At first they took their concerns to Tetra Tech, and in several cases, they said Tetra Tech fired or sidelined them. Then they went to regulators and journalists, accusing Tetra Tech of falsifying data and cutting corners to please the Navy, which wanted the parcels cleaned up as fast as possible.

Now, years later, the government seems to be paying attention.

On Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department announced that two former Tetra Tech supervisors, Justin Hubbard and Stephen Rolfe, had each pleaded guilty to falsifying records in connection with the cleanup, swapping suspect soil with clean dirt to make it appear that areas were free of harmful radiation. Both were sentenced to eight months in prison. Reports released last year by the Navy and the EPA said that up to 97 percent of the soil samples taken in two areas of the shipyard site could not be trusted.

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The San Diego Union-Tribune: How likely are Central Americans from the caravan to win their asylum cases?

As Central Americans from a migrant caravan made famous by President Donald Trump’s angry tweets begin entering the asylum process from the U.S. border, they face a complex legal battle that most who have tried in recent years from their countries have lost.

Just under 80 percent of the 15,667 asylum cases from El Salvador were denied between fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2017, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a project with Syracuse University that monitors immigration data through public records requests. About 78 percent of the 11,020 Honduran cases and about 75 percent of the 10,983 Guatemalan cases were denied.

Those trends could change as case law established in the last couple of years has helped more Central Americans show how their stories line up with requirements for asylum. 

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Washington Post: As the ‘King of Debt,’ Trump borrowed to build his empire. Then he began spending hundreds of millions in cash.

In the nine years before he ran for president, Donald Trump’s company spent more than $400 million in cash on new properties — including 14 transactions paid for in full, without borrowing from banks — during a buying binge that defied real estate industry practices and Trump’s own history as the self-described “King of Debt.”

Trump’s vast outlay of cash, tracked through public records and totaled publicly here for the first time, provides a new window into the president’s private company, which discloses few details about its finances.

It shows that Trump had access to far more cash than previously known, despite his string of commercial bankruptcies and the Great Recession’s hammering of the real estate industry. 

Why did the “King of Debt,” as he has called himself in interviews, turn away from that strategy, defying the real estate wisdom that it’s unwise to risk so much of one’s own money in a few projects? 

And how did Trump — who had money tied up in golf courses and buildings — raise enough liquid assets to go on this cash buying spree?

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution: When massage therapists cross the line, state board rarely acts

Weak laws, regulators’ lack of resources leave customers at risk of sexual abuse

The woman lay frozen on the massage table, exposed, vulnerable, not knowing what to do.

Her therapist had grabbed her underwear and moved it to expose her buttocks, then he started massaging her backside so hard that she hurt, according to a complaint she filed with state regulators. She ordered him repeatedly to stop, but he ignored her, she reported.

It was late in the evening, and she was the last client at the Massage Envy clinic in Midtown. Her choices, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, were either to endure, or flee the room without her clothes on. Fearing for her safety, she stayed.

That shock lasted several days. Then she decided to fight back by going after the therapist’s license. After she reported him to Massage Envy, he was fired. But the state licensing agency charged with protecting the public, the Georgia Board of Massage Therapy, did nothing after she complained. He’s now working at another spa.

Such outcomes are typical when it comes to massage therapy and sexual misconduct allegations in Georgia. Twenty-five of the 26 sexual misconduct complaints lodged with the state over the past three years resulted in zero public disciplinary action — no license revocations, no license suspensions, no therapists placed on probation, no reprimands, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found.

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Honolulu Civil Beat: Why No One Wants To Blow The Whistle On Sexual Misconduct

People who experience sexual harassment at the Hawaii State Capitol fear the consequences if they complain.

The recent resignation of a top Hawaii lawmaker who admitted to repeated sexual harassment only scratches the surface of a much deeper problem at the State Capitol, where the local tendency to “no talk stink” is compounded by fear of retaliation from people in power.

The result — according to more than a dozen current and former lobbyists, staffers and lawmakers interviewed by Civil Beat — is a pervasive culture of silence around issues of sexual harassment.

“I’ve had legislators ask me out to dinner,” says lobbyist Ashley Lukens. “I had an aide for a senator one day look directly at my boobs and told me he liked my dress.”

When she protested, Lukens says he replied, “Oh, you don’t think I know how you get your job done.”

