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WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • March 14, 2019

Anchorage Daily Times: Alaska’s system for evaluating mentally ill defendants hits the breaking point

Travis Fields wanted to get inside the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.

One night last November, he threw a bench at a glass window in the entryway and lay down until police arrived, according to court filings.

When the cops showed up, the 32-year-old told them he was just trying to get a bed and some cigarettes.

That didn’t get him admission to Alaska’s only psychiatric hospital, but it did get him a misdemeanor criminal charge.

The criminal charge should have done the trick: In January, an Anchorage judge noted that Fields was making erratic statements in court and “seemed to be suffering from delusions.” She ordered API to conduct a competency evaluation, to determine whether he was sane enough to face the charge against him.

But API wrote back to the judge saying a backlog meant Fields would have to wait until mid-April just to get an initial evaluation.

Until then, his case would be at a standstill.

In the meantime, Fields, who has a 15-year history of criminal charges linked to his diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, has been sitting in jail, warehoused and waiting.

Read more: https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/crime-courts/2019/03/09/alaskas-competency-system-for-mentally-ill-criminal-defendants-is-at-a-breaking-point/

Stamford Advocate: Bankruptcy speculation clouds embattled Purdue Pharma

STAMFORD — The litigation continues to grow against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma — and so do the questions about its future.

As the Stamford-based company grapples with more than 1,000 lawsuits that accuse it of stoking the opioid crisis with deceptive marketing of its pain drugs, reports have emerged in the past week about its exploration of a bankruptcy filing to help contain its potentially massive liability. “Chapter 11” protection could bolster Purdue’s long-term viability, but it would also usher in another round of scrutiny of the already-changing firm.

“A possible reason for filing for bankruptcy may be to avoid compensating the injured parties that have sought to hold parties such as Purdue accountable,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who sued Purdue when he was attorney general of Connecticut, said in an interview. “That would not be a proper purpose for the declaration of bankruptcy. Any such plan would have to be carefully scrutinized.”

In a statement this week, Purdue said that it is “looking at all of its options, but we have made no decisions and have not set any timetables. The company is committed to working with the state of Connecticut and the other states to help address this public health challenge.”

Read more: https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/business/article/Bankruptcy-speculation-clouds-embattled-Purdue-13673817.php

Miami Herald: Massage parlor magnate helped steer Chinese to Trump NYC fundraiser, attendee says

A Chinese-American massage-parlor entrepreneur arranged for a group of Chinese business executives to attend a paid fundraiser for President Donald Trump in New York City at the end of 2017, according to a source who was present at the event.

Cindy Yang, whose family owns a chain of South Florida day spas where prostitution is said to have taken place, also runs a Florida-based consulting business called GY US Investments that promises to introduce Chinese investors into the president’s orbit.

Yang was present at the Dec. 2, 2017, fundraiser, held at Cipriani restaurant in Manhattan, according to a photograph that circulated in Chinese-language media at the time. The source, who asked for anonymity to discuss the private fundraiser, said Yang identified herself as an official at the National Committee of Asian American Republicans, a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee founded in the summer of 2016.

In the 11 days before the event, Yang gave $5,400 to Trump’s campaign and $23,500 to the Trump Victory political action committee, according to a Miami Herald analysis of federal political contributions. The 45 year old, a naturalized American citizen, also claimed to have arranged the presence of a large group of business people from mainland China.

“They’re all my guests,” she told the source.

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article227358809.html

Pensacola News Journal: Sacred Heart near top of state for childbirth complications, hospital argues high risk patients drive stats

Sacred Heart Hospital ranks near the top of the state in terms of childbirth complications, a USA Today Network investigation found.

Nationally, the median rate for severe childbirth-related complications or deaths is about 1.3 percent, and Florida's rate is about 1.4 percent. Sacred Heart's rate is 3.2 percent for its approximately 14,400 deliveries between 2014 and 2017, according to the network's analysis.

Hospital officials say Sacred Heart has been proactive and aggressive in implementing best practices that keep moms and babies safe, and its numbers reflect the fact that the hospital handles the majority of the region's riskiest deliveries.

"We are one of only 13 Perinatal Intensive Care Centers in Florida," a statement from the hospital said. "In that role, we receive hundreds of referrals of women, some from 100-150 miles away in South Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, who have been identified as having high-risk pregnancies."

According to Sacred Heart, the hospital delivers about 4,000 babies a year and has experienced no maternal deaths in more than five years.

It is important to note that complication rates — known as "severe maternal morbidity" rates — in isolation are not an indicator of the overall quality of maternal care provided at any given hospital.

Read more: https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2019/03/08/sacred-heart-hospital-near-top-florida-childbirth-complications/2524806002/

USA Today: Hospitals blame moms when childbirth goes wrong. Secret data suggest it’s not that simple.

NEW ORLEANS – As she lay in her hospital bed a week after giving birth, Felicia West’s body started sending out warning signals .

Her blood pressure spiked. She complained of a splitting headache.

For three hours as she headed toward a stroke, medical records show no one at Touro Infirmary called a doctor to respond to danger signs for any new mother. They gave her painkillers and an ice pack – and they made her wait.

Then, after a series of handoffs, a doctor in training finally was tapped to deal with West’s blood pressure. The doctor was in no hurry.

"OK, well it will be a while before I can see her because I have a lot of people before her,” she responded at 6:45 p.m., the hospital’s nursing notes show.

Before dawn, West was dead.

Felicia West, a single mom who had done janitorial work before her pregnancy, turned 21 in the hospital while being treated for complications following the birth of her premature son. Her baby would eventually be fine. But West would not.

For years, hospitals have blamed rising maternal deaths and injuries on problems beyond their control. Almost universally they’ve pointed to poverty and pre-existing medical conditions as the driving factors in making America the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth.

Read more: https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/deadly-deliveries/2019/03/07/maternal-death-rates-secret-hospital-safety-records-childbirth-deaths/2953224002/

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: EXCLUSIVE: How systems failed to protect Effingham kids before death

SPRINGFIELD, Ga. — In court Tuesday, the attorney for Tony Wright, one of the suspects in the most shocking and sordid child abuse case in recent Georgia memory, told the judge her client should go free from jail on bond because he has no prior criminal record.

Prosecutor Brian Deal argued successfully against the bond, but he didn’t dispute the point about Wright’s lack of previous convictions. Deal knew the defense was right because he’d helped Wright avoid a criminal record back in 2013.Long before Mary Crocker and her brother, Elwyn “JR” Crocker Jr., turned up buried behind their home here in rural Effingham County, long before anyone could’ve fathomed that Wright and four relatives would be accused of torturing Mary, Wright was indicted on a charge of cruelty to children. But the charge — alleging that Wright allegedly hit JR in the face hard enough to leave “substantial bruising” — never moved forward. Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Richard Mallard and his assistant Deal stopped pursuing the case with just one condition: that Wright would have “no contact” with the boy.

That was just one of multiple times Georgia’s law enforcement, child welfare and education systems failed to protect the children in the long path to Dec. 20, 2018, when their bodies were pulled from the ground, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation has found. On Tuesday, authorities described the unthinkable conditions Mary endured in the months before she died; the 14-year-old was forced to live in a dog pen, starved, beaten and even Tased, a detective testified.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/crime--law/exclusive-how-systems-failed-protect-effingham-kids-before-death/NZHqr3maIIpdRoei8TOodL/

Courier Journal: Where a woman delivers her baby in Kentucky can determine how safe she is

Where a woman delivers her baby in Kentucky can determine whether she is seriously injured in childbirth — and even whether she lives or dies.

A USA TODAY Network investigation found that nearly one in 10 women who gave birth at Harlan ARH Hospital in recent years suffered severe childbirth complications that in some cases could have killed them.

The hospital, in the heart of coal country and owned by Appalachian Regional Healthcare, has Kentucky’s highest rate of childbirth complications, about seven times the state and national norm of 1.4 percent.

All of Louisville's birthing hospitals have lower-than-normal rates except University of Louisville Hospital, where 3 percent of moms suffered severe complications.

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2019/03/07/maternal-mortality-childbirth-complications-high-at-some-kentucky-hospitals/2698837002/

Boston Globe: Sex trafficking is in plain sight in Massachusetts communities

NORWELL — The Platinum Body Works Spa was housed in a nondescript blue Cape along a commercial stretch of Route 53. But workers at the neighboring business knew it was no ordinary massage parlor.

The shades were drawn. Clients — always men — would come in through a back door for appointments as brief as 20 minutes. One night, while working at the Marathon Sports store next door, Terri Ladka and Azure Mauche spotted a very young teenage girl leaving the “spa” for a van, they said.

How old could she be, they wondered? Thirteen?

“It made us think this is not something to even joke about or allow to continue happening,” said Ladka, a 50-year-old mother of four from Marshfield. The women went to Norwell police, who hinted the place was already on their radar.

That was three years ago.

It wasn’t until this month that the husband and wife who operated the Norwell spa were arrested and charged with trafficking a person for sexual servitude. The jarring news brought to Norwell’s doorstep a seemingly far-fetched reality that had already touched down in Stoneham, Arlington, Needham, and other Massachusetts communities: that there are women being held as sex slaves in the suburbs in 2019.

Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/03/09/mass-authorities-face-steep-hurdles-shutting-down-sex-trafficking/yFW40bBEEN9QtuIHaqTrmM/story.html

Star Tribune: Big gaps in 911 response in Minneapolis

Rick Dunbar watched from his car as a man tried to force open the door to his daughter’s Minneapolis rental property. He called 911.

And then he waited — for 31 minutes. By the time police arrived at the Fulton neighborhood house, the man had left.

“If this guy would have just kicked the door in ... he could have took TVs and whatever else and they still would have never caught him,” Dunbar said of the 2017 incident.

The response might have been faster if Dunbar called from another neighborhood. But police take longer on average to respond to high-priority 911 calls near Minneapolis’ southern border, according to a Star Tribune analysis of more than 70,000 calls in Minneapolis and St. Paul. In some neighborhoods, median response times for these calls were 5 minutes longer than Minneapolis’ citywide median of just under 8 minutes.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/emergency-callers-wait-longer-for-police-responses-at-minneapolis-border/506438091/

The Kansas City Star: Failed KCK water slide death prosecution took unusual path to Kansas attorney general

Nearly four months after 10-year-old Caleb Schwab was killed riding the Verruckt water slide in August 2016 and as police continued to investigate the matter, then-Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerry Gorman received an unusual request.

Mike Rader, a Leawood attorney representing Caleb’s family, sent Gorman a letter asking that Gorman recuse himself from the case. The letter explained that the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., where the water park is located, was a potential defendant in a civil lawsuit and Gorman’s involvement in an investigation could be viewed as a conflict of interest.

“When it comes to evaluating culpability from a prosecutorial perspective, I believe your office’s involvement in reviewing this matter could be viewed as improper or biased,” the letter said.

Copied on the letter, which was obtained by The Star through a Kansas Open Records Act request, was Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Caleb’s father, Scott Schwab, was a Kansas state representative at the time. He is now Kansas secretary of state.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article226929674.html

Las Vegas Review-Journal: RJ investigation finds violations, no enforcement of county lobbying disclosures

A government program designed to bring transparency to lobbyists’ private meetings with Clark County Commission members operates without oversight or enforcement, a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation has found.

On hundreds of occasions last year lobbyists may have failed to disclose communications within five days of meeting with a commissioner as required by law. The newspaper discovered the meetings by comparing lobbying disclosure forms submitted to the county clerk’s office with commissioners’ work calendars and check-in logs outside their offices.

As of Friday, 16 lobbyists filed more than 100 overdue disclosure forms for last year after the Review-Journal asked them about the missing paperwork. The meetings were for projects including home construction, an additional heliport at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, and a new lighting display at the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas.

Read more: https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/politics-and-government/clark-county/rj-investigation-finds-violations-no-enforcement-of-county-lobbying-disclosures-1614541/

The New York Times: Amazon’s Tax Breaks and Incentives Were Big. Hudson Yards’ Are Bigger.

At Hudson Yards, the expansive real estate development that is about to open in Manhattan, seven floors of retail are occupied by Fendi, Dior, Neiman Marcus and other high-end shops. Major corporations, including WarnerMedia and L’Oreal USA, will have their headquarters there. In the luxury residential buildings, one-bedroom apartments will rent for at least $5,200 a month — or you can buy a two-floor penthouse condo for $32 million.

All thanks to the help of taxpayers.

New York was riveted for weeks by a debate over whether Amazon should receive $3 billion in tax breaks and other incentives in return for setting up a headquarters in Queens and creating 25,000 jobs. But with far less public attention, the city government has for more than a decade been funneling even more aid to Hudson Yards, a 28-acre complex of gleaming office buildings and luxury residential towers that is one of the nation’s biggest real estate projects in recent years.

In all, the tax breaks and other government assistance for Hudson Yards have reached nearly $6 billion, according to public records and a recent analysis by the New School.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/09/nyregion/hudson-yards-new-york-tax-breaks.html

The Columbus Dispatch: Overcharges on generic Prilosec give Ohio taxpayers heartburn

For the past couple of years, Ohioans could buy the generic version of the heartburn treatment Prilosec off the shelf at most any drugstore for less than 60 cents a tablet — and less than 40 cents online.

At the same time, however, Ohioans were being charged $6.57 a tablet to provide large quantities of the exact same drug through the state’s Medicaid program.

Those apparent overcharges for just this one 20-mg pill totaled about $2.4 million in only 18 months, from the start of 2017 to mid-2018 (the latest figures available).

“This is a case of 42 tabs can be mailed to your house without a prescription for $15.99 (or less), while a state’s Medicaid budget forked over $283.08 (17.7 times as much) for the same quantity,” said an analysis released this past week by Robert W. Baird Co., a multinational independent investment bank and financial services company based in Wisconsin.

The higher price stems from an almost-unnoticed decision by a middleman in the drug-supply chain who ironically was hired to help keep prices down: pharmacy benefit manager CVS Caremark.

Why?

That’s where things get complicated — not uncommon when delving into reasons behind the high cost of prescription drugs. But it's yet another chapter in the story of how even the smallest of moves by pharmacy benefit managers, the middlemen in the prescription-drug-supply and payment chain, can have multimillion-dollar effects on the public.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/sideeffects/overcharges-generic-prilosec-give-ohio-taxpayers-heartburn/site/dispatch.com/

The Oregonian: Oregon Department of Environmental Quality bends to pressure from industries that contribute to political campaigns

The threat was explicit.

Kevin Downing’s job in Oregon government was to reduce cancer-causing pollution from diesel engines, and the state was interested in following California’s lead by requiring cleaner trucks. Texas was doing it. So were New Jersey, Connecticut and Georgia — a dozen states altogether.

Downing said when he pushed the idea, his boss at the Department of Environmental Quality told him to make a phone call.

The initiative would lead to less smog in Oregon, but truckers disliked it because the new engines got worse mileage. Oregon Trucking Associations Inc., and its chief lobbyist, Bob Russell, boasted online about a “direct line of communication” with state agencies.

“Call Bob Russell and see what he thinks,” Downing recalled being told by Andy Ginsburg, then Oregon’s top air quality official.

Downing did, and he said Russell delivered a warning.

“The message that Bob told me to convey back to my managers was that if we were to proceed on this, he’d go after the agency’s budget,” Downing said.

Russell said he didn’t recall making a threat against the department’s budget.

“It’s not my style to do that kind of stuff,” he said.

But Oregon backed off on cleaner trucks.

The message Downing took from that phone call in 2001 reveals one way Oregon’s corporate polluters get their way: by ensuring that Oregon’s environmental regulators pay a steep price for one wrong move.

An expansive review of internal documents and dozens of interviews with current and former environmental regulators, lobbyists, advocates and lawmakers reveals that pressure tactics have instilled a deep culture of deference at the Department of Environmental Quality.

Read more: https://projects.oregonlive.com/polluted-by-money/part-3

Tennessean: In Tennessee, 185 people are serving life for crimes committed as teens

After a day of drinking alcohol, smoking pot and driving around Nashville with his dad and uncle, 16-year-old Kevin Buford got out of the car to rob a stranger in the parking lot of a car wash.

But the stranger — a 33-year-old Jiffy Lube employee taking his break — fought back.

Buford's uncle told him to shoot. He did.  

The 2008 murder of Billy Jack Shane Tuders left two young children to grow up without their father. His daughter commemorates his birthday each year by posting notes of love on a memorial website. His six brothers and sisters buy birthday cake in his honor.

He would now be 44.

Buford is now a 27-year-old man serving a life sentence at Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, Tennessee. His mother, stepfather and brothers visit him regularly. His 23-year-old brother, who has several intellectual disabilities, asks for him nearly every day.

Buford, a sophomore in high school, was convicted of first-degree murder. He is one of 185 inmates serving life sentences in Tennessee prisons for murders they committed before their 18th birthdays.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/03/07/juvenile-sentencing-tennessee-cyntoia-brown-clemency-life/2848278002/

Houston Chronicle: ‘Highly confidential:’ School fund’s investments shrouded in secrecy

You might want to know how your inheritance — and that of your children and grandchildren — is being invested.

Who is handling the money? How much are they charging? What are the returns on your investment?

When it comes to your inheritance from our founding lawmakers, a $44 billion endowment created to forever help fund public education, the answers to those questions are obscured, buried in redacted reports and in documents labeled "Highly Confidential."

The Texas Permanent School Fund, now 165 years old, is the largest education endowment in the United States. It is critical to public education funding in Texas, sending roughly $1 billion each year to schools to pay for textbooks and other costs, at a time when many big districts are facing shortfalls in the millions.

But the fund is surrounded by a wall of secrecy built up by years of erosion of the Texas Public Information Act, the state's 45-year-old open records law. Lawmakers have carved out dozens of exceptions to the law that have allowed government agencies to withhold and black out information that would have been presumed public in the past. A Texas Supreme Court decision in 2015 also made it easier for government agencies and corporations to argue that public disclosure of information could cause them competitive harm.

Read more: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/investigations/article/Highly-confidential-School-fund-s-13631976.php?cmpid=gsa-chron-result

AP: Police officer video regularly withheld from public view

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The video is brief but disturbing: An officer is seen striking an unarmed suspect with his pistol as the man falls into the grass. An autopsy would later show he died from a gunshot to the back of the head.

After the death last July of 26-year-old Daniel Fuller in Devils Lake, North Dakota, investigators described the video to his grieving relatives. But for days, weeks and then months, they refused to release it to the family or to the public. They did so only after a prosecutor announced in November that the officer did not intend to fire his gun and would not face criminal charges.

"It took forever for them to release the video because they kept saying it was an ongoing investigation," said Fuller's older sister, Allyson Bartlett. "I don't think they wanted pressure from the community."

Her experience is typical. An investigation by The Associated Press has found that police departments routinely withhold video taken by body-worn and dashboard-mounted cameras that show officer-involved shootings and other uses of force. They often do so by citing a broad exemption to state open records laws — by claiming that releasing the video would undermine an ongoing investigation.

During the last five years, taxpayers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to outfit officers' uniforms and vehicles with cameras and to store the footage they record as evidence. Body cameras, in particular, have been touted as a way to increase police transparency by allowing for a neutral view of whether an officer's actions were justified. In reality, the videos can be withheld for months, years or even indefinitely, the AP review found.

Read more: https://apnews.com/67f22d5857f14413a4a9b34642c49ae3

WATCHDOG/ENTERPRISE REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • March 7, 2019

Honolulu Civil Beat: How Many Kids In Hawaii Have Been Vaccinated? The State Doesn’t Know

The Hawaii Department of Health has given the state’s schools two weeks to report the number of students exempted from statewide vaccination requirements because as many as 40 percent of schools may not have done so for this academic year.

The crackdown was disclosed by DOH officials in an interview with Civil Beat on Monday. Hawaii’s 393 public, private and religious schools were all required to file vaccination exemption waivers at the beginning of the school year in August.

The Health Department said “more than 60 percent, but less than 70 percent” of schools are currently in compliance. The department blamed its own staff shortages for the failure to enforce regulations that require filing of reports on the number of students who are unvaccinated.

The health department did not identify to Civil Beat which schools have failed to provide the required information.

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/02/how-many-kids-in-hawaii-have-been-vaccinated-the-state-doesnt-know/

Montgomery Advertiser: 'The ones nobody misses': Scope of human trafficking in Alabama wider than reported, experts say

This is the first in a series of stories the Montgomery Advertiser produced in partnership with the Fuller Project for International Reporting, a nonprofit journalism organization that reports on issues that impact women.

The cursive script scrawls down Claira's skin, looping across the finger on her left hand that, at another moment in time, might hold a ring.

But for now, it still holds the name of her trafficker.

"It says 'Life,' because he says that he gives his women life," she said.

Claira met him when she was 14. They were in a mall. She was with her friends, and he was with his.

There was an almost 10-year age gap between the two groups. It didn’t deter the older men. They started hanging out with Claira and her friends on weekends, drinking and playing dominoes. Claira, struggling in an abusive home, began spending time alone with him, a well-dressed 23-year-old. After knowing him for over a year, she moved in with him.

"In my situation, he was my hero," said Claira. "My circumstances sucked. I was looking to be rescued. He came along, and that was my way out of my life at home."

