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Watchdog Reporting


Anchorage Daily News: Longer 911 hold times, backlogs, officer delays: When Anchorage hires more cops, but not more support staff

The clerks who manage records and evidence at the Anchorage Police Department say they're increasingly overwhelmed with paperwork as the department has added roughly 100 new police officers in three years without hiring additional support staff.

Meanwhile, amid a spike in property crime, Anchorage residents have been inundating police dispatchers with calls. But there have been severe staffing shortfalls in the dispatch department, with about half the seats in a new dispatch center unfilled.

That means the public is spending more time on hold when calling 911 or when dialing a non-emergency number to file stolen vehicle reports. Empty dispatch jobs may mean a delay in an officer showing up to a crime.

"Cops can't respond to calls if there's nobody answering the phone," said Brian Wilson, president of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Union, in a June interview.

Pressed by police officials and some city Assembly members, the administration of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said it aims to beef up other parts of the police department, to balance the hiring of significantly more officers since Berkowitz took office in 2015.

Millions have been spent on the hirings. But it's not yet clear where the money for more support staff will come from. The dispatchers and records clerks the managers are asking for could cost about $600,000 in salaries. The Berkowitz administration will propose its budget for the next year in September, and city manager Bill Falsey said adding support staff will be mixed in with other priorities.

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Montgomery Advertiser: Poverty and proficiency: MPS' biggest obstacle may lie outside the school system

Students who have jobs. Teachers who take students into their homes. Schools that offer fresh clothes to kids who may not have water. A look at poverty's effect on MPS as told by those within the system:

During the Sidney Lanier High School football team's summer workouts, linebackers coach Stephen Landrum knew which of his players either just came from work or were going there next.

“I have a lot of kids that have to support their family,” Landrum said. “They’re working jobs to help pay for things and taking care of brothers and sisters. ... If you have a schedule like that, there is no time for them to do any work outside of school and when they get to school they’re tired."

It's worse during the school year, he said, when shifts can only be picked up after school and a rough next day in class is all but guaranteed.

Landrum has at least 10 such football players out of 60 who he sees carry their economic burdens onto the field along with their pads and helmets.

It's the same story in his world history classroom, he said, where some students “come to school only to eat” and others can’t find motivation while wondering if they will be able to shower when they get home.

“There are kids that don’t know if their power is going to be on when they get home from school or if their water is going to be turned off. That’s a real issue,” Landrum said. “There’s 15 or 20 times a year that I find out one of my kids, the basic necessities at home, they don’t have them. That’s just the ones that tell me. There’s a lot more that don’t.”

High student poverty in school districts directly correlates to low average academic proficiency, according to a 2014 study by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA), and at a time when many are looking at ways to improve a Montgomery Public Schools system under state intervention, some within the system believe poverty isn’t being talked about enough.

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Arizona Republic: Arizona charter school founder makes millions building his own schools

When Glenn Way moved to the East Valley at the end of the Great Recession, he might have been looking for a fresh start.

The charter school operator was deep in debt to the IRS, had sought bankruptcy protection, and recently resigned from the Utah Legislature after his wife filed a protective order against him, public records show.

Arizona offered other opportunities for someone in his line of work: A more lightly regulated charter school industry that's well-funded.

At his American Leadership Academy, which he launched in June 2009, he promised students would find "the best educational experience ... in a moral and wholesome environment."

Thanks partly to Arizona's favorable charter school laws and lucrative no-bid contracts with ALA, Way would find new wealth.

The schools, which have made patriotism central to their brand, including red, white or blue student apparel, have been a hit in the conservative East Valley. American Leadership — which bears the same name as a charter school Way and his wife, Shelina, operated in Spanish Fork, Utah — has over nine years grown to a dozen campuses with 8,354 students in Florence, Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek and San Tan Valley.

Way's own development and finance companies bought the land and then built most of the school buildings. Then, they sold or leased them to American Leadership Academy, where Way, until last year, was board chairman.

An Arizona Republic review of property records shows that during ALA's nine-year expansion, businesses owned by or tied to Way made about $37 million on real estate deals associated with the schools — funded largely by the Arizona tax dollars allocated to his charter schools.

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LA Times: Workers claim injuries all over their bodies for big payouts — but continue their active lives

After nearly two decades on the force, former LAPD Officer Jonathan Hall ended his career the way many veteran officers do these days, claiming job-related injuries across most of his body.

With the help of a boutique Van Nuys law firm that specializes in workers’ compensation cases for cops and firefighters, Hall filed claims saying he’d injured his knees, hips, heart (high blood pressure), back, right shoulder — even his right middle finger.

The ailments had existed for months, in some cases years, and had not previously prevented him from working, Hall said in a recent interview. But he was burned out, the target of an internal affairs investigation and desperate to avoid going back to the station.

“I just couldn’t put the uniform back on,” Hall said.

Hall’s timing raised suspicion, and he was soon videotaped leading scuba dives and lifting heavy equipment despite the alleged injuries.

But he’s far from alone in asserting that so many parts of his body had been injured on the job.

In fact, claims involving at least five injured body parts have become by far the most common in California, according to a Times data analysis of millions of workers’ compensation cases spanning nearly three decades.

In the past, injuries to a single body part — a knee, a shoulder, the lower back — were the most prevalent, the data show.

That changed abruptly in the mid-2000s when then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pushed through legislation that drastically lowered the amount that can be paid out in benefits for each injured body part.

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Denver Post: Shrouded justice: Thousands of Colorado court cases hidden from public view on judges’ orders

Thousands of court cases across Colorado — hundreds of them involving violent felonies — are hidden from public view, concealed behind judges’ orders that can remain in effect for years, The Denver ...

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Miami Herald: The chief wanted perfect stats, so cops were told to pin crimes on black people, probe found

The indictment was damning enough: A former police chief of Biscayne Park and two officers charged with falsely pinning four burglaries on a teenager just to impress village leaders with a perfect crime-solving record.

But the accusations revealed in federal court last month left out far uglier details of past policing practices in tranquil Biscayne Park, a leafy wedge of suburbia just north of Miami Shores.

Records obtained by the Miami Herald suggest that during the tenure of former chief Raimundo Atesiano, the command staff pressured some officers into targeting random black people to clear cases.

In a report from that probe, four officers — a third of the small force — told an outside investigator they were under marching orders to file the bogus charges to improve the department’s crime stats. Only De La Torre specifically mentioned targeting blacks, but former Biscayne Park village manager Heidi Shafran, who ordered the investigation after receiving a string of letters from disgruntled officers, said the message seemed clear for cops on the street.

“The letters said police were doing a lot of bad things,” Shafran told the Herald. “It said police officers were directed to pick up people of color and blame the crimes on them.”

Beyond the apparent race targeting, the report — never reviewed in village commission meetings — described a department run like a dysfunctional frat house. It outlines allegations that the brass openly drank on duty, engaged in a host of financial shenanigans and that the No. 2 in command during the period, Capt. Lawrence Churchman, routinely spouted racist and sexist insults.

Amid the probe, Atesiano abruptly resigned in 2014. Afterward, there was a stark change in village crime-busting statistics.

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution: ‘Concerns,’ but no consequences, after suicides in mental health system

The 16-year-old drew pictures that scared her mother. Angels crying tears of blood. Devils. People hanging from trees.

Then the girl attempted suicide, and her mother sought help from Georgia’s community-based mental health system. But therapists never flagged the girl’s risk for suicide, even after she inflicted what they recorded as another “self-injury.” When she skipped several appointments, a counselor left only a single voice mail for her mother, who speaks no English.

Three days before Christmas of 2016, the girl’s family found her in the back yard. She had hanged herself on her swing set.

State regulators cited the mental health agency that handled the girl’s care, the Clayton Center Community Service Board in Jonesboro, for five “deficient practices.” They also listed five “concerns.”

But the regulators imposed no fines or other sanctions. They required only that the agency draft what they call a corrective action plan – in essence, a promise to do better.

The state took the same approach to the 34 other suicides during a recent 12-month period by people under the care of community health providers, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found. Officials penalized none of the publicly funded agencies, even when serious errors apparently contributed to the deaths.

The state not only does not punish mental health care providers, it lets the agencies choose their own remedies for breakdowns in treatment. In cases reviewed by the Journal-Constitution, this often involved little more than additional training for the agencies’ staffs. In a single instance, a community service board fired two employees after a patient’s suicide.

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Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Abigail Kawananakoa records secret despite Supreme Court directive

First Circuit Court Judge R. Mark Browning said in court last week that he’s all about due process and fairness as he oversees the now-yearlong legal brawl over control of the $215 million trust of Campbell Estate heiress Abigail Kawananakoa.

But there’s one area in which the judge is falling short: upholding public records law.

In allowing dozens of pleadings in the high-profile trust fight to remain sealed and obscured from public view, Browning appears to be ignoring the guidance and legal precedent established by the Hawaii Supreme Court.

There have been a handful of high court rulings in recent years aimed at balancing the protection of sensitive personal information against the public’s constitutional right to access the courts, including one just last month that reaffirmed the established procedures for sealing court records.

Those procedures, largely fixed by Oahu Publications Inc. v. Takase, a case brought by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser two years ago, calls for judges to issue a “minute order” for any portion of a pleading with information requiring sealing. A minute order is a judge’s order made orally during a court session and often documented only in the court clerk’s minutes.

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Indianapolis Star: Black vultures are eating cows alive. But it's difficult to legally kill the birds.

When one of Rollin Bach's cows was partially paralyzed following birthing complications, a veterinarian told Bach she would recover; instead, something horrible happened.

Between 15 to 20 black vultures swooped down on the cow while she lay in the pasture. They proceeded to eat away portions of her back and hind legs. She was still alive. Because she couldn't stand up, she couldn't escape their attack.

The cow was little more than gore by the time Bach chased the vultures away. He had to put her down.

With that fatality, Bach joins a growing list of farmers dealing with a problem that isn't native to Indiana — black vultures.

While turkey vultures are common in Indiana, black vultures are a relatively new and deadly arrival. In the 1990s, there were so few black vultures in Indiana that organizations devoted to protecting migratory birds didn't even have a clear estimate.

Today, their estimated population is more than 10,000 — and counting. Unlike turkey vultures, which eat carrion and do not attack live animals, black vultures target both living and dead animals.

The problem, Bach says, is it's against the law to kill a black vulture without a federal permit.

Bach’s biggest issue with the current permit is the $100 annual fee, of which he said: "The idea of having to apply and pay money to protect your own well being, it's just ..." He cut himself off with a sigh.

He wants that to change the law, but others have tried with little success.

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Des Moines Register: Greg Stephen case: Deceit, videos of nude boys and a potential Larry Nassar-like problem for elite youth basketball

Sonny Vaccaro knows the issues in basketball recruiting perhaps better than anyone else.

He's the man who created the relationship between big-money shoe companies and grassroots basketball decades ago. Vaccaro's summer showcase of elite high school basketball stars — the ABCD All-America Camp, which ran from 1984-2007 — included generational talents like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

Vaccaro gained so much influence in his four decades of shaping modern-day basketball that he earned the nickname "the Godfather of grassroots basketball."

His critics dubbed him the "Sneaker Pimp," and NCAA investigators targeted him — though they could never get anything to stick — and many players who attended his camp over the years.

"I've watched it all," Vaccaro said.

And yet, he's never seen allegations on the summer basketball circuit as troubling as those involving Iowa grassroots coach Greg Stephen.

"What we have here, in my eyes, is similar to what the people had to handle with (Larry) Nassar," Vaccaro said, referring to the disgraced former USA Gymnastics team doctor who was convicted of child pornography charges and sexual assault after being accused by 200 girls and women of sexually abusing them under the guise of treating them for injuries.

Stephen, of Monticello, a former coach and co-director for the Iowa Barnstormers basketball club, faces federal charges for possessing what investigators have deemed pornographic videos of his players and sexual images of minors.

Shoe company-supported grassroots basketball is no stranger to scandal. The NCAA has investigated such programs for decades, and the FBI is currently probing the underground economy of basketball recruiting.

But Stephen's case shines a light where it has rarely gone before in summer basketball: its potential for the sexual exploitation of boys.

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The Baltimore Sun: While he's been governor, Larry Hogan's real estate business has continued to thrive — prompting questions

When Larry Hogan was running for governor, he liked to refer to himself as “just a small businessman.”

That “small” business he founded — the Annapolis-based Hogan Companies — has completed more than $2 billion in real estate deals since its founding in 1985 and has continued to thrive since Hogan took office in 2015.

While Hogan stepped aside at the company and turned his assets over to be managed by a trust, the Republican governor has continued to profit. Last week Hogan released tax returns that show he’s made about $2.4 million in corporate earnings while governor. According to a review of financial disclosure forms, his corporate holdings include stakes in commercial real estate deals as well as residential and retail developments around Maryland.

Many of them are new. In the past three years, Hogan’s trust has reported ownership interests in about 20 newly created limited liability companies — a type of business entity often used by developers to oversee projects.

As Hogan seeks a second term, this arrangement has drawn criticism from Democrats, who have sought to tie Hogan to President Donald Trump, and renewed a debate about the lengths to which businessmen-turned-politicians should wall themselves off from their private enterprises.

“Just like Donald Trump, Larry Hogan’s businesses are still being operated by his closest relatives, they are cloaked in secrecy, and they raise many questions about the decisions he makes as governor,” says Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews.

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The Baltimore Sun: Collapse: The rise and deadly fall of a Baltimore rowhouse

As they sat in a worn Cadillac parked at the curb, the men heard no warning.

Thomas “Phil” Lemmon enjoyed the oldies on the radio. Daron Johnson sipped a Natural Ice beer.

Over Lemmon’s car loomed a hazard familiar in Baltimore: A decrepit two-story building. A rowhouse that had witnessed a century of city history, housed generations of immigrant families and, more recently, become mired in liens and foreclosures.

Neither man noticed the house shudder in the wind.

Then came the boom, and a whiteout of dust. Bricks smashed the windshield of Lemmon’s Cadillac and crumpled the red soft-top.

Johnson, dazed, staggered out. But rubble pinned Lemmon behind the wheel.

“Phil! Phil!” neighbors screamed.

More than two years have passed since 900 N. Payson St. collapsed and killed Lemmon, but the aftershocks linger. His grown children continue to search for whoever was responsible for the unsafe vacant house. The tragedy caused city officials to look for other dangerous vacants.

They say they have spent more than $9 million to demolish or stabilize 200 that posed the greatest threat.

“The push here was to make the situation safe," said Michael Braverman, Baltimore’s housing commissioner. “There are so many indignities in living beside vacant and abandoned buildings that people shouldn’t fear for their lives.”

Like other Rust Belt cities that have seen their industries collapse and families flee for the suburbs, Baltimore has long grappled with its abandoned homes. The old house on Payson Street near Midtown-Edmondson is a notorious case study.

The rise and fall of the 111-year-old rowhouse, traced through interviews, deeds, court records and inspection reports, reveals the story of Baltimore, and its blight — how good homes come to ruin, and how one turned deadly.

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Las Vegas Review-Journal: Radio troubles hampered Las Vegas police on Oct. 1, RJ investigation finds

Rapid gunfire pocked the Route 91 Harvest festival grounds as Las Vegas police Sgt. Gregory Everett pulled up to the back of the venue on Oct. 1. He immediately encountered a mass of panicked concertgoers.