Lukens is one of the few people who will go on the record talking about sexual harassment at the Legislature. She’s suffering from brain cancer and is on medical leave for treatment, so she’s not lobbying this year. If she were, Lukens says she definitely would not be talking publicly about this issue.

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Des Moines Register: Violent crime is surging in rural Iowa, fueled by the state's meth and mental health crises

GUTHRIE COUNTY, Iowa — Three of this county's seven deputies and a K-9 dog spent nine hours in March combing a secluded area near Lake Panorama for an alleged rapist.

Michael Mackensie Taylor, 35, a former taekwondo instructor from West Des Moines with a history of harassing women, was accused of beating his victim unconscious, then sexually assaulting her until she ran to a deputy's car, a criminal complaint said.

Even more disturbing was the alleged arson and murder last May that took the life of two Guthrie Center girls. Melanie Paige Exline, 12, had lived in town a couple of months; her 16-year-old cousin, Shakiah Cockerham, had for most of her life.

"It was devastating to all of us. I don't know how it couldn't be with two school-aged girls like that," said next-door neighbor Chuck Cleveland, 49.

Violent crime is slowly becoming more common in small towns and cities across Iowa, outpacing a rise in the state's urban centers, a Reader's Watchdog probe has found.

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Courier Journal: Meth, deadlier than ever, could be the 'next phase of drug epidemic'

While Louisville frantically tries to rescue residents from heroin, fentanyl and pain pills, another drug is creeping back to prominence. 

Crystal meth.

From the periphery of the heroin and opioid crisis, it has quietly helped drive up the death toll in the city and across the nation. 

The drug became popular decades ago because it offered a quick rush and a jolt of energy. And it could be made through a simple but dangerous process of mixing easy-to-get ingredients, including items on drug store shelves.

At its height a decade ago, Louisville police were discovering local meth labs multiple times a week — sometimes after someone was burned or killed from a fire or explosion.

Those hazards have lessened in the past few years, with fewer local labs. Today's meth is cheaper, easier to get — and more lethal.

"It's deadlier than the public perceives," said Russell Coleman, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky and a former FBI agent who has worked drug cases. 

Some health officials and police in major cities recently have warned about its return. But meth never went away. It has resurged.

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Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Shortage of home health workers forcing young Minnesotans with disabilities into institutions

Shortage forces disabled into nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. 

Every so often, Korrie Johnson closes her eyes and tries to forget that she is a healthy 25-year-old living in a nursing home surrounded by older people with dementia and other debilitating conditions.

Time and again, reality intrudes. In the past year, more than a dozen of her new friends at the GracePointe Crossing nursing home in Cambridge, Minn., have died of various health problems. Staff wearing hospice badges pass through the hospital-like corridors outside her room. Propped on her pillow is a stuffed animal given to her by a resident just days before his death.

“This is no place for someone my age,” said Johnson, who has cerebral palsy and limited mobility of her limbs. “I love these people, but I feel like I’m missing out on life every day that I’m stuck here.”

Johnson dreams of living in an apartment of her own, but the bright and outgoing young woman has been forced to put her dreams on hold because she can’t find enough home health workers to care for her at home.

Across Minnesota, a chronic and deepening shortage of home care workers is forcing scores of younger people with disabilities to move into sterile and highly restrictive institutions, including nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, designed for vulnerable seniors. Pleasures that young Minnesotans take for granted — visiting friends or even stepping outside without permission — are beyond their grasp.

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The Record: Is your commute safe? NJ Transit won't share state of bridges, some older than 100 years

Tens of thousands of NJ Transit commuters cross them on trains every day. But the statewide public transportation agency, which maintains hundreds of rail bridges, won't share any information with the public that would reveal whether they're safe or not.

That's in contrast with roadway bridges, which have publicly available information about their condition. Railroad bridges are typically among the nation's oldest infrastructure, many built more than a century ago.

In October, The Record and submitted an Open Public Records Act request to NJ Transit for the agency's most current rail bridge inspection reports. A month later, the agency refused to provide even redacted copies of the documents, citing security concerns.

"NJ Transit is in possession of documents containing information which, if disclosed, would jeopardize the safety and security of NJ Transit bridges," the denial letter said.

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Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: Despite reform effort, Child Protective Services remains mired in disarray

More than a year before 3-year-old Brook Stagles was beaten to death by her father's girlfriend in November 2016, the frayed fabric of Monroe County's Child Protective Services unit was already apparent.