Within months, she was one of a cadre of young women he transported and sold for sex in strip clubs up, down and around the southeastern United States. She was in and out of the sex trade for a decade before finally getting help at a residential treatment center for survivors of human trafficking in Alabama, where she now lives.

"That isn't life," Claira said, touching her tattoo with her thumb.

"That’s death."

Most people wouldn’t recognize Claira’s story as human trafficking.

Read more: https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/2019/02/26/the-ones-nobody-misses-scope-human-trafficking-alabama-wider-than-reported-experts-say/2777701002/

Los Angeles Times: Newsom’s shorter California bullet train plan likely to run out of money before completion

The California bullet train project will probably run out of money before it can fulfill Gov. Gavin Newsom’s modest plan to build a high-speed operating segment between Bakersfield and Merced, according to a Times analysis of the state rail authority’s financial records.

The governor declared his support for the scaled-back rail plan last month, saying that for the foreseeable future the original goal of a Los Angeles-to-San Francisco system would cost too much and had no path forward. Instead, Newsom said, the state did have the “capacity” to build a 171-mile route through the almond orchards, orange groves, vineyards and oil fields of the Central Valley.

But the project faces many challenges, including an investigation by the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation that has been looking at allegations of poorly controlled or improper spending by the California High-Speed Rail Authority in the Central Valley, according to individuals familiar with the probe.

The biggest problem, however, remains a limited pool of money for the complex project.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-bullet-plan-challenges-20190303-story.html

Miami Herald: A lot went wrong in Florida’s 2018 election. That may have actually been a good thing

It would have seemed absurd to say it amid all the accusations of voter fraud, blown deadlines and lawsuits, but now that the haze of Florida’s midterm debacle has cleared, the 2018 election fiasco could actually prove to be a good thing for the country’s premier battleground state.

On one hand, nearly two decades after Florida set the bar for election chaos, an unprecedented three statewide recounts showed in November that laws put into place following the infamous 2000 presidential election were, in fact, largely successful. A new and uniform recount system enacted across all 67 counties lent certainty to a previously nebulous and politicized process, and hard deadlines helped keep the election from being decided by the courts.

But Florida’s recount encore also exposed deep flaws that linger in the electoral process, flaws that could undercut the 2020 presidential race should voters in an increasingly gridlocked state remain so evenly divided. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Florida by little more than 1 percentage point in 2016, and no one should be shocked next year if Decision 2020 is within the 0.5 percent margin that triggers yet another recount.

The good news: State lawmakers will have an opportunity over the coming weeks to once again address Florida’s election woes as they meet for their annual legislative session. With the proper adjustments, voters can go to the polls to vote for president next year with more confidence and less chance of once again watching their state become a national punch line.

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/election/article224873630.html

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia gives lawyer-legislators liberal privileges to delay cases

State Rep. Scot Turner was so upset about Georgia House Speaker David Ralston’s use of a state law allowing lawyers serving in the General Assembly to repeatedly delay court cases that he released a statement condemning his fellow Republican.

Part of what angered Turner was that one of the cases — a charge of aggravated child molestation — was dropped by the district attorney five years after indictment. Turner was shocked when he learned the full story.Court records show Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, cited legislative duties to delay the trial of his client, Ellijay resident Derek Key, 27 times from January 2010 through September 2014. Add to that an unspecified leave of absence Ralston took in May 2014 and the delays total 28.

“I’m stunned,” the four-term lawmaker from Holly Springs said. “I know the time period looked bad, but 28 times?”Such serial delays of criminal trials are so concerning that many states do not allow them, particularly when a child victim is involved. But a review of laws and practices around the nation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found Georgia’s legislative exemption is one of the most permissive.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/georgia-gives-lawyer-legislators-liberal-privileges-delay-cases/HegkBc4uLVl4OFWfTsUciM/

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Aquarium trade still triggers fierce debate, even dividing a fishing village

MILOLII, Hawaii Island >> They both come from a long line of fishing families.

For generations, the families of Wilfred “Willy” Kaupiko, 73, and Chelsey Lokalia Kuahuia Faavesi, 29, relied on the ocean for food and income.

Though separated in age by more than four decades, the two Big Island residents share other similarities in their backgrounds.

Both live in this tiny, isolated South Kona coastal community, one of Hawaii’s last traditional fishing villages.

Both are Native Hawaiian fishers.

And both see the ocean as an integral part of their heritage, a source of nourishment, fulfillment and inspiration.

“This is all my garden,” said Kaupiko, gesturing to the coastal waters off the village on a recent February morning.

“Fishing is not a hobby,” Faavesi said in a separate interview. “It’s our lifestyle.”

There is one aspect of fishing, though, that these two Milolii villagers don’t share.

They have vastly different views on Hawaii’s aquarium trade, a small but controversial industry that has supplied millions of colorful tropical fish to saltwater aquariums the world over.

Kaupiko, who has been called the unofficial mayor of the village, wants the state to shut down the $2 million-­plus industry. Faavesi, who catches fish for the trade, doesn’t.

Kaupiko said the industry has harmed fishing grounds that village families have relied on for generations. Faavesi said the trade harvests fish in a sustainable way and provides employment, especially helpful in an isolated place like Milolii.

Their conflicting views reflect what has been a decades-long, contentious debate throughout the islands, one that has become as polarized as the national political discourse.

Read more: https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/03/03/hawaii-news/aquarium-trade-still-triggers-fierce-debate-even-dividing-a-fishing-village/?HSA=adc929fcf39d8ad263a43ccbf90e6c4c39a33e8f

Courier Journal: 2 Kentucky Congressmen question why state officials didn't act faster in deadly hepatitis A outbreak

Two Kentucky Congressmen, one Republican and one Democrat, are raising questions about the state's response to a massive hepatitis A outbreak that sickened more than 4,200 people and killed 43.

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, whose Appalachian congressional district is being pummeled by the nation's largest outbreak of hepatitis A, says warning signs were missed in the state's response to the infectious liver virus.

"I am disappointed by reports that clear warning signs and serious alarm bells were not heeded sooner," Rogers, R-5th District, said this week.

And U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-3rd District, said the state needs to take responsibility to figure out what went wrong.

"I'm grateful for the Courier Journal's work to help shine light on this situation," Yarmuth said," and I hope state officials will take ownership in getting to the bottom of what went wrong to ensure additional lives are not put at risk."

The Courier Journal is investigating the state’s response to the outbreak as it swept through Appalachia beginning last spring, spread largely by drug users and the homeless.

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2019/03/01/kentucky-hepatitis-outbreak-hal-rogers-says-alarms-unheeded/3032275002/

The Baltimore Sun: As Pimlico faded, its owners were pouring money into their Laurel track. Was anyone watching?

The long-running competition between Maryland’s two biggest horse racing tracks — Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course — might be entering the final stretch with the tracks’ owner and Baltimore boosters betting on vastly different finishes.

The Stronach Group is spending significant political capital to support its vision to tear down the nearly 149-year-old Pimlico, redevelop the 110-acre site and relocate the Preakness Stakes to an $80 million, state-subsidized “super track” at Laurel — perhaps by 2021.

Pimlico “is just falling apart,” says Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer for Stronach.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, meanwhile, represents those who want to rebuild Pimlico, keep the Preakness there and establish a work group to start planning a $400 million redevelopment outlined in a recent Maryland Stadium Authority study.

“We will fight this with every fiber of our being,” Pugh said. “The Preakness belongs to Baltimore.”

The fate of Pimlico has been debated for years. But this time Stronach-backed legislation before the General Assembly could move the company closer to victory. And as the two sides make their case in Annapolis, Stronach appears to be much further down the path toward its vision than many Baltimore officials realized.

The Baltimore Sun examined seven years of financial records submitted by Stronach to the Maryland Racing Commission detailing how it invested $112 million in state grants, subsidized support from the horse industry and its own cash from 2011 to 2018. The company directed almost 80 percent of that money — $89 million — to Laurel, spending just $23 million at Pimlico.

The bulk of the money, $45 million, came from Maryland’s slots-funded Racetrack Facilities Renewal program over the past five years. Roughly 87 percent of those funds went to Laurel, The Sun’s review of records found.

Read more: https://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/horse-racing/bs-md-pimlico-accountability-20190226-story.html

The Kansas City Star: Frank White’s administration cut over half of report detailing Jackson Co. jail issues

Jackson County Executive Frank White’s administration suppressed more than half of a consulting team’s report that outlined shortcomings at the troubled county jail while it was under his supervision.

White gave no hint when he released the Shive-Hattery report at the first of this year that the 53-page document had been heavily edited, despite his outspoken support for government “transparency” during his three years as head of county government.

The Star learned of the extensive omissions — more than 60 pages of singled-spaced text and charts — after obtaining a copy of the original, 118-page draft independently. A reporter then shared the document with the past two chairpersons of the county legislature, which last spring appropriated up to $285,000 for the study that White said would finally lay the factual foundation for replacing the Jackson County Detention Center with a safer and more humane facility.

Neither this year’s chairwoman, Theresa Galvin, nor her predecessor, legislator Scott Burnett, had seen the original report, although according to White’s spokeswoman they could have done so last fall had they scheduled an appointment to read it in the county counselor’s office. Public information officer Marshanna Hester said no copies were distributed until it was determined “if any information contained within the report would potentially create any safety or security risks for staff or inmates.“

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article226755879.html

Las Vegas Review-Journal: A future no one could see capped Nevada’s share of Colorado River water

When representatives from seven Western states met in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to divvy up the Colorado River in 1922, Las Vegas was a dusty railroad stop with fewer than 2,500 residents.

No one could have imagined this isolated desert community would one day become an international destination with more than 2 million residents and 40 million annual visitors.

No one thought Nevada would ever need more water than it eventually got from those early Colorado River negotiations.

“It strikes me as a forgivable failure of imagination,” said historian Christian Harrison, who earned his doctorate from UNLV. “They probably thought they would land people on Mars before we had so many people living in this valley.”

The concessions Nevada made at those negotiations in New Mexico almost a century ago now threaten to limit future growth in the state’s largest community, where 90 percent of the water supply comes from a river teetering on the brink of shortage.

Nevada and the other six states that rely on the river for water face a federal deadline of March 19 to submit plans to voluntarily reduce their use ahead of an unprecedented shortage declaration that could come later this year and bring additional, mandatory cuts aimed at keeping Lake Mead from crashing.

Read more: https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/local-nevada/a-future-no-one-could-see-capped-nevadas-share-of-colorado-river-water-1603391/

Democrat & Chronicle: Day of reckoning: A wave of fresh accusations against priests has been unleashed

After decades of anguish and argument over sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, a final reckoning may be coming for New York parishioners.

Over the last quarter century, sexual abuse allegations, some of them horrendous, have been lodged in fits and starts against more than 400 priests and others associated with the church in New York state. The church hierarchy has been accused of concealing the truth about sexual misconduct as well.

But the number of past accusations and admissions pale in comparison to what's happening today, and what will happen in the months ahead. The Democrat and Chronicle has found this confluence of events:

·       More than 1,260 sexual abuse claims have been resolved and at least $228 million paid in compensation over the last two years under a systematic reconciliation program adopted by New York’s eight Catholic dioceses. Rochester is lagging, however, and has resolved about a half-dozen claims. By contrast, Ogdensburg, in less-populous St. Lawrence County, has already settled 39.

·       A wave of lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy will begin arriving soon in New York courtrooms and peak starting this summer. Big law firms are flocking to New York to take advantage of a new state law that eases stringent limits on who can file such suits.

·       The cases, which will number in the many hundreds at least, will lay bare new details of past horrors and could push some of New York's diocese to the brink of bankruptcy. What may be the first suit brought under the new law, filed Friday in Buffalo, is seeking $300 million for a single victim.

·       The state Attorney General’s investigation of church sexual abuse has given investigators access to private diocesan records that will document still more instances of sexual misconduct and could well reveal past efforts by church officials to shield abusive clergy from discovery.

Combined, the three initiatives will provide a painful yet welcome opportunity for victims of sexual abuse to grievances against priests that have festered for decades.

Read more: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2019/02/28/catholic-priest-abuse-rochester-ny-child-victims-act/2949197002/

The Oregonian: How corporate campaign cash lets pollution prevail in The Dalles

THE DALLES — To experience Oregon’s deference to powerful polluting industries, visit this Columbia River town 90 minutes east of Portland.

Then breathe deep.

The sickening smell of mothballs can burn the inside of your nose, even on what people here consider a good day.

Residents say when the worst fumes hit, the smell is so overpowering they can’t sit on their decks, let their kids play outside, mow their lawns, garden, sleep with the windows open or welcome out-of-town friends.

“There are times it’s nauseating – you just can’t stand it,” said Roger Pettit, 46, who lived a half-mile downwind until he moved last spring. “I gotta tell you, if I was diagnosed with cancer, I would immediately think it was because I lived here.”

In 2016, a few town residents decided they’d had enough. The ensuing battle to stop the stench shows what a political system fueled by corporate cash means for ordinary Oregonians.

No one donates more to Oregon lawmakers than business groups, an investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive found. They give more per resident than anywhere else in the country. The money explains why Oregon has fallen behind on a long list of environmental protections.

Environmental regulators are under the steady watch of lawmakers who take hundreds of thousands of dollars from Corporate America. Industry gets a direct line to decision makers, while people who complain about pollution get shut out.

For nearly a century, The Dalles has been a dumping ground for one of Oregon’s most environmentally destructive businesses — a railroad tie plant that contaminated the Columbia River, created a Superfund site and put the city’s drinking water at risk.

Read more: https://projects.oregonlive.com/polluted-by-money/part-2

The Tennessean: Is Nashville spending too much on outsourcing?

One company charges the city $78 per hour for administrative assistants. Another charges $148 for engineers. A third bills the government for project managers at $195 an hour.

The charges are far more than what Nashville city employees cost to do similar work.

During the recession, the city outsourced an array of jobs to save taxpayer money. But as the economy roared back, the Public Works department continued outsourcing work to contractors instead of hiring its own employees.

While Nashville nearly tripled its spending on streets and sidewalks, the city has fewer Public Works employees than before the 2008 recession.

Now that a top contractor, Collier Engineering, is under scrutiny for ethical and billing practices, critics question if outsourcing at this level is still efficient.

Since 2008, Public Works has pushed millions of dollars into just a handful of engineering firms rather than hire its own people to handle functions such as inspections, permitting and constituent services.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/02/28/nashville-outsourcing-collier-engineering-investigations/2943205002/

Houston Chronicle: Broken Trust: Texas’ huge school endowment pays out less and less for schoolchildren

AUSTIN— It was a grand promise, one our forefathers made 165 years ago to all Texas children, to theirs and ours and those not yet born.

With $2 million and the state's most abundant and precious resource — its land — they created the Texas Permanent School Fund to forever support public education. It was called a "sacred trust."

That trust, dedicated to K-12 schools, is now valued at $44 billion, bigger than even Harvard University's endowment.

It is also broken.

The Permanent School Fund has failed to match the performance of peer endowments, missing out on as much as $12 billion in growth and amassing a risky asset allocation, a yearlong Houston Chronicle investigation reveals.

Read more: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/investigations/article/Broken-Trust-Texas-huge-school-endowment-pays-13631937.php

Tampa Bay Times: DNA supports St. Pete rape claim from woman who is intellectually disabled. Why no charges?

ST. PETERSBURG — She has seen Law & Order on TV — tidy episodes with the investigation, the arrest, the trial.

She’ll turn to her mother and ask, “Why is it taking so long for my case?”

After all, she reported it to the police. She gave her body and a stained, pink comforter as evidence. A DNA match came back for the man she accused of forcing her onto her bed and raping her.

What’s more, she has been intellectually disabled since birth. She doesn’t drive. She doesn't work. She lives under the supervision of her mother and sister.

So the woman and her family were baffled and angry when they learned that prosecutors weren’t going to charge the man. Now 26, she feels like no one believes her about the attack three years ago.

The Tampa Bay Times is withholding her name because of the nature of the allegations.

Read more: https://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/dna-supports-st-pete-rape-claim-from-woman-who-is-intellectually-disabled-why-no-charges-20190306/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Feb. 28, 2019

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Dairy farmers are in crisis — and it could change Wisconsin forever

There was a time when the soft glow of barn lights dotted Wisconsin’s rural landscape like stars in a constellation, connecting families who labored into the night milking cows, feeding calves and finishing chores.

Hundreds of those barns are dark now, the cows gone, the hum of milking machines silenced.

"All of our neighbors are done," said Sue Spaulding, a dairy farmer near Shell Lake, in Washburn County.

She and her husband, Chuck, soldier on, milking about 60 cows on their 300-acre farm that Chuck bought when he was only 17.

Seven years ago, the Spauldings borrowed heavily to modernize their barn and position things for the future.

But in late 2014, farm milk prices started to plummet. The downturn, fueled by overproduction and failing export markets, has lasted more than four years and has wiped out dairy farms from Maine to California.

The price farmers receive for their milk has fallen nearly 40 percent.

"This downward cycle has been brutal," said Kevin Schoessow, a University of Wisconsin-Extension agent in Washburn County.

Wisconsin lost almost 700 dairy farms in 2018, an unprecedented rate of nearly two a day. Most were small operations unable to survive farm milk prices that, adjusted for inflation, were among the lowest in a half-century.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/in-depth/news/special-reports/dairy-crisis/2019/02/21/wisconsin-dairy-farms-failing-milk-prices-fall/2540796002/

The Seattle Times: HUNGER: The decline of salmon adds to the struggle of Puget Sound’s orcas

The crew of the Bell M. Shimada hauled in the net, long as a football field and teeming with life. Scientists, off the coast of Washington for a week on this June research trip, crowded in for a look.

Each tow of the net revealed a changing world for chinook salmon, the Pacific Northwest’s most famous fish — and the most important prey for the southern-resident killer whales that frequent Puget Sound.

There were salmon the scientists expected, although fewer of them. But weirdly also pompano, tropical fish with pretty pink highlights, iridescent as a soap bubble, that were not supposed to be there at all.

What the scientists see each year on this survey underway since 1998 has taken on new importance as oceans warm in the era of climate change.

Decadelong cycles of more and less productive ocean conditions for salmon and other sea life are breaking down. The cycles of change are quicker. Novel conditions in the Pacific are the new normal.

“It used to be up, or down. Now, it is sideways,” said physiological ecologist Brian Beckman, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

That’s bad news for endangered orcas that rely on salmon for food. When salmon decline, orcas suffer.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/hunger-the-decline-of-salmon-adds-to-the-struggle-of-puget-sounds-orcas/

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Beaten, then silenced

The drive from Philadelphia winds southwest on the interstate, the city blocks giving way to wooded hills, the clock tower at the Glen Mills Schools finally coming into view. Every week, the mother drove the hour to visit her son at the school for delinquent boys.

Founded in 1826, Glen Mills is the oldest existing school of its kind in the country, with a reputation akin to the Harvard of reform schools. Boys are sent to the Delaware County campus from California, Texas, New York, and Ohio, and its top-tier athletic program yields NFL recruits. With its redbrick buildings and neatly trimmed quad, Glen Mills looks more like an elite prep school than a program for court-ordered boys.

Founded in 1826 as the Philadelphia House of Refuge, Glen Mills is the oldest school for delinquent boys in the country, set on nearly 800 acres of rolling hills in Delaware County.

But visiting her son one day in 2017, the boy’s mother immediately knew something was wrong. His eyes were red and unfocused. He seemed dazed and had an ugly knot on the back of his head. The teenager insisted everything was fine.

“Don’t lie to me,” she said. He reluctantly told her: A Glen Mills counselor had picked him up and thrown him on his head, knocking him unconscious for several minutes. Another student had had to shake the teenager awake. The counselor was punishing him, the 16-year-old told his mother, for mouthing off.

She began to scream at every staffer she could find. Their response, she says, was that they could report the abuse to the state Department of Human Services — but if they did, her son would likely go to a less desirable placement than Glen Mills, one where he could no longer play sports. “They basically gave me an ultimatum,” she says. “It was ‘Do you want to tell, or do you want to throw it under the rug?’ ”

Serious violence is both an everyday occurrence and an open secret at Glen Mills, and has been for decades, an Inquirer investigation has found. Internal documents, court records, incident reports, and more than 40 interviews with students, staff, and others show top leaders turn a blind eye to the beatings and insulate themselves from reports while failing to properly vet or train the school’s counselors.

Read more: https://www.philly.com/crime/a/glen-mills-schools-pa-abuse-juvenile-investigation-20190220.html

The Oregonian: Polluted by Money

Oregon once aimed to be the greenest state in America.

Its leaders adopted the nation’s first bottle deposit. They controlled urban sprawl. They declared ocean beaches public property.

But in the last four years, Oregon’s most powerful industries have killed, weakened or stalled efforts to deal with climate change, wolf recovery, disappearing bird habitat, cancer-causing diesel exhaust, dwindling groundwater, industrial air pollution, oil spill planning and weed killers sprayed from helicopters.

What changed Oregon?

Money. Lots and lots of money.