“Reno and Haven is where we need medical to stage,” Everett radioed to police dispatch a few minutes later, citing his location and noting he had at least 15 people with gunshot wounds. “We’re going to need lots of medical.”

But during the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, Everett had no way of directly contacting firefighters or paramedics. Instead, his main line of communication was a peripheral police radio channel as Metropolitan Police Department dispatchers fielded a surge of reports and other officers on the ground tried to locate and eliminate the threat.

Time ticked by. Everett enlisted volunteers to pack wounds and asked off-duty officers to secure a perimeter. About four minutes later, the sergeant made another appeal:

“I’m up to about 30 victims with gunshots. Where is medical for Reno and Haven?”

A Las Vegas Review-Journal examination of more than 500 officer reports found that Everett and other Las Vegas police officers were working in information silos on Oct. 1, only able to relay updates to their own police dispatchers, who then relayed information to dispatchers at other agencies, who in turn contacted their responding units.

“That strikes me as super cumbersome and potentially dangerous,” said Austen Givens, an emergency management and communications expert.

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The Record: How segregated are New Jersey's schools and what can be done about it?

New Jersey is one of the country's most diverse states, but many school districts don't reflect the makeup of the counties where they are located, and the resulting divide has left many students learning in a racial bubble.

A Record analysis found that school segregation is most extreme in three northeastern counties — Passaic, Essex and Union. The divide in these counties stands out because of their large minority populations and wide disparities in wealth and poverty.

But North Jersey isn't alone. Segregated districts are found across the state, especially in cities such as Paterson, Newark, Trenton and Camden, where children go to schools where white students are virtually absent. Often, districts just a few miles apart have vastly different income levels and ratios of white and minority students.

Having surveyed this landscape, a coalition of advocacy groups and families has sued New Jersey and the state Board of Education, calling for the state to take steps to end "de facto" segregation in its public schools.

The advocates, who filed the lawsuit in June, say they are trying to undo years of policies that helped create what has been described as one of the most segregated school systems in the country. Today, nearly half of the state's 585,000 black and Latino students go to schools that are more than 90 percent non-white, according to the lawsuit.

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Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: Angry employee or loss of integrity? Investigator says city told him to alter findings

A city office charged with safeguarding against fraud, corruption and waste is pursuing fewer investigations of financial crimes, records show.

The drop — down 70 percent during Mayor Lovely Warren's administration — comes as other measures, including internal audits, employee suspensions and arrests, also have dipped.


► Investigations involving financial loss have dropped from an average of 18.5 yearly prior to Warren taking office, to 5.4 during her tenure, city budget records show. Other types of investigations, including favoritism, violations of policies, unprofessional conduct, are not broken out, and totals have not been tracked.

► Audits have dipped from an average of 15.3 to 12.2, records show.

► Suspensions, an area in which the office used to be heavily involved, are down in recent years, from 53 totaling 470 days in 2015 to 31 suspensions totaling 227 last year, according to records the Democrat and Chronicle obtained through an open records request.

Critics say the Office of Public Integrity has regressed, having lost its clout and its appearance of independence, making whistleblowers less likely to come forward. This past week, the city's Board of Ethics took up a complaint from a longtime OPI investigator and former sheriff's deputy claiming OPI director Timothy Weir scuttled a 2017 case involving possible employee theft and hasn't assigned the investigator any cases since.

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: 'He'll evict you in a minute.' Landlord quietly becomes a force in Milwaukee rental business...and eviction court

A few months after Ernestine Young returned home from a hospital stay last year, she found herself on the basement stairs of her apartment building sobbing.

Her building had recently been bought by a company tied to Youssef "Joe" Berrada, a native of Morocco who has quickly and quietly become a force in the Milwaukee rental business — and the county eviction court.

Berrada is known as "the boulder guy," since his companies frequently put boulders on the lawns of their properties. In all, Berrada companies own 292 properties with more than 3,600 units in the city. Berrada says his organization owns 8,000 rental units nationwide.

Housing advocates in Milwaukee say the companies sometimes run roughshod over tenants and that they are using small claims court as a collection agency. The approximately 75 firms owned by or linked to Berrada — most of them limited liability companies — were behind more than one out of every 10 eviction cases filed last year in the county, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis found.

Soon after a Berrada LLC bought Young's building on the 5300 block of North 29th Street, the company began renovation work. When Young went to the basement to check her belongings kept in a locked storage area she was shocked to see just how aggressive the workers had been.

Everything was gone, Young said.

Among the vanished belongings: The urn containing the ashes of her infant granddaughter, Miracle Young.

"I just sat on the stairs and cried," Young said. "I was hurt, I was devastated, there were things in there that never will be replaced, my pictures, my family pictures — my siblings' (pictures). My granddaughter's ashes."

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Grand jury report could name 90 offenders in Pittsburgh diocese alone

HARRISBURG — A grand jury report detailing Catholic clergy sexual abuse in the state includes information about more than 90 “offenders,” and a court document released Friday strongly suggests that could be the number for the Pittsburgh diocese alone.

If confirmed, that would be the largest number of potential sexual abusers ever publicly disclosed in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which covers six counties in Western Pennsylvania. The diocese reported in 2004 that 45 priests and deacons who served between 1950 and 2002 — just under 2 percent of the total — faced credible accusations that they sexually abused a minor. The diocese has never publicly released its full list of offenders.

New details about the investigation of the Pittsburgh diocese emerged amid a flurry of redacted filings released Friday, as attorneys for roughly two dozen current and former clergy members appeal to the state Supreme Court, asking the justices to block or alter portions of the more than 800-page report from public release. Those attorneys argue that their clients’ rights to their reputations are being unjustly violated and, in some cases, that the report contains “gross mischaracterizations and falsities.”

Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office, which oversaw the nearly two-year-long investigation, filed its response in court Friday, and a redacted version of his filing could be made public next week. The attorney general’s office continues to stand by its work while victims advocate for the report’s release, saying they worry that their voices are once again being silenced.

A document written by an attorney for a clergy member and released by the Supreme Court late Friday afternoon provides some glimpses into a portion of the report pertaining to the Pittsburgh diocese. Attorney Stephen Stallings represents a clergy member, whose name is redacted from court records, and who is described in the report as “a sexual abuser of children.”

“This heinous characterization is false and wholly unsupported by the record below, and [the clergy member] asserts his actual and complete innocence to the allegations,” Mr. Stallings wrote.

He, like many other attorneys, is asking the court to block the report’s public release until references to his client are redacted or until an evidentiary hearing can be held.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Zoo committees discussed danger at wild dog exhibit before toddler's death, newly released report says

On at least six occasions, Pittsburgh zoo staff and volunteers raised concerns about the possibility of a child falling through an open side of the African painted dog exhibit.

“A visitor was seen dangling a child over the exhibit through the opening,” read the minutes of one Safety Committee meeting in August 2006. “Guests are dangling children over the railing at the Wild Dog Exhibit,” read the minutes from a meeting nine months later. “Wild Dogs Exhibit - Children hanging over ledge,” read the minutes from a meeting a month after that.

The subject of their fear was realized on Nov. 4, 2012, when 2-year-old Maddox Derkosh was mauled to death by the dogs after his mother held him up to the opening in the observation deck and he lurched forward and fell, bouncing off a safety net into the exhibit.

A report by the federal government, released this month more than four years after a Freedom of Information Act request by the Post-Gazette, investigates why the concerns of the safety committee — and another zoo council — weren’t acted upon by zoo management.

As a result of that investigation, the zoo was ultimately fined up to $4,500 for a barrier fence at the outdoor observation deck overlooking the wild dog exhibit that “was not sufficient to prevent a two year old boy from falling into the exhibit causing the African Painted Dogs to attack the boy causing fatal injuries.”

The 41-page “Report of Investigation” released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is only part of a larger, 522-page report that is still under review.

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The Missoulian: Report excoriates Missoula County judge for absences, employee turnover, micromanagement

Justice of the Peace Marie Andersen required court employees to walk her dog, leave court fees in an unlocked box on her porch and execute an elaborate recycling plan at work, according to the findings of an extraordinary report on the judge's behavior.

The report was commissioned by the Missoula County officials after complaints about high turnover on Andersen's staff and frequent absences by the judge.

Andersen's rigid policies and practices have resulted in a situation where "employees are confused, do not receive thorough training, are fearful of retaliation, and concerned about serving the public well,” according to a report commissioned by Missoula County officials.

The report was compiled by outside consultant Michele Puiggari, who was hired by the county to look at “personnel functions” in Andersen’s department, including a high turnover rate and “concerns raised by (managers) during exit interviews.”

Chris Lounsbury, chief operating officer, said the Missoula County Commissioners were briefed on the report at the start of last week. While the county declined to release the full report, citing private employee information contained in it, the commissioners requested an executive summary of its findings that could be released. Lounsbury provided a copy of that executive summary to the Missoulian on Monday.

Andersen declined to be interviewed for the county investigation, the summary report noted.

She did not return an email seeking comment on Monday, and declined to speak with a Missoulian reporter who came to her office.

The commissioners will be sending a letter to Justice Court, the contents of which are likely to be taken up at an administration meeting this week, Lounsbury said.

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Providence Journal: Decade of data reveals R.I.’s recovery

Rhode Island’s economy is doing well but may be cooling off a bit, according to a Providence Journal analysis of 11 key economic indicators.

Launched today as a project to be continued quarterly, The Providence Journal Economic Scorecard tracks improvement and decline in the state’s economy over the last decade, beginning at the depths of the Great Recession. The state’s recovery began in the middle of 2010 with what’s often referred to as a dead cat bounce — a sudden improvement when things had fallen so far they had no place else to go but up.

The economy then meandered for a year, showing improvement in some quarters and decline in others, until the middle of 2012. Since then, it has shown steady growth. The only blip on that climb came near the end of 2014, when it almost stalled, but it has been pretty smooth sailing since.

Even so, The Journal’s scorecard shows a recent plateauing in the economy’s expansion.

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Quad-City Times: Big Story: More of a fair fight against flooding today

More floods will come. We can count on it.

But Quad-Citians are better prepared to do battle with an out-of-its-banks Mississippi River than they were 25 years ago.

What many people remember about the Flood of '93 is the never-ending rain, the tens of thousands of sandbags, the damage, the ruckus and the mess.

Floods that have followed 1993 have met with a different kind of resistance. And the people fighting them have had a better chance of beating the floodwaters into submission.

Technology, tools and forward-thinking have changed how the Quad-Cities will respond the next time disaster strikes.

As is often the case, necessity produced invention, and our progress is our Big Story.

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Dairy group uses behind-the-scenes influence with Gov. Scott Walker to shift regulation of large livestock farms

Agriculture interests are working behind the scenes with the administration of Gov. Scott Walker as he mounts a major change in the way large livestock farms are regulated in Wisconsin.

The Republican governor introduced a wide-ranging rural agenda on Oct. 26 that included a proposal to shift oversight of large dairy farms and other livestock operations to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Moving those powers from the Department of Natural Resources — the state’s chief environmental enforcement agency — has sparked controversy. Environmentalists are concerned about less emphasis on conservation, but farm groups say the agriculture department is the rightful place to enforce permitting and manure handling of big farms.

While the public has yet been able to weigh in on promised hearings, farms groups have had Walker's ear.

State records show that one day before Walker’s October speech in Trego, in northwestern Wisconsin, the governor’s office received detailed plans from the Dairy Business Association on legal requirements and strategic options to move the program.

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Houston Chronicle: Manipulation of flood insurance leads to repeat disasters

Officials in Houston and across the country are failing to enforce a central pillar of the taxpayer-subsidized National Flood Insurance Program: Making sure severely damaged properties are elevated or removed from flood plains.

Thousands of such homes get rebuilt and then flood again, often for more than they are worth, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion in repeat losses.

The deeply indebted program is set to lapse July 31 without congressional reauthorization, and lawmakers have put forward a host of potential reforms to tie to that vote, but none directly address the costly problem of poorly enforced elevation requirements.

Texas has more flooded properties with evidence of this problem than any other state but Louisiana; Houston has more than any other city, a Houston Chronicle investigation found. Seven of the nation's 10 most frequently substantially damaged properties are in Houston. Those seven have had 107 damage claims totaling $9 million, even though the combined value of those buildings is just $426,000.

Under federal rules, local officials are supposed to assess flood damages and require demolition or elevation if the damage is estimated at 50 percent or more of the home's value. But telling traumatized flood victims that they will have to undertake expensive home elevation projects is politically and emotionally difficult, so officials lowball the damage estimates, putting people and homes back in vulnerable places, the Chronicle found.

The problem had largely been known only anecdotally, but the Chronicle's analysis used government data to bolster the reports of officials and flood victims in swamped communities, identifying thousands of losses that could have been avoided and homes put back in harm's way because requirements weren't followed.

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Columbus Dispatch: Amid pharmacy benefit manager inquiry, officials' ties to CVS questioned

Possible conflicts of interest between the Kasich administration and CVS are fueling skepticism over whether Ohioans will see changes in a Medicaid setup that gives the national pharmacy company up to six times its actual cost of providing prescription drugs to Ohio's poor and disabled.

The relationships are shrouded in secrecy — in part because of confidentiality laws and in part because the administration of Gov. John Kasich has been less than forthcoming about critical aspects of CVS’s business with the state.

The concerns are heightened because Medicaid officials withheld key information from state legislators about CVS costs and displayed a reluctance to make substantive changes to a system that many lawmakers and pharmacists say is a ripoff of taxpayers.

"We have a right to know this information and we need to make decisions with that information," said Sen. Dave Burke, R-Marysville, a pharmacist who also is chairman of the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee.

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Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism: Want a lucrative Ohio debt collections contract? Hire a lobbyist

The Ohio Attorney General's office says campaign contributions don't influence how it awards debt collection contracts. But another factor -- hiring a lobbyist -- seems to have had an undeniable impact.

The Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism, or Eye On Ohio, looked at six collections firms that hired lobbyists to represent them before Attorney General Mike DeWine. Over his first six years in office, four of the represented firms saw average annual receipts jump by between 61 and 349 percent. The other two firms had no previous collection contracts; after hiring lobbyists, their average revenue per year hit $722,006 and $924,606.

During Richard Cordray's two years as attorney general, collections lawyer Charles "Chuck" Mifsud received average annual revenue of $1.2 million for collections. He gave nothing to Cordray or the Ohio Democratic Party, though he did have a lobbyist. And he attained high marks in a scoring system created under former Attorney General Marc Dann to rate and choose outside collectors.

After DeWine declared his candidacy for attorney general in 2010, Mifsud opened his wallet. From 2010 through 2017, he and two members of his family gave $150,550, most of it to the Ohio GOP's state candidate fund, according to campaign finance records. Only $4,500 went to DeWine's committee. Another $3,300 went to the committee of Mike DeWine's son, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine.

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Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: NYC dumping more garbage than ever in Finger Lakes area

Other people’s trash is continuing to pile up in the Finger Lakes at an astonishing rate — especially trash from New York City, which has tripled its exports of garbage to the scenic region in just five years.

Three landfills within 30 miles of one another, in Monroe, Ontario and Seneca counties, are now the state’s largest.