Beginning in 2015, the agency was on the state Office of Children and Family Services' radar for chronically overdue child safety assessments, incomplete investigations, poor recordkeeping, slipshod follow-up and chronic understaffing.

Even now, the agency remains plagued by chronic staff shortages and high turnover, low morale and burdensome paperwork, and it is struggling to fulfill the basic function of shielding the most vulnerable of children from drug abuse, maltreatment or even death.  

At the same time, the number of reports of abuse and neglect requiring investigation has skyrocketed.

A months-long Democrat and Chronicle investigation based on public records, internal documents exclusively obtained via Freedom of Information Law requests, interviews with two former child protective workers, union representatives, child advocates and county leaders reveals CPS as an agency in longstanding disarray.

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Columbus Dispatch: Aging buildings dot Ohio school districts that can’t afford new construction, leaving state money behind

WARSAW — As he walked from classroom to classroom examining a 104-year-old school building’s faded wooden floors and aging tiled walls, River View Schools Superintendent Dalton Summers talked about what it’s like to be left behind.

The River View district is about 80 miles east of Columbus, in rural Coshocton County, and decades behind when it comes to updating school buildings. It is among 40 Ohio school districts that, for one reason or another, did not take advantage of the state’s offer to pay for a share of the cost of new school buildings.

The construction of shiny, new K-12 educational facilities throughout Ohio is generally viewed as one of the showpieces stemming from the state’s long-running dispute over how to fund more than 600 school districts. But scattered across the Buckeye State are little-noticed districts that the building program has bypassed. Thousands of students attend classes in buildings that are woefully outdated with little prospect for improvement because the opportunity for much-needed state funding has lapsed.

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Philadelphia Inquirer: Many Philadelphia schools are incubators for illness, with environmental hazards that endanger students and hinder learning.

Every school day in Philadelphia, children are exposed to a stew of environmental hazards, both visible and invisible, that can rob them of a healthy place to learn and thrive. Too often, the district knows of the perils but downplays them to parents.

As part of its “Toxic City” series, the Inquirer and Daily News investigated the physical conditions at district-run schools. Reporters examined five years of internal maintenance logs and building records, and interviewed 120 teachers, nurses, parents, students, and experts.

When the newspapers analyzed the district records, they identified more than 9,000 environmental problems since September 2015. They reveal filthy schools and unsafe conditions — mold, deteriorated asbestos, and acres of flaking and peeling paint likely containing lead — that put children at risk.

Even so, the district often takes months, even years, to complete repairs, the investigation found.

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The Tennessean: Amid Nashville’s housing boom, safety rules are ignored and more workers die

The two “tall skinny” homes looked like hundreds of others cropping up around Nashville. Wood framed, wrapped in white weatherproofing plastic, in a gentrifying neighborhood, with roofers laying asphalt.

Alfonso Dominguez, 60, climbed one of the North Nashville homes’ pitched roofs on a Wednesday last June. It was in the 80s, and the black asphalt was hot.

Dominguez was a runner for the three-man crew, and earned $10 an hour, his brother said. He carried shingles to his boss on one end of the roof, to a co-worker on the other, and he kept the roof tidy, a state safety inspector wrote in a report.

None of the men on the roof that day were wearing harnesses.

“I would tell him, ‘Don’t be working there. It’s not safe,’ ” said his brother Hermenegildo Dominguez, who also works in construction. "But it’s very difficult. We all need work.”

About 2:30 p.m., Alfonso Dominguez lost his balance and fell 24 feet into the neighbor’s yard. An ambulance took him to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he spent 11 days in a coma, with internal bleeding and head injuries, before dying.

Dominguez’s employer, subcontractor Alonso Luna, was also on the roof that day, but he didn’t report the death to the state, as required by law. Nor did the general contractor, Jimmy Brooks. Brooks didn’t have a building permit for the house on 14th Avenue North, either.

“They would tell him they needed to finish a house soon," said Hermenegildo Dominguez, "but they're working without any safety equipment.”

After the accident, Luna told the inspector from the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration that Alfonso Dominguez wasn’t authorized to work on the roof. He declined to talk with a reporter when reached by phone in March. Brooks didn’t return multiple messages seeking comment for this story.