The Oregonian/OregonLive spent 18 months examining how and why Oregon has fallen behind on so many important environmental fronts. The newsroom’s investigation found a startling answer, one that may surprise many Oregonians.

Oregon’s failure to regulate campaign cash has made it one of the biggest money states in American politics. The flood of money created an easy regulatory climate where industry gets what it wants, again and again.

Read more: https://projects.oregonlive.com/polluted-by-money/

Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism: Protection of vulnerable seniors a growing challenge in Ohio

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Ohio has struggled to care for vulnerable seniors, and it’s getting worse.

The state’s probate courts are responsible for creating and monitoring guardianships of the frail elderly, balancing freedom and protection.

They are already strained. And yet, between 2010 and 2030, the number of Ohioans over 65 is projected to rise by half, from 1.6 million to 2.4 million. Over the next seven years, the number of Alzheimer’s patients in the state is projected to rise by 13.6 percent.

Authorities don’t even claim to know how many guardianship abuse cases are out there. “Once a guardianship is imposed, there are few safeguards in place to protect against individuals who choose to abuse the system,” wrote the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging in its 2018 report on guardianship. “Few states are able to report accurate or detailed guardianship data.”

Read more: https://www.cleveland.com/news/2019/02/protection-of-vulnerable-seniors-a-growing-challenge-in-ohio.html

The News & Observer: Pay $500 on a panhandling charge or sit in jail for five days. Should NC find a better way?

On a chilly Saturday in January, Raleigh police arrested a 45-year-old homeless man on Old Wake Forest Road, charging him with begging from the intersection as he held a sign that read “Anything Helps, God Bless You.”

Herman Smith later that day faced a magistrate, who set his bail at $500. Smith couldn’t pay. So he sat behind bars in the Wake County jail until Monday, when he spoke to a District Court judge.

In a striped uniform, Smith appeared through a video feed from the jail, about half his face showing on the courtroom monitor. “I have a job, sir,” he told the judge. “Is there any way I can waive my right to counsel and plead guilty today?”

He could not. Smith spent three more days in jail before pleading guilty and walking out with a fresh misdemeanor on his record.

By N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein’s estimate, jailing Smith for five days before his trial cost taxpayers $350. Nationally, keeping defendants behind bars in advance of their judgment costs taxpayers $14 billion, and Stein cites studies showing $3 billion of that is spent on low-level, nonviolent offenders such as Smith.

Momentum is building across North Carolina and nationwide to scale back or even end the use of cash bail, which grants pretrial freedom based on the ability to pay. Under the type of bail reform Stein and other judicial officials now advocate, misdemeanor offenders on Smith’s level might get a summons to appear in court or supervised release before trial, sparing taxpayers the expense of housing them.

Read more: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/state/north-carolina/article224673805.html

Albuquerque Journal: NM faces hurdles recruiting doctors

An “exciting opportunity” for a neurosurgeon awaits at the San Juan Regional Medical Center, according to an online hospital help wanted ad.

Unfortunately, the vacancy has been open for at least 18 months despite the eye-popping base salary of up to $750,000 and perks that include student loan repayment.

The good news is that the 194-bed hospital in New Mexico’s Four Corners area – which needs a total three neurosurgeons – has managed to hire two from out of state during its ongoing search.

“We beat the bushes and found them,” said hospital CEO Jeff Bourgeois. “We tell them, `You’re needed. You’re needed here. Come here and you’ll be appreciated … ‘ ”

New Mexico is suffering more than many other states from the national physician shortage, leading to long wait times for appointments and emergency room visits when waiting is unbearable. One national report ranked the state 48th in access to physicians in 2017. To make matters worse, the state’s physician work force is the oldest in the country and ranked near the top in the number of doctors surveyed who said they planned to retire in the next few years.

Read more: https://www.abqjournal.com/1284623/nm-faces-hurdles-recruiting-doctors.html

The Kansas City Star: Amid unrest in Ferguson, Missouri Highway Patrol started using secret messaging app

For more than four years, the Missouri State Highway Patrol used a self-destructing text messaging app called Silent Phone, raising concerns about whether it undermined open records laws or thwarted public oversight of law enforcement.

Silent Phone allows users to make phone calls and send encrypted text messages. It is designed so that users can set the time of a text’s deletion at anywhere from one minute to 90 days. The default setting erases texts in three days.

After which it is gone forever.

The highway patrol’s decision to purchase Silent Phone came in response to the 2014 protests in Ferguson over the killing of an unarmed African-American named Michael Brown by a white police officer. It was used during the 2017 protests in St. Louis following the acquittal of St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, who was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, an African-American suspect.

Staff in the governor’s office began using Silent Phone under former Gov. Eric Greitens during the 2017 St. Louis protests and later for overseas travel.

The Star requested copies of any text messages sent using Silent Phone since 2014, but the highway patrol said it had no records to turn over.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article226626944.html

Star Tribune: Should police turn to genealogy sites to catch a long-sought killer?

The brutal stabbing death of Jeanne Childs in her Minneapolis apartment 25 years ago seemed destined to remain a mystery.

But when investigators recently tapped one of the popular genealogy sites used by millions of people to track their ancestry, they finally hit on a lead to crack the cold case and charge an Isanti, Minn., businessman with murder.

It’s an innovative investigative tool increasingly used by law enforcement nationwide to solve heinous crimes, but one that critics say raises ethical issues around privacy and constitutional rights.

The growing popularity of genealogical websites such as AncestryDNA, which claims to have more than 10 million users, means it won’t be long before all Americans could be reachable through one of these consumer databases, even if they did not submit their own DNA samples, said Natalie Ram, an assistant law professor at the University of Baltimore who has studied and written about genetics for the past 15 years.

“It’s undoubtedly a good thing to solve serious violent crimes,” Ram said. “But the American system of criminal justice represents a balancing act between privacy of people in the United States and the power of the police to use whatever means they want to solve a crime.”

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/should-genealogy-sites-be-used-to-catch-a-killer/506274462/

Portland Press Herald: Across Maine, prices for the same medical procedures are often staggeringly different

Maine business owner Catherine Robbins-Halsted was trying to help the wife of one of her employees find a more convenient location for her cancer treatment that wouldn’t require her to drive over an hour away.

She found one, but there was a catch: It charged $20,000 per treatment – more than twice as much as the more distant facility.

“That’s a horrific difference with just an hour away,” Robbins-Halsted said.

This is a common story in Maine, where huge price discrepancies among health care providers exist. In many cases it’s the patient’s employer or insurance provider that is forced to absorb the difference in price. The situation has gotten so bad in Maine that several employers now require their workers to travel to Boston for major non-emergency medical procedures because the costs there are significantly lower.

High prices also affect Maine consumers – even those with health insurance – because they ultimately lead to higher insurance premiums. It’s a national problem, but it is so extreme in Maine that the state is often cited as one of the most expensive states for health care in the country.

Read more: https://www.pressherald.com/2019/02/24/across-maine-the-same-medical-procedure-comes-at-radically-different-prices/

Courier Journal: Kentucky's 'too low and too slow' response to the nation's worst hepatitis A outbreak

Last spring, Kentucky's infectious disease chief was ringing the alarm.

An outbreak of hepatitis A that already had infected nearly 400 people in Louisville was seeping into Appalachia, where rampant drug addiction provided fuel for the virus to explode across rural Kentucky.

To contain it, the drug users and homeless largely spreading the disease had to be vaccinated — and quickly.

But the challenges in impoverished rural Kentucky were huge. Drug users were hard to find and vaccinate. Thinly staffed county health departments had seen their budgets shrink. And federal vaccine money for Kentucky had run out.

"Need to move faster," urged Dr. Robert Brawley in an April 2018 email to state health department colleagues obtained by the Courier Journal. "The virus is moving faster than we and (local health departments) are … immunizing persons (at) risk.”

Brawley argued that a powerful state response was needed: $10 million, including $6 million for a fusillade of 150,000 vaccines and $4 million for temporary health workers to help administer them. In an email, he also lobbied for a public health emergency declaration to bolster the case for more federal money.

But a Courier Journal investigation found his urgent pleas went nowhere. And in the months that followed, Kentucky’s outbreak metastasized into the nation's largest and deadliest.

The Courier Journal found that Brawley's boss, 31-year-old acting public health Commissioner Dr. Jeffrey Howard, rejected his aggressive recommendations. Amid limited state budgets, county staffing constraints and the availability of more than $220 million in local health department reserve funds — he stuck instead to a $3 million state response.

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/investigations/2019/02/21/kentucky-hepatitis-response-too-slow-deadly-outbreak-worst-in-united-states/2453874002/

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Ralston helped write the law allowing him to delay criminal cases

Ten years ago, a grand jury indicted a Georgia man on charges of illicit sexual behavior with young teens. One of the alleged victims said it’s been so long since he heard from prosecutors, he figured the case was over with.

But it’s not. It’s among dozens of criminal cases repeatedly delayed from going to court — 14 times in this case — by defense attorney and state Speaker of the House David Ralston.After an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News revealed earlier this month that Ralston was using legislative privilege to delay court dates, he has come under fire from voters, Republican activists and purported victims in the cases.

“What is most infuriating is the fact that this man’s attorney is one of the most influential people in Georgia politics,” said an alleged victim of one of Ralston’s clients, Derek Key. Key was accused of enticing a child for indecent purposes and electronically furnishing obscene materials to minors.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/ralston-helped-write-the-law-allowing-him-delay-criminal-cases/fIfNKIgYXXFAAIEiC6NbAJ/

Billings Gazette: Families, investigators struggle to track down missing Native women

Shacaiah Harding had been living on the streets of Billings, off and on, for most of the last spring and summer, when her family realized no one had seen or heard from her for nearly a month. The 19-year-old had been struggling with addiction and mental health, but those close to her said it was unusual for her to go more than a week without checking in.

“From her being in and out of our lives, it took us a while to say, ‘Hey, nobody’s heard from Shacaiah,’” her 25-year-old sister, Shawnae King, said recently. “We all got together and started looking for her. We made posters and posted them downtown and asked people. We got little tips from people, here and there. But it was never Shacaiah.”

On Aug. 20, 2018, Harding’s mother, Tamera Bearcomesout, went downtown to the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office to file a missing person report. It would be one of the nearly 300 cases of missing Native American women and girls reported to law enforcement agencies in Montana last year.

More than 5,400 reports of missing people have been filed in Montana during the past three years, according to state Department of Justice data reviewed by The Billings Gazette.

But indigenous people — and Native women in particular — go missing at a vastly disproportionate rate than the general population.

Native Americans make up 6.7 percent of Montana’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But they accounted for 26 percent of missing person reports from 2016 through 2018, the only years for which comprehensive data on those cases were available from the state. Nearly two-thirds of those cases involved women or girls.

Read more: https://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/mmiw/families-investigators-struggle-to-track-down-missing-native-women/article_3fee49c9-913a-593d-96e3-14d03a781caa.html

AP: Court records reveal a Mueller report right in plain view

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump was in full deflection mode.

The Democrats had blamed Russia for the hacking and release of damaging material on his presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump wasn’t buying it. But on July 27, 2016, midway through a news conference in Florida, Trump decided to entertain the thought for a moment.

“Russia, if you’re listening,” said Trump, looking directly into a television camera, “I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” — messages Clinton was reported to have deleted from her private email server.

Actually, Russia was doing more than listening: It had been trying to help Republican Trump for months. That very day, hackers working with Russia’s military intelligence tried to break into email accounts associated with Clinton’s personal office.

It was just one small part of a sophisticated election interference operation carried out by the Kremlin — and meticulously chronicled by special counsel Robert Mueller.

We know this, though Mueller has made not a single public comment since his appointment in May 2017. We know this, though the full, final report on the investigation, believed to be in its final stages, may never be made public. It’s up to Attorney General William Barr.

We know this because Mueller has spoken loudly, if indirectly, in court — indictment by indictment, guilty plea by guilty plea. In doing so, he tracked an elaborate Russian operation that injected chaos into a U.S. presidential election and tried to help Trump win the White House. He followed a GOP campaign that embraced the Kremlin’s help and championed stolen material to hurt a political foe. And ultimately, he revealed layers of lies, deception, self-enrichment and hubris that followed.

Woven through thousands of court papers, the special counsel has made his public report. This is what it says.

Read more: https://apnews.com/2b8513d4a4224a559d7048edb396cdfd

Honolulu Civil Beat: Rural Schools Take A Big Hit In Hawaii’s Funding Formula

When the Hawaii Department of Education turned to a new “weighted student formula” to fund schools in 2006, a pressing concern was how that model might negatively impact geographically isolated schools with low student enrollment.

Under the formula, small Hawaii schools with student populations fewer than 400 would lack sufficient funding “to operate and remain viable,” warned a committee of educators and community members to the state Board of Education in a January 2005 report.

Nearly 13 years later, that threat still looms.

Hana High and Elementary, a K-12 school on Maui’s east side that’s so remote it’s a two-hour drive to the nearest traffic light, has seen its budget reduced by a third from nearly $3 million in the 2008-09 school year to $2 million in the 2016-17 school year, its 2017-2020 academic plan notes.

“There were simply not enough students to generate the required funding (per-pupil) to provide for a full comprehensive school program,” that plan states.

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/02/rural-schools-hit-hard-by-hawaiis-funding-formula/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Feb. 21, 2019

Los Angeles Times: Homeland Security replacing troubled biodefense system with another flawed approach

The Trump administration is quietly moving to replace BioWatch, the nation’s problem-plagued system for detecting an airborne attack of anthrax spores or other infectious agents, with technology that also has severe shortcomings, a Times investigation has found.

The first new device was installed without public notice in December and others are being emplaced at 11 other U.S. locations with a goal of supplanting BioWatch “within the next couple of years,” James F. McDonnell, an assistant secretary of Homeland Security, said in an interview.

McDonnell, who heads Homeland Security’s office of countering weapons of mass destruction, said the new system, called BioDetection 21, will be faster and more reliable than BioWatch. He said he hopes to put as many as 9,000 new detection devices in place by 2025.

But testing at an Army facility last year and use of the sensing devices in previous military operations identified critical problems with their ability to detect the bacteria, viruses or toxins that might be wielded in an attack, according to scientific experts and official documents.

BioWatch was hurriedly installed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001 in an effort to provide a quick, dependable warning system in the event, however unlikely, of the deliberate spread of anthrax, smallpox or other deadly pathogens. Authorities could then respond with antibiotics, vaccines, quarantines or other emergency measures to minimize casualties.

However, BioWatch generated scores of disruptive false alarms, including in Los Angeles, Pasadena and San Diego, and scientists have warned that the system — which has cost $1.6 billion so far — is not reliable.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-biowatch-replacement-20190215-story.html

The Sacramento Bee: Cal Fire damages your home or car? Good luck collecting money from the state

Kristen Alexander was just scraping by in the fall of 2017, living on food stamps. Her small hatchback — a 2009 Honda Fit — wasn’t worth very much, but it was reliable. She relied on that car as she searched for better career prospects.

She was absolutely crushed when the Honda was totaled during what became known as the Nuns Fire, one of the deadly Wine Country fires that roared through Napa and Sonoma counties in October of that year.

But flames didn’t total Alexander’s Honda. Firefighters hooking hoses to a hydrant blasted pressurized water over landscaping rocks the size of golf balls, she alleged in a claim against the state. Alexander’s car, legally parked in a residential neighborhood of Napa at least a mile from the fire line, was pummeled by flying stones. The firefighters didn’t bother leaving a note on the windshield, Alexander said.

She assumed that once she filed a claim with the state, the California Department of “’We have immunity,’” Alexander recounted what an official in the claims office told her. “’We don’t have to pay for anything that happens when there’s an emergency like that.’”

Read more: https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-state-worker/article224107430.html

Pensacola News Journal: After successful make-or-break week, Pensacola's 'Project Titan' not yet ready for flight

Three votes last week appeared to clear Pensacola's "Project Titan" for takeoff, but the project is still not quite ready to take flight.

The five-year, $210 million project to build three additional hangars, a warehouse and office building for ST Engineering's aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at the Pensacola International Airport has multiple moving parts and at least eight sources of funding.

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson came into office in November facing a tight deadline to secure the remaining funding for the project or risk losing a $56 million grant from Triumph Gulf Coast.

Over the last three months, Robinson has been successful at securing most of the sources of funding and likely ensuring the project will become a reality. However, his work is not quite finished yet.

Robinson convinced the Triumph Gulf Coast board to first extend and then remove the deadline for the remaining funding, and the board approved granting the project an additional $10 million last week.

However, the additional funding came with additional performance requirements ST Engineering has to meet for Triumph to pay out the grant. The biggest requirement is a commitment from ST Engineering to guarantee that the 1,325 jobs it will create at the facility will stay in Pensacola for at least seven years.

Read more: https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2019/02/15/pensacolas-projepensacolas-project-titan-not-yet-ready-for-flightct-titan-not-yet-ready-flight/2858900002/

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Alleged victims say powerful Georgia lawmaker repeatedly delays cases

David Shell has a long record of beating up women.

He once beat his ex-wife so badly she blacked out, her left eye nearly swollen shut, then he locked her in their home so she couldn’t reach a hospital, she said.

Another time, he threw a girlfriend to the ground and slapped and choked her, court records show.

So when another bruised and bloodied girlfriend told police he had flown into a rage and head-butted her and bit her finger at a camper park in Ellijay, Shell faced serious consequences. A grand jury charged him as a repeat offender, which could mean up to 20 years in prison for aggravated assault.

Yet more than four years after his indictment, Shell remains a free man, the charges against him stymied. A big reason: He paid a large retainer fee to hire an attorney who is also one of Georgia’s most powerful lawmakers, state Speaker of the House David Ralston.

Just as Ralston has done for other clients charged with violent or heinous crimes, he used his elected position to delay hearings and court dates, preventing the case from moving forward in the Gilmer County justice system.

“That’s why I gave him 20,000 bucks,” Shell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s worth every penny of it.”

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/justice-delayed/nJmIsk5XIHQ8LePmBRLPQI/

Indianapolis Star: Veteran agency's secretive deal with former state senator possibly violated lobbying laws

After a state lawmaker pushed to expand the reach of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency awarded him a secretive, and possibly illegal, lobbying contract that has paid him more than $150,000, IndyStar has learned.

The deal, signed nine months after former state Sen. Allen Paul left office, appears to run afoul of Indiana’s revolving door law, which requires a 12-month wait before a lawmaker can lobby former colleagues. Paul also did not register as a lobbyist even though he was paid to push for legislative changes.

Both laws are meant to curb politicians from cashing in on government service.

How much Paul did to earn the money is unclear. While the contract was in effect, Paul rarely showed up at the office, interacted little with key lawmakers and did not maintain an account of the hours he worked, according to interviews with current and former employees, lawmakers and Paul himself.

Neither the agency nor Paul provided IndyStar with any documentation of Paul's work product, though his contract called for regular reports. And Paul continued to be paid even after IDVA hired a full-time employee in August to do essentially the same job.

What wrapped the contract in secrecy was the agency’s use of a temporary firm to hire Paul — a maneuver that kept him off the state's official payroll. The IDVA also never listed him as an employee on its website, although other contract workers are listed.

Read more: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2019/02/14/indiana-veterans-affairs-secretive-deal-allen-paul-violated-lobbying-laws/2670419002/

Miami Herald/McClatchy: 12 months, nearly 1,200 deaths: the year in youth gun violence since Parkland

fter the slaughter of 14 students and three adults in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day, parents demanded new laws and students lit up social media. They registered young voters and organized a massive rally called the March For Our Lives.

They called their movement Never Again.

Then it happened again — 94 days later. Eight students and two teachers were mowed down by a gunman at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas. And it happened again and again, in dribs and drabs, on street corners, in backyards and in homes: young people obliterated by gunfire.

The 12-month period starting Feb. 14, 2018, saw nearly 1,200 lives snuffed out. That’s a Parkland every five days, enough victims to fill three ultra-wide Boeing 777s. The true number is certainly higher because no government agency keeps a real-time tally and funding for research is restricted by law.

The Trace, an online nonprofit news organization that covers firearms issues, wanted to commemorate those lost lives. It assembled a team of more than 200 journalists — kids themselves — to research and write short portraits of every victim, 18 and under.

On the anniversary of the Parkland massacre, The Trace is publishing those portraits. In conjunction, the Miami Herald and McClatchy are presenting a series of stories on the year in gun violence against children.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/nation-world/article224680840.html

The Star-Ledger: A huge mountain of dirt is tearing apart this N.J. town and no one can stop it from growing.

The trucks come seven days a week, neighbors say, in the light of day and in the dark of night.

Loaded with dirt, construction debris, rebar and who knows what other unknown waste, they travel on narrow, windy roads and dump their dirty cargo on a private piece of property in Vernon Township, in the most rural part of the state.

Over the past 10 years in the far northern part of the state, a new “mountain” has slowly taken shape: a sprawling waste pile that now consumes two acres and rises seven stories tall. It’s a towering plateau of dirt and fill in the middle of a secluded neighborhood.

No one can say what exactly is in the pile or if it poses a danger to the community. But when it rains, the waste turns to mud and spills its mysterious brew onto neighboring properties, potentially polluting the groundwater that feeds wells, critics claim.