In 2013, the Democrat and Chronicle declared the Finger Lakes to be New York’s dumping ground after an analysis showed that half of all trash buried in New York state was going to large landfills in this region.

Five years later, it’s worse.

Burial is up 37 percent at three huge Finger Lakes landfills, according to a new D&C analysis of state solid-waste reports, and the quantity arriving from far-off counties has risen from 2 million to 3 million tons a year.

Nearly 30 percent of all the trash generated in America’s largest city now finds its way to the picturesque, tourist-rich Finger Lakes region.

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New York Times: ‘It’s Almost Like a Ghost Town.’ Most Nursing Homes Overstated Staffing for Years

ITHACA, N.Y. — Most nursing homes had fewer nurses and caretaking staff than they had reported to the government for years, according to new federal data, bolstering the long-held suspicions of many families that staffing levels were often inadequate.

The records for the first time reveal frequent and significant fluctuations in day-to-day staffing, with particularly large shortfalls on weekends. On the worst staffed days at an average facility, the new data show, on-duty personnel cared for nearly twice as many residents as they did when the staffing roster was fullest.

The data, analyzed by Kaiser Health News, come from daily payroll records Medicare only recently began gathering and publishing from more than 14,000 nursing homes, as required by the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Medicare previously had been rating each facility’s staffing levels based on the homes’ own unverified reports, making it possible to game the system.

The payroll records provide the strongest evidence that over the last decade, the government’s five-star rating system for nursing homes often exaggerated staffing levels and rarely identified the periods of thin staffing that were common. Medicare is now relying on the new data to evaluate staffing, but the revamped star ratings still mask the erratic levels of people working from day to day.

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Santa Fe New Mexican: Racino applicants hope to get Tucumcari’s economy back on track

TUCUMCARI — Warren Frost’s field of dreams is 330 acres on the east edge of town.

The land is mostly mesquite, cactus and scrub grass. Someone planted three towering steel white crosses. There also is an old horse barn. Interstate 40 runs along the southern edge of the property.

Frost has a grand vision for the land: a horse-racing track, a casino with 600 slot machines, restaurants, a lounge and more.

He says Tucumcari, with its boarded-up Kmart and other shuttered businesses along Historic Route 66, needs a shot in the economic arm — including the jobs, increased tourism and additional spending at local businesses that a track and casino would produce.

“We’d like to have Apple, but we’re a little more realistic than that,” Frost says.

The lawyer from nearby Logan is a member of a group that plans to apply this month for a horse-racing license from the New Mexico Racing Commission. It will have competition from at least two other groups that plan to make separate proposals for a track in the Clovis area.

The Racing Commission announced in May that it was accepting applications for what would be New Mexico’s sixth racing license. The application deadline is July 30.

The commission says it plans to issue the license before the year’s end, which means the plum would be handed out before Gov. Susana Martinez leaves office Dec. 31. The governor appointed all five racing commissioners.

Given the high financial stakes and the political connections of the racing applicants — as well as those seeking to halt the licensing of another track — the proceedings before the Racing Commission promise to be hard fought.

“It’s going to be a fierce competition,” Frost says.

The five existing tracks raked in an average of $45.3 million from their slot machines in the year that ended June 30, 2017.

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Star-Ledger: 'Guys like that don't get wiped out in a day.' Why the mob still holds sway at the port.

The Huck Finn on Morris Avenue in Union is an unremarkable, typical Jersey diner, where the usual three-egg omelets and burgers share the menu with Greek salads, tuna sandwiches and, of course, meatloaf.

But it has a more notorious claim to fame. In November 2005, authorities made a gruesome discovery in the trunk of a silver Acura that had sat undisturbed for weeks in the back of the diner’s big parking lot.

Alerted by a foul odor and the swarming of flies around the car, police found the decomposing body of Lawrence Ricci—an alleged Genovese crime family capo with hooks into the waterfront, who had disappeared weeks earlier in the midst of his own racketeering trial.

Face down with a grey sweatshirt over his head, somebody had put a bullet in his brain.

But more than a decade later, law enforcement officials say organized crime still stalks the docks.

Since January 2017, records show at least 10 dockworkers have had their registrations revoked, or had their applications denied by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor because of friendships or associations with those deemed to have organized crime connections.

Another four applications for registration were withdrawn or surrendered without an administrative hearing, and one individual seeking a restoration of his registration was denied.

Among those cases included a $350,000-a-year longshoreman barred over his alleged friendship with an admitted loan shark who authorities say was connected to a Colombo crime family bribery scheme involving debris removal from the World Trade Center site.

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Kansas City Star: Worlds of Fun was sued for polluting. Then Missouri loosened its pollutant limits

When a Missouri group sued Worlds of Fun for its pollution of waters that eventually lead to the Missouri River, the last thing it wanted was to loosen environmental regulations.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment in 2016 reached a settlement with Worlds of Fun, which includes Oceans of Fun, and the park has followed the terms of its agreement so far.

But this year, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources loosened the park's permit under the Clean Water Act, allowing it to send more pollutants into the river.

"You want this to strengthen the environmental law," Heather Navarro, executive director of the St. Louis-based Coalition for the Environment, said of the lawsuit. "You want to uphold the clean water laws, and often what happens is instead of strong enforcement, they increase the limits."

In the park's most recent permit, the state increased or completely removed limits for several pollutants, including chlorine, oil and grease, and total suspended solids (solids in water that can be trapped by a filter), The Star found.

Pollution inside the park itself is not an issue. But environmental groups are concerned about both the overall water quality of the Missouri River and the fate of a rare and ancient sturgeon as pollutants flow from outfalls at the park into creek tributaries and eventually the river.

Larry O'Donnell, president of the Little Blue River Watershed Coalition, called the permit level increase a "back door" for allowing pollution.

"DNR is not servicing the people of Missouri, it's servicing industry," he said. "They're the Department of Natural Resources, not the Department of How Many Resources Can We Screw Up."

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Minneapolis Star Tribune: As churches close, a way of life fades

La Salle, Minn. -- For 100 years, Lutherans in this farming community on the Minnesota prairie have come to one church to share life’s milestones.

They have been baptized, confirmed and married at La Salle Lutheran. Their grandparents, parents and siblings lie in the church cemetery next door.

But the old friends who gathered here early one recent Sunday never imagined that they would one day be marking the death of their own church.

When La Salle Lutheran locks its doors in August, it will become the latest casualty among fragile Minnesota churches either closing, merging or praying for a miracle. Steep drops in church attendance, aging congregations, and cultural shifts away from organized religion have left most of Minnesota’s mainline Christian denominations facing unprecedented declines.

“Sunday used to be set aside for church: that’s what families did,” said Donna Schultz, 74, a church member since grade school at La Salle, in southwest Minnesota. “Now our children have moved away. The grandkids have volleyball, dance on weekends. People are busy with other things.

“I’m really going to miss this,” she added quietly, gesturing to her friends in the lobby. “We’re like family.”

The rising toll is evident in rural, urban and suburban churches across the state.

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Portland Press: Pharmacy middlemen steer some patients to riskier drugs

Rachel Ostrom has been using an opioid pain control patch for several years to help her cope with the chronic pain of fibromyalgia. Her doctor prescribed the Butrans patch, which releases controlled doses of a milder, less addictive opioid known as buprenorphine.

But after the 24-year-old woman moved from Massachusetts to Maine this year, a company called Express Scripts – which manages the pharmacy benefits for her Maine insurance company – refused to cover the Butrans patch.

Express Scripts told Ostrom that her insurance would only cover patches using fentanyl or similar opioids – which are more addictive than buprenorphine and more likely to result in overdoses. If she wanted the Butrans patch – which is more expensive – she’d have to pay for it herself, at a cost of $800 a month.

The company was keeping its own costs down while exposing Ostrom to a highly addictive drug that her doctor had specifically avoided.

Ostrom appealed the decision – with guidance from her father, who is a retired doctor – and her insurance company eventually agreed to cover the safer Butrans patch. But the Biddeford woman’s case is emblematic of a system that critics say increasingly prioritizes profit over patient safety.

“These are decisions not based on medicine, but what deals they (pharmacy benefit managers) can get from the pharmaceutical industry,” said Dr. Noah Nesin, a pain control and addiction specialist at Penobscot Community Health Center in Bangor. “The moment they find a better deal, they’ll switch these lists. I don’t know that for a fact in this case, but I would bet my retirement on it.”

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Des Moines Register: 'Not medically needed': A private Medicaid manager is trying to slash a paralyzed Iowa man's care. Again.

FONTANELLE, Iowa — Jamie Campbell can’t believe his Medicaid management company is messing with his care again.

Campbell, who is paralyzed from the neck down, lives in his home with daily assistance from aides paid by Iowa’s Medicaid program. UnitedHealthcare, which the state hired to help manage Medicaid, tried last year to drastically reduce the amount of in-home help Campbell could receive.

He appealed, saying he needed all the assistance he was using. An administrative law judge agreed, writing in a decision last summer that the evidence was “overwhelmingly” in Campbell’s favor. The judge ordered the insurer to continue covering his care as before.

“I just figured I was done then,” Campbell said in a recent interview. “I didn’t dream they’d come after me again.”

But they did.

Campbell is among scores of disabled Iowans who have complained about Medicaid managed-care companies trying to save money by cutting the assistance they receive at home.

Some, like Campbell, have won on appeal — only to see those same Medicaid managers later try to cut their care again. They find themselves trapped in endless appeals, according to a quarterly report by Iowa's Long-term Care Ombudsman.

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Meth, ‘the Devil’s drug,’ is back and killing more people than ever

Before news of an opioid crisis tore through national media, Tori Holcomb knew the dangers of painkillers. She got addicted after a softball injury at North Gwinnett High and saw others around her struggling, too.

Before the resurgence of heroin caused alarm, Holcomb knew it was getting more popular. She fell into the drug, and the bleak new world that came with it, when doctors stopped writing her prescriptions for Percocet.

It is the afflicted who are first to know about every epidemic.

Now, Holcomb knows something else most people don’t: Methamphetamine, a drug that lawmakers fought with success in the 2000s, is back — and it’s more popular, plentiful and lethal than ever.

While the opioid crisis takes the spotlight, prosecutors and police say they also have been coming to grips with the devastating rebound of meth, which is killing more people in America today than in the mid-2000s when it was the national problem everyone was talking about.

Deaths related to stimulants — mostly meth — were up nationwide by more than 250 percent from 2005 to 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Georgia, deaths involving meth have increased every year since 2010, more than tripling from 65 in 2010 to 200-plus last year, data from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation says. And those numbers don’t even include Gwinnett, Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb, where the data is tracked differently. But Atlanta U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak says the metro area also is seeing an alarming jump in the number of people using and a significant increase in deaths.

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Florida Sun-Sentinel: The world has never seen a Category 6 hurricane. But the day may be coming.

As a ferocious hurricane bears down on South Florida, water managers desperately lower canals in anticipation of 4 feet of rain.

Everyone east of Dixie Highway is ordered evacuated, for fear of a menacing storm surge. Forecasters debate whether the storm will generate the 200 mph winds to achieve Category 6 status.

This is one scenario for hurricanes in a warmer world, a subject of fiendish complexity and considerable scientific research, as experts try to tease out the effects of climate change from the influences of natural climate cycles.

Some changes — such as the slowing of hurricanes’ forward motion and the worsening of storm surges from rising sea levels — are happening now. Other impacts, such as their increase in strength, may have already begun but are difficult to detect, considering all of the other climate forces at work.

But more certainty has developed over the past few years. Among the conclusions: Hurricanes will be wetter. They are likely to move slower, lingering over whatever area they hit. And although there is debate over whether there will be more or fewer of them, most researchers think hurricanes will be stronger.

“There’s almost unanimous agreement that hurricanes will produce more rain in a warmer climate,” said Adam Sobel, professor of applied physics at Columbia University and director of its Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate. “There’s agreement there will be increased coastal flood risk, at a minimum because of sea level rise. Most people believe that hurricanes will get, on average, stronger. There’s more debate about whether we can detect that already.”

No one knows how strong they could get, as they’re fueled by warmer ocean water. Timothy Hall, senior scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said top wind speeds of up to 230 mph could occur by the end of the century, if current global warming trends continue. This would be the strength of an F-4 tornado, which can pick up cars and throw them through the air (although tornadoes, because of their rapid changes of wind direction, are considered more destructive).

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Sacramento Bee: Doctors, nurses and insurers are spending big to determine how you'll get your health care

Insurers, doctors and nurses are spending millions on lobbying and donations to lawmakers' campaigns in the current legislative session, battling over costly large-scale changes as they await Gov. Jerry Brown's successor.

Major health industry groups have spent more than $18 million on lobbying, according to an analysis by The Sacramento Bee, in an effort to kill or water down bills proposed to rein in rising health care costs and impose new regulatory requirements for insurers and health plans.

The spending, similar to levels in the prior legislative session, foreshadows a costly and thorny political debate in the years ahead. Democrats are seeking to protect coverage gains made under Obamacare, expand access to care for the low-income and undocumented, lower premium costs and blunt broader changes to the health care landscape pushed by the Trump administration that they see as a threat to their long-term goal of universal coverage.

Brown has resisted spending the money it would take to implement the changes. Assembly Democrats proposed 16 major health care bills after the leader of the Assembly shelved a bill out of the Senate that sought to create the nation's first single-payer health care system, leading to a bruising political fight among lawmakers and health care groups. The budget Brown signed this month doesn't include funding for the most far-reaching, high-dollar ideas.

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Montgomery Advertiser: The rural South’s invisible public health crisis

When Pamela Rush flushes her toilet, the waste flows out the back of her sky blue mobile home through a yellowing plastic pipe and empties just a few yards away in a soggy pit of mud, weeds, and dead grass. On a hot day in mid-May, Rush walked around her yard in rural Lowndes County. Flies and mosquitoes swarmed her as she tiptoed near the pit. The smell of sewage was overwhelming.

Rush, a soft-spoken 48-year-old with striking brown eyes, has straight-piped her family’s waste into her yard for almost two decades. Her home is on the edge of clay dirt road in the dense Alabama forest, miles from a municipal sewer system. Since Rush struggles with her health and is unable to work, she can’t afford the thousands of dollars it would cost to install an on-site septic system. This is her only option.

Mold grows throughout her house because of the damp, dark conditions, causing multiple respiratory problems for Rush and her two children. “I go to sleep in fear every night,” Rush said as she stared at the pit in her backyard, wiping sweat from her brow. “It don’t ever leave my mind.”

In the rural South, these conditions aren’t uncommon. Many communities from the Black Belt to Appalachia lack basic sewage and water infrastructure. In economically distressed regions like Lowndes County, it’s led to a surge in poverty-related tropical diseases often found in developing countries. Doctors and researchers have evidence of parasitic infections like hookworm and toxocara and conditions for mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika and West Nile.

The risks are accelerated by erratic precipitation patterns and warming temperatures caused by global climate change. But local, state, and federal governments offer little funding to update infrastructure and local health departments have, so far, done little to address this public health crisis, forcing activists and researchers to address it themselves.

“In most countries in the Western world, it’s assumed governments will one way or another make sure basic facilities like clean running water, sewage, and sanitation are available,” said Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, who in 2017, traveled to Lowndes County for a report on U.S. poverty.