Dominguez was one of 16 construction workers who died in the Nashville metropolitan area during 2016 and 2017 — the deadliest two-year stretch in more than three decades, according to a Tennessean analysis of state and federal OSHA data. More workers died here in 2016 than in Austin, Texas; Orlando, Florida; Memphis; and other areas with rapid growth or a similarly sized workforce, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

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Austin American-Statesman: ‘Digital trails:’ Cameras, electronics track all of us, all the time

The electronic snooping typically starts early, with meticulous tallying of your personal habits such as the timing of your wake-up alarm, the path of your morning jog and your “like” for a friend’s social media post.

Enhanced with live video — and, occasionally, audio — it only gets more robust as the day goes along, chronicling everything from your commute to work to your quick stop for gas on the way home.

“If we were to recount all the ways we are digitally tracked from morning until night, it would be astounding” to many people, said Philip Doty, associate dean of the School of Information at the University of Texas. “It’s not just that we leave (digital) trails, it’s that we leave trails that show much more about us than we might realize.”

Footprints on those digital trails include yours if you live and work in an urban area like Austin, carry a smartphone and pay with credit card.

The ubiquitous data collection often is beneficial for everyone — surveillance from a private security camera helped crack Austin’s serial bombing case in March. Regardless, people leery of it are missing the mark if they blame Big Brother, the privacy-invading symbol of totalitarianism in George Orwell’s famous novel, “1984.”

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Seattle Times: San Diego did what Seattle didn’t: give people a safe place to sleep in cars

SAN DIEGO — Standing near a row of blooming lemon trees, Ester Cruz and Richard Stanich watched their 2-year-old son race his plastic, giraffe-shaped tricycle through the parking lot as he tried to keep up with bigger boys on bikes. Nearby, a woman walked her dog and another sat in a lawn chair, smoking a cigarette.

The scene had the trappings of a spring night in a typical Southern California neighborhood, but it belied what it really was: a fenced parking lot for people like Stanich and Cruz, an Uber driver and a Starbucks barista, who work but can only afford to live in their vehicles.

Like Seattle and other cities up and down the West Coast, where home prices and rents are soaring, San Diego is experiencing a growing homelessness crisis. And like Seattle and King County, one-fifth of San Diego County’s homeless population lives in their vehicles.

But San Diego has managed to do something Seattle hasn’t: sustain a large, longterm effort that consistently gets people out of their vehicles and into housing.

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Toledo Blade: Contested waters: Who's paid for Toledo's water treatment plant?

The greatest single public improvement in the history of Toledo.

That’s how the Toledo Citizens’ Waterworks Dedication Committee described the city’s water treatment plant in 1941, the year Toledo stopped getting its water from the Maumee River and switched to a state-of-the-art Lake Erie water supply system.

It was a nearly $10 million project back then — half paid for by Toledo ratepayers and half through federal grants — with a 2017 equivalent cost of about $405 million, city records show. Citizens were so proud of the municipal accomplishment that they published a 60-page book to commemorate the occasion.

The first page is a tribute to water itself: “No human habitation, no great city in all the files of time has been built without it,” the committee wrote. “And in a modern world, no city which fails to make a wise use of it prospers or endures.”

Toledoans have long recognized the value of water — and of the ability to gather, treat, and sell it for consumption.

And now control over Toledo’s Collins Park Water Treatment Plant is at the center of an ongoing debate about if and how northwest Ohio could develop a regional water system.

“I think it’s because you can see it. You can touch it. It’s real,” Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said. “And it is a symbol of something that Toledo has, and opponents of regional water believe it is something that the suburbs are trying to take away from Toledo.”

Officials in both Toledo and its suburbs say now is the closest they’ve been to successfully forming a regional water authority after on-again, off-again discussions since the 1990s.

Soon after taking office in January, Mr. Kapszukiewicz joined leaders of the eight municipalities that buy Toledo’s water in signing a memorandum of understanding pledging to together form the Toledo Area Water Authority.

But not all are on board with jumping headfirst into a regional system, largely because the memorandum of understating proposed TAWA take over the plant.

“Decades ago, some wise Toledoans said, ‘How are we going to get our water purified, cleaned up, and distributed?’” former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said at a news conference in March. “Those were Toledoans, nobody from Sylvania, Maumee, Perrysburg, Oregon — those were Toledoans. And ever since then, Toledoans have put in excess of a billion dollars into our water distribution system.”

Suburban leaders and Toledo’s current mayor disagree with that assessment. They believe the cost to upgrade and maintain the plant has been shared by water ratepayers throughout northwest Ohio.