But despite pressure from residents, local officials and a congressman, no local, county or state officials have been able to stop the trucks from coming and dumping their waste.

“It’s described as a dirt pile, but it’s really a waste mountain,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer,( D-5th Dist.), who has been voicing the growing concerns of neighbors.

As the pile grows, so does the desperation of people in the neighborhood. In recent weeks, they have become more forceful in fighting the problem, holding protests and rallies, calling legislators and speaking out.

Read more: https://www.nj.com/news/2019/02/a-huge-mountain-of-dirt-is-tearing-apart-this-nj-town-and-no-one-can-stop-it-from-growing.html

Albuquerque Journal: Feeling the Pain

Editor’s note: Today the Journal kicks off a three-part series examining the severe lack of timely access to health care in New Mexico. Stories will be published today, Monday and next Sunday.

On Feb. 5, all but three Presbyterian Medical Group primary care practices in Albuquerque were at capacity. The earliest appointments for the few providers available were three to four weeks away.

As of last week, not a single primary care physician in one of the state’s largest group of medical providers was accepting new patients in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. During calls to Presbyterian schedulers, one suggested that prospective patients check with their insurance companies and find doctors elsewhere.

Meanwhile, urgent care centers in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho that traditionally serve walk-ins afflicted with minor illnesses and injuries were so booked, appointments were being scheduled for the next day.

And new patients referred to medical specialists like neurologists, gastroenterologists and surgeons for potentially serious medical conditions reported waits of up to several months.

With rural areas in a continuing “crisis” over the lack of health care providers, residents of New Mexico’s largest metropolitan area are also feeling the strain of the national physician shortage – and it hurts.

“I’m so upset. I am so, so, so upset,” said Judy Kaplan, a retired registered nurse who moved to New Mexico from California last fall.

Though a recent workforce study found that New Mexico has added primary care providers in recent years, Kaplan has faced one hurdle after another in her quest to find a physician in Albuquerque.

Read more: https://www.abqjournal.com/1281756/feeling-the-pain-2.html

The Oregonian: ‘Give me the money, and I’ll give it to her.’ Former Oregon lawmaker describes participating in dubious campaign practice

On paper, two donations to Northwest Oregon political candidates last year came from former Rep. Deborah Boone, D-Cannon Beach.

She wrote the checks. Her name is listed as the donor.

In reality, Boone told The Oregonian/OregonLive, the money came from donors who asked her to pass it on under her name, creating a set of transactions and reports that may have violated state law.

Boone described the practice as commonplace among legislators.

Alma Whalen, a compliance specialist with the Oregon State Elections Division, said if candidates know the true source of a donation but don’t report it, they “would appear to be violating” Oregon’s prohibition on contributions in a false name. The same is true for donors if they don’t tell recipients where a contribution really came from, Whalen said.

A violation is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $125,000 fine.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2019/02/give-me-the-money-and-ill-give-it-to-her-former-oregon-lawmaker-describes-participating-in-dubious-campaign-practice.html

The Tennessean: The hospital is dead. Welcome to Ducktown

DUCKTOWN, Tenn. — The halls of Copper Basin Medical Center are as cold and still as a corpse.

Hospital supplies that may never be used — scrubs, gloves, catheters and oxygen masks — sit half-packed in cardboard boxes along walls of a darkened central hallway. Decades of medical records, color-coded in manila folders, wait to be transferred to somewhere else. In a reception room, where patients once gathered to see the few doctors in the region, an artificial Christmas tree has stood for more than a year because there is no one to take it down.

Doug Collins, a small-town mayor, fumbles with the keys to the operating room, eager to show off where the hospital’s most important work was done. Inside, daylight bleeds through a clouded window, illuminating a surgical chair covered in a faint layer of dust.

Most of Ducktown has ties to this hospital, the mayor says. It pained them to watch it die.

“The new governor, I hear this issue is his baby,” Collins adds, his voice thick with an Appalachian twang, as he explores the shuttered, powerless hospital on a frigid day in December. “He is supposed to do something to help. A new hospital would be great, but even just a few beds — just a standalone ER — is what we need right now.”

For 62 years, Copper Basin Medical Center, an independently owned hospital with about 25 beds, served Ducktown, Copperhill and the other old mining communities of Polk County, which is home to 17,000 people in Tennessee’s southeastern corner.

But mounting debt pushed Copper Basin to close its doors for the final time 16 months ago, becoming one of the growing number of casualties in an ongoing struggle to maintain rural hospitals throughout the state and the nation as a whole. As health care has become more expensive and health insurance lags, many rural hospitals have been unable to pay their bills, forcing them to shrink or close, creating health care deserts in poor, far-flung towns where residents are often the most vulnerable.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/money/industries/health-care/2019/02/14/rural-hospital-closures-ducktown-tn-gov-bill-lee-copper-basin-medical-center/2118872002/

Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News: 'Awful, awful trauma' — Southern Baptist church members and leaders react to sexual abuse findings

Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention vowed last week not to tolerate sexual abuse and to enact reforms after an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News revealed that more than 700 people had been molested by Southern Baptist pastors, church employees and volunteers over a span of two decades.

But the question remains: What will leaders of the largest coalition of Baptist churches in the United States actually do about the problem?

SBC President J.D. Greear, a North Carolina pastor, said he was “broken” by what he read in the newspapers. He hasn’t offered specific solutions, but he ordered a study of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches last summer and is expected to unveil proposals when SBC leaders meet in Nashville, Tenn., this coming week.

Other prominent SBC officials are calling for changes that include creating a registry of church employees and volunteers credibly accused of sexual misconduct and aggressively removing from the convention churches that knowingly hire predators.

Read more: https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Awful-awful-trauma-Southern-Baptist-13621251.php

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The killing of Baby Bill Thao shocked Milwaukee in 2014. New evidence suggests the wrong suspect is behind bars.

Thirteen-month-old Bill Thao was playing with Legos on the floor of a relative's house just after Christmas 2014 when a cascade of bullets riddled the home and killed the infant.

The death of the child, who became known as “Baby Bill,” occurred during a spate of shootings that claimed the lives of three children in Milwaukee over five months.

Milwaukee police detectives found 41 bullet casings on the street in front of the Thao home on the city’s northwest side, fired from three different guns. Authorities believe drug dealers shot up the wrong house, trying to kill a rival dealer.

Clearly, there were multiple shooters, but only one man — Darmequaye Cohill — was charged in the crime. He was convicted and sentenced to 50 years behind bars.

But information gathered by law enforcement suggests police and prosecutors got the wrong man and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm has hired a special investigator to examine the new evidence, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has learned.

At least three informants have separately told investigators that Cohill wasn’t the shooter and wasn’t even at the scene on Dec. 27, 2014, when gunmen sprayed the Thao home, according to documents obtained by the Journal Sentinel.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2019/02/15/da-investigating-if-police-got-wrong-man-baby-bill-thao-murder-milwaukee/2869528002/

The Blade: Critics fear systemic mistakes in Lucas County Auditor's home values

There are two homes in Toledo’s 4200 block of Hunters Trail that look nearly identical, both in sight and on paper.

Both were built in 1971 in a raised ranch style with the same square footage. Both feature four bedrooms, one full bathroom, and one half bathroom.

But there’s one thing very different about the houses: their property values.

One is valued at $80,800, while three houses down the other is valued at $48,800. One owner pays just over $2,000 in annual property taxes; the other pays about $1,300.

Hunters Trail isn’t the only street in Lucas County where nearly identical homes differ widely in value. There are hundreds of examples in Toledo, with more in Holland, Maumee, Oregon, Springfield Township, Sylvania, Sylvania Township, Waterville, and Whitehouse.

County Auditor Anita Lopez said there are several reasons values may differ — home remodels, foreclosure sales, citizen feedback, or human error — but her critics fear there is something systematically wrong in the way she assigns values to each property.

Read more: https://www.toledoblade.com/city/2019/02/17/former-county-employees-question-lucas-county-auditors-home-values

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Feb. 7, 2019

Honolulu Civil Beat: Key Lawmakers Are Trying To Water Down Inspection Rules For Elder Care Homes

Starting July 1, the state Department of Health is required to conduct annual unannounced inspections of nearly 2,000 care facilities for the elderly and disabled.

It’s a mandate that advocates for Hawaii’s rapidly aging population have demanded for more than 20 years after too many stories of neglect and avoidable deaths. They underscored how most states put policies like this in place long ago, which experts have said is now the national standard to protect such vulnerable citizens.

But some Hawaii lawmakers are trying to water down the law they created in 2016 by making it optional instead of mandatory. The law’s implementation has already been delayed three years thanks to a last-minute amendment by Rep. Della Au Belatti.

Leading the charge on the House side is Rep. John Mizuno, who receives much of his campaign contributions from care home operators and industry representatives who have lobbied against unannounced inspections.

House Bill 692, co-sponsored by Reps. Joy San Buenaventura, Calvin Say and James Tokioka, would make the Department of Health’s unannounced inspections of care facilities discretionary.

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/01/some-lawmakers-are-trying-to-water-down-inspection-rules-for-elder-care-homes/

Naples Daily News: This business helped transform Miami into a national plastic surgery destination. Eight women died.

MIAMI – Just after dawn, the women arrive.

They come in taxis and rental cars, to a strip mall clinic tucked between a barber shop and a discount shoe store.

They fly in from across the country for deals they can’t get back home – thousands of dollars off cosmetic surgeries, available, if they like, on payment plans.

Inside, the lobby looks like any other surgery center: polished white floors, sleek, modern furniture, a large flat screen flashing images of beautiful bodies.

But this clinic is run like a factory assembly line, where individual doctors – many with little specialized training – line up patients and operate on as many as eight a day, an investigation by USA TODAY and the Naples Daily News has found. 

Read more: https://www.naplesnews.com/in-depth/news/special-reports/2019/01/30/miami-doctors-plastic-surgery-empire-becomes-floridas-deadliest-clinics/2462068002/

Tampa Bay Times: Hurricane Michael recovery has a big problem: People aren’t donating

PANAMA CITY — More than three months after Hurricane Michael bludgeoned the beachside communities in the Panhandle, dozens of people crammed into the Messiah Lutheran Church on Thursday.

They were there to address enormous questions that hang over their largely lower-income part of the state.

“Affordable Housing,” “Reach Less Fortunate,” were written at the top of a long list of goals for a startup recovery group. Some suggested auctioning off quilts, or holding a car show.

But the reality is they’re going to need millions.

Major donors simply aren’t coming through for Florida’s Forgotten Coast. According to a Times/Herald analysis of contributions to three prominent national charities, donations to Hurricane Michael recovery fall far below donations for recent landmark hurricanes to hit the South such as Florence, Irma and Harvey.

Read more: https://www.tampabay.com/special-reports/2019/01/27/hurricane-michael-recovery-has-a-big-problem-people-arent-donating/

Des Moines Register: Identical winning numbers crop up in hundreds of U.S. lotteries. Are the drawings really random?

America's popular and lucrative lottery drawings, in which computers randomly select numbers that turn a lucky few into instant millionaires, may not be as random as they seem.

In dozens of the games across the United States, identical winning numbers have been generated within weeks or months of each other — sometimes in consecutive drawings, a Des Moines Register investigation shows.

Lottery officials, even some who have previously acknowledged concern with the national lottery system, contend the repeated numbers are nothing more than chance.

"While such repeats are rare and uncommon, there is no reason to suspect these numbers were not drawn reasonably," said Patricia Mayers, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Lottery, which had several duplicate draws over more than a decade.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2019/01/31/united-states-lottery-numbers-broken-system-identical-drawings-controversy/1863102002/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Jan. 31, 2019

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Minnesota police board approves the state's first sexual assault policy

Minnesota’s top police regulatory board unanimously passed a set of far-reaching reforms Thursday to improve the quality of sexual assault investigations across the state.

The reforms include Minnesota’s first-ever statewide protocols for investigating rape and sexual assault and represent the most concrete, large-scale change to emerge in response to a 2018 Star Tribune series that documented widespread breakdowns in police handling of sex crimes.

Chiefs and sheriffs at 430 law enforcement departments in Minnesota will find the recommended policy in their e-mail within two weeks. “We’ve done the work proactively because we certainly recognize the importance of this,” said Nate Gove, executive director of the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board, Minnesota’s police regulatory body.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-police-board-approves-the-state-s-first-sexual-assault-policy/504833431/

The Post and Courier: House Speaker Jay Lucas proposes massive overhaul of SC’s public education system

COLUMBIA — House Speaker Jay Lucas’ proposal for transforming South Carolina’s public education system involves increasing teachers’ salaries, dissolving failing school districts, improving job-training opportunities and encouraging innovations.

The linchpin of his massive, 84-page bill, being filed Thursday morning, is a Student Bill of Rights that says all students deserve highly qualified teachers, excellent principal leadership and a system that “puts their success first.”

The bill comes in the wake of The Post and Courier’s Minimally Adequate series in November, which laid out how gaping disparities have left thousands of South Carolina students unprepared for college or the modern workforce after high school, threatening the state’s newfound prosperity.

Read more: https://www.postandcourier.com/politics/house-speaker-jay-lucas-proposes-massive-overhaul-of-sc-s/article_efe15ae6-1f4c-11e9-9784-238bcce28ef6.html

The Seattle Times: How a crumbling dam in the Enchantments could change our understanding of the PNW wilderness

ICICLE CREEK, Chelan County — Steve Shipler found the frightening notice last spring, on the door of the house he’d built years ago, in the place he’d loved for nearly half a century, where running water lulls him to sleep and ponderosa pines scent the morning breeze.

In red, at his Leavenworth home: “Alert: Flood Risk at This Location.”

“You are in an area that could be impacted if the upstream Eightmile dam were to fail in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area,” the notice read, imploring those near Icicle Creek “to be ready to move to higher ground …”

He was shocked.

“I didn’t know any dams were up there,” he remembers thinking. Then, Shipler, 70, imagined a wall of water coursing downstream toward his home, which is perched on an island in the middle of Icicle Creek, only accessible by footbridge.

That fear was justified.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/how-climate-change-and-a-crumbling-dam-in-the-enchantments-could-change-our-understanding-of-the-pnw-wilderness/

Houston Chronicle: New taskforce targets unsafe drivers on Houston roads

Mohammad Amad pulled the first truck over at 10:16 p.m. Thursday, a red pickup with a defective headlamp.

Amad, a member of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office’s DWI task force, spoke briefly with the driver, then waved him on his way. No scent of alcohol.

“He’s just getting off work,” Amad said, tapping a few notes on his computer before heading back into the hunt.

Lights from patrol cars illuminated Texas 249 like a string of Christmas decorations as deputies and police worked similar traffic stops Thursday and Friday night.

This marked the first operation of a local task force created in response to last year’s Houston Chronicle investigation, “Out of Control,” which found that the Houston region is home to the nation’s most dangerous roads. More than 600 motorists, passengers and pedestrians die every year in traffic collisions often caused by drivers who are speeding, driving while intoxicated or distracted and often on poorly designed roads.

The Chronicle’s investigation found a lack of a comprehensive strategy to fight the thousands of serious traffic crashes that plague the region, devastate families and cost countless dollars every year. In some cases, local authorities reduced enforcement even as traffic fatalities rose.

Read more: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/New-taskforce-targets-unsafe-drivers-on-Houston-13564239.php?cmpid=gsa-chron-result

Austin American-Statesman: Turmoil at the Austin Zoo: Documenting a zookeepers’revolt

For one zookeeper, a long-suffering monkey's death launched a revolt.

Annie was a patas monkey, a large species native to Central Africa, who went blind in 2010, forcing the Austin Zoo to separate her from her peers. Categorized as a dangerous animal, she had no contact with other monkeys or humans for years, zookeepers and the zoo's representatives told the American-Statesman. She was bitten by a rattlesnake and endured a series of strokes that left her partially paralyzed, unable to sit up or feed herself. She developed bed sores all the way to the bone, despite efforts to clean her and prop her on stuffed animals, zookeeper Kris Ledoux said.

Ledoux and other keepers who cared for Annie told the Statesman they believed she was living in pain, would not recover and should be euthanized. But they said the zoo's director wouldn't do it.

Various zookeepers for years had been troubled by decisions made by Austin Zoo leadership that they say caused animals to languish in pain and put their human handlers at risk. They also say management discouraged second opinions or constructive criticism. Off and on, they had discussed whether they could do anything about it.

On April 3, five of them met at a Chuy's restaurant to craft a letter to the zoo's board of directors, listing problems they saw and demanding a change in leadership.

Within months, the effort would backfire. Multiple employees would be fired. The board would back zoo Director Patti Clark. And the letter would highlight disputes over what the end of a captive animal’s life should look like.

Twenty-four current and former Austin Zoo staff members, 17 of them zookeepers, spoke to the Statesman about what they described as unorthodox animal care techniques, an unwillingness to euthanize suffering animals and acts of retaliation against keepers who raised concerns at the nonprofit facility. Most requested that they not be identified for fear of retaliation in their current jobs or poor references for future ones. The Statesman also obtained numerous emails and other documents describing problems at the zoo.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/turmoil-at-austin-zoo/documenting-a-zookeepers-revolt/site/statesman.com/

The Tennessean and The Indianapolis Star: After 5 deadly overdoses, Tennessee doctor now practicing in Indiana

Mathew Blackburn, 27, a Tennessee anxiety patient, had just failed a routine drug test in a small clinic about an hour south of Nashville. The test found two mind-altering drugs that a doctor had prescribed to Blackburn, Xanax and Zoloft, but it also caught a third drug, Valium, for which he had no prescription.

For most medical professionals, this mysterious Valium would have been a red flag suggesting Blackburn may have been abusing pills. But Blackburn's doctor tripled his Xanax dosage — without writing any justification in his medical records.

Two days later, Blackburn was dead.

He overdosed while watching television as a friend slept on the couch nearby. Investigators found a toxic cocktail in his bloodstream and a new prescription bottle of 90 Xanax tablets on his body. Fifty-one pills were already gone.

At first glance, Blackburn’s death, which occurred on March 5, 2015, does not stand out in addiction-ravaged Tennessee, where overdoses have killed more than 7,200 people in the past five years. But state officials say Blackburn’s drug abuse was worsened by Dr. Darrel Rinehart, a longtime Tennessee doctor who moved to Indiana once his prescriptions were questioned. Officials describe Rinehart as a careless prescriber who failed to protect his patients from his own prescriptions, according to public records obtained by The Tennessean and The Indianapolis Star.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/investigations/2019/01/24/opioid-overdose-deaths-tennessee-doctor-darrel-rinehart-indiana/2452093002/

The Inquirer: Stealing from the dead

Thieves and forgers are taking houses from the deceased in ‘hot’ neighborhoods — as the city stands by.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/news/a/house-sales-fraud-theft-philadelphia-real-estate-dead-owners-william-johnson-20190124.html

The Oregonian: Costly, ineffective, cruel: How Oregon ensnares mentally ill people charged with low-level crimes

Early one Monday last November, police arrested Kobe Yandell for napping in the lobby of a downtown Portland skyscraper. Officers took the wiry 21-year-old, who is homeless and has schizophrenia, to the Multnomah County jail, where he spent the next 52 days in isolation.

A trespassing conviction normally carries little or no jail time. Yandell spent more than seven weeks locked up alone, yet had been convicted of no crime.

Instead, he was awaiting admission to Oregon’s public psychiatric hospital in Salem for a court-ordered evaluation, the usual first step for a defendant like Yandell, deemed by a judge too mentally ill to stand trial. It was familiar territory for him. Just seven months earlier, a judge had sent Yandell to the state mental institution to get healthy enough to face two other low-level cases.

Yandell is not alone in languishing in jail or the mental institution despite never having been convicted of a crime. In Oregon, it is not uncommon for mentally ill defendants to spend more time confined for being ill than they would ever serve behind bars for the crimes they are accused of.

That system is costly and largely ineffective.

In Yandell’s case, after spending most of spring and early summer in a locked ward at the mental hospital, he was deemed competent for court. He pleaded no contest to resisting arrest and assault, both misdemeanors. A judge sentenced him to probation and, without another option, Yandell went back to living on the streets. By autumn, though, his theft of a $1.69 bottle of iced tea from Fred Meyer and his unwelcome nap at the skyscraper landed him back in jail, in court and at the doorstep of the state mental institution.

Yandell’s cases illustrate some of the serious flaws in the way justice unfolds for mentally ill arrestees in Oregon, under a little-known system for people who may be unfit to stand trial.

The process, known as “aid and assist,” stems from the constitutional right of people charged with crimes to be able to help in their own defense. Through it, however, the state metes out extremely high cost care that takes defendants’ liberties away for prolonged periods. And it fails in almost every case to deliver lasting benefits to defendants or to society.

In Oregon, taxpayers spend as much as $35 million a year to provide institutionalized care to mentally ill people charged with misdemeanors, many of whom are homeless, a first-of-its-kind analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive found. Nearly all those patients eventually find themselves dumped back out on the street with little to no support. Almost one in five are readmitted to the mental hospital within a year under new charges.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/expo/news/g66l-2019/01/a646cacb3c6955/costly-ineffective-cruel-how-oregon-ensnares-mentally-ill-people-charged-with-lowlevel-crimes.html

Bridgewater Courier News: Caregivers endure greater financial, mental health risks

Larry Abramsky was a caregiver who now requires care himself .