“What was striking to me in Alabama was the extent to which there’s no sense that a government should be working towards providing basic infrastructure,” Alston said. “If you happen to live in one of the big cities, you will get access, but if you don’t — and particularly if you live in one of the poor counties like Lowndes — there isn’t any obligation and there are no plans in place.”

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Disparity in Missouri deduction for stillbirths

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The state of Missouri continues to issue more tax deductions to families claiming a stillborn child than the number of such deaths reported in 2016, according to a newspaper analysis.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports a review of state tax records and public health figures found the Missouri Department of Revenue issued deductions to 1,044 families for a stillborn child in 2016, a year when the Department of Health and Senior Services received official reports of 467 stillborn children.

In 2017, the state issued 506 deductions, while the health department recorded 436 stillbirths.

The new numbers come after the newspaper found the deduction had been used by 1,400 families in 2015, when the law first took effect. The health department recorded 460 fetal deaths that year.

Department of Revenue spokeswoman Anne Marie Moy said the agency reviews a portion of all returns, including those claiming the stillborn deduction.

"We routinely ask for additional documentation to support various items reported on returns, but there is a balancing act between validating data reported on returns and becoming a burden to good taxpayers," she said.

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Pennsylvania Member Project - "State of Emergency"

More than 40 Pennsylvania AP members have collaborated on a special project, “State of Emergency,” that examines what the state’s citizens are doing to combat the opioid epidemic. The county-by-county effort includes more than 60 text stories, plus photos, audio and video, that was published July 1.

The project was truly a team effort:

  • It was conceived by Cate Barron, VP/Content for Advance’s PennLive/The Patriot-News and a PAPME board member, who called members around the state to solicit their contributions.
  • Cate, Pennsylvania/New Jersey editor Larry Rosenthal and Philadelphia AP’s Kristen de Groot edited the stories.
  • Shane Fitzgerald, editor of GateHouse’s Philadelphia-area newspapers and PAPME president, set up a Google Drive to share the content.
  • A logo was supplied by the LNP newspaper in Lancaster.
  • And the Pennsylvania Society of News Editors helped promote the project. News outlets collaborate to share solutions to opioid crisis

On AP Newsroom:¤tItemNo=1 What This Consultant Is Doing In Hawaii Is A Mystery

There are two rules to work at Strategies 360, the Seattle-based public affairs, research and strategic communications firm that has recently ramped up its Hawaii operations, even convincing the state’s lieutenant governor to jump to the private sector.

“Rule No. 1 is no assholes allowed,” CEO Ron Dotzauer told Civil Beat. “If we find out later that you are … you will not be with us long term.”

“Rule No. 2 is no high sharp elbows,” he said. “We’re in this together. It’s about us. It’s not about me.”

But just what the company is about in Hawaii is unclear.

Dotzauer declined to reveal a single client, citing the importance of maintaining confidentiality and adhering to nondisclosure agreements. He did say that most of the clients are not engaged in politics.

The company doesn’t show up on any of the latest campaign expense reports of Hawaii candidates or as a contributor to political action committees. Those reports, however, haven’t been updated since January.

Education, environment and health care are the firm’s specialties, Dotzauer said, adding that it also does some work in technology and has probably touched every sector of the economy.

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The Post and Courier: A SC funeral home left a body to rot for years in 'corrupt' system that protects homes

When Mary Alice Pitts Moore died at the age of 63, her family scraped together whatever cash they could to hold a proper funeral.

About 100 people showed up to pay their respects at the old AME church in rural Greenwood that day in April 2015. A preacher spoke. A choir sang. And Moore’s husband and son left feeling like they had done right by this big-hearted woman who was a steadfast companion for so many years.

“I just thought she would be in a better place somewhere,” her son Taras Parker said.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

In February — three years after Moore’s death — her badly decomposed body was found stashed in a locked, unrefrigerated storage room at the Spartanburg funeral home her family hired to handle the arrangements. The family paid to have her cremated. Instead, her body was left to rot, draped in blankets and surrounded by air fresheners to mask the smell, the county coroner told them.

First Family Funeral Home’s license is now under suspension, and a criminal investigation is underway into its handling of Moore’s remains. But the case underscores deeper questions about the state’s system for monitoring the nearly 500 funeral homes and crematories that operate in South Carolina and the more than 800 licensed staff members in their employ.

That system, largely governed by funeral industry insiders, is rife with delays, secrecy and potential conflicts that allow unscrupulous undertakers to continue operating for years after problems are discovered, a Post and Courier investigation found.

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Pittsburg Post-Gazette: Greensburg, Harrisburg dioceses sought to shut down grand jury abuse probe

The Roman Catholic dioceses of Greensburg and Harrisburg last year sought to shut down the statewide grand jury investigating sexual abuse by priests in six dioceses, including their own, contending that the creation of the grand jury lacked a legal justification.

But the supervising judge of the 40th statewide grand jury dismissed the argument, according to newly unsealed records.

It’s the first indication that any of the six dioceses under scrutiny actually took steps to quash the investigation, which is looking into seven decades’ worth of allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Erie, Harrisburg, Allentown and Scranton.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Unreliable internet, cell service are hurting rural Pennsylvania’s health

Last year, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital confronted a painful reality: Without radical change, the 107-year-old rural Huntingdon County hospital wasn’t going to survive.

The hospital turned to Robert Gillio, 64, a Mayo Clinic-trained lung specialist, to attack the problem.

Dr. Gillio, J.C. Blair’s new medical director for population health and clinical innovation, proposed a more efficient, less costly way of treating patients through a videoconference hookup called telemedicine — connecting doctors with patients online. He enlisted students at nearby Juniata College in developing educational videos about opioid addiction and childbirth that patients could retrieve from the hospital’s website.

Then Dr. Gillio ran into a problem. The telemedicine hookup he envisioned relies on broadband access — the cable, satellites and fiber that makes getting onto the internet possible.

But he could barely get internet access at his home near the county seat of Huntingdon, where he and his wife, Beth, 61, who teaches online college courses, had moved.

Their house was just four miles from his office. He said Comcast, a local broadband provider, quoted a price of $100,000 to get their street online.

It is a familiar problem to many people living in rural areas.

Even as businesses in Pittsburgh compete to commercialize artificial intelligence and give machines the human quality of “learning,” just a three-hour drive away people struggle with dial-up connections — if there are internet connections at all.

More than 24 million Americans — 800,000 in Pennsylvania and mostly in rural areas — lack an internet connection that meets a federal minimum standard for speed. The result is a yawning divide in commerce, education and medicine that’s splitting America into the digital haves and have-nots.

“We’re basically being cut off from the 21st century,” Huntingdon County Planning Director Mark Colussy said.

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Montgomery Advertiser: Housing voucher wait lists close in Montgomery as thousands await assistance

Maryann Hicks has been waiting for a phone call for more than three years.

A mother of five and soon-to-be grandmother, Hicks dreams of having her own home with a pool and trampoline for her kids. But until her phone rings and the Montgomery Housing Authority tells her that she has been awarded a voucher, she waits.

Like many others across Montgomery, she has remained on a wait list for several years to receive a housing voucher — colloquially referred to as "Section 8" — which allows low-income residents to receive a subsidy on a state approved rental home.

Hicks, 29, waited three and a half years to get into public housing, and now years after that, she wants a voucher. She wants to move her family from a house to a home.

"People think that just because you have this government assistance it's easy," Hicks said. "It's not."

More than 2,200 families in Montgomery have applied for a federally funded Housing Choice Voucher. The wait list for the two different voucher programs averages anywhere from two to three years. The wait list length for public housing is similar, with 8,000 applicants.The voucher program closed its two wait lists earlier this year, in February and May, after it filled up with the number of applicants that can be served in a three-year time frame. It's unknown when the closed lists will reopen.

That has left several people in similar conditions as Hicks, who longs for a bigger, safer home in which to raise her family. It is a program many national researchers view as an important piece of the push to help low-income citizens rise from poverty in a country that has increasingly seen housing prices soar as incomes struggle to keep pace.

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Montgomery Advertiser: Duty vs. dollars: What motivates underpaid officers?

PRATTVILLE — Hunter Estes puts his life on the line for $13.69 an hour.


The 25-year-old has been a deputy with the Autauga County Sheriff’s Office for a little more than a month. His starting salary is $28,475.20 a year. Estes went into his new career with his eyes open.

“I hate to give the cliché answer,” Estes said, on a recent patrol with Lt. Steve Adams, his training officer for that shift. “I’ve always looked up to law enforcement and first responders, even when I was young. I just thought this is where I needed to be.”

And the pay? After a year and completion of police academy training, Estes and other rookie officers are up for a step raise to $14.12 an hour.

“I knew what it was going in, I actually got a raise,” Estes laughed. “But the pay didn’t bother me one bit. I went in with my eyes open. I love it, it’s something different every day.”

The sheriff's office has struggled with filling deputy positions because of the low pay, said Sheriff Joe Sedinger.

ACSO had three deputy positions open for several months before filling the slots. The spots came open when other deputies left for higher paying jobs elsewhere. Last week, two deputies resigned, opening up two more slots. The turnover is an almost constant issue that has to be dealt with, Sedinger said. The pay is the major factor in the open positions, he said.

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San Francisco Chronicle: Legacy of ‘93 SF rampage

Lying with her face pressed against an office floor, Michelle Scully squinted and saw the gunman’s shoe. Then, a flash of metal, the stench of barrel oil, and the steady sputter of a semiautomatic pistol. She closed her eyes.

Twenty-five years later, Scully — now Michelle Scully Hobus — remembers the massacre at 101 California St. in crisp fragments. How her husband, John Scully, pulled her to the floor and shielded her with his rangy, 6-foot-4 body. How she dialed 911 with her left hand because her right arm and hand were limp from a bullet wound. How Scully gazed at her as blood ran from his nose and chest.

“Michelle,” he said, “I’m dying. I love you.”

He was one of eight people slain when a heavily-armed man stormed into a downtown San Francisco law firm in 1993 and opened fire. The killings, which stand as the worst mass homicide in modern San Francisco history, stunned the city and reshaped the politics of guns.

The effects of the 101 California shooting reverberate today, yet its legacy is complicated. The gun control activism that rose from that Financial District office building has claimed many legislative victories at the state level, particularly in California. But nationally, the barriers to passing gun laws have proved far more difficult to overcome.

Statistics show that ownership of firearms has nearly tripled across the U.S. since the late 1990s, and shootings at schools, night clubs and workplaces have become a grim routine. The most recent attack happened last week, when a Maryland man entered a small newsroom in Annapolis. He carried a pump-action shotgun and a grudge.

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San Diego Union-Tribune: San Diego's efforts to divest from rival L.A. water agency have driven up rates for residents. Is it worth it?

If the most powerful water officials in San Diego get their way, the county will ratchet down to a trickle one of its cheapest sources of water in the next two decades.

Local officials say ongoing efforts to secure alternatives to the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — known as the Met — have safeguarded businesses and residents against crippling cuts triggered during prolonged drought.

However, the strategy of the San Diego County Water Authority to move away from Southern California’s largest wholesaler has come with a cost.

Prices have increased substantially for the water authority’s 24 member agencies as the agency has inked contracts for new supplies, including for the Colorado River and desalinated seawater.

Critics of the water authority have questioned whether efforts to divest from the Met have been in ratepayers’ best interest — or the result of a longstanding feud.

General Manager Maureen Stapleton, who has run the authority for more than two decades, defended her approach in a recent interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“We’re supporting a $220 billion economy, and without water, we wouldn’t have it,” she said. “Everyone … has supported us and understood while it may increase the cost of water, the water will be there.”

Last year, San Diego County received roughly 40 percent of its water from the Met, down significantly from the early 1990s when that number was a whopping 95 percent, according to agency data.

Now officials project that San Diegans will get just 11 percent of their water from the Met by 2020, all the way down to roughly 2 percent by 2035.

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Miami Herald: 'Millions of dollars of wasteful spending.' A look at Gov. Scott's post-Irma debris deals

Soon after Hurricane Irma slammed into the state, Gov. Rick Scott made the decision to ignore the debris removal contracts already in place in the Florida Keys and instead push forward with a plan to issue emergency contracts for the lucrative work of clearing fallen trees and palm fronds, as well as the remnants of destroyed homes and trailers.

One of the companies selected had no previous emergency debris removal experience, while more qualified firms were prevented from even submitting bids.

The governor’s emergency contracts will end up costing taxpayers an additional $28 million to $30 million, according to an analysis by CBS4 News.

CBS4 News reviewed more than $43 million worth of invoices submitted to the state through February by Munilla Construction Management (MCM) and Community Asphalt, the two firms selected to operate in the Keys under the emergency contract.

If the governor had instead used one of the companies already under contract with the state, it would have cost taxpayers as little as $13 million to do the same work.

Scott Amey, the general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group based in Washington, said that by ignoring the existing debris removal contracts, the governor “subjected state and federal taxpayers to millions of dollars of wasteful spending.”

“This is a rookie mistake made by a state that shouldn’t be making rookie mistakes,” Amey added.

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Atlanta’s legal bills related to corruption probe top $7.5M, AJC finds

The city of Atlanta has spent at least $5.8 million over the past two years to pay an army of attorneys to respond to a federal corruption probe into former Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation has found.

The spending is four times the amount that the AJC previously reported and began much earlier than Atlanta officials have acknowledged.

An investigation by Channel 2 Action News and the AJC found the investigation has cost about $7 million

Atlanta’s legal bills related to corruption probe top $7.5M, AJC finds

June 28, 2018

By Stephen Deere, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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The city of Atlanta has spent at least $5.8 million over the past two years to pay an army of attorneys to respond to a federal corruption probe into former Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation has found.

The spending is four times the amount that the AJC previously reported and began much earlier than Atlanta officials have acknowledged.

The city spent another $1.7 million on attorneys to uphold Reed’s controversial firing of former airport general manager Miguel Southwell in a dispute that became an early focus of the federal probe.

The AJC investigation found:

The city paid for legal services of more than 100 different lawyers at three law firms, with bills that sometimes exceeded $350,000 per month.

Some money that funded at least two law firms came from federally regulated airport funds. Experts told the AJC that spending could violate Federal Aviation Administration policy.

The city’s billing practices and misleading communications effectively obscured the extent and nature of the attorneys’ work from the elected members of City Council who, under city charter, are co-equal clients of both the city’s law department and outside counsel it hires.

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Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Fewer women applying for judge positions in Hawaii

n the early 2000s, women held just over a third of the judge positions in state courts, a level that raised concerns about too few females serving on the bench.

Women make up half the state’s adult population, and a judicial bench that reflects the community it serves is considered vital for an effective court system.

Over the past nearly 15 years, however, the proportion of women serving as full-time state judges has improved only slightly, disappointing those who believe more parity is essential.

Today, women make up 39 percent of the 80 bench seats, compared with 36 percent in 2004.

And the rate that women apply for openings has slowed in recent years, prompting questions about why more are not seeking the jobs.

From 2012 through 2016, men applied at a rate 2-1/2 times that of women, according to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser analysis of online Judiciary data. Since then, the rate has increased to nearly 3-1/2 times.