Indeed, a Blade review of available city financial documents found ratepayers have made a substantial investment into the water treatment plant from its construction in 1941 to now. But it’s not quite the $1 billion Mr. Finkbeiner says it is, and it hasn’t all been paid for by Toledoans alone.

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The Journal News: Paul Clement died of drug overdose, but his sober home dream lives on with parents

Claire and Stephen Clement locked eyes across a portrait of their son, Paul, and vowed he didn’t die in vain.

Emotions still raw, the Stony Point couple made their pledge while dredging up memories of Paul’s lengthy addiction battle and fatal drug overdose at 34.

Despite the loss, they're intent on realizing his dream of opening a sober living home.

“My background is that I fix things, but I couldn’t fix my son and that’s what drives me nuts, I just couldn’t do anything to make it right,” Stephen said, recalling Paul’s heroin-related death after an 18-year addiction fight.

Claire and Stephen recounted the tale as part of The Journal News/lohud’s ongoing investigation into the historic American drug crisis underway.

Through interviews with the Clements, lawmakers and recovery experts, a probe into sober homes spotlighted some of addiction’s many complicated causes and solutions.

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Delaware News Journal: Despite good intentions, Delaware slow to address human trafficking

Four years after Delaware enacted sweeping legislation to crack down on the people who buy and sell prostitutes while shielding victims from further harm, the state still has no shelter for human trafficking victims, no reliable data on the scope of the problem and no comprehensive strategy to tackle it, a News Journal investigation has found.

The Human Trafficking Coordinating Council, an appointed body that began meeting in 2015 to develop an anti-human-trafficking plan, evaluate data and promote interagency cooperation, has been defunct for more than a year.

Several former members said the council suffered from poor attendance, rotating leadership, unclear priorities, no state funding and an overall lack of urgency.

"I think we were spinning our wheels," said Dawn Culp, a forensic nurse clinical coordinator at Bayhealth who served on the council for a year. "I don't think there was much buy-in to it."

As a result, Delaware — an attractive place for traffickers along the I-95 corridor — is still struggling to get a handle on one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in the world, involving perpetrators and victims who are not easily identifiable.    

"This is an underreported crime so it has all different kinds of forms and it hides under many different rocks," said Family Court Commissioner Loretta Young, who previously chaired the human trafficking council.     

"We have numbers but they are underreported and they are probably contained in different databases that are not accessible to anyone."

Not everyone believes that the council missed the mark.

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AP: CDC director accepts pay cut after AP examines his salary

A small reference to a big number in a Wall Street Journal story about the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caught medical writer Mike Stobbe's attention. It reported that Dr. Robert Redfield's salary was $375,000.

That seemed like a large sum, much more than previous CDC directors had been paid, thought Stobbe, who has covered the nation's top public health agency for more than 12 years.

His hunch proved correct. His subsequent reporting showed that Redfield's compensation was nearly double that of the previous Trump administration nominee, who resigned after six months, and more than the government's other top health officials.

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Washington Post: Trump muses about yanking news media credentials in response to negative coverage

President Trump on Wednesday raised the prospect of taking away credentials from news media outlets that he believes are reporting negatively on his administration, claiming that the “Fake News” is “working overtime” against him.

“Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt?” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Take away credentials?”

Trump has long been critical of the news media, but taking away the credentials of White House reporters who cover him would take his animus to a new level.

In his tweet, Trump referred to a study that found 91 percent of network news stories about him are negative.

Shortly before, the hosts of “Fox & Friends” on Fox News discussed a study by the Media Research Center study citing that figure after evaluating the nightly newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC between January and April.

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Los Angeles Times: ICE sometimes mistakenly target U.S. citizens

Immigration officers in the United States operate under a cardinal rule: Keep your hands off Americans. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents repeatedly target U.S. citizens for deportation by mistake, making wrongful arrests based on incomplete government records, bad data and lax investigations, according to a Times review of federal lawsuits, internal ICE documents and interviews. Since 2012, ICE has released from its custody more than 1,480 people after investigating their citizenship claims, according to agency figures. And a Times review of Department of Justice records and interviews with immigration attorneys uncovered hundreds of additional cases in the country’s immigration courts in which people were forced to prove they are Americans and sometimes spent months or even years in detention. … The wrongful arrests account for a small fraction of the more than 100,000 arrests ICE makes each year, and it’s unclear whether the Trump administration’s aggressive push to increase deportations will lead to more mistakes. But the detentions of U.S. citizens amount to an unsettling type of collateral damage in the government’s effort to remove undocumented or unwanted immigrants.