When Abramsky's parents were aging and ailing, he was there to help. He took care of his parents for 6 1/2 years. They both had dementia, and his mother also had Parkinson's.

"Taking care of my parents was the easiest part," Abramsky, of Livingston, said.

His experience with bank managers, healthcare professionals and his own family was the hard part. If it wasn't for the woman he hired to serve as his parents' in-house caregiver, Abramsky said, he'd be in worse shape.

"I'm a mess right now," he said, months after his parents both passed away.

Everything seemed to agitate him, from the way he was treated by customer service representatives to the current state of American politics. He had to do something.

He tried medication, but it didn't work, so he began attending meetings and sought out therapy.

"People have to take care of themselves," Abramsky said. "If they don't take care of themselves, they're not going to be able to take care of their people."

Abramsky is not alone.

Read more: https://www.northjersey.com/in-depth/news/local/outreach/2019/01/23/caregivers-nj-financial-mental-health-risks/2513732002/

The Record: North Jersey officials spent over $350K of your tax money during a trip to Atlantic City

A $30 omelet, a $300 limousine ride and taxpayer-funded hotel rooms. This is the New Jersey State League of Municipalities conference, where local officials spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on a three-day trip to New Jersey's party capital, Atlantic City.

Every year in November, New Jersey taxpayers pay for municipal officials to attend the three-day conference, whose ostensible purpose is to provide a venue to learn about the latest in everything from court reform to organizing infrastructure.

But there is no clear way of knowing how many of these officials are taking advantage of the educational opportunities. And how expenses are paid varies from town to town; some insist that officials pay their own way, while others have processed expense claims for such indulgences as expensive room service meals and chauffeured rides between venues.

The conference is billed as an opportunity for local officials to earn continuing-education credits, and for community leaders to further their towns' development by attending any combination of the more than 100 classes or visiting some of the 1,000 or so exhibit booths purchased by vendors from throughout the state.

Read more: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/watchdog/2019/01/24/nj-league-municipalities-2018-conference-spending-tax-money/2291801002/

Las Vegas Review-Journal: LVCVA board member Michele Fiore travels far at agency’s expense

A Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board member traveled around the world last year at the agency’s expense amid growing scrutiny over inappropriate spending and perks for its board.

Michele Fiore, a Las Vegas city councilwoman who joined the board in March, has taken four international trips since May despite recent policy reform aimed at limiting board member travel to one trip a year, records show.

Fiore received permission for the additional trips from then-board Chairman Lawrence Weekly under an exemption that requires the chairman’s approval.

But in just seven months, records show, Fiore spent about $33,000 in taxpayer funds, accounting for nearly half of all board travel since 2016 and raising questions about whether she violated the intent of the policy. Fiore’s travels appear to show a disconnect between a push to reform the agency under a new CEO and a board that has enjoyed expensive gifts, VIP treatment at LVCVA-sponsored events and worldwide travel.

To help fund some of the trips, Fiore also used campaign contributions, drawing concerns about whether the spending potentially violated campaign laws that prohibit the use of donations for personal expenses.

Read more: https://www.reviewjournal.com/investigations/lvcva-board-member-michele-fiore-travels-far-at-agencys-expense-1581706/

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 5 St. Louisans guided Better Together's merger recommendations

ST. LOUIS • Five local residents have worked for 18 months in near anonymity to craft a future for St. Louis that is unified in government, devoid of geographic barriers, consolidated in policing and equitable from south to north.

They were hand-picked by politicos and executives for their brains, commitment and diversity, and placed on a task force with one mission: Craft a plan to streamline and improve the web of governments in St. Louis and St. Louis County. They have held public forums and listened to thousands of residents.

No vote elected them to their position. And they haven’t made a single decision in public.

But the future of St. Louis may rely on their work. The five — an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor, a venture capitalist and a CEO — share a common belief: The region’s fragmented government is holding it back. St. Louis has to change.

“I know we can do this,” said Suzanne Sitherwood, a task force member and chief executive of the publicly traded St. Louis gas company Spire. “I don’t think anybody is saying we’ve got all the answers, but I also know, if we don’t come together and start solving fragmentation — and we have a fairly short window of opportunity to do that — we will continue to fall behind.”

Now, the task force appointed by the private advocacy group Better Together is on the verge of releasing its recommendations. At 10 a.m. Monday at the Cheshire hotel — which straddles St. Louis and St. Louis County — it will call for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the statewide ballot in November 2020 that would turn the city and county into a single, new type of government: a metro city.

The measure doesn’t touch fire and school districts. And it allows local mayors and councils to remain. New “municipal districts” would replace municipalities from Eureka to Black Jack, and could continue to raise utility and property taxes, operate parks and recreational facilities, collect trash and recycling, and direct building and zoning. But they would lose their authority over roads, courts, police, sales taxes and economic development.

To get the measure on the ballot, Better Together will have to collect more than 160,000 signatures statewide. The nonprofit group vows to spend what it takes to win — perhaps $25 million or more.

The plan is at least five years in the making. It has been supported by dozens of St. Louis elite, from political operatives to CEOs to billionaire financier Rex Sinquefield. But Better Together insists that none have played a larger role in the proposal’s creation than the five who sit on the task force.

They analyzed reams of data, hosted town hall meetings, digested hundred-page reports, debated for hours and crafted recommendations that, if passed, would entirely remake St. Louis.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Hungry for data on food safety? In Minnesota, it's more than a click away

Diners across the country can check sanitary conditions at local restaurants with the click of a button, as more health departments post food inspections online. But not in Minnesota.

Minnesota is the only state where no health departments publish restaurant inspection results online. More than three-quarters of the U.S. population now live in areas where the data are posted, according to Hazel Analytics, a Seattle-based firm that compiles inspection data. The Twin Cities is alone among the country’s 20 largest metro areas in lacking this information.

“I think we have a right to know when [restaurants] are not living up to those expectations that we have,” said Ben Brausen, a digital marketer who lives in Minneapolis. “A website alone seems kind of almost bare minimum.”

Food inspections are public in Minnesota, but available only upon request. As a result, the public rarely sees them, and there is typically no online notice in the rare cases when sanitary conditions are so bad that inspectors force a restaurant to close. Minneapolis shut down a restaurant last year, for example, after discovering 40 dead cockroaches near a meat market area and others alive in sticky traps. One St. Paul fast food restaurant’s kitchen was so covered in grease, grime and food debris that the Minnesota Department of Health yanked its license earlier this month after months of warnings. Both restaurants are now operating again after correcting the problems.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/hungry-for-data-on-food-safety-in-minnesota-it-s-more-than-a-click-away/504917712/

Louisville Courier-Journal: You're more likely to be busted for weed in Louisville if you're black

Black drivers in Louisville were cited for possession of marijuana in 2017 at six times the rate of white people, even though national studies show both groups smoke it at virtually the same rate.

And while African-Americans make up less than one-fourth of Louisville’s population, they accounted for two-thirds of those charged with marijuana possession, the Courier Journal found in a review of 21,607 cases in which possession of marijuana was the most serious charge.

The Courier Journal found that even though overall citations for the offense have declined dramatically since 2010 — as police focus on more serious drugs and as pot use is increasingly accepted nationwide — the disparity by race has nearly doubled.

Elected officials who represent predominantly black West End neighborhoods say the disparities are astonishing and unfair.

“This is unacceptable for any reason,'' said Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith, whose district extends from downtown to West 24th Street.

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/crime/2019/01/25/marijuana-laws-louisville-african-americans-busted-more-for-pot/1409913002/

Des Moines Register: An Iowa woman said her husband repeatedly raped her. Almost no one believed her. She's not alone.

… While #MeToo has forced the issue of inappropriate sexual behavior into the public, one especially complicated form of sexual abuse has received scant attention: nonconsensual marital sex.

For centuries, husbands who forced their wives to have sex were shielded from prosecution by "marital privilege," a defense that can be traced to English common law and 17th-century English jurist Sir Matthew Hale, who wrote that by consenting to marriage, "the wife hath given up herself … to her husband."

States in the U.S. began eliminating the marital privilege exemption from their laws in the 1970s, with Iowa following in 1989.

In 1984, the television movie "The Burning Bed," starring Farrah Fawcett, shined a light on spousal abuse and rape, but public attitudes have been slow to change, said Ruth Glenn, CEO of the Denver-based National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

"We hear quite frequently, even still today, that in marriage you are supposed to submit to sexual advances," Glenn said. "That is part of being married."

Even now, husbands are rarely successfully prosecuted for sexually abusing their wives, a Register investigation found.

One in six Iowa women reported being raped by an intimate partner, according to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, the most recent available.

Yet only 18 Iowa husbands since 2013 have been charged with sexual abuse for allegedly forcing their wives to have sex, a Register review of more than 400 resolved cases found.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2019/01/24/domestic-violence-iowa-courts-me-too-spousal-sexual-abuse-marital-rape-sex-intimate-partner-assault/2524826002/

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Eight deputies heard gunfire at Stoneman Douglas but didn't rush in. Here are the consequences so far.

Shortly after the new year, a top Parkland official asked the Broward Sheriff’s Office to ship out two deputies whose response to the Stoneman Douglas massacre was severely criticized.

And so they were.

On Jan. 8, Deputies Arthur Perry and Michael Kratz were ordered transferred, effective Jan. 19, from Parkland to new posts in the county.

The two were among eight who arrived at the school early enough to hear gunshots but did not sprint into the freshman building to take on the shooter, a review by state investigators found.

Two of the eight deputies retired. Then-Sheriff Scott Israel took away the badges of three more and put them on restricted duty — with pay — while under internal investigation.

The three others, including Kratz and Perry, were moved out of Parkland but are not under investigation, an agency spokeswoman said.

It remains to be seen if Gregory Tony — the sheriff who was installed by the governor Jan. 11 — will take further action. Here is a look at the status of each of the deputies and their actions on Feb. 14, the day a gunman killed 17 and wounded 17 others.

Read more: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/florida-school-shooting/fl-ne-cb-eight-broward-parkland-deputies-20190123-story.html

Greenville News: TAKEN: How police departments make millions by seizing property

When a man barged into Isiah Kinloch’s apartment and broke a bottle over his head, the North Charleston resident called 911. After cops arrived on that day in 2015, they searched the injured man’s home and found an ounce of marijuana.

So they took $1,800 in cash from his apartment and kept it.

When Eamon Cools-Lartigue was driving on Interstate 85 in Spartanburg County, deputies stopped him for speeding. The Atlanta businessman wasn’t criminally charged in the April 2016 incident. Deputies discovered $29,000 in his car, though, and decided to take it.

When Brandy Cooke dropped her friend off at a Myrtle Beach sports bar as a favor, drug enforcement agents swarmed her in the parking lot and found $4,670 in the car.

Her friend was wanted in a drug distribution case, but Cooke wasn’t involved. She had no drugs and was never charged in the 2014 bust. Agents seized her money anyway.

She worked as a waitress and carried cash because she didn’t have a checking account. She spent more than a year trying to get her money back.

The Greenville News and Anderson Independent Mail examined these cases and every other court case involving civil asset forfeiture in South Carolina from 2014-2016.

Our examination was aimed at understanding this little-discussed, potentially life-changing power that state law holds over citizens — the ability of officers to seize property from people, even if they aren't charged with a crime.

The resulting investigation became TAKEN, a statewide journalism project with an exclusive database and in-depth reporting. It’s the first time a comprehensive forfeiture investigation like this has been done for an entire U.S. state, according to experts.

Read more: https://www.greenvilleonline.com/in-depth/news/taken/2019/01/27/civil-forfeiture-south-carolina-police-property-seizures-taken-exclusive-investigation/2457838002/?fbclid=IwAR1f0E_PnCM4JsOPkTIwGm1OeyH-Wc80KZUCYi1oFJNPffZsx_OP2oS8QKE

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Jan. 24, 2019

Honolulu Civil Beat: OHA’s Own Audit Is Being Blocked — By People At OHA

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is spending half a million dollars for an independent audit that’s supposed to be done by April. But it’s unclear whether auditors will be able to meet that deadline because some OHA employees are refusing to hand over key financial documents.

That’s according to internal correspondence among CliftonLarsonAllen auditors and OHA trustees obtained by Civil Beat.

The lack of transparency illustrates continuing problems at OHA after a series of scandals including a critical state audit and ethics investigations that ensnared two former trustees. The public agency manages hundreds of millions of trust dollars for the benefit of Hawaiians.

OHA said last year that it is being investigated by the state attorney general. Hawaii News Now reported that OHA is also the target of an FBI probe into public corruption and misappropriation.

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/01/ohas-own-audit-is-being-blocked-by-people-at-oha/

Houston Chronicle: Baylor St. Luke's replaces president, two other executives following latest lapse

The president of Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center and two other top executives are leaving the hospital after federal regulators began investigating a serious mistake that led to a patient death, the latest in a series of care lapses in recent years.

Doug Lawson will replace Gay Nord as president, the hospital said in a news release Monday morning. Lawson will continue in his role as CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives Texas Division, which oversees Baylor St. Luke's and 15 other hospitals across the state.

Jennifer Nitschmann, the hospital's chief nursing officer, and David Berger, the hospital's senior vice president of operations, also "have left their roles," the hospital announced.

The announcement comes after a yearlong investigation by the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica that uncovered serious problems that led to a high rate of patient deaths following heart transplants at St. Luke's. In August, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services terminated federal funding for heart transplants at St. Luke's, citing the hospital's failure to make changes needed to improve outcomes.

Read more: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/investigations/article/Baylor-St-Luke-s-replaces-president-two-other-13532326.php

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism: Poor jailed while rich go free: Rethinking bail in Wisconsin

MILWAUKEE (AP) — On a summer night in 2017, a police officer conducting a drunken-driving sweep in northeast Wisconsin tried to pull over an SUV after a check showed the owner had a revoked driver's license. The driver fled. As the officer gave chase, siren blaring, the vehicle blew through multiple stop signs in a residential area.

The officer stopped the pursuit for public safety reasons. When police found the vehicle parked later, the driver was nowhere to be found.

The vehicle owner told the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism that he was not driving the car that day; his ex-girlfriend had been using it for months. He asked that his identity be shielded in this story — "David" is a pseudonym — because although the case has been dismissed, prosecutors could still refile charges against him.

When David went to retrieve his SUV from the impound lot, he was arrested for felony eluding. The next day, the court commissioner set his bail at $5,000 — more than David could afford.

So he sat in jail for 84 days waiting for court — even though he had witnesses to swear he was not driving the SUV the night of the chase.

Eventually, David's public defenders got the case dismissed.

But he can never get back the nearly three months he served in jail for a crime he said he did not commit. David lost his job, car, apartment and visitation time with his now 12-year-old son. After he was released, his 50-50 custody changed to one weekend a month.

Although David got his job back, he had to dip into his retirement savings to pay off the loan still owed on the SUV that police seized. The impound fees, which had accumulated while he was jailed, eventually totaled more than the vehicle was worth.

"I thought you were supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, not guilty and then prove you're innocent," David said.

Such pretrial incarceration is common throughout the United States. About half a million U.S. residents are held in jail on any given day awaiting trial — a trend that has grown sharply since the 1980s, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, which researches and advocates against mass incarceration.

Some defendants spend longer in jail awaiting trial than their sentences ultimately call for. In Louisiana, the problem is so acute that some indigent defendants — who under the law are presumed innocent — can wait four years for their day in court.

Studies show incarceration for inability to pay bail can cascade into a chain of events that jeopardizes the lives of those charged, their families and society at large.

Read more: https://www.wisconsinwatch.org/2019/01/nonprofit-bail-funds-help-poor-gain-freedom-nationally-and-in-wisconsin/

Sacramento Bee: Can bankrupt PG&E maintain wildfire prevention this summer? Can it afford not to?

Another fire season is looming and California’s largest utility, already blamed for at least a dozen major wildfires since 2017, is headed into bankruptcy. Does struggling PG&E have the wherewithal to secure its 100,000 miles of power lines and transmission towers? Or will PG&E’s wobbly finances leave the north state vulnerable to another round of catastrophic wildfires in 2019?

The answer could begin to take shape over the next two weeks in a pair of San Francisco courtrooms.

A federal judge overseeing PG&E’s criminal probation from the 2010 San Bruno gas line explosion case is threatening to order PG&E to re-inspect its entire grid this spring and “remove or trim all trees that could fall onto its power lines, poles or equipment in high-wind conditions.” The judge’s goal is “to reduce to zero the number of wildfires caused by PG&E” in 2019.

Read more: https://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/fires/article224656700.html

San Francisco Chronicle: The Camp Fire 911 Calls

In the hour before the Camp Fire raced into Paradiseon Nov. 8, calls to the town’s 911 dispatch center mounted.

“I live on Dean Road in Paradise. ... We’re getting engulfed in smoke,” one caller reported at around 7:40 a.m.

“Yes ma’am, I know,” a dispatcher responded. “But the fire’s not here in Paradise. It’s north of Concow on Highway 70,” naming the small town a few miles away.

About a minute later, another Paradise resident who called in, alarmed by smoke, was told there was “no danger to Paradise at this time. OK?”

“I’m getting huge pieces of ash,” the caller explained.

“Ma’am,” the dispatcher said, “all I can tell you is what I’m telling you.”

But less than 20 minutes later, emergency officials would decide that conditions had become so perilous that every resident of the town should flee.

Audio recordings of 911 calls to Paradise’s small dispatch center that morning, obtained by The Chronicle through a public records request, provide a minute-to-minute document of a community caught off guard by a wind-driven blaze that would kill 86 people and destroy nearly 14,000 homes. Emergency managers and dispatchers were unaware of the speed and scale of the disaster until it had already hit them.

Dispatchers play a crucial role in crisis situations, connecting citizens reporting dangers with first responders. But amid the ferocity and chaos of the Camp Fire, the 911 records show, the model broke down. A Chronicle review of the calls suggests that in the critical moments before flames devoured Paradise, the town’s dispatchers did not receive up-to-the-minute information and gave caller after caller what was, in hindsight, a false sense of security.

Read more: https://www.sfchronicle.com/california-wildfires/article/Camp-Fire-911-calls-As-flames-raced-in-13541139.php

San Diego Union-Tribune: Is America's crackdown on opioids punishing legitimate pain patients?

Rhonda Favero’s existence has been anything but easy. But it has been manageable, enjoyable even.

Favero suffers from cervical spine degeneration, as well as a disorder that causes her brain tissue to slump into the cavity of her spinal canal, a condition known as Chiari malformation.

The only thing she says that holds the chronic pain at bay, enough for her to work part-time and volunteer, is the opioid treatment she’s been on for the past 20 years.

It’s a quality of life she is fighting desperately to hold onto.

As the opioid epidemic continues to ravage the country, chronic pain patients like Favero say they have become casualties in the drastic, far-reaching effort to correct the crisis.

Read more: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/health/sd-me-pain-patients-opiods-20190120-story.html

The Denver Post: Shanann Watts, Kelsey Berreth in national spotlight, but little attention on 38 other suspected Colorado domestic violence deaths in 2018

Cameras from news stations across the country packed into the halls of the Weld County Court House on a chilly November day to record the sentencing of a Frederick man convicted of killing his wife, Shanann Watts, and their two young daughters. Onlookers lined up early before the hearing in hopes of getting a seat in the packed courtroom. Thousands joined online discussion groups to debate every minute detail of the case.

Three days later a Woodland Park woman, Kelsey Berreth, disappeared. Soon, her photos appeared on national newscasts and in newspapers as reporters closely tracked her disappearance and the later arrest of her fiancé on allegations he killed her.

But at least 38 other people were killed in Colorado last year in connection to domestic violence, according to a preliminary count by the Denver Metro Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team. Many of those deaths received no such national attention and, in some cases, even little local coverage. Experts and advocates in the field say it’s not uncommon for the disappearance and deaths of women such as Berreth and Watts — white, young and seemingly well-off — to garner disproportionate media focus and public interest compared with others.

Read more: https://www.denverpost.com/2019/01/20/colorado-domestic-violence-deaths-2018/

Pensecola News Journal: Reports detail history of deficiencies at Pensacola Cluster facility where disabled woman was raped, impregnated

Inside an unassuming, single-story building on University Parkway, with a "Now Hiring" sign strung up in its front yard, up to 24 adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities are cared for round the clock, 24/7.

Known officially as an "intermediate care facility" and unofficially as a group home for disabled adults, Pensacola Cluster employs nurses, administrators and caregivers to provide care for people who need it most — like a young woman with a litany of issues including Rett Syndrome, seizure disorders, kyphoscolliosis, gastrostomy, foot contractures and profound mental retardation, among other things.

The woman, who is listed in court documents as "non-verbal," "(lacking) dexterity in her hands and arms" and requiring a "Gastro-Jejunal tube for feeding," was living at the facility in January 2018 when she was allegedly raped and suffered a broken hip, bruises and lacerations to her lower body that weren't discovered by a doctor for likely weeks, according to a civil suit filed by her mother and detailed in a report filed by the Agency for Health Care Administration, the state regulatory body that oversees the Medicaid program, as well as licensure and regulation of Florida's health facilities including hospitals, nursing homes and rehabs. 