The disparity has persisted even as the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law has churned out more women than men graduates over the years.

In 2005, for instance, 61 women obtained their law degrees, compared with 40 men. This year 48 women and 44 men graduated.

The disparity in bench applicants also has persisted even as the number of active women lawyers with at least five years experience — a minimum requirement for District Court judges — has steadily increased.

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Des Moines Register: EXCLUSIVE: Iowa's new private Medicaid manager has paid millions of dollars in penalties in a dozen states

The corporation selected to help manage Iowa's controversial privatized Medicaid system has faced serious charges of mismanagement resulting in at least $23.6 million in penalties in more than a dozen states, a Des Moines Register investigation shows.

Iowa Total Care, a subsidiary of Centene, was awarded a state Medicaid contract in May by the Iowa Department of Human Services despite scoring nearly 14 points lower on its evaluation than when it had applied and was rejected in 2015, public records show.

But with only two companies bidding for the work, Iowa Total Care won a spot managing Iowa’s annual $4.8 billion Medicaid program. The Centene subsidiary replaces AmeriHealth Caritas, which pulled out because it said it was losing too much money.

“If history teaches us anything, then this is an indication that we’re in more trouble,” said Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, a privatized Medicaid critic whose grown daughter is disabled and uses the program.

Iowa Medicaid provides services to 680,000 poor or disabled residents, more than a fifth of the state’s population.

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Advance Local: From banning them to embracing them, a group of Americans got together to talk about guns

They were here because of Parkland. And before that: Sandy Hook. Before that: Columbine.

Outside, as the sun came up, kids wearing "March for Our Lives" T-shirts clogged the streets carrying signs that read "Protect kids not guns."

These 21 strangers gathered inside, away from the noise. They had traveled to Washington, D.C., about a month after the Parkland shooting, not to march, but to take part in an experiment.

They were victims of gun violence, and gun collectors, and cops and lawyers and hunters and teenagers and moms.

Could they do a better job talking with a group of strangers than they had managed to do with their own families? Could they agree on some measures to mitigate the crisis? Could they have a productive conversation, or even a civil one?

A gun, by its nature, is a polarizing thing. A gun forces us to envision ourselves on either one end of it or the other. A gun is an equalizer, a tool, a symbol of liberty and power and slaughter and loss.

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Kansas City Star: Kansas City's gun theft 'victims' are arming criminals — and getting away with it

Good luck trying to find this guy.

Three times since April 2016, a Kansas City man walked into his local police station and reported he had been robbed of a 9 mm handgun — or two.

Once it happened near the corner of 42nd and Indiana, he said. Another time near a south Kansas City night club. The latest in the 18th and Vine district. Five guns in all, gone.

"We live in a world of lies," said Sgt. Paul Hamilton of the Kansas City Police Department's illegal firearms squad.

Many self-described victims of gun thefts are not telling the truth, gun violence experts say, and cops and courts seem nearly powerless against the problem.

In such cases, someone who legally acquired a gun passes it on to an illegal gun owner. And then, as an alibi, the legal gun owner reports the gun as stolen just in case it is recovered in a violent crime and traced back to their hands.

Criminals work with illegally gotten guns. Studies show that where guns are recovered in violent crimes, the shooter carries a gun that belongs to someone else 8 out of 10 times.

Just how often supposed theft victims knowingly pass guns to crooks is unknown. The feared trend is part of a booming rise in reported gun thefts in Kansas City. Police tallied 886 reported firearms thefts in 2017, up 50 percent in just two years.

The rise in gun thefts is driven primarily by criminals busting into cars and homes, taking advantage of poorly protected firearms.

But sorting out which victims are real and which are fake is not easy.

"They will tell you a story," Hamilton said.

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The Oregonian: Portland homeless accounted for majority of police arrests in 2017, analysis finds

One in every two arrests made by the Portland Police Bureau last year was of a homeless person, an analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive has found.

The number of arrests is dramatically disproportionate to Portland's homeless population. People experiencing homelessness represent a tiny fraction of the city's overall population -- well below 3 percent even using the biggest estimates.

Yet in 2017, they accounted for 52 percent of arrests.

The arrests affect a staggering percentage of the city's homeless population. A federal survey last year found 4,177 people living outside, in shelters or transitional housing in all of Multnomah County. That survey likely undercounts the true number of people who are homeless, which could be as much as three times higher.

The newsroom found that 4,437 homeless people -- 260 more than the survey counted -- were arrested by Portland police last year.

Most often, police arrested homeless people on property, drug or low-level crimes. The vast majority of the arrests, 86 percent, were for non-violent crimes, the analysis found. And more than 1,200 arrests were solely for offenses that are typically procedural -- missing court or violating probation or parole.

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The Inquirer: A Philadelphia story: Falsely declared dead, home stolen and no one will help

Three years ago, Tonya Bell went to City Hall and discovered that she was dead.

And that her house had been stolen.

She learned these things when she looked at the deed for a property she owned in Germantown. In the deed, she had been declared dead by a man she had never heard of.  He had named himself her sole heir and taken ownership of her house for $1.

In the years that followed, the saga of her stolen house took many twists and turns, few of them good for Bell.

She learned that the notary who approved the $1 sale to “Braheem Hart” later admitted she never met the “heir” and helped fabricate the paperwork as a favor to her cousin.

She learned that a company that renovates and resells homes had ended up the owner of her property and resold it for almost $300,000.

Without ever contacting her, the firm filed legal papers declaring that she had no claim on the property and accusing her of having obtained it by fraud.

She also learned a hard lesson about asking for help in Philadelphia. She reached out to the Records Department, the Sheriff’s Office, the Police Department, and the District Attorney’s Office. Nobody assisted her. After a year, a private lawyer said she had no case and dumped her as a client.

Her story also exposed the empty promise of the city’s highly touted reforms to crack down on the theft of houses, a problem in Philadelphia for decades now.

By law, those reforms required officials to ask people filing deeds to show identification and death certificates to prove they are rightful heirs — and for the deeds office to take a picture of the filers and keep a photocopy of their ID.

Nothing like that happened here.

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Austin American-Statesman: Police Chief Manley calls for stronger ‘guardian’ culture at academy

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley is calling for a cultural shift of the department’s training academy that will emphasize the role of officers as public servants, not strictly enforcers of the law, and treat cadets as students in an adult-learning classroom rather than military recruits.

It is one of Manley’s first initiatives since becoming Austin’s chief June 14 and one of several goals City Manager Spencer Cronk outlined for Manley in offering him the job

Manley said he is already having conversations with academy instructors and asked for input about how they will accomplish the adjustments before the next cadet class in October. He may also seek an outside review.

“We always want to make sure that we are providing our cadets the best possible training that meets not only best practices, but that meets the community’s expectations,” Manley said.

Manley’s view of the training regimen has shifted since two months ago, when a report by the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV raised questions about the academy’s training philosophy and compared Austin’s academy to others nationally.

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Dallas Morning News: Sexual assault survivors say Texas A&M chose its brand over justice

COLLEGE STATION — Kendra Bailey wasn't a drinker. But at a party one night in December, she took her turn in one of Texas A&M University's most popular traditions: the Aggie ring dunk.

One by one, she and her friends in the school's Corps of Cadets military program dropped their new class rings into pitchers of beer. Then they chugged until their wide grins showed the glinting gold rings between their teeth.

Later, Bailey said, a fellow cadet and ring-dunker who was engaged to one of her friends walked her to her dorm room. He locked the door and assaulted her, penetrating her violently, she said.

"I said 'no' and pushed him away," said Bailey, who thinks she was weakened from the unaccustomed alcohol. "He forced himself on me over and over."

What happened next, she said, was a series of failures by Texas A&M administrators to take her seriously and make her feel safe as she dealt with one of the most traumatic and common crimes affecting college students.

Kendra Bailey, 22, a student at Texas A&M, poses for a photograph at her home in Fort Worth. Bailey says she was raped on campus, and with the help of an attorney, the university found her offender responsible.(Rose Baca/Staff Photographer)

Kendra Bailey, 22, a student at Texas A&M, poses for a photograph at her home in Fort Worth. Bailey says she was raped on campus, and with the help of an attorney, the university found her offender responsible. (Rose Baca/Staff Photographer)

Her case is not unique. Ten women told The Dallas Morning News that A&M — Texas' oldest public university, with an enrollment of 68,000 — responded inadequately to their sexual-assault cases and protected the accused over the accusers. Earlier this month, some women launched a social media campaign, #MeTooTAMU, after a student protested on Twitter that A&M allowed the man found responsible for sexually abusing her to compete on the university's swim team.

Though many of the women took part in an official school process to resolve their complaints, they say the university seemed at every turn to put its own interests, and most of all its image, above their safety.

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Palm Beach Post: How Florida ignited the heroin epidemic

In 2011, a national heroin epidemic was the equivalent of dry tinder, lacking only a match.

Florida lit it up.

Purdue Pharma and El Chapo had provided kindling: The pharma company’s unprecedented marketing campaign for its blockbuster OxyContin painkiller did not stop with pill sales. Purdue marketing helped ensure that for the first time in U.S. history, heavy doses of one of the most addictive substances known to man would be prescribed by family doctors for everything from sprained ankles to migraines.

Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, long focused on marijuana and transporting South American cocaine, took note of America’s new-found appetite for narcotics and began seeding mountainsides with poppy plants, the source of heroin.

But it took Florida to set the heroin epidemic ablaze, a Palm Beach Post investigation has found.

For years, Florida’s repeated failure to rein in its homegrown prescription painkiller scourge nourished a bumper crop of opioid addicts and dealers.

It was widely reported that rogue clinics in Palm Beach and Broward counties funneled OxyContin and fueled addiction in Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas and West Virginia.

It was much worse.

DEA reports and federal court records show that by 2010, Florida was the reliable opioid dealer of choice to users and dealers in not only the Southeast, but also in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes regions — an area spanning virtually every state east of the Mississippi River.

And when Florida finally turned off the free-flowing oxycodone spigot in 2011, drug users in states once fed by Florida oxycodone did exactly what users in Palm Beach County and Florida did: They turned to heroin.

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The Journal News: Cashless tolls: Executives reap big salaries, perks while New Yorkers, nation endure

Top corporate executives behind New York’s embattled cashless tolling roadways were paid $21 million in salary and incentive-based perks in 2017, despite a botched roll out that year over the Tappan Zee Bridge that ensnared motorists in a dark web of fines, debt and angst.

The payouts went to three executives at Conduent, the company responsible for cashless tolling in several states that include New York, where drivers told The Journal News/lohud harrowing tales of the system’s failures.

In fact, public fervor over cashless tolling’s mismanagement in New York got so bad that state government offered an amnesty program that cleared 281,000 Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge toll violations, for a total of over $1.4 million.

Yet, amid such seemingly high-profile corporate chaos — including data-center outages that could have been responsible for some of the problems with its cashless system —  Conduent’s leaders hit key revenue and performance goals to secure about $19 million of incentive-based pay, bonuses and stock awards, federal records show.

The Journal News/lohud found the payout details buried deep in the publicly traded company’s financial records. The investigation spotlighted complex executive contracts that highlightedConduent’s bottom line.

While cashless tolling is just one of Conduent’s many business interests, the 2017 executive payouts underscored why the Gov. Cuomo bridge saga is little more than a speed bump for the $6 billion company.

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The Post and Courier: In SC, pregnant girls as young as 12 can marry. There've been 7,000 child brides in 20 years

Nearly 7,000 underage girls — some as young as 12 and 13 — have wed older males in South Carolina over the past 20 years, endangered by decades-old legal loopholes that can expose children to sexual abuse.

In some cases, these grooms are much older. Since 1997, dozens of South Carolina men in their 40s, 50s and 60s have married teenage girls who were not yet 18.

Many of these unions are made possible by a 1962 state law that sets no minimum age for marriage as long as the bride is pregnant. The rule was designed to reduce the number of babies born out of wedlock. But critics argue that it allows older men to sexually exploit younger brides who are themselves still children.

Indeed, many of these marriages meet the criteria for child rape. Under existing state laws, an adult in South Carolina could face prosecution for having sex with a minor — a felony — and also marry his pregnant victim with her parent's blessing.

As recently as 2014, a 14-year-old girl and a 27-year-old man were granted a marriage license in South Carolina. In 1997, a 16-year-old girl married a 60-year-old.

Read more: Campaign Cash: A Tale Of Two Bert Kobayashis

Labor unions, lawyers, engineers, business leaders and other traditionally well-heeled funders are divided over whether to funnel their campaign cash to incumbent Gov. David Ige or his challenger, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, in the Aug. 11 Democratic primary.

So too are the two Bert Kobayashis, long among the top private donors in Hawaii politics.

In September, Bert A. Kobayashi Sr., a major developer in the islands, donated $6,000 — the maximum allowed — to Hanabusa’s campaign for governor.

Meanwhile, Bert T. Kobayashi Jr., a top lawyer in Honolulu, has given Ige the maximum $6,000 to his re-election campaign.

Both have interests in either building or providing legal representation of resort communities, country clubs, housing and more.

And during the past decade, they have given a combined $300,000 to 100 candidates, according to state Campaign Spending Commission data.

Open-government groups have long called for reforms to the state’s campaign financing system, such as lower limits for donations and a publicly funded option that removes at least the appearance of politicians beholden to their biggest contributors.

“There’s a better alternative to large private donations from individuals and businesses,” Erica Johnson, president of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, said Thursday.

Neither Kobayashi returned messages seeking comment for this story.

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Montgomery Advertiser: Montgomery courts overflow with evictions up nearly 80 percent over 15-year period

About six people, on average, are evicted from their homes each day in Montgomery.

The rate has almost doubled since 2001, according to the Envision Montgomery 2040 study commissioned by the city. As officials look forward to a brighter and progressive Montgomery, legal experts say that some of the city's poorest are being trapped in a legal system that makes it easy for landlords to put their tenants on the streets, though some disagree with that assessment.

"As an attorney that has been doing this for a while, I'm disgusted," said Peyton Faulk, who works for Legal Services Alabama to provide free representation for those who can't afford a lawyer. "The number of evictions that occur per docket are atrocious."

Two or three times a week, district judges preside over civil proceedings that usually include more than 15 eviction cases and can last for several hours.

Since the beginning of June, 87 eviction cases have gone through the courts at various stages, ranging from landlords beginning the eviction process to former renters having their wages garnished to pay for outstanding debts.

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Sacramento Bee: Your loved one dies. The prison leaves a voicemail

Early one morning in April 2016, Linda Reza was at work at a fabric sample factory in Ontario, Calif., when she got a call from an unknown number. She wasn’t supposed to use her phone at work, so she slipped out to the bathroom to check her voicemail.

“Yes, hello, this message is for Linda Reza, stepmother of inmate Rocha, Erika, here at California Institution for Women,” said the caller, who identified himself as a lieutenant at the prison in Chino. “It is imperative, Ms. Reza, that you contact the facility as soon as possible. We have some information relative to your stepdaughter’s demise.” Before hanging up, the man added, "We’re deeply sorry ma’am … you have our extended sympathy for your loss.”

Reza was floored; this was the first she had heard about her stepdaughter’s death. Crying and in shock, she dialed the number back. The lieutenant answered, and told her that guards had found Rocha the night before, hanging in her cell.