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News Journal: Ex-offenders say they were exploited as free labor by non-profit

Eric Mundy wanted credentials, The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, reports. The 34-year-old had been working in construction for over a decade, he said, but he knew he couldn't become a master carpenter without some formal training.  So he signed up for Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware's HomeWorks program, a "pre-apprenticeship" in which participants could learn the basics of carpentry and earn a certificate to prove their knowledge. Graduates were told they could go on to an apprenticeship or join the workforce. “I’m thinking this is the leap that I need,” Mundy said. The program was structured to be part unpaid class time, part paid on-the-job training. Classroom sessions would cover basic math and safety protocols, Interfaith's program description said, and later, students could work on real construction projects with contractors and earn $10 an hour for up to 30 hours a week. In reality, Mundy and other trainees said they often ended up working during class time for free — laboring on properties Interfaith was renovating to resell; boarding up Wilmington land bank houses for Interfaith’s private arm, Integrity Construction; and in Mundy’s case, renovating the home of an Interfaith employee.

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Washington Post: Million dollar patient is good for drug companies

The swelling attacks come on without warning. Loukisha Olive-McCoy’s lower lip puffs up; then her cheeks and jaw twist and pull, distorting her face into an involuntary grimace. Sometimes her tongue will fill up the back of her throat and choke off her breathing. Olive-McCoy, 44, has hereditary angioedema (HAE), a life-threatening disease so rare that many doctors have only read about it. Fortunately, there are cutting-edge drugs to keep the swelling at bay and treat the attacks that break through. Her family relies on food stamps to get by, but the price of just one of Olive-McCoy’s drugs will be about $600,000 this year. … For a time, Olive-McCoy couldn’t afford or qualify for health insurance. But once her HAE was diagnosed and she was put on a newly approved rare-disease drug, she entered a pocket of the health-care system that drug companies use to ensure that rare-disease patients can afford their expensive medicine. Pharmaceutical companies donate to independent charities that cover drug co-pays and, in some cases, health insurance premiums so that financially needy patients such as Olive-McCoy can afford the best health-care plans and get the treatment they need to ­survive. … Some health policy experts and insurance companies argue that charities, a small but critical part of a sprawling U.S. health-care system, increase sales and shield drug companies from the pressure to lower their prices.

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution: System to discipline doctors needs reform

A new national investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has uncovered 450 cases of doctors who were brought before medical regulators or courts for sexual misconduct or sex crimes in 2016 and 2017. In nearly half of those cases, the AJC found, the doctors remain licensed to practice medicine, no matter whether the victims were patients or employees, adults or children. Even some doctors criminally convicted are back in practice, demonstrating that a system that forgives doctors — first exposed by the AJC in 2016  — has not changed. … Doctors benefit from a system where victims are often not believed, criminal charges for physician sex abuse are rare and doctor-dominated medical licensing boards tend to offer rehabilitation and a return to practice, the AJC investigation found. At a time when powerful men in business and politics are losing careers over sexual misconduct, America’s doctors remain a baffling exception, impervious to the power of the #MeToo movement.

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Detroit Free Press: Squatters-to-homeowners charity faces questions

A politically connected charity that was supposed to help people living in properties owned by the Detroit Land Bank Authority wrongly evicted some of them and flipped houses to developers with markups of thousands of dollars. In early 2016, the Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan promised it would convert squatters into homeowners if the Detroit City Council allowed it to buy up to 200 occupied houses from the land bank. Instead, the plan is sputtering along, with finger-pointing all around. Squatters, people who live illegally in houses they don't own, are a most vexing problem in Detroit. There are more than 3,600 houses owned by the land bank and occupied by such people, many of whom lost their homes to foreclosure.

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Star Tribune: Meth crisis roars back in Minnesota

Somewhere along his path to a better life in the U.S., William De Roo-Ramirez found himself hauling carloads of meth up to Minnesota for one of the same drug cartels that wrought horror back in his home country of Mexico, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The job paid well — promising as much as $20,000 for each delivery — and business was brisk. Ramirez had already made the trip more than 15 times when authorities pulled him over in Oklahoma in January and found 152 pounds of crystalline shards packed inside the Toyota Camry he had borrowed from a friend in Phoenix, one of the biggest meth loads ever stopped on its way to Minnesota. The next day, the clean-cut 26-year-old led federal agents to three of his buyers in the Twin Cities. One, arrested after leaving a Target parking lot on Lake Street in Minneapolis, told investigators that he had taken delivery of some 100 pounds of meth from Ramirez in the previous two months. The arrests of Ramirez and his associates are the latest proof that meth, after largely fading from public view a decade ago, has come roaring back. It’s more potent, more plentiful and cheaper than ever, and this time around the Mexican drug cartels that control it have hand-picked Minnesota as the regional hub for their entire Upper Midwest meth trade.