She was also impregnated. Due to her developmental disabilities, she miscarried.

In a 50-page report from February 2018, after the disabled woman's injuries and pregnancies were finally reported, AHCA investigators delivered a scathing review of Pensacola Cluster's practices. Administrators "failed to ensure that all allegations of (redacted), neglect and injuries of unknown sources was reported immediately to officials, and failed to present evidence that all alleged violations were thoroughly investigated.

Read more: https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2019/01/19/pensacola-cluster-investigation-reports-deficiencies-facility-where-disabled-woman-raped-pregnant/2613293002/

Idaho Statesman: They were killed by people they once trusted. What can Idaho do to prevent more deaths?

It’s hard to keep track of the murdered women. There are so many.

There was Kymberlee Larsen. Lora Skeahan. Jaclyn Zabel. Kelly Pease. Annita Harmon. Amparo Godinez Sanchez. And, this month, Heidi De Leon.

They had their own stories. They lived in quiet suburban neighborhoods, in the middle of farmland or in a trailer park. One had a newborn, some had teenagers or stepchildren. Two were stabbed, the others shot.

In all their deaths, a common thread: A man they once trusted took their lives, and the killing didn’t come out of nowhere.

Victims advocates told the Statesman that there’s no magic wand to wave that will reverse the tide of domestic violence in Idaho, where state mortality data show homicide is among the top 10 causes of early death for women. But there are changes we can make, they said.

“This is not something that can be solved just by police, but the entire community,” said Kelly Miller, who leads the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. It will take “hard truth-telling about our culture and how we celebrate violence,” she said, mentioning Gillette’s recent viral video on masculinity.

At least 13 Idaho women have been killed since 2017 by their boyfriends, husbands or exes in cases that had clear risk factors, according to a rolling tally by the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. The real number is higher; that count is based on reports in news outlets that included details about the couple’s history.

Read more: https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/watchdog/article224619905.html

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Jan. 17, 2019

The New York Times: F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia

WASHINGTON — In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/11/us/politics/fbi-trump-russia-inquiry.html

The (Toledo) Blade: A tale of two jails: As Franklin County's goes up, Lucas' plans remain stalled

COLUMBUS — Rising on the city's industrial edge, bound by lanes of traffic and an auto scrapyard, is the frame of a new county jail.

Hundreds of inmates will reside at the facility, living within direct supervision of staff in an environment intended to rehabilitate. The building sits a few miles from downtown courthouses.

The description of the future Franklin County jail site sounds a lot like the proposed Lucas County jail at North Detroit Avenue and East Alexis Road — on the industrial edge of Toledo adjacent to a major auto scrapyard.

So why have efforts to build a new $185 million jail and behavioral health center in North Toledo fallen short so far? Voters overwhelmingly rejected a tax levy in November to fund the jail, and the North Toledo proposal is only the latest in a series of stalled attempts by the county to build a new jail.

Read more: https://www.toledoblade.com/courts/2019/01/13/franklin-county-jail-goes-up-lucas-county-plan-north-toledo-stalled

The Seattle Times: Lax Washington oversight of bounty hunters sets stage for mayhem, tragedy

The silver Hyundai appeared out of nowhere.

It was still dark on the morning of May 20, 2016. Toni Schartow was driving a Ford Expedition, slowly exiting a parking lot in Federal Way. Her 30-year-old son was in the back seat along with some friends when the Hyundai suddenly blocked their path.

The two men in the Hyundai jumped out. One wore a tactical vest with “Agent Warrant Division” emblazoned on it in big white letters. In the glow of headlights, he pointed a shotgun toward Schartow and without saying a word, he fired, sending a beanbag round through the windshield.

He circled to the passenger side. “Shut that (expletive) vehicle off,” he shouted, and fired again as Schartow desperately tried to shift into reverse.

This time, rubber pellets ripped through the passenger side window, striking her in the face and hands. One lodged in her nose. Blood poured into the center console.

“It was just that quick,” Schartow recalled. “He didn’t say anything. Never said, you know, ‘bail bonds company.’ He just started shooting me.”

The shooter was a former videographer and sheriff’s deputy turned bounty hunter named Scott Gribble, who operates one of the most prolific training programs for would-be bounty hunters in Washington state. His target that morning was Schartow’s son, wanted for jumping bail on a burglary charge.

Gribble’s actions quickly drew the scrutiny of police and King County prosecutors. Though he told police he fired in self-defense, claiming Schartow tried to run him down, investigators said footage from his body camera showed otherwise, and he was charged with third-degree felony assault.

State regulators also took notice. Facing disciplinary action, Gribble agreed to surrender his bounty-hunter license for 10 years.

None of that, however, has kept Gribble from continuing to train the next generation of bounty hunters across Washington and other states through his company, Bounty Hunter Bootcamp.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/high-adrenaline-bounty-hunter-industry-operates-with-little-oversight-despite-concerns-over-training-tactics/

The Oregonian: Gone: More cases emerge of Saudi students vanishing while facing Oregon charges

In December 2014, a university student from Saudi Arabia was arrested in Monmouth and accused of raping a classmate after giving her marijuana and shots of Jack Daniel’s.

Bail was set at a half-million dollars. The judge ordered the student, Abdulaziz Al Duways, to turn over his passport to the private defense lawyer hired to represent him, according to court records and the Polk County District Attorney’s Office.

A few days later, an official from the Royal Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Los Angeles posted bail.

Al Duways disappeared.

The case preceded a similar one recently reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive involving Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah. The Portland Community College student jumped bail in the hit-and-run death of a 15-year-old Portland girl and apparently fled with the Saudi Arabian government’s help, law enforcement officials said.

But the two disappearances aren’t the only ones involving Saudi students facing serious criminal charges in Oregon.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2019/01/gone-more-cases-emerge-of-saudi-students-vanishing-while-facing-oregon-charges.html

The Boston Globe: Urgent care centers proliferate in Mass., but fewer low-income patients have access

Need an X-ray and stitches to go along with your burrito and office supplies?

Urgent care centers, walk-in clinics that treat a range of pressing medical issues, are proliferating in crowded shopping centers and along busy roads across the state, especially in affluent suburbs. One 2-mile stretch of Route 9 will soon have four urgent care centers, the newest next to a Chipotle and a Staples in Natick. Chestnut Hill has three within a 15-minute drive, and Cambridge, four.

But no companies have rushed to open urgent care centers in Dorchester, Roxbury, or other lower-income neighborhoods in Boston.

Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/01/12/urgent-care-centers-proliferate-mass-but-fewer-low-income-patients-have-access/FATkqt7OtDc0sHFupk7eSJ/story.html

Portland Press Herald: Certified trainers keep athletes safe from injury. So why do so few Maine schools have them?

Maine high schools lag behind others in New England and the national average in employing certified athletic trainers, widely considered the best line of defense when it comes to keeping young athletes safe from serious injury.

More than a third of Maine high schools offering varsity sports lack regular coverage by athletic trainers. Only 51 of those 143 public and private schools have full-time athletic trainers, who typically attend after-school practices as well as games.

“The only thing that’s going to motivate the smaller schools, it’s going to be something bad happens,” said Tim Beagan, a certified athletic trainer at Poland Regional High. “It’s going to be a lawsuit. Someone gets hurt because no one’s there. It’s going to happen. Then they’ll find the money.”

But it’s not easy. Since 2016-17, five small schools in northern Maine have lost access to part-time athletic trainers after an Aroostook County health care provider pulled its coverage. Ellsworth High finally won a school-budget battle last spring to fund a part-time athletic trainer – only to discover that a $10,000 stipend isn’t enough to entice a qualified candidate.

Read more: https://www.pressherald.com/2019/01/13/certified-trainers-keep-athletes-safe-from-injury-so-why-do-so-few-maine-schools-have-them/

Courier Journal: Sorry, we're closed: How everyone is hurt when grocery stores shut down

Editor's note: Across Louisville, more than 120,000 people are living with food insecurity, meaning they don't have reliable access to healthy, affordable food. The issue is linked to higher rates of illness and lowered life expectancy in predominantly low-income neighborhoods. And it's costing taxpayers in Louisville and around the nation millions of dollars in emergency health care.

In June 2018, Courier Journal reporter Bailey Loosemore received a six-month fellowship from the Center for Health Journalism to learn how food insecurity affects Louisville and how the complex problems could potentially be solved.

This series addresses the local food insecurity crisis. This article explains how food access issues arise and how they affect people of all backgrounds. We also examine the city's response to the crisis and how the community as a whole can make long-term change.

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2019/01/10/louisville-food-deserts-how-grocery-stores-closing-hurt-community/1944809002/

Des Moines Register: EXCLUSIVE: 'This is wrong': Iowa's flawed felon list is disqualifying legitimate voters for years

© Copyright 2019, Des Moines Register and Tribune Co.

Jessica Bensley can legally carry a pistol in public — in part because she has never been convicted of a felony.

But last year, Bensley somehow ended up on Iowa's felon list. Because Iowa law doesn't allow felons to vote, the Polk County Auditor's Office, in turn, rejected the ballot she cast in November.

Iowa's mistake cost Bensley her constitutional right to vote. And she wasn't the only one.

A Des Moines Register investigation of six counties found that the ballots of more than two-dozen voters have been wrongly rejected since 2017 — including 20 in November's midterm elections — because their names mistakenly appeared on the felon list the state circulates to county officials.

Iowa maintains the list to enforce one of the nation's most restrictive bans on felon voting rights — permanently barring felons from voting unless they successfully petition the governor or president to restore their rights.

But the Register's investigation shows that the state's process for enforcing its felon ban is seriously flawed — and officials have known about systemic inaccuracies in its database of roughly 69,000 banned felons since at least 2012.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2019/01/13/iowa-election-felon-voting-rights-ban-voters-polling-place-how-register-vote-state-rejected-votes-ia/2359082002/

Miami Herald: How a Miami tech whiz groomed and molested exchange students — and evaded cops for years

On paper, Dale and Claudia Leary seemed the ideal couple to host foreign-exchange students.

He was a charismatic tech genius, she a longtime elementary school teacher turned administrator. They lived in manicured 4-bedroom Cutler Bay house. In applying to host their eighth student in 2012, they promised family dinners by the pool, trips to the mall and occasional visits to Disney World.

“Claudia and I feel that we have a lot to teach and enjoy showing students our cultural differences and encouraging them to try new things,” Dale Leary wrote in his application. “One of the greatest things we like to share with our students of American life is openness.”

But behind the wholesome facade lay a den of perversion. By the time Leary, 50, swallowed a lethal dose of pills in a suicide in July 2017, he had left behind a trail of shattered lives:

Two teenaged Spanish sisters, both brainwashed and talked into sexual acts — one of them forced, on camera, to have sex with dozens of men at a South Florida swingers hotel over many months. A naive teenage relative plied with alcohol, lectured on the Bible and coerced into sex. Leary’s own wife, who helped him seduce students, all while being browbeaten by her dominating husband.

Along the way, there were plenty of red flags about Leary.

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article223207285.html

New Haven Register: CT cops have fatally shot 24 people since 2013

DANBURY — Connecticut police officers have shot and killed two dozen people in incidents across the state since the start of 2013. None of those officers have faced charges for their actions.

After each incident and months or even years of investigation, state prosecutors have concluded that every officer who pulled the trigger in those cases was justified, according to a Hearst Connecticut Media analysis of state reports.

Experts and law enforcement sources predict investigators will come to the same conclusion about the death of 45-year-old Paul Arbitelle, who just before the New Year became the most recent person to be fatally shot by the police in Connecticut. A Danbury officer shot a knife-wielding Arbitelle three times during a brief confrontation.

But that final determination still could be months away, during which details of the incident will be withheld from the public amid the investigation. Last week, city officials denied a News-Times public records request for squad car and body camera footage from the incident, citing the ongoing investigation.

Read more: https://www.nhregister.com/local/article/CT-cops-have-fatally-shot-24-people-since-2013-13527712.php

The Los Angeles Times: FBI corruption probe goes beyond L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar to include other City Hall figures

An ongoing FBI investigation into Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar is part of a broader corruption probe in which agents are seeking possible evidence involving Councilman Curren Price and a senior aide to Council President Herb Wesson, as well as several other city officials and business figures, according to a federal search warrant.

The warrant, which was filed in federal court in November but reviewed by The Times on Saturday, said agents were seeking evidence related to an investigation into an array of potential crimes, including bribery, kickbacks, extortion, and money laundering involving 13 people.

Agents served the warrant on Google in July for information from a private email account for Ray Chan, the former head of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety for Mayor Eric Garcetti, according to the warrant. Chan also served as a deputy mayor for economic development under Garcetti.

Along with Chan and Huizar, those named in the warrant included Price, who represents part of South L.A.; Deron Williams, chief of staff to Wesson; Joel Jacinto, a Garcetti appointee who serves on the city’s Board of Public Works; and other City Hall aides who have worked for Huizar.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-huizar-warrant-20190112-story.html

MLive.com: Newspaper: Mental health, police-involved shootings linked

DETROIT (AP) — Mental illness was a factor in many law enforcement conflicts in Michigan that resulted in the deaths of police officers or civilians in recent years, according to a newspaper review.

MLive.com reviewed police reports, court records and newspaper archives to find that 33 of the 87 people killed by police in Michigan in that time had signs or a history of mental illness. MLive.com's review of the 43 police officers who were slain in the past two decades found that 13 were killed by people who showed signs of mental illness.

Many of the deaths could have been prevented with better mental-health treatment, according to mental-health advocates and law-enforcement officials.

Police officials said they're working to better train officers to defuse tense situations. Police in Michigan and across the U.S. are more often using crisis intervention teams, which pair law enforcement with mental-health professionals.

Read more: https://www.mlive.com/news/2019/01/justifiable-police-involved-shootings-and-mental-illness-go-hand-in-hand.html

Honolulu Civil Beat: Hawaii 2040: Climate Change Is Already Here. And We’re Running Out Of Time

A 40-mile ribbon of road wraps around northeast Oahu, connecting Kaneohe with Haleiwa.

It’s the only access to the rural communities of Kahaluu and Kaaawa, home to numerous Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders among several thousand other residents. Dotted by shrimp trucks, this stretch of Kamehameha Highway also serves the prep football stronghold in Kahuku and the Mormon enclave in Laie.

Surfers rely on the two paved lanes to access the world-renowned Pipeline and Waimea Bay breaks. And vacationers use them to reach seaside alternatives to Waikiki.

Scientists warn that most of this coastal highway — and many miles of similar roads throughout Hawaii — will soon be underwater due to rising seas, stronger storms and extreme flooding.

Giant sandbags are already heaped in front of houses teetering on the shoreline. And huge rocks and hunks of concrete line the most perilous portions, a desperate attempt to save parts of some routes while lasting solutions are contemplated.

The climate is changing, faster than ever. Imperiled infrastructure is only the most apparent front in the Aloha State’s war against a warming planet. Similar battles are unfolding throughout the islands.

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/01/hawaii-2040-climate-change-is-already-here-and-were-running-out-of-time/

AP: Requests to bring in child brides OK’d; legal under US laws

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of requests by men to bring in child and adolescent brides to live in the United States were approved over the past decade, according to government data obtained by The Associated Press. In one case, a 49-year-old man applied for admission for a 15-year-old girl.

The approvals are legal: The Immigration and Nationality Act does not set minimum age requirements for the person making the request or for that person’s spouse or fiancee. By contrast, to bring in a parent from overseas, a petitioner has to be at least 21 years old.

And in weighing petitions, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services goes by whether the marriage is legal in the spouse or fiancee’s home country and then whether the marriage would be legal in the state where the petitioner lives.

The data raises questions about whether the immigration system may be enabling forced marriage and about how U.S. laws may be compounding the problem despite efforts to limit child and forced marriage. Marriage between adults and minors is not uncommon in the U.S., and most states allow children to marry with some restrictions.

Read more: https://apnews.com/19e43295c76d4d249aa51c9f643eb377?fbclid=IwAR3c4SFSyNGwl2noQriB2dzCQ0Y83h4sQ_dYnQTK1NEwtMjXWTW7-zMUVeg

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Jan. 10, 2019

Arizona Republic: First Arizona charter schools: 'Like the Oklahoma Land Rush,' a world with few boundaries

The Charter Gamble: In this series, we examine how Arizona committed 25 years ago to the then-untested concept of charter schools, and what the program has meant for the state. Today, Part 2, the state's first charter schools scramble to open. Read Part 1.

Charter schools arrived in Arizona in a June 1994 special legislative session.

Republican leaders seized on public demand for education reform and cobbled together an unlikely coalition of supporters to push through their bill.

But even charters' strongest supporters weren't sure the schools would catch on.

"Nobody really knew what they were," said former Rep. Lisa Graham Keegan, who was elected state superintendent of public instruction months after helping usher charter school legislation into law.

"I remember being very excited but very unsure," said former Sen. Tom Patterson, who wrote the bill.

"It was a grand political experiment," said Jay Heiler, who helped Gov. Fife Symington push the legislation through and would go on to found Great Hearts Academies. "It was very vulnerable to being killed in its infancy."

But in the months that followed, applications flooded in from would-be charter operators. Long-held ideas for education innovation were suddenly possible, and application packets often held more dreams than actual plans. There were few regulations and fewer templates.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-education/2018/12/14/charter-schools-take-root-arizona-1994-legislation/2015754002/

Los Angeles Times: Firefighters' fateful choices: How the Woolsey fire became an unstoppable monster

It was clear from the beginning that the Woolsey fire had the potential to be a monster.

It broke out mid-afternoon Nov. 8 on Boeing property near the Santa Susana Pass, fueled by strengthening winds and burning toward populated areas.

But during the critical first hours, the Woolsey fire took second priority.

Ventura County firefighters were already engaged in a pitched battle with another blaze, called the Hill fire, about 15 miles to the west that had jumped the 101 Freeway and was threatening hundreds of homes and businesses.

The Woolsey fire was growing but still far enough from subdivisions that it got fewer resources from Ventura County. Neighboring fire agencies sent some help, but it would take hours before they launched an all-out attack at the fire lines.

These turned out to be fateful choices in what would become the most destructive fire in Los Angeles and Ventura county history.

A Times review of hundreds of pages of public records and several hours of radio transmissions shows that first responders on the front lines of the Woolsey fire struggled during those first critical hours, stymied by communication breakdowns and a scarcity of air tanker support, equipment and firefighters.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-woolsey-resources-20190106-htmlstory.html

Sacramento Bee: Gavin Newsom made these 10 promises on the campaign trail. Let’s see if he can keep them

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom made promises on these 10 topics while campaigning for California’s highest office. Click or tap each promise to expand.

1. Combat homelessness

As San Francisco mayor, Newsom put tremendous effort into combating chronic homelessness, and he leaned on that experience in his gubernatorial campaign to highlight a statewide crisis: about 135,000 homeless people, a quarter of the nation’s total. He proposed creating a cabinet-level position to lead a “regional approach” for addressing homelessness. Many cities and counties have abdicated their responsibility to help those in need, he said, shifting the burden onto communities like San Francisco that provide robust services. Newsom told The Bee in July that he wants to tie state funding to increased development of supportive housing, as an incentive for local governments. He also wants to help them enroll more homeless people in the federal disability program that provides a monthly stipend.

Read more: https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article223782070.html

The Washington Post: After years of Trump’s dire warnings, a ‘crisis’ has hit the border but generates little urgency

In 2015, the year President Trump launched his White House bid with a promise to build a wall on the Mexico border, illegal migration to the United States plunged 31 percent, falling near its lowest level in 50 years.

Security experts saw a success, but Trump looked at the border and saw something ominous: “rapists,” “criminals” and other predators lurking on the other side.

In 2017, Trump’s first year in office, he continued to insist on the urgent need for a border wall, even as illegal crossings dropped further.

With parts of the federal government shut down over what has morphed into the defining symbol of Trump’s presidency, administration officials are clamoring louder than ever. Only this time, they face a bona fide emergency on the border, and they’re struggling to make the case there’s truly a problem.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/after-years-of-trumps-dire-warnings-a-crisis-has-hit-the-border-but-generates-little-urgency/2019/01/05/9a79a0e0-103d-11e9-8938-5898adc28fa2_story.html

South Florida Sun Sentinel: Young voters aren't no-shows anymore

Young voters hit the polls in bigger numbers this past election, particularly in Florida’s largest university towns.

Sixty-two percent of registered voters age 18 to 21 cast ballots in Leon County, home of Florida State University, followed by Alachua County, location of University of Florida, according to an analysis of preliminary voting data by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The college-town turnout in those counties and others was extraordinary for young people, who historically have the lowest turnout rates of all age groups, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the 2014 midterms, turnout was less than 20 percent nationwide.

Read more: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/fl-ne-cb-young-voters-20190103-story.html

Miami Herald: Local impacts of the government shutdown could soon get worse. This timeline shows how.