“That voicemail is traumatizing,” Reza said in a recent interview, though she can’t bring herself to delete the message. “I still find myself driving home from work at times crying, pissed off, and I think, through a voicemail? Really, you jackasses, through a voicemail?”

Experts say the least traumatic way to inform people of the death of a loved one is to do it gently and in person. When military prisoners die, they are treated the same as other service members: A chaplain and a designated “notification officer” visit the family at home to inform them, often sitting with them while they absorb the news. The same process is used by most police departments with families of crime victims.

But when someone dies in prison, there’s no such procedure. In many situations, closest relatives are informed of loved ones’ deaths through voicemails, text messages and letters, according to advocates and families of incarcerated people. It can take days or weeks for them to find out. Families say the way they were notified ends up being the searing, specific detail that pains them long after their loved one is buried.

In some cases, families aren’t notified at all. The California Department of Corrections settled a lawsuit in 2016 out of Sacramento, where officials at Mule Creek State Prison never contacted inmate Joseph Duran’s family about his death. His parents only learned he had died when a Sacramento Bee reporter called and informed them, months later. By then, a nearby funeral home had already cremated Duran’s body and scattered his ashes off the coast of Marin County, which went against the family’s Catholic beliefs.

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Miami Herald: 'A Mickey Mouse operation': How Panama Papers law firm dumped clients, lost Miami office

Mossack Fonseca’s secrets had just been spilled to the world — and clients of the Panamanian law firm’s Miami office were furious.

“You guys had employees arrested in my country because your firm accepts deals with corrupt companies and corrupt politicians in Brazil,” Luis Paulo Mesquita, a São Paulo financier with an offshore company set up by MF, wrote in an April 2016 email to the firm’s employees. “And now, this stupid scandal called Panama Papers!”

The Panama Papers — a partnership between 100 media organizations around the world that analyzed 11.5 million secret Mossack Fonseca documents — exposed the dodgy world of offshore companies, where kleptocrats, drug lords and tax cheats hide their riches scot-free. The 2016 leak also put an unwelcome spotlight on wealthy clients of the firm like Mesquita who had done nothing wrong but sought privacy for their financial affairs.

“I do not want to do business with Mossack anymore,” wrote Mesquita, who didn’t respond to a recent request for comment. “The guys you consider as clients do not have the same ethics standards I have.”

Now, a new leak of documents from the since-shuttered law firm shows what happened as MF employees struggled to contain the fallout from the scandal — and distance the firm from clients accused of criminal behavior.

The new leak of documents spans the period from early 2016 — just before journalists published the Panama Papers in April — through the end of 2017, a few months prior to the firm collapsing. MF had many unhappy customers to placate.

Because of the Panama Papers, "all the names of our customers have been known by the authorities of their countries.," Meir Elmaleh, a Geneva-based fund manager, told MF employees in an email last year. "Thanks to Mossack, customers have to pay income taxes."

As with the first set of records, which covered the late 1970s to 2015, the new documents were obtained from a confidential source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a Washington, D.C-based group of journalists that partners with the Miami Herald and its parent company, McClatchy.

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Eviction tactics squeeze renters: AJC analysis shows landlords increasingly use filings to collect late rent

Angela Claxton lived at the Lilburn apartment complex The Columns at Paxton Lane for six years, but it was never easy.

A single mother, Claxton worked multiple jobs to keep her son in Shiloh High’s school zone, but the rent rose year after year. Inevitably, she fell behind, and the management filed to have her evicted.

It happened 32 times.

Claxton never saw her belongings hauled to the curb. Instead, she scraped together the rent, paid the court costs and late fees that came with each filing, and managed to stay put.

The complex felt safe, and it was convenient to her primary job as a certified optometric assistant with Emory Healthcare. Staying meant her son’s education would not be disrupted. Her landlord, Marietta-based ECI Group, took payment through its online system and dismissed the evictions, until it just got to be too much for Claxton.

Claxton is far from alone in facing the threat of eviction over and over again while trying to maintain a stable home.

And such serial filings are becoming more common in recent years, rising 17 percent from 2010 to 2016, even as overall eviction filings fell with the improving economy.

The data on serial filings suggests that landlords are increasingly relying on Georgia’s decades-old laws as leverage to collect overdue rent rather than as an avenue to remove tenants.

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Chicago Tribune: Key component of Emanuel affordable housing plan falls short

As cranes have risen above Chicago and new development has spread out from the center of the city, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has told working families not to worry, assuring them there would still be a place for them in neighborhoods suddenly filling with young professionals.

A centerpiece of Emanuel’s strategy has been the 2015 Affordable Requirements Ordinance, which toughened Daley-era rules requiring that developers include residences that rent for less than the market rate in the area when they put up new buildings, or pay fees in lieu of building those affordable units.

“I am committed to ensuring that working families can afford to live in the City of Chicago and this recommendation will accelerate the development of additional housing options, especially in growing neighborhoods,” Emanuel said as the rules were announced.

But the results of the mayor’s efforts to back up that promise have fallen short, the Tribune has found.

A Tribune review of city records shows that the number of affordable residences built is running below City Hall projections by some measures, and the fees paid by many developers to fund affordable housing have been mostly steered away from gentrifying neighborhoods.

Most of the units that are being produced are too small for families who find themselves priced out. Housing advocates said that when rents go up and families go looking for a new home in their neighborhoods, they are having difficulty and are facing the possibility of having to move to a more distant, and sometimes more dangerous, neighborhood.

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Courier Journal: Black JCPS students tend to get novice teachers, analysis confirms

Being a black student in Jefferson County Public Schools means you likely won't get the most experienced teachers in your classrooms.

That's because those teachers don't want to be there.

The ability of teachers to move between schools as they gain seniority may contribute to the racial achievement gap plaguing Kentucky's largest school district, critics have long said.

A Courier Journal analysis of state and district data from the 2016-17 school year confirms that majority black schools in JCPS face high rates of teacher turnover, leaving students in many of the district's most troubled schools with teachers less equipped to provide them with a quality education.

"That has a lot to do with ZIP code — West End ZIP codes," said Lenora Yarbough, who has grandchildren in several JCPS schools. "I don't think it’s fair that they use (new teachers) as scapegoats where they know that they might not be successful."The trend plays out repeatedly at the district's 18 "priority" schools, which are among the lowest-performing in the state. Several of those schools have average experience rates of less than five years; none of the priority schools reached double-digits.

Twelve of the 18 have majority black student bodies. All 18 have a majority of students who qualify for free or reduced meals.

To be sure, many things go into making a successful school, and teacher experience is only one of them. But to JCPS critics, the teachers union's influence over how teachers are assigned plays a role in the district's failure to educate black students as effectively as whites.

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Courier Journal: Danger in the cage: Lax regulation in amateur MMA puts lives at risk

The referee's signal sent Donshay White scurrying from his corner to the center of the cage.

Just the second round, White was glistening with sweat as he exchanged punches with his heavyweight opponent.

Within minutes, measured uppercuts and jabs gave way to aimless, windmill-style flailing.

Cheers erupted from a rowdy crowd of 800, fueled by $3 beers and a taste for amateur mixed martial arts. The roar echoed through the Expo Five Concert and Event Venue , a converted warehouse a mile from Churchill Downs.

Without warning, White slowed. His knees wobbled. He stopped swinging.

He gasped for air.

The crowd’s noise drowned out the thud of his 210-pound body crashing to the black mat.

Opponent Ricky Muse crouched above him, landing punches – one after another – to White’s head.

White’s girlfriend, Denise Cason , watched in horror. He was her best friend and the father of their 2-year-old daughter, Raven, and he was visibly struggling.

She knew he had not trained for this fight, his first in nearly two years.

The referee ended the fight at the 5-minute, 22-second mark. Spectators cheered the victorious Muse. Then, they grew quiet as they realized something was wrong with White.

The 37-year-old factory worker lay still. His arms were behind his head and his chest heaving as he sucked in air.

Two men lifted his limp body, supporting him under his arms. Backstage, White collapsed again.

Medics frantically got to work, trying to start his heart.

Cason lifted Raven and sprinted to a waiting ambulance. The anxious toddler asked her mom, “What’s wrong?”

She couldn’t answer.

At Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital a doctor stopped Cason at the door to White’s room to break the news:

He was dead.

She went in alone to say goodbye.

A coroner later determined the U.S. Army veteran died of a "cardiac event" triggered by “hypertensive/atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease,” a relatively common heart condition linked to high blood pressure and thickening of artery walls.

While there's no medical evidence the fight caused his death, a Courier Journal investigation shows that more stringent regulation of amateur MMA could have kept the unhealthy and untrained fighter out of the ring and potentially out of danger. In fact, regulations in 12 other states would have prevented him from fighting.

The investigation, triggered by White's death 11 months ago, reveals lax, inconsistent regulation and enforcement of amateur MMA in Kentucky and around the country. With more than 1,000 amateur and pro-am shows nationwide each year, the popular sport often draws unprepared fighters willing to risk serious injury as they follow dreams of making it big.

White was allowed to fight despite having high blood pressure. He didn't get an EKG that might have detected long-simmering heart issues. At a pre-fight physical, he managed to hide what he thought was a broken pinky finger that would have kept him out of the cage. And he could not offer proof he had trained for the bout. In several states, one or more of those factors would have prevented him from climbing into the ring.

The Courier Journal closely reviewed the circumstances of White’s death and explored MMA safety nationwide, examining rules and regulations across all 50 states and interviewing fighters, promoters, trainers, doctors and state regulators.

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The Baltimore Sun: People are throwing too much garbage in the blue bin — and it's upending the economics of recycling

When Marylanders first started tossing recyclables into the blue bin and setting it out by the curb about a decade ago, only a small percentage of the material ended up in a landfill or incinerator. Now, as much as a third of it gets trashed.

Local governments once made money selling off paper, bottles and cans. But this year many around the Baltimore region have started spending taxpayer money on recycling. That’s because a ton of recyclables fetches just a quarter of the price it commanded seven years ago.

Recycling experts say the trends are the product of good intentions, but poor education — a phenomenon they call “aspirational” recycling, or “wishcycling.”

The increasing presence of food scraps, plastic bags and even bowling balls in recycling streams, where they don’t belong, has thrown off the industry’s economics. And that’s threatening a practice that’s seen as planet-saving altruism but depends on a volatile web of buyers and sellers.

“People are thinking they’re doing the right thing,” said Michael Taylor, director of recycling operations for the industry giant Waste Management. “Our message is, when in doubt, throw it out.”

The Houston-based company runs a sorting facility in Elkridge, where trucks arrive in a steady rumble to dump loads of recycling from households in Baltimore and Carroll, Howard and Anne Arundel counties. The company employs 170 people there — almost twice as many as when the warehouse opened in 2006 — to scan junk as it whizzes by on conveyor belts and pull out the material that doesn’t belong.

Taylor said the job has grown increasingly difficult as the recycling bin has become “the convenient container of choice when the trash is full.”

Most people know the basics of recycling: Newspaper, cardboard, soda bottles and milk jugs are all OK. The Elkridge facility and others like it separate these materials out one by one. A series of spinning wheels tosses newspaper upward, leaving heavier materials to fall below. Magnets pull out metal cans, and an optical scanner detects plastic and directs puffs of air to lift milk jugs and other light containers out of the stream.

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Kansas City Star: Does your hospital still use pagers? Your personal information may be at risk

Hospitals across the country — including some in Kansas City — have been potentially exposing patient data every time they page one of their doctors.

While some hospitals have moved to secure, encrypted pager systems, others are still sending information over open radio waves that could include a patient's name, date of birth and medical diagnosis.

Those transmissions can be intercepted using free computer software and an antenna that costs less than $30, equipment often used by radio or tech hobbyists.

It's a potential security breach that has been documented on tech websites, but most patients don't know about it.

An information technology worker from Johnson County recently told The Star about the issue after he stumbled across hospital pager information while playing with an antenna, which he bought to get TV channels on his laptop computer. With a simple program, the antenna picks up radio signals that can be digitized.

Except instead of picking up local TV stations, he started seeing things like this, with the patient's and doctor's names included:

RQSTD RTM: (patient's name) 19 M Origin Unit: EDOF Admitting: (doctor's name) Level of Care: 1st Avail Medical Diagnosis: TONSILAR BLEED, ANEMIA, THROMBOCYTOPENIA

It was the personal patient data of a 19-year-old man, broadcast across the airwaves for anyone to read. And it was coming from a local hospital, which was sending the message to a doctor on a pager.

"When I first saw it I thought, 'How does this happen? Why is it not fixed?' This is 2018," he said. "One, We're still using pagers? And two, we're sending unprotected patient data to them?"

The Star is not naming the IT worker because of legal concerns about the Electronic Communications Protection Act, which extended restrictions on tapping phone lines to the interception of other electronic communications.

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Columbus Dispatch: CVS Caremark cut payments to pharmacies amid $70 billion deal to buy Aetna

It happened in Ohio, Arkansas, Iowa, New Jersey, New York and possibly other states. Pharmacy middleman CVS Caremark suddenly cut the reimbursements it paid community pharmacies for drugs, some of them far below pharmacists’ costs for potentially lifesaving medications.

Each of the cuts happened late last year or early this year — all within a few months of when CVS Health announced it was acquiring health insurer Aetna.

In a Dispatch review of data collected from 40 pharmacies, the numbers back up what lawmakers and critics said happened in the fourth quarter of 2017: CVS Caremark sharply reduced payments to pharmacies.

In the first quarter of 2017, CVS Caremark received $370,000 in taxpayer dollars from those transactions. In the fourth quarter of the same year, CVS Caremark’s portion was $522,000, according to the data. The data represent less than 1 percent of the $3 billion Medicaid paid for prescriptions in 2017. CVS Caremark handles the prescriptions for four of the state's five managed-care plans.

CVS Health, the parent company of both CVS Caremark and CVS Pharmacy, reported net revenue of $34.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to its website. That is a $3 billion increase from the fourth quarter of 2016.

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Journal Sentinel: A killer left DNA evidence behind. But Milwaukee police destroyed it.

The body of Deborah Lynn Oberg was found under the Hoan Bridge on July 11, 1983.

The 28-year-old single mother struggled with the man who assaulted and stabbed her outside the Summerfest grounds.

At autopsy, the medical examiner discovered the assailant had left pubic hairs behind.

But even with continuing advances in DNA technology, Oberg’s killer likely will never be caught.

That’s because the Milwaukee Police Department destroyed the evidence in her case — along with at least 50 other homicides. Police trashed the evidence in the 1990s, well after authorities became aware of DNA’s value in solving crimes. While most of the homicide cases were closed, some remained open and unsolved, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found.

The department's reason for the destruction? Making more room in a storage facility.

Oberg isn’t the only victim deprived of justice because of the purge. In another case, a man who killed a 34-year-oldmother on a playground is still free. In a third, four children were molested after a pedophile avoided prosecution in the rape and slaying of a 9-year-old girl.

A Police Department spokeswoman did not answer questions about how many boxes of evidence were destroyed. In response to an open records request, police officials said they did not have a complete list of the cases. The district attorney’s office was not consulted about the decision to trash the evidence, and prosecutors weren’t given a list after the fact.