State and federal investigators in Minnesota seized almost 1,500 pounds of meth last year — four times the total retrieved five years ago.

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New York Times: Women at Nike revolt, forcing changes

For too many women, life inside Nike had turned toxic. There were the staff outings that started at restaurants and ended at strip clubs. A supervisor who bragged about the condoms he carried in his backpack. A boss who tried to forcibly kiss a female subordinate, and another who referenced a staff member’s breasts in an email to her. Then there were blunted career paths. Women were made to feel marginalized in meetings and were passed over for promotions. They were largely excluded from crucial divisions like basketball. When they complained to human resources, they said, they saw little or no evidence that bad behavior was being penalized.

Finally, fed up, a group of women inside Nike’s Beaverton, Oregon, headquarters started a small revolt. Covertly, they surveyed their female peers, inquiring whether they had been the victim of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Their findings set off an upheaval in the executive ranks of the world’s largest sports footwear and apparel company. … The New York Times, including interviews with more than 50 current and former employees, provides the most thorough account yet of how disaffection among women festered and left them feeling ignored, harassed and stymied in their careers. The Times also viewed copies of three complaints to human resources.

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New York Times: Mueller has dozens of questions for Trump

Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s election interference, has at least four dozen questions on an exhaustive array of subjects he wants to ask President Trump to learn more about his ties to Russia and determine whether he obstructed the inquiry itself, according to a list of the questions obtained by The New York Times. The open-ended queries appear to be an attempt to penetrate the president’s thinking, to get at the motivation behind some of his most combative Twitter posts and to examine his relationships with his family and his closest advisers. … President Trump said on Twitter that it was “disgraceful” that questions the special counsel would like to ask him were publicly disclosed, and he incorrectly noted that there were no questions about collusion.

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Philadelphia Inquirer: Jehovah’s Witnesses wall of silence on abuse allegations

A second was all it took. A second was all he needed. The little girl was 4, round-faced and freckled and dressed in her Sunday best. She was fidgeting next to her father inside the Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall in Red Lion, York County — a safe, familiar space for a family that spent nearly all of its free time preaching and praying. Martin Haugh was momentarily preoccupied, doling out assignments to his fellow Witnesses for their door-to-door ministry work. When he looked down for his daughter, she was gone. Haugh plunged into the slow-motion panic of every parent's worst nightmare. He scrambled through the one-story brick building, calling her name, the anxiety piling up like concrete blocks on his chest with each passing moment. She wasn't in the bathrooms, she wasn't in the lobby. He tried a coatroom next, and found her there. But she wasn't alone. Haugh's daughter was perched on the lap of a teenage boy who had quietly lured her away. He was molesting her. "He wanted to give me a special hug," the girl told her father. The English language can't adequately give shape to the horror of such a discovery, to a parent seeing his child's innocence being corrupted and shattered. But what came next was just as hard to describe. When Haugh and his wife, Jennifer, told the elders who oversaw their congregation about this October 2005 incident, they were greeted with muted concern. Then came the threats.

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Appleton Post-Crescent: Rape kits sit on shelf, untested

Wisconsin lawmakers took a break from their fierce fight over union bargaining rights in 2011 to craft a law with bipartisan support: They ordered police to swiftly submit rape kits for DNA tests if the evidence could help identify a suspect. Republicans and Democrats were alarmed by reports that investigators in other states had ignored such rape kits — which contain skin, saliva and other samples collected from assault victims. "We don’t want (untested kits) sitting at the police station or office forever," former state Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee, said at the time. "It’s a public safety measure." But a USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin investigation has found that for years after that law took effect in 2011, police agencies all over the state shelved hundreds of untested rape kits with no known suspect. The law didn't require police to send in DNA samples when they already had a suspect, because legislators were most concerned about rapists who were unknown and on the loose. Testing rape kits can help investigators find or exonerate suspects by matching DNA with national offender databases. It can also help link together cases from different places, revealing serial offenders.

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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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