With the partial government shutdown now two weeks old — and no end in sight — consumers and federal workers are in for financial pain that’s likely to get worse.

Federal tax refunds are likely to be delayed.

Hurricane preparedness could be affected.

Paychecks for many federal workers — including thousands in Florida — likely won’t show up in bank accounts as regularly scheduled.

Federal courts are running out of money, and Miami’s usually buzzing federal courts will find it more difficult to operate. All U.S. immigration courts were shuttered since Dec. 24, adding to an already surging backlog.

Agencies already out of money and running on reserves, if they have any left, include the Departments of Treasury, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. Several smaller departments are also affected.

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/site-services/new-newsletters/business-news/article223884690.html

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Contaminated groundwater, a toxic legacy of Georgia’s air bases

For decades, the United States Air Force used a toxic firefighting foam that contaminated water near bases and exposed communities to chemicals linked to cancer and a variety of other health problems.

Recent tests at Georgia’s three air bases show extensive environmental contamination of groundwater caused by the foam.

Despite Air Force assurances that Georgia’s drinking water is safe for the thousands of people living around its installations, experts and neighboring residents are questioning those findings, claiming the military’s review was too narrow and failed to test any water off-base.

“Given that there are concentrations of these compounds on site, over time they’re going to move off of the site. That’s just common sense,” said Jamie DeWitt, an associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at East Carolina University. “No contaminant obeys property lines.”

In more than a dozen other states, the Air Force has acknowledged contaminating drinking water in communities close to its bases.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/local/contaminated-groundwater-toxic-legacy-georgia-air-bases/sKLbYPA7ucd7ojDr5NvtFI/

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: St. Louis demolitions bring renewed risk for lead poisoning

Toxic lead coursed through Christopher Holland Jr.’s body at two critical points in his life: as a toddler poisoned by lead paint and as a 20-year-old struck down by bullets.

“I saw how it affected his life — with relationships, with his anger issues, always complaining that his head hurt,” Christopher Holland Sr. said of the lead poisoning discovered when his son, known as “Lil Chris,” was 4 years old and living in north St. Louis.

Lead poisoning cases have dropped dramatically since the 1990s, when Lil Chris was a child, but the problem hasn’t gone away. The city’s old housing stock still poses a danger to children in many neighborhoods.

Last year in St. Louis, more than 2,600 children had measurable levels of lead in their blood, which can lead to stunted growth, learning disabilities, risky behavior and other health problems. There is no safe amount of lead in a body, and damage to developing brains is permanent.

The main source of lead poisoning here is lead paint, banned in 1978 but too late for the nearly 90 percent of housing stock in St. Louis that was built earlier. City officials worry that demolition of old houses could reverse the years of progress in reducing lead poisoning.

The renewed push to demolish vacant buildings, generally thought to be a positive step for decaying urban areas, could have unintended and long-term public health consequences.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/tipping-point-st-louis-demolitions-bring-renewed-risk-for-lead/article_e220afea-8a6d-5476-86fa-48eb695ab9b2.html

Chicago Tribune: Serial pedophile's career at Chicago Public Schools has largely been hidden. New information shows how he got second chances.

By his own admission, serial pedophile Thomas Hacker sexually abused hundreds of children in Illinois and Indiana, exploiting his leadership roles in the Boy Scouts, Catholic churches and suburban Chicago Park District programs to prey on boys as young as 10 and 11 from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Those institutions have been held accountable in lawsuits and news reports for their child protection failures. And Hacker himself was held accountable too, ordered to serve a 100-year sentence for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old Boy Scout from a suburban troop. He died in June at age 81 of heart failure at Big Muddy Correctional Center.

His time working in Chicago Public Schools, however, has remained largely hidden, with the district releasing scant information and even, at one point, denying he ever worked there.

Using Hacker’s own testimony in depositions he gave at Big Muddy, additional public records and personnel files obtained through a source, the Tribune pieced together the first full picture of how Hacker found a job at CPS in 1970 despite a criminal record and remained a teacher for a decade even after red flags emerged about his behavior. Hacker himself described not just his compulsion and rituals, but also the second chances he was given.

Read more: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-met-cps-sex-abuse-hacker-met-20181119-story.html

The Buffalo News: In Buffalo's 'digital deserts,' more than half of households lack internet

The digital divide looks like Buffalo’s Broadway Market on a Friday afternoon: a dozen round tables thronged with lunchgoers – and nary a laptop or tablet among them.

Most households in this neighborhood don’t own such devices, new first-of-its-kind federal data show. And even fewer have the means to go online with them, either at the Broadway Market or in their own homes.

The data, released by the Census Bureau last month, expose for the first time the true depths of the digital gap in the region: While 80 percent of households in Erie and Niagara counties are online, low-income pockets of Buffalo, Lockport and Niagara Falls have fallen off the grid.

The disparities are starkest on Buffalo’s East Side, particularly in the Broadway-Fillmore district, where fewer than two in five homes have internet on some blocks. The new numbers come at a time of mounting alarm among city and school officials, who have called for more aggressive policy action to address disparities they say could deepen poverty in the region.

Read more: https://buffalonews.com/2019/01/06/more-than-half-of-households-do-not-have-home-internet-in-buffalos-digital-deserts/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Jan. 3, 2019

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: 'I don’t want the kids to stay here and get stuck like me.'

How a cycle of poverty, evictions and school transfers keeps Milwaukee families from moving forward

… One in four children change schools each year in the city, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis found, with some individual schools topping 40 percent. The turnover is most prevalent at — and at least partly the cause of — some of the lowest-performing schools, attended by the most disadvantaged families.

Rampant switching lowers test scores, even for students who don’t move, and thwarts the development of the very kinds of nurturing relationships that could help transient students succeed and break a pattern of generational poverty.

The churn of students is fueled by thousands upon thousands of individual decisions by parents.

Those decisions are often driven by frustratingly similar conditions: Joblessness, poverty and evictions. A lack of transportation. Homelessness. A lack of mental health care, supportive family or well-informed, trusted advisers. Parents disagree with school officials. They struggle with a confusing system. They deeply distrust authority.

Read more: https://projects.jsonline.com/news/2018/12/28/seven-kids-five-homes-nine-schools-two-years-in-the-life-of-a-milwaukee-family.html

Austin American-Statesman: Statesman investigations forced change in 2018

Over the past 12 months, American-Statesman investigations have sparked proposed legislation related to how Texas oversees child care, congressional hearings into Department of Veterans Affairs contracts and better protections for survivors of Hurricane Harvey.

At Austin’s City Hall, Statesman reporting has resulted in a slew of new policies, including those affecting water bills, police academy training and short-term rental units.

What follows are examples of the accountability journalism that Statesman reporters practice every day, from the newspaper’s four-person investigative team to those covering Central Texas cities, counties, schools, law enforcement agencies and the environment.

Read more: https://www.statesman.com/news/20181228/statesman-investigations-forced-change-in-2018

Austin American-Statesman: Why Texas families are struggling to find care for adults with disabilities

Since 43-year-old Ivana Schnars moved into a nursing home in Pflugerville, her mom, Sue Schnars, has tried to make it as comfortable as the home where her daughter spent most of her life. Citrus essential oil perfumes the dormlike room. Relatives have left sweet messages on a white board. Pink decorations dot the walls.

Unable to care for Ivana Schnars, who is nonverbal and uses a wheelchair, on her own, Sue Schnars moved her out of their North Austin home in August.

Schnars had trouble finding and keeping caregivers for Ivana. With the state’s Medicaid reimbursement, she could pay personal attendants only $11 an hour without benefits.

“I agonized over this decision,” Schnars said. “She’s my daughter, and I love her. For 43 years, I kept her home. For 43 years, I was able to make sure she was safe and clean and that she had everything that she needed. People at the retirement home are wonderful, but they’re not me.”

Schnars is using her daughter’s Social Security income to pay for the nursing home.

The turnover rate among attendants is high across the country — 45 to 65 percent — but stagnant pay rates in Texas have worsened the problem here. Attendants in Texas are paid on average $9.30 an hour, while the nationwide average is $11.59, according to an August report by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

For nearly a decade, the state has not increased the payment rates of personal attendants in Community Living Assistance and Support Services, the Medicaid program that covered care for Ivana Schnars and 5,600 other Texans. The state sets the attendant rate in the program at about $13 an hour, but after administrative fees and payroll taxes are shaved off, the rate families can pay attendants is lower.

Read more: https://www.statesman.com/news/20181227/why-texas-families-are-struggling-to-find-care-for-adults-with-disabilities

New Jersey Record: College hate: White supremacists recruiting 'vulnerable' students at NJ campuses

The black-and-white poster, taped to a wall outside a student center at Rutgers University, displayed the words “Imagine a Muslim-Free America” and a sketch of the Twin Towers. A logo and website address for the white supremacist group American Vanguard was splashed along the bottom.

The poster, found at the New Brunswick campus last year, wasn’t an isolated incident. In the past two years, flyers linked to white supremacist groups or bearing their slogans have also turned up on campuses at William Paterson, Princeton, Montclair State and Stockton universities and at community colleges in Morris and Somerset counties.

Civil rights groups say hate propaganda is being spread more frequently on campuses across the country as white supremacist groups ramp up efforts to influence and recruit young, educated men to push their political and ideological agendas into the mainstream.

“It’s a recruitment tactic,” said Lecia Brooks, director of outreach for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “They post on campuses and people try to figure out who they are. They take pictures and post it on their social media, especially Twitter, and in that way, they raise their own profile. Typically, it gets media attention and feeds on itself.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center tracked 329 incidents of hate flyers on 241 college campuses between March 2016 and October 2017.

Those numbers mirror a report by the Anti-Defamation League, which counted 292 cases of white supremacist propaganda on campuses in the 2017-18 academic year, a 77 percent increase from the league's count in the previous year.

Read more: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/2018/12/12/college-hate-white-supremacists-recruiting-college-campus/2163308002/

Kansas City Star: 5 years ago KC launched effort to stop homicides. City still ranks among worst in U.S.

Five years ago, a city code inspector found 26-year-old Ryan Cobbins dead in a bathtub in an abandoned house. He had been bound hand and foot, and shot in the head.

No arrest was made, even when law enforcement identified a likely suspect. When that suspect allegedly killed again earlier this year, prosecutors charged him but then dropped the case. Both killings are now unsolved.

Cobbins was one of 100 homicide victims in Kansas City in 2013, a year that saw a new push to slow down the killing that had for years ranked among the worst of the 50 largest cities in the country.

With new leaders installed in the three top offices of police chief, county prosecutor and mayor, the ground seemed fertile for change. The new law enforcement heads combined to form the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, a so-called smart policing strategy to deter known violent criminals. At the same time, the leaders promoted new efforts within their own agencies.

But five years later, the city seems to have made little progress with its homicide problem.

In 2017, Kansas City’s homicide rate ranked No. 5 among major U.S. cities, with 151 killings. This year, the city recorded 134 homicides as of 4 p.m. Dec. 29.

To help understand why the situation has not improved more, The Star took a closer look at the homicides of 2013, analyzing how they were processed by police, prosecutors and the courts. After five years, enough time has passed for murder cases to either go cold or work their way through the criminal justice system.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article219354350.html

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: When rape is reporter and something happens

She was a farm girl from Stearns County, still in high school, out on a Saturday night for what was supposed to be a double date.

Instead, she wound up alone in a car with two older boys. They lured her to a dark, empty apartment in the town of Brooten, threw her down and raped her.

She never told anyone except her best friend and, decades later, a therapist.

Now, at 71, she felt moved to tell her story after reading the accounts of dozens of other women who survived sexual assault.

“Back in those days, if you were raped you kept it quiet.” If word got out, “ ‘No decent guy,’ as my mother put it, ‘would ever want you.’ ”

To this day, when she’s alone she sleeps with a knife under her pillow.

Joan, who asked that her last name not be used, is one of almost 100 Minnesota women who felt compelled to share their stories of being sexually assaulted after the Star Tribune began documenting chronic errors and widespread failings in the way Minnesota police, prosecutors and judges handle rape cases.

The reports, along with video testimony of dozens of women, galvanized victims of sexual violence, lawmakers and law enforcement officials alike. The 2019 Legislature will consider sweeping measures to fix “systemic failures” identified by a state task force in the way the criminal justice system handles sex assault cases. The board that licenses all police officers is recommending new specialized training and clear investigative protocols, and local police departments and county attorneys are dedicating more staff and other resources to sex assault cases.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/when-rape-is-reported-in-minnesota-and-something-happens-denied-justice-part-nine/501637221/

Portland Press-Herald: Lack of mandated testing could expose cannabis users to toxins

Sharon Corbett of Lincolnville buys medical marijuana products at a new source after she learned the cannabis oil she once used was contaminated with paint thinner.

Sharon Corbett of Lincolnville buys medical marijuana products at a new source after she learned the cannabis oil she once used was contaminated with paint thinner. Staff photo by Derek Davis

For years, Sharon Corbett would consume a gram of highly concentrated cannabis oil every week hoping to ward off a return of her esophageal cancer.

The 68-year-old Lincolnville retiree believed that $25-a-gram oil was saving her life. But over the summer, when she started feeling sick, a friend urged her to get it tested. A private lab concluded the oil contained high levels of naphtha, a chemical solvent used as a paint thinner or lighter fluid that can contain cancer-causing substances and is illegal to use in marijuana extractions in Colorado and Massachusetts.

“One day, I’ve got my oncologist telling me, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing, but whatever it is, keep doing it,’ and I think everything’s great,” said Corbett. “Then I open an email from the lab telling me I’ve been taking a daily dose of paint thinner for years. Even my doctor doesn’t know what that’s done to me, but it can’t be good.”

In Maine, nobody is checking to see if the cannabis sold now is safe. Medical marijuana has been legal since 1999, with 50,000 certified patients purchasing $50 million of cannabis a year to treat conditions ranging from glaucoma to AIDS, yet none of it must be tested. Oregon, Washington and Colorado test their medical marijuana for contaminants like mold, residual solvents and bacteria. Maine forbids the use of high-risk pesticides but doesn’t test for it.

Read more: https://www.pressherald.com/2018/12/30/lack-of-mandated-testing-could-expose-cannabis-users-to-toxins/

Louisville Courier Journal: Journalism that changed lives: Our best investigative work from 2018

The Courier Journal's mission is simple: Report on what people care about. Make a difference — across Kentucky and Indiana, as well as in readers' neighborhoods. And hold those in power accountable.

The Courier Journal's reach has never been bigger than in 2018. We touched more than 2 million individual readers each month through our courierjournal.com digital site and apps. With that came the opportunity to inform more readers and effect more change on issues big and small than ever before.

Some of our stories came from unexpected places, like our investigation into deadly church vans or how a McDonald's receipt took down an elite drug task force.

Others sprang from our coverage of important institutions, like the $215,000 raise Gov. Matt Bevin gave to an old Army buddy he earlier hired as a state employee, or the ways the University of Louisville athletic department officials skirted its own nepotism rules.

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2018/12/28/louisville-courier-journal-best-investigative-work-2018/2068872002/

Des Moines Register: EXCLUSIVE: 2 brothers who pulled off historic lottery scam have repaid virtually nothing despite $2 million in property holdings

© Copyright 2018, Des Moines Register and Tribune Co.

Two brothers who spearheaded the biggest lottery scam in U.S. history have repaid less than $1,400 in restitution — despite owning property worth nearly $2 million, a Des Moines Register and Corpus Christi Caller Times investigation has found.

Between them, Eddie and Tommy Tipton have admitted rigging winning drawings in at least five states, including Iowa, worth a combined $24 million.

But they have barely made a dent in the more than $2.4 million they were ordered to pay in restitution, despite holding more than a half-dozen properties in Texas that are worth nearly as much as they owe, according to records obtained by the Register.

At their current rate of repayment, Oklahoma — one of the five state lotteries the brothers scammed — estimates it will be fully reimbursed in 190 years.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2018/12/26/tipton-brothers-scam-iowa-lottery-oklahoma-colorado-wisconsin-kansas-lotteries-millions-properties/2197240002/

Des Moines Register: 15 top Register investigations of 2018: Holding the powerful accountable, pointing to solutions

Des Moines Register investigations in 2018 exposed strong-arm attacks against state 4-H organizations over a proposed LGBTQ inclusion policy, documented ongoing problems with Iowa’s privately managed Medicaid program and prompted a governor’s candidate to quit the race after publication of sexual misconduct allegations raised by three women.

I consider investigative reporting to be a top newsroom priority. Our journalists file public-records requests to pry out information that some officials would rather stay secret. Our reporting holds those in power accountable and helps improve the lives of everyday Iowans.

Writers from every department — communities, politics, business, sports, opinion — are encouraged to pursue investigative work.

For the third year, I’ve compiled a top 15 recap of some the most impactful investigative journalism produced by the Register and USA TODAY Network. Being part of the Network means investigative reporters from across the company can focus their efforts on an Iowa story, and the Register also can publish important investigations developed by Network reporters elsewhere around the country.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/from-the-editor/2018/12/27/15-des-moines-register-investigations-4-h-lgbtq-policy-medicaid-trump-nate-boulton-sexual-misconduct/2420062002/

The Denver Post: “Where’s all that marijuana money?” Colorado’s pot dollars help schools, but maybe not as much as you think

A big part of the 2012 pitch to convince Colorado voters they should legalize recreational marijuana was that the tax money would fix their local schools.

Five years after the first sale occurred on Jan. 1, 2014, that tax money has translated into $160 million toward school construction statewide — roughly enough to build three high schools. Meanwhile, the state has actually collected more than $740 million.

“People frequently ask, ‘Where’s all that marijuana money?’ ” said Tim Reed, executive director of facilities and construction for Jefferson County Schools and chairman of the state board that selects the school projects that get funded. “I can’t tell you how many community meetings I’ve been to where this comes up.”

The issue, Reed said, isn’t a lack of money but rather a misconception about how marijuana taxes were to be spent, mostly because of the campaign to pass Amendment 64.

“No one really read the fine print,” Reed said. “They all thought the pot smokers would support public education.”

That has been true, up to a point. Marijuana tax money did help build a state-of-the-art middle school in Montrose County — where marijuana sales are not allowed — to replace a 56-year-old building with asbestos-laden tiles, buckling slabs and a gym floor that needed trash cans to catch leaking rainwater. The district has also received money for four other projects — to remove asbestos, upgrade aging electrical systems, replace leaky roofs and add air conditioning to parts of an oppressively hot high school.

Read more: https://www.denverpost.com/2018/12/27/colorado-marijuana-tax-dollars-schools/

Los Angeles Times: Here's how Paradise ignored warnings and became a deathtrap

The fate of Paradise was cast long before a windstorm last month fueled the deadliest fire in California history.

The ridge settlement was doomed by its proximity to a crack in the mighty wall of the Sierra Nevada, a deep canyon that bellowed gale-force winds.

It was doomed by its maze of haphazard lanes and dead-end roads that paid no heed to escape.

It remained doomed because for all the preparations community leaders made, they practiced for tamer wildfires that frequently burned to the edge of town and stopped — not a wind-driven ember storm.

In the aftermath of the Camp fire — 86 dead, more than 13,900 homes destroyed and Paradise decimated — local and state officials said the tragedy was unforeseen and unavoidable, an "unprecedented" monster of fire.

In truth, the destruction was utterly predictable, and the community's struggles to deal with the fire were the result of lessons forgotten and warnings ignored. The miracle of the tragedy, local officials now concede, is how many people escaped.

A Los Angeles Times investigation found that Paradise ignored repeated warnings of the risk its residents faced, crafted no plan to evacuate the area all at once, entrusted public alerts to a system prone to fire, and did not sound citywide orders to flee even as a hail of fire rained down.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-camp-fire-deathtrap-20181230-story.html

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Dec. 27, 2018

AP: ’A moral disaster': AP reveals scope of migrant kids program

Decades after the U.S. stopped institutionalizing kids because large and crowded orphanages were causing lasting trauma, it is happening again. The federal government has placed most of the 14,300 migrant toddlers, children and teens in its care in detention centers and residential facilities packed with hundreds, or thousands, of children.

As the year draws to a close, about 5,400 detained migrant children in the U.S. are sleeping in shelters with more than 1,000 other children. Some 9,800 are in facilities with 100-plus total kids, according to confidential government data obtained and cross-checked by The Associated Press.

That’s a huge shift from just three months after President Donald Trump took office, when the same federal program had 2,720 migrant youth in its care; most were in shelters with a few dozen kids or in foster programs. Some of the children may be released sooner than anticipated, because this week the administration ended a portion of its strict screening policies that had slowed the placement of migrant kids with relatives in the U.S.

Read more: https://apnews.com/a857e04de9bc4871995b65784ed7ccd8

Arizona Daily Star: Trainer shows fundraisers how to collect money for charity but keep plenty for themselves

A Phoenix-area man who raised an estimated $150,000 for Tucson foster children, then left town without helping them, did not act alone.

He was one of six operators in three states using a dozen different names to raise money for kids in a way that ensures most of it doesn’t go to charity, an Arizona Daily Star investigation has found.

Together, these cash-based operators have raised at least $1 million in the past two years without fully accounting for where the money went, according to public records and accounts from ex-employees and affiliates.