Oberg’s younger sister, Valerie Bishop, said she was not told the truth about what happened until last year, more than three decades after the evidence was destroyed.

“I want to know who killed my sister, and why did they just leave it go like she was nothing?” Bishop asked during an interview with the Journal Sentinel. “Who is accountable for throwing away her evidence, and why weren’t we ever informed or told?”

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Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Former Jacksonville prosecutor helped sentence blacks to far more time behind bars

Those who know Christine Bustamante say there’s nothing racist about her.

Before becoming an attorney, she spent four years teaching students with disabilities at public schools in Florida and Tennessee.

She volunteered at homeless shelters and organized fundraising drives to help children who couldn’t afford winter clothes.

The daughter of Brazilian immigrants, her Facebook page reveals friends of many races, nationalities and creeds.

“She is truly not a biased person,” said her husband, Michael Sweet.

But as an assistant state attorney in Jacksonville’s 4th Judicial Circuit, Bustamante prosecuted hundreds of cases that sent away black drug offenders for three times as long as whites.

In 2015 and 2016 alone — when she handled more than 100 felony drug cases — blacks received sentences that were nearly four times as long on average  as those handed down to white offenders.

That put her at the top of a list of Duval County prosecutors’ racial disparities in sentencing for felony drug crimes, according to a nine-month investigation by the Herald-Tribune and the Florida Times-Union.

Academics and judges argue that prosecutors are the most powerful players in the criminal justice system and most to blame for bias. But at 34 and just three years out of law school in 2016, was Bustamante really responsible for locking up black defendants for nearly quadruple the time of whites?

The Herald-Tribune and Times-Union set out to answer this question by measuring the influence of other players in the criminal justice system on cases prosecuted by Bustamante.

Read more: Metro-North record-breaking overtime makes track workers millions, jobs remain vacant

From misfortune have come millions.

In May 2013, a derailment in Connecticut led Metro-North to remake the railroad from the ground up, tearing out tens of thousands of splintered rail ties, replacing stone ballast and ripping out miles of track long past its expiration date.

In the five years since a rush-hour New Haven Line train flew off the rails in Bridgeport after hitting a broken rail joint, overtime hours for maintenance spiked to nearly 600,000 last year from 204,000 in 2012.

t’s made some track workers very wealthy.

A Journal News/lohud analysis of Metro-North overtime obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request shows:

Over those five years, nine track workers have made more than $1 million in salary and overtime combined.

Last year, 63 track workers made more in overtime than salary.

Another 29 track workers made $200,000 or more in salary and overtime.

Overtime for track workers jumped to $22 million in 2017, the highest total in three years and a sizable increase from the years before the derailment, when track-worker overtime averaged between $10 million and $15 million. Over the past three years, overtime payments were $61.2 million.

All this comes as the railroad asks riders to pay more and more to take the train. Last year, the railroad broke a record with 86.5 million rides, some 300,000 more than 2016. Metro-North will be saddled with these costs for decades to come in the form of higher pension payouts for top-earning track workers.

The payouts contributed to $115 million in overtime for all Metro-North employees last year, the highest total in recent years.

Read more: New York psychiatric center workers frisked, interrogated and fired amid secret probe

Workers at an embattled New York psychiatric center are being searched for drugs, interrogated and fired as part of a secret internal investigation underway, The Journal News/lohud has learned.

The probe of Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy comes after The Journal News/lohud reported about drug abuse, violent assaults and sex offenses inside the closely guarded lockup, just outside Syracuse.

The state Office of Mental Health, which runs the psychiatric center, started investigating shortly after The Journal News/lohud in February exposed details about 210 criminal incidents there, labor union officials said.

Representing hundreds of security aides and workers, two top union leaders described the secured psychiatric center, which houses some of New York’s most dangerous sex offenders, as a powder keg set to ignite due to Office of Mental Health (OMH) mismanagement.

“Unfortunately, OMH policy and procedures have failed to keep our members safe from anything,” said John Harmon, a guard union leader. “To be honest with you, it’s a complete failure at Central New York Psychiatric Center.”

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Greenville News: 'Only thing they’ll pay for is morphine ... ': Opioid alternatives routinely denied by insurers

For nearly two decades, Jim Lankford has lived with unrelenting pain.

It began with a fall at work that left him with an injury to his spine.

That led to a diagnosis of degenerative joint disease, broken vertebrae and dozens of surgeries.

The constant agony makes it tough for him to do any of his favorite pastimes, keep house and even sleep.

Although he’s taking painkillers, his doctor wants to prescribe treatments that he says are safer.

But the 63-year-old’s insurance plan won’t cover them.

“The only thing they’ll pay for is morphine ... or fentanyl or methadone,” he told The Greenville News. “I wish something could be done.”

Dr. Eric Loudermilk, an anesthesiologist and medical director of the Piedmont Comprehensive Pain Management Group in Greenville and Anderson, said Lankford isn’t alone.

There are alternatives that are less likely to result in accidental overdose or dependence, he said. But insurers don’t cover them.

“They want us to use morphine, fentanyl, methadone,” he said. “But fentanyl is one of the medicines you read about in the paper every day. Why would I want to use that when we’ve got these drugs out there that are available and they can make such a huge difference in the opioid epidemic?

“It’s very frustrating.”

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Assaults in Arkansas prisons slow to come out

At least two prisoners at Arkansas' Cummins Unit, the state's largest prison, last September saw a pool of blood spread across the bathroom floor under the head of James Walker, a 34-year-old inmate.

They would later tell an investigator with the Arkansas State Police that they had seen Damont Ewells, also an inmate, punch Walker, causing the latter to fall to the ground and hit his head.

Walker was rushed to the hospital, where he died the next day.

For months, prison and police officials, despite having accounts from the pair of witnesses, did not say that they believed Walker's death was a homicide. Like other investigations into crimes committed at state prisons, pertinent details have come out only as prosecutors have decided to file charges.

While Walker's death was reported in the media at the time, officials said they could not determine whether the inmate's injury was the result of a fall or an assault.

No public statement was ever released by the prison or state police calling Walker's death a homicide, even after Ewells was charged with manslaughter in December.

The attack on Sept. 19 was part of a spate of violence at several state prisons last year in which prison officials released little information, saying they were investigating the incidents. They also said the prison system was strained with too many inmates and too few staffers.

Now, months later, more details have been disclosed in police records and court documents as prosecutors have filed criminal charges against more than a dozen inmates accused of being involved in outbreaks of prison violence.

The court records describe assaults on guards and on other inmates, as well as three incidents at a pair of prisons where inmates managed to release their fellow prisoners into areas where they threatened staff members.

Speaking to lawmakers earlier this month, Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley said pay increases at the most chronically understaffed prisons have helped ease the system's problem with job vacancies, and that violence in prisons is on the decline.

But at that same meeting, family members of prisoners complained about inmates' poor medical care and a lack of transparency that made it hard to stay informed about their loved ones behind bars.

Asked by a reporter why no follow-up statement was released announcing that Walker's death was believed to be the result of an attack, prison spokesman Solomon Graves said in an email last month that department policy restricts his office to confirming only whether an inmate's death is attributed to natural causes. The exceptions are cases of suicide or execution.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The Needle in the Family Tree: After Danielle’s fall

The speedball that hit Danielle Walker on a December night in Beechview took a terrible bounce.

Ask a hard drug user to describe speedballing -- mixing cocaine with heroin, fentanyl or both -- and you’ll hear about a divine rush, 10 minutes of knowing how God must feel, a smooth ride down. Next comes the craving for more.

Danielle’s speedball, though, sent her ricocheting into the wobbly lives of her best friend, Raven, and their sometime neighbor, Vincent. The collision shook the lives of their parents and of their children, already scattered by heroin’s storm to homes in South Park, McKees Rocks, Oakdale and Long Island, N.Y.

If you’ve known someone like Danielle -- a golden child lured by addiction -- then you understand the effects of her collapse on everyone around her. Now imagine that a loved one’s death orphaned a daughter and her brother who had never met each other. Then add one, last indignity.

Maybe that speedball would send you on a wrenching search for answers.

The people who count the bodies in Allegheny County are hoping that the autumn of 2017 was a turning point in our opioid crisis. Fatal overdoses during the last quarter of last year were half what they were in late 2016, the medical examiner announced in May.

Even if the worst is over, though, the effects of our opioid binge will endure.

This is the story of one overdose late last year and how, over six months, it affected the lives of 10 people, including five children. Multiply that by the 4,000-plus drug deaths in our region since 2014, and you can picture overlapping ripples of pain fading into the future.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Legislator-graft case spotlights Arkansas ethics-law flaws

A lobbyist whose firm spent $3.5 million in Arkansas reported total legislator-related expenses of only $12,170 from 2010 to 2017, a comparison of his federal guilty plea and state ethics records show.

Milton R. "Rusty" Cranford could spend up to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty June 7 to one count of federal program bribery. The client that paid for the influence peddling and campaign fundraising, according to his plea, is Preferred Family Healthcare of Springfield, Mo. Cranford entered his guilty plea in U.S. District Court there.

Cranford and his co-conspirators began their scheme before Preferred Family merged with Alternative Opportunities Inc., Preferred Family said in a statement Friday. All the involved parties were in Alternative Opportunities, the statement said, and have since been dismissed.

"This can be seen in the stellar reputation for compliance and service that PFH enjoyed prior to that merger," the company said in a statement. "We understand confidence has been shaken by the misdeeds of others, and we are committed to working with our partners to show it is a new day at PFH."

Spending of more than $400 for lobbying members of the state Legislature is supposed to be reported under state law, according to the executive director of the state Ethics Commission. Cranford's lobbying firm spent $3.5 million of Preferred Family's money between 2010 and 2017, court records show. The Cranford Coalition lobbying firm reported $12,170 in legislator-related expenses from February 2011 through the third quarter of 2015 on its lobbyist financial-disclosure forms. The list includes items such as food provided at legislative committee meetings and has an average cost of about $810 per event.

Cranford's plea documents in federal court, however, disclose his firm spent $7,000 in one week in January 2012 on fundraisers for contributions to lawmakers. Those documents also disclose a $5,000 expense for a gubernatorial candidate's fundraiser at the Capital Hotel later that year.

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Providence Journal: Untangling R.I. health care: A look at the big players

In this era of churning change in the health-care systems of Rhode Island, it can be difficult to keep track of who does what. The Journal, over the next few months, will explain the economics underlying the state’s health-care networks and explore some of the specialties offered at hospitals here. This week, we set the stage with a guide to the players and their relationships to one another.

Consumers may be forgiven for having trouble following the many changes — accomplished or proposed — in the many systems that deliver health-care services in Rhode Island.

It can seem dizzying.

Let’s start in 2010, when Providence’s Roger Williams Medical Center and St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island, which includes Our Lady of Fatima Hospital in North Providence, affiliated under management of a new corporate parent, CharterCare Health Partners.

Since then:

In 2013, CharterCare entered into a joint venture with Prospect Medical Holdings of Los Angeles, in which Prospect became the majority owner of CharterCare, with control shared by the two entities. CharterCare retained its management team and name.

Also in 2013, Prime Healthcare of Ontario, California, acquired Landmark Medical Center, in Woonsocket, and the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island, in North Smithfield.

In 2015, the Care New England Health System, one of the state’s two largest health-care networks, and Massachusetts-based Southcoast Health announced plans to study a potential partnership.

In 2016, the systems called off those plans.

Also in 2016, control of Westerly Hospital was transferred to Yale New Haven Health, headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut.

In 2017, The Journal reported that Lifespan had made a “compelling” offer to combine with Care New England. The offer did not come to fruition.

Also in 2017, Care New England closed Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket, citing steep financial losses.

In April of this year, CharterCare held a press conference to outline its hopes to take over and reopen Memorial Hospital’s emergency room. Care New England immediately quashed that notion.

In May, Care New England and Boston-based Partners HealthCare signed an agreement making formal Partners’ plan to acquire CNE.

And that’s the short list.

Now to bring some order to this tumult: Here is a roster of the health-care systems operating in Rhode Island. It’s a backdrop for The Journal’s further reporting on this large and growing industry.

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The (Toledo) Blade: LOCAL Inspections rate three nursing homes in Lucas County as lowest overall score

The inspector found hole after hole in Resident 67’s care charts.

Staff tasked with cleansing and covering her thigh wound failed four times in January to document doing so. They missed recording a device’s blood oxygen readings 23 times over two months. They also failed to record blood glucose levels on 11 instances in one month.

In fact, the resident “revealed there were times when her blood sugars were not checked before she ate,” records state.

Resident 67 lived at Addison Heights Health and Rehabilitation Center in January when inspectors from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services assessed the nursing home. The individual — referred to only by number in federal inspection records — was among 16 individuals living at the facility identified as missing documentation for some type of treatment or check.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regularly rates nursing homes across the country, including 38 in Lucas County. A Blade review of federal records found violations of inadequate care and conditions at many facilities: missing or incomplete records; undocumented injuries; and poor resident hygiene.

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Columbus Dispatch: 'Cost-cutting' middlemen reap millions via drug pricing, data show

A middleman company hired to keep the state's prescription-drug prices in check for Ohioans on Medicaid is receiving millions in taxpayer money meant to provide medications for the poor and disabled.

Records of transactions provided to The Dispatch from 40 pharmacies across Ohio show that CVS Caremark routinely billed the state for drugs at a far higher amount than it paid pharmacies to fill the prescriptions. The state-sanctioned practice, known as "spread pricing," allows the middlemen, called pharmacy benefit managers, to keep the difference on medications used to treat health concerns ranging from mental illness to osteoporosis.

CVS Caremark received more than $1.6 million for managing the payment for prescriptions filled by 40 pharmacies in 2017, according to a Dispatch analysis of drug transactions covered by taxpayer-funded Medicaid. The analysis shows that CVS Caremark received roughly 12 percent more from the state than it paid the pharmacies for the drugs.

The pharmacy pricing information provided to The Dispatch contained no patient information.

Although an exact projection of a statewide total flowing to CVS Caremark cannot be made based on this analysis, the figures indicate that it must be tens of millions of dollars. The pharmacies surveyed represent less than 1 percent of the total Medicaid prescriptions filled statewide in 2017 and about 2 percent of pharmacies in the state.

The state spent $3 billion last year for prescription drugs for Medicaid recipients.

The Dispatch analysis provides what might be the first detailed look nationwide behind the curtain of how pharmacy benefit managers such as CVS Caremark make billions of dollars annually. CVS Health Corp., which owns CVS Caremark and CVS Pharmacy, reported a net profit of $9.5 billion in 2017, according to its website.

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Cleveland Plain Dealer: A lead crisis of city's own making: Despite cleanup, residents face eviction

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Last week, the city informed Thelma Taylor, a 79-year-old, great grandmother of three, that she had 14 days to pack up and leave her house on Cleveland's East Side.

A man and a woman slapped an "ORDER TO VACATE" sign on her property.

"Dear Resident," the letter they handed her read.

"The place you are living . . . was found to have unsafe levels of lead that contributed to the lead poisoning of a child."

More than one child in fact, something Thelma knew only too well. In June 2017, her home, where she's lived since the early 1970s, was flagged as a lead hazard after tests showed her twin, 2-year-old great grandbabies had elevated levels of lead in their blood.

That's why she got a federal grant through the city to fix up her house.

As lead-based paint ages, it flakes and produces chips and a fine dust that settles everywhere. You know how kids like to put their hands in their mouths, she says.

But now the same city government that had helped her make her property safe was telling her she hadn't done the necessary repairs - so she had to go.

"You will need to look for a different home to live in (a property built after 1978 if possible, since there is less of a chance that it will have lead problems too)," the letter continued.

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The New York Times: Pregnancy Discrimination Is Rampant Inside America’s Biggest Companies

American companies have spent years trying to become more welcoming to women. They have rolled out generous parental leave policies, designed cushy lactation rooms and plowed millions of dollars into programs aimed at retaining mothers.

But these advances haven’t changed a simple fact: Whether women work at Walmart or on Wall Street, getting pregnant is often the moment they are knocked off the professional ladder.

Throughout the American workplace, pregnancy discrimination remains widespread. It can start as soon as a woman is showing, and it often lasts through her early years as a mother.

The New York Times reviewed thousands of pages of court and public records and interviewed dozens of women, their lawyers and government officials. A clear pattern emerged. Many of the country’s largest and most prestigious companies still systematically sideline pregnant women. They pass them over for promotions and raises. They fire them when they complain.

In physically demanding jobs — where an increasing number of women unload ships, patrol streets and hoist boxes — the discrimination can be blatant. Pregnant women risk losing their jobs when they ask to carry water bottles or take rest breaks.

In corporate office towers, the discrimination tends to be more subtle. Pregnant women and mothers are often perceived as less committed, steered away from prestigious assignments, excluded from client meetings and slighted at bonus season.

Each child chops 4 percent off a woman’s hourly wages, according to a 2014 analysis by a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Men’s earnings increase by 6 percent when they become fathers, after controlling for experience, education, marital status and hours worked.

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Newark Star-Ledger: Where can you get paid $466K a year to wash trucks? Special deals, union clout at N.J. port

ON THE WATERFRONT, there’s a longshoreman on the books who washes trucks.

He gets paid $465,981 a year. To wash trucks.

Fired when his bosses discovered he wasn’t actually showing up when he claimed to be working, he nevertheless regained his job—after an arbitrator concluded it was not unusual in the industry for employees to be paid “without being expected to work all the hours for which they are being paid.”

The Port of New York Harbor is the busiest on the East Coast and the third largest in the nation. From the marine terminals in Port Newark and Port Elizabeth—where hulking gantry cranes that wait to load and unload ships from all over the world stand sentinel—to the terminals in Bayonne, Staten Island and Brooklyn, more than 6.7 million cargo containers came through the sprawling seaport last year. Ships carrying everything from food and clothes to furniture, machinery and coffee make port every day.

But labor costs here are the highest in the nation, making consumer goods more expensive and the port less competitive, officials say.

Part of the reason for those high labor costs, claim waterfront regulators and federal prosecutors, include $117 million in lucrative pay packages that go to more than 400 longshoremen in New Jersey and New York, some of whom are never, ever officially off the clock, every day of the year.

The top 100 dockworkers alone at the marine terminals on both sides of the river each get more than $300,000 a year, according to salary data obtained through public records requests by NJ Advance Media.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Nation's big cities, including St. Louis, struggle to bring killers to justice

ST. LOUIS • The leafy iron vines that adorn the front door to the Johnsons’ home serve as glorified burglar bars. And no matter how sunny it is outside, only dim, artificial light illuminates the rooms inside their home of more than 50 years.

It wasn’t always this way, said Myrtle Johnson, 76, as she spoke barely above a whisper and checked to see if anyone had seen her let a reporter inside her home last week.

She recalled a time when the three children she and her husband, Austin Johnson, 77, raised there talked openly with neighbors. Children played outside. And nearby Walnut Park was a safe place for celebrations.Now, her neighborhood is one of the city’s highest-crime areas. And killers in nearby swaths of the city go largely unpunished, according to a recent Washington Post analysis that looked at arrest rates for homicides nationwide.

These days, Myrtle Johnson calls her husband anytime she ventures out so he can make sure she gets inside safely. Her curtains remain drawn. Her door, closed.

And she doesn’t want anyone who sees a reporter or a police officer at her home to take it the wrong way.

“I’m scared to come home. I’m scared to leave home. We feel like prisoners, but I’m hoping for the best,” Myrtle Johnson said. “And it’s because of retaliation. They may be after you or your family or whatever.”

The Washington Post analyzed arrest data from 52,000 homicides over the past decade in 50 of the nation’s largest cities. It found that the overall homicide arrest rate in the 50 cities is 49 percent. But in some pockets of impunity, such as the one near Johnson’s home, police make arrests less than 33 percent of the time.

Despite a nationwide drop in violence to historic lows, 34 of the 50 cities, including St. Louis, have a lower homicide arrest rate now than a decade ago. The reasons are complex, police, experts, politicians and residents say.

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Des Moines Register: How Polk County funneled $844,000 to private schools through a corporation despite its ban on religious funding

Polk County routed $844,000 in public money to nine Catholic schools and one Christian academy in 2012 and 2013 — despite state law and county policies that prohibit public funding for religious institutions.

The county paid out the money in the form of grants to a corporation set up to pass the money on to the schools, a Des Moines Register investigation has found.

The corporation's founder wrote the county Board of a Supervisors, notifying them of the Catholic schools that would receive grant money.

The money was derived from Polk County’s share of gambling revenue generated by the Prairie Meadows Casino and Hotel.

Mark Stringer, executive director of the ACLU of Iowa, said: "If Iowa taxpayer money was, in fact, intentionally funneled to religious schools, that is unacceptable and a misuse of the taxpayers' public dollars."

Polk County’s official grant-making policy and its instructions to applicants state that "organizations under ecclesiastical or sectarian management are not eligible" for the grants.

Iowa law also says that county officials “shall not appropriate, give, or loan public funds to, or in favor of, an institution, school, association or object which is under ecclesiastical or sectarian management or control.”

Aware of those restrictions, county supervisors instead gave the grants — one in 2012 for $400,000 and another in 2013 for $444,000 — to a newly created corporation named Education for the 21st Century.

Vincent Scavo, the former school board chairman at St. Anthony School of Des Moines, formed the corporation in 2011, just three weeks before it applied for its first county grant. Its address was Scavo's home.

The corporation ceased operations shortly after it spent the last of the county money. During the two years it existed, the nonprofit publicly reported no income other than what it received from Polk County, according to records reviewed by the Register.

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Chicago Tribune: Almost nothing is known about dozens of concealed carry shootings in Illinois. Why?

It took days to figure out where all the bullets flew when a man licensed to carry a gun exchanged shots with a masked 16-year-old boy and killed him on a busy street in Oak Park last year.

Investigators counted about a dozen shell casings outside a bank on Madison Street, according to police reports. They dug bullets from the man’s Buick Regal.

The teen was the only person hit that sunny spring morning as bystanders scattered inside cars and crouched behind a telephone pole. One of the bullets traveled across the street into an office building. It apparently came from one of the shots the man fired over his shoulder as he ran away.

The man, who worked for the Chicago Park District, was released within hours after a prosecutor determined over the phone he had fired in self-defense. Nothing was said about him randomly shooting behind him, even though an investigator later questioned the action. And nothing was reported to the Illinois State Police, even though they oversee the training and licensing of concealed carry holders.

The state police know nothing about the nearly 40 shootings by people with concealed carry licenses since Illinois became the last state to allow them four years ago.

A Tribune review found that most of the shootings have been in public places in the Chicago area, and half the cases have involved concealed carry holders firing to defend themselves or someone else from robbers. At least 11 people have been killed, including a man with a license who tried to fend off carjackers on the West Side.

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Honolulu Star Advertiser: Delays have big impact on Oahu domestic violence cases

Kendra O’Brien, a psychologist, has taken off work nearly a dozen times over the past 14 months to go to court.

Each time, O’Brien has had to take leave from her job, cancel patient appointments and rearrange her schedule. A couple times, her two children had to steel themselves to give testimony, meeting with psychologists, only to be told their participation wasn’t needed yet.

O’Brien’s multiple trips to court stemmed from a March 2017 incident in which her husband allegedly hit her with a lomi stick at their Kailua home, punched her in the stomach, crushed her cellphone, slammed a car door on her and shoved her into concrete, threatening to kill her, according to court documents. Their two children, then 10 and 12, witnessed the alleged abuse, the documents say.

O’Brien subsequently obtained a temporary restraining order and a five-year protective order against her husband, who was eventually charged with felony abuse and violating the two orders. Her husband has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges.

“I do realize the system is slow,” O’Brien, 58, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “but it’s the only choice we have. If you don’t go through all these different things, jump through all these hoops, then nothing happens.”

O’Brien’s experience underscores what prosecutors, defense attorneys, crime victims and others say is a serious problem: a strained court system in which domestic violence, drunken driving and other cases frequently are delayed multiple times, disrupting the lives of victims, defendants, witnesses and others who have to return again and again as justice is pursued.

The crowded dockets are especially evident on Oahu, particularly with misdemeanors and temporary restraining orders in domestic disputes. The latter are civil, not criminal, matters.

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Denver Post: Colorado public schools are paying millions to settle lawsuits when educators fail to report sex abuse of students, but those educators avoid legal consequences

The principal caught an incriminating sight when she walked by the classroom: The male math teacher was sitting provocatively close to the 13-year-old student perched on his desk wearing a short skirt. But the principal did nothing other than warn the teacher, after the student exited, to act more professionally.

Throughout the spring of 2011, rumors flew around the hallways at Rocky Heights Middle School in Highlands Ranch about the teacher, Richard “Rick” Johnson, and young girls. After Johnson plastered his office walls with photos of another eighth-grade girl he liked to hug, students talked about how he must be having sex with her. At least three students and two parents told school administrators that Johnson was cultivating an inappropriate relationship with the student, but the officials continued to sit on the information, according to documents in a federal lawsuit. Not until parents went to police was Johnson investigated, charged and convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl he began showering with affection the year before.

A key state law is supposed to defend Colorado’s vulnerable children in such instances. The law classifies school authorities, teachers, clergy and more than 40 other professions as “mandatory reporters,” who are required to alert police or child-protection workers to any suspected physical or sexual abuse of children.

Former Douglas County teacher, Richard "Rick" JohnsonDouglas County Sheriff’s OfficeSchool officials ignored reports that Richard “Rick” Johnson was having sex with his students, but he was ultimately convicted of raping one of them.

But, as was the case at Rocky Heights, the law is too often ignored.

An investigation by The Denver Post found that the mandatory reporting law is seldom enforced and often results in leniency for violators. Those convicted of the law face a penalty as low as a $50 fine. While criminal penalties have been light, legal proceedings have raised questions about how seriously school districts take their mandatory reporting obligations. At least three lawsuits accusing school authorities in Colorado of ignoring mandatory reporting requirements resulted in settlements, one of which cost $1.4 million.

“If a child tells you they have been harmed, sexually assaulted or raped, you should say it’s not your fault and call the police, but instead we have some mandatory reporters who understand the law and how they can sweep it under the rug and deny justice for those who have been victimized,” state Sen. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat from Aurora, said this year at a legislative hearing in which she failed to persuade other legislators to join her effort to bolster Colorado’s mandatory reporting law.

Since 2010, prosecutors have brought just 46 criminal cases of failing to act as a mandatory reporter, a review of state judicial data shows.

Only about half of those cases resulted in a conviction. And of those that did, virtually all of the convictions eventually were dismissed by a judge after the defendant served a short stint on probation.

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San Francisco Chronicle: Decades-old ‘leadership’ camps push teens to the brink with unproven, painful methods

It’s just hours into Camp Diversity, a leadership retreat for high school students, but the warmth of the community circle, “Power of Hugs” exercise and hot chocolate is quickly fading.

In a campground hall deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains, 55 teenagers have been ordered to separate by race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. By groups, the children of Silicon Valley engineers and attorneys, house cleaners and gardeners are sent outside, while their peers are instructed to call out every slur and stereotype they know about them.

Some of the Los Altos High students are reluctant, so camp Director Richard Valenzuela urges them on. Middle Easterners are “terrorists — they’re all terrorists!” he shouts. LGBT people are “very defective,” he says, prompting the students to chime in with: “Wrong, sinners, faggot, disgusting.” After students choose “good at math” for Asians, Valenzuela turns to their teachers. “Staff, any others?” They add “tiny vaginas” and “small penises” to the list. Students’ labels of “eat watermelon” and “can’t swim” for African Americans don’t go far enough. “Porch monkeys,” “coons,” the adults offer.

The ugly words, scribbled on large flip charts, confront each group of students as they return. Some break down in sobs. Others tremble in their seats or bury their heads in their hands. “This is going to hurt,” one boy says, pulling a ski cap over his face. “I can’t! I don’t want to say anything! I refuse to look.”

But Valenzuela presses on, prodding the shaken teens to share any feelings the exercise has provoked. A series of agonized confessions ensues: stories of a sibling’s rape, an alcoholic parent, a lesbian rejected by her family.

Over four long days and nights, Valenzuela, aided by teachers with just 90 minutes of training for the camp, will lead the unsuspecting youth through a series of such painful exercises. Latino students will be ordered to clean up after whites and ushered into restrooms labeled “No Mexicans or Dogs Allowed.” Jewish students will be pinned with yellow stars and taunted about the Holocaust. Some teens will be called “retards” and slapped on the back of the head. And more than once, students will be encouraged to reveal whether they have contemplated suicide.

For decades, tens of thousands of students across the country have gone through versions of these exercises at retreats long known as Camp Anytown. The Anytown retreats, run by a loose network of nonprofit social justice groups, say they instill leadership and build empathy by prompting young people to confront difficult issues such as racism and sexism in a safe setting far from home and school. Some former participants recall their camp experience as transformative.

But a Chronicle investigation shows that many of the camps’ “experiential learning” methods, however well intended, are ethically suspect at best and, at worst, reckless and potentially harmful for some young people. The programs are unsupported by research, misguided about the safe handling of trauma, and generally lack adequate on-site mental health care.

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AP Investigation: Fish billed as local isn’t always local

MONTAUK, N.Y. (AP) — Even after winter storms left East Coast harbors thick with ice, some of the country’s top chefs and trendy restaurants were offering sushi-grade tuna supposedly pulled in fresh off the coast of New York.

But it was just an illusion. No tuna was landing there. The fish had long since migrated to warmer waters.

In a global industry plagued by fraud and deceit, conscientious consumers are increasingly paying top dollar for what they believe is local, sustainably caught seafood. But even in this fast-growing niche market, companies can hide behind murky supply chains that make it difficult to determine where any given fish comes from. That’s where national distributor Sea To Table stepped in, guaranteeing its products were wild and directly traceable to a U.S. dock — and sometimes the very boat that brought it in.

However, an Associated Press investigation found the company was linked to some of the same practices it vowed to fight. Preliminary DNA tests suggested some of its yellowfin tuna likely came from the other side of the world, and reporters traced the company’s supply chain to migrant fishermen in foreign waters who described labor abuses, poaching and the slaughter of sharks, whales and dolphins.

The New York-based distributor was also offering species in other parts of the country that were illegal to catch, out of season and farmed.

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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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