Each entity has a name that sounds like a charity, but about half are not. Rather, they are commercial fundraising firms using methods that, while legal, make charity experts cringe.

At least four of the names used for fundraising link to a single federally registered charity that collapsed in 18 months without filing a nonprofit tax return — leaving no public record of what happened to the cash.

Read more: https://tucson.com/news/local/trainer-shows-fundraisers-how-to-collect-money-for-charity-but/article_a5a5f02d-7744-590c-99f9-150f7f8170b4.html

The San Diego Union-Tribune: Including police OT, storage for homeless people's belongings costs San Diego more per bin than an SRO hotel room would cost

San Diego police expect to pay $2 million in overtime to officers patrolling the neighborhood around the storage center for homeless people that opened in Sherman Heights earlier this year.

The budget projection, which was included in a quarterly monitoring report released last month, pushes the total program expense past $3.7 million this year. Including the patrols, it means costs associated with the 500 storage bins amount to $600 per bin per month -- more than a studio apartment in many single-room occupancy hotels.

Police officials say the money is a good investment of public funds that meets the terms of the City Council resolution earlier this year that allowed the facility.

They also say residents in the Sherman Heights community are grateful for the added security, which generally includes four extra officers and a sergeant patrolling the neighborhood within a half-mile of the facility after their regular shifts.

Read more: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sd-me-sdpd-overtime-costs-20181223-story.html

Atlanta Journal Constitution: AJC Analysis: Absentee voting pitfalls tripped thousands of Ga. voters

When Bartow County resident Shelly Hamner filled out her absentee ballot for the November general election, she had her husband check her work.

“I’ve never really done absentee before,” she said. “I said, ‘Make sure I did this right. I don’t want it to be rejected.’”

Georgia’s absentee ballot looks much like any other ballot, but it has to be mailed back in a special envelope that requires the voter to correctly list their address, birth year and sign an oath saying they were entitled to cast their vote.

After the spousal double-check, Hamner mailed the ballot to her county office only to have it rejected because the county elections office decided her signature wasn’t a match with the one on file. Fortunately, word came early enough that the county offered her the option of casting her ballot in early voting, but that process took hours and a lot of explaining.

“I had to tell the story to four different people. They had to make a phone call, and they pulled me out of line,” she said. “I was like, ‘Is this happening to me?’ You see this on the news.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution analyzed 245,000 absentee ballots cast in every Georgia county in the Nov. 6 general election and found a chaotic system where ballots were accepted — or not — based on local interpretations of state rules. And the actual number of absentee ballots discarded for any of these rules is unknown because many Georgia counties elected not to report them to the Secretary of State.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/ajc-analysis-absentee-voting-pitfalls-tripped-thousands-voters/5Qu6ynxydaKrT4le1edtPL/

Chicago Tribune: Officials knew ethylene oxide was linked to cancer for decades. Here's why it's still being emitted in Willowbrook and Waukegan.

When Julie Cannell was born in the 1980s, the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook churned up to 169,000 pounds of cancer-causing ethylene oxide into the air every year.

Cannell grew up about a mile from the facility in a leafy suburban neighborhood of big homes and even bigger yards. She attended public schools close to Sterigenics. But like most residents of the DuPage County village, she had no idea the company existed until this summer, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency singled out Willowbrook as one of a few dozen communities across the nation facing alarmingly high cancer risks from toxic air pollution.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, shortly after her 30th birthday, Cannell endured a double mastectomy and rounds of debilitating radiation and chemotherapy. Now she is among dozens of cancer survivors and families of victims wondering if daily exposure to an obscure industrial chemical contributed to the diseases.

“My parents moved to Willowbrook because my dad felt like we were living in the country, with fresh air and plenty of open spaces,” Cannell said. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

While it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine why cancerous cells suddenly develop in people, scientists have been reporting for decades that toxic chemicals are among the triggers. “The true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated,” a presidential commission of experts concluded in 2010.

Read more: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-met-ethylene-oxide-sterigenics-cancer-science-20181214-story.html

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Tipping Point: Thousands of vacant buildings take heavy toll on St. Louis police, firefighters

ST. LOUIS • They don’t contribute much, if anything, to the tax base. They don’t house businesses, at least not legal ones. They’re nobody’s home — except the homeless, who come and go.

But just by standing there, the city’s empty and broken buildings leach untold amounts of money from taxpayers.

Pick virtually any address among the estimated 7,000 to 12,000 vacant structures in St. Louis, and chances are police officers or firefighters have been there — in some cases, multiple times.

Fire and police officials say it’s hard to know exactly how much the buildings where no one lives or works are costing taxpayers. But they can point to some statistics.

They know, for example, that vacant buildings account for more than 40 percent of the fires they have to fight each year.

The cost depends on how many companies respond, when the buildings catch fire and the complexity of the subsequent investigation, Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson told the Post-Dispatch.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/tipping-point-thousands-of-vacant-buildings-take-heavy-toll-on/article_aa50237e-f71c-5e25-abed-1492307b6ad3.html#tracking-source=home-top-story-2

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Doctors with bad records can often still practice on patients. Here’s what needs to happen to fix this.

When it comes to improving the nation’s broken system of doctor discipline, many advocates say the starting point should be fixing something that was created to do the job in the first place.

In 1986, Congress created the National Practitioner Data Bank, pledging it would improve health care and reduce fraud and abuse. The data bank records all sorts of things: malpractice payments, disciplinary action, restrictions of hospital privileges and other transgressions.

There are just three problems:

The system can be gamed, so not all problem doctors appear on the list.

State medical boards don’t always check the data bank.

And the information is off limits to those who are most at risk: Patients.

“It is the one source in the country where all the data is available,” said Carol Cronin, executive director of the Informed Patient Institute, a Maryland-based nonprofit group that produces its own physician "report cards" from various sources

“They need to bring it into the modern era.”

The data bank is at the center of several key issues identified in the yearlong Bad Medicine investigation from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA Today and MedPage Today.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2018/12/20/how-database-doctor-records-should-fixed-help-patients/2356705002/

The Wall Street Journal: Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Incorrectly Claims Academic All-American Honors

Matthew Whitaker, the acting U.S. attorney general, has incorrectly claimed on his résumé and in government documents to have been named an Academic All-American while playing football at the University of Iowa, according to the documents and the organization that awards that honor.

Mr. Whitaker, who was a tight end on the Iowa team from 1990 to 1992, claimed to have been an Academic All-American in his biography on his former law firm’s website and on a résumé sent in 2014 to the chief executive of a now-closed patent-marketing firm, for which he sat on the advisory board. The résumé was included in documents released last month by the Federal Trade Commission.

Mr. Whitaker made the same claim in a 2010 application for an Iowa judgeship. And a Justice Department press release, issued in 2009 when Mr. Whitaker left his post as U.S. Attorney in Iowa, said he had been “an academic All-American football player.”

To be considered for Academic All-American status, a student-athlete must have at least a 3.3 cumulative grade point average and be a starter or important reserve on his or her team.

Mr. Whitaker’s name doesn’t appear in the list of Academic All-Americans on the website of the organization that bestows the annual honor, the College Sports Information Directors of America. Another University of Iowa football player is on that list for 1992, the year Mr. Whitaker has said he received the honor.

Read more: https://www.wsj.com/articles/acting-attorney-general-matthew-whitaker-incorrectly-claims-academic-all-american-honors-11545844613?mod=e2twp

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Dec. 20, 2018

The New York Times: Tabloid Publisher’s Deal in Hush-Money Inquiry Adds to Trump’s Danger

With the revelation by prosecutors on Wednesday that a tabloid publisher admitted to paying off a Playboy model, key participants in two hush-money schemes say the transactions were intended to protect Donald J. Trump’s campaign for president.

That leaves Mr. Trump in an increasingly isolated and legally precarious position, according to election law experts. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments made in 2016 to keep two women silent about alleged affairs are now firmly framed as illegal campaign contributions.

The news about the publisher, the parent company of The National Enquirer, came on the same day that Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael D. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in part for his involvement in the payments. “I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today,” Mr. Cohen said, “and it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man” — a reference to Mr. Trump — “that led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”

Mr. Cohen said the transactions were an effort to cover up the president’s “dirty deeds,” a claim that was buttressed when federal prosecutors announced that the tabloid publisher, American Media Inc., said it had bought one of the women’s stories to ensure she “did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate.”

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/12/nyregion/trump-american-media-michael-cohen.html

The Seattle Times: The orca and the orca catcher: How a generation of killer whales was taken from Puget Sound

He saw the orca looming, so close, in the sea pen hastily welded together for the more-than 400-mile tow to Seattle.

“I dive down and oh God, there is this shadow four feet away, looking at me,” said Ted Griffin, remembering his first moments with Namu, soon to become the world’s first performing captive killer whale.

Then he heard it: A loud SQUEAK.

“I think it is the whale, so I go ‘EEEE’ and within half a second, the whale squeaks,” Griffin said, eyes still wide with the memory. “My God, I am crying, I can barely keep my mask on. It is indescribable. What has happened is that all those years I am wanting an animal to say hello, and one has. I am thunderstruck.”

Word of Namu — named for the remote B.C. village where he was accidentally caught in a fishermen’s net — quickly spread. Thousands of onlookers backed up for miles on and near Deception Pass Bridge hoping to catch a glimpse when Namu’s Navy, as the orca’s entourage of onlookers, press and promoters was called, passed beneath.

Arriving in Seattle on July 28, 1965, Griffin was given a hero’s welcome and a key to the city.

In the weeks to come, thousands flocked and paid to see the whale at Griffin’s Seattle Marine Aquarium at Pier 56. Namu fever stoked an international craze for killer whales to put on exhibit all over the nation and the world. Captors particularly targeted the young, the cheapest to ship.

For more than a decade, Puget Sound was the primary source of supply.

By 1976 some 270 orcas were captured — many multiple times — in the Salish Sea, the transboundary waters between the U.S. and Canada, according to historian Jason Colby at the University of Victoria. At least 12 of those orcas died during capture, and more than 50, mostly Puget Sound’s critically endangered southern residents, were kept for captive display. All are dead by now but one.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/the-orca-and-the-orca-catcher-how-a-generation-of-killer-whales-was-taken-from-puget-sound/

The Dallas Morning News: Dallas' departing DA hasn't taken action on two police brutality cases. Is it political?

A year after a grand jury indicted three Dallas police officers in the death of an unarmed, handcuffed man, District Attorney Faith Johnson’s office has yet to prosecute the case.

And two months after Johnson watched dashboard video of DeSoto police slamming a mother to the pavement and Tasing her son as he lay on the ground, Johnson hasn’t opened an investigation.

Now, the families at the center of those brutality cases must wait even longer. Johnson, who lost her re-election bid, has decided to let her successor, John Creuzot, determine the cases’ fate when he becomes Dallas County DA in January.

Johnson’s delays have mystified family members, civil rights activists and some law enforcement experts. They question whether Johnson, who nevertheless recently prosecuted former Balch Springs police Officer Roy Oliver on murder charges, was playing it safe politically.

Read more: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/investigations/2018/12/16/dallas-departing-da-taken-action-two-police-brutality-cases-political

The Plain Dealer: Euclid, a once-thriving suburb, wrestles with change as it faces economic, racial tensions

EUCLID, Ohio – The raucous Black Lives Matters protest that disrupted a Council meeting at Euclid City Hall in the summer of 2017 jolted eyewitnesses for very different reasons.

Tom Cooke, a member of Euclid’s older, wealthier, white community, saw shouting protestors as a threat. “I was trying to figure out ‘how am I going to get out of this Council chamber?’ ” he said.

Troy Harris, an incident management analyst at Progressive Corp., began to worry only when police showed up in body armor. He feared being beaten purely because he’s black. “That was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in in my life,’’ he said.

In the end, the protest ended peacefully. Since then, Euclid has remained what it had been before the protest: A gem in a vise.

Once a thriving blue-collar factory suburb, Euclid now finds itself squeezed between declining resources and costly, potentially crushing problems.

A rapid racial transition in its population has coincided with the need to address rising poverty, crime and a struggling school district. At the same time, dramatic erosion in the city’s tax base, caused by economic forces outside the city’s control, has hampered its ability to respond.

Read more: https://www.cleveland.com/expo/life-and-culture/erry-2018/12/29e58e29d72883/euclid-a-oncethriving-suburb-w.html

The New York Times: As the Trumps Dodged Taxes, Their Tenants Paid a Price

They were collateral damage as Donald J. Trump and his siblings dodged inheritance taxes and gained control of their father’s fortune: thousands of renters in an empire of unassuming red-brick buildings scattered across Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

Those buildings have been home to generations of strivers, municipal workers and newly arrived immigrants. When their regulated rents started rising more quickly in the 1990s, many tenants had no idea why. Some heard that the Trump family had spent millions on building improvements, but they remained suspicious.

“I’ve always thought there was something strange going on,” said Jack Leitner, who has lived in the Beach Haven Apartments in Coney Island, Brooklyn, for more than two decades. “But you have to have proof, and it’s an uphill battle.”

As it turned out, a hidden scam lurked behind the mysterious increases. In October, a New York Times investigation into the origins of Mr. Trump’s wealth revealed, among its findings, that the future president and his siblings set up a phony business to pad the cost of nearly everything their father, the legendary builder Fred C. Trump, purchased for his buildings. The Trump children split that extra money.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/15/us/politics/trump-tenants-taxes.html

Santa Fe New Mexican: Santa Fe County’s Happy Roofs Program has unhappy result

Living on disability income and unable to afford one on her own, she looked for help on the internet and stumbled upon a little-known program run by Santa Fe County that offers low-income residents a no-interest loan of up to $14,999 for the repair or replacement of their roof.

“Roofs are really expensive,” Hancock said. “I don’t know how anybody can get a new roof, especially if they live on disability or Social Security. I mean, how do you do that? I couldn’t have come up with $15,000, so this program looked like a godsend.”

But what seemed to be a blessing became a nightmare that she said includes two fires, water damage, mold, mice, bureaucratic red tape and a painfully slow insurance claims process that until Saturday had Hancock facing the possibility of a lien on the home she has owned since 2012. She received a check from her insurance company that will allow work to resume on her home this week.

Read more: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/santa-fe-county-s-happy-roofs-program-has-unhappy-result/article_cdb352cc-bc8b-5cf8-8390-792be92423ba.html

Newark Star-Ledger: N.J.'s new plan to root out misbehaving cops is badly flawed, experts say

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal was feeling the heat just weeks after taking office.

The Asbury Park Press had published an investigation that found dozens of cases of cops with troubled histories who were allowed to stay on the job. The state needed a response, so in short order, Grewal announced a new, mandatory system requiring police departments to monitor officers for certain behaviors and flag them for review.

The intention was simple, Grewal said: Be more proactive, identify problem behavior and intervene before a situation gets out of control.

As it turns out, however, that new system has a big blind spot.

The greatest authority granted a police officer is the right to harm another person, yet Grewal’s new system required a mandatory review only after a punch, kick or other use of force had been “formally determined or adjudicated ... to have been excessive, unjustified, or unreasonable.”

No tracking of real-time use-of-force data. No flagging outlier officers who use far more force than others. No analyzing trends around race or types of force to prevent bias.

“Not including all uses of force is completely out of step in early intervention systems,” said Sam Walker, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a leading expert in police oversight. “It’s the most critical exercise of police power.”

Grewal said in a recent statement that changing the warning system was under consideration.

“While we aren’t prepared to announce changes at this time, we are working with our law enforcement partners to identify changes that will strengthen this process," he said.

Read more: https://www.nj.com/data/2018/12/njs-system-to-flag-potentially-abusive-cops-has-a-huge-hole-in-it.html

Kansas City Star: Was it a coverup? Records, picture changed in Jackson County jail inmate’s death

Jailers began falsifying the record of Richard Degraffenreid’s short stay at the Jackson County Detention Center even before paramedics arrived to try reviving him from what turned out to be a fatal drug overdose.

As the ambulance neared, former jail guard Charles Obasi said he began working to make it appear that everything had been done by the book during the 2 1/2 hours Degraffenreid was strapped into a restraint chair.

Degraffenreid had been put in the chair for his own safety, a nurse had said, after he was booked into the jail around 11 p.m. on July 20, 2017.

Degraffenreid seemed OK when he was first picked up on a parole violation, but was “OD’ing,” the arresting officer told jail staff, when they arrived downtown that Thursday night. His body convulsed. He grunted and groaned. And his pupils were “the size of pancakes,” according to the sheriff’s office investigative report that The Star obtained recently.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article222989465.html

Portland Press-Herald: Trump administration funding formula causes Maine to lose out on millions in federal opioid money

After drug overdose deaths rose to record levels in Maine in 2017, the Trump administration used 2016 data in the funding formula for a grant program, depriving the state of millions of additional dollars to support treatment and prevention programs for the opioid epidemic.

The formula – created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – gave extra funds in September of this year to the 10 states with the highest drug overdose death rates per capita. Rather than use overdose data from 2017, when Maine was ranked ninth in the nation, the agency used data from 2016, when Maine was ranked 11th.

As a result, the state missed out on at least $8 million in additional funding at a time when more than one Mainer per day, on average, is dying of an overdose. Maine had 418 overdose deaths in 2017, and 180 through the first six months of 2018. In 2016, Maine had 376 drug overdose deaths.

Read more: https://www.pressherald.com/2018/12/16/trump-administration-funding-formula-causes-maine-to-lose-out-on-millions-in-federal-opioid-funding/

The Topeka Capital-Journal: The Lindemuth bankruptcy – 6 years later

Six years later, the roller coaster of news pouring from the Lindemuth bankruptcy has settled to a few news stories as some of his properties are auctioned. The local commercial properties Lindemuth owns now number closer to 70, not including vacant lots and property outside of Shawnee County.

Overall, said business associate Brian Lensing, of United Country Commercial, Lindemuth's company is stable and doing fine. Lindemuth, reached to talk about his properties, said he was unavailable to speak as he was working to complete several projects.

When the bankruptcy was finalized in January 2016, the situation for the struggling properties and tenants was much better, Lensing said. He has managed the sale of the properties and works with Lindemuth on properties the developer still owns.

"You need to understand, bankruptcy is a dirty word. A lot of people don’t understand what it means. In this case, the benefit to everyone in the bankruptcy was that it slowed things down," Lensing said, adding that it allowed the lenders time to understand what needed to be done.

"So some of the downsizing of the portfolio has solved a lot of those problems," Lensing said. "It was a 100 percent payout bankruptcy. What they needed was to slow things down. All of the banks have been paid. Most of the back taxes have been paid and are in the process of being paid. It gave time for me to get the market to absorb some of these vacant properties."

Lensing said the Lindemuth bankruptcy case is, in fact, a prime example of how Chapter 11 bankruptcies, which are designed to allow companies to reorganize and emerge in a stronger situation, should work.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/lindemuth/home/site/cjonline.com

Indianapolis Star: New Nassar report details USA Gymnastics chief’s cozy ties with IMPD, FBI officials

A blistering new report highlights a cozy relationship between USA Gymnastics and federal and local law enforcement officials in Indianapolis as child sexual abuse allegations against Larry Nassar remained hidden from the public.

The report, commissioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee, includes never-before-reported emails and text messages between former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny and two particular law enforcement officials: Jay Abbott, the former agent in charge of the FBI's Indianapolis office, and Bruce Smith, then-supervisor of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's child abuse unit.

In one email, Abbott thanked Penny for meeting him over beer, and for telling him about an Olympic security job opportunity that Abbott described as "tantalizing." In a later email, Penny recommended Abbott for the job.

At IMPD, Penny and Smith regularly communicated throughout the summer of 2016, as IndyStar was preparing its first story questioning USA Gymnastics child abuse reporting policies — a story that did not include allegations against Nassar, but whose publication prompted Nassar victims to step forward.

Penny reached out for assistance to "kill the story," according to the report. One text message read: “We need to body slam the other sources.”

The previously undisclosed communications took place as Nassar assaulted dozens of girls and women between July 2015, when law enforcement officials were informed of credible abuse allegations, and September 2016, when IndyStar made public Nassar's abuse, according to the report.

Abbott and Smith have come under scrutiny in a series of recent IndyStar articles, but the 233-page report compiled by the Boston law firm of Ropes & Gray provides the most detailed account yet of the ways in which Penny cultivated relationships with the two men.

Read more: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2018/12/14/ropes-gray-larry-nassar-usoc-report-usa-gymnastics-indianapolis-police-fbi-cozy-details/2275210002/

Chicago Tribune: Financial secrecy: 10 of 16 top Chicago mayoral candidates refuse to release full tax returns

ver four years, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown reported $72,000 in income from a side business as a motivational and religious speaker. Former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot made nearly $1 million last year as a law firm partner and gave $52,000 to charity. And former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas recorded no taxable income in the year before Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed him to an administrative post at Chicago State University.

Those are just a few facts found in the hundreds of pages of full tax returns released to the Chicago Tribune by six candidates running for mayor in the Feb. 26 election. Another 10 candidates refused to release their complete tax returns, with just one releasing any financial records at all.

Disclosing tax returns is a rite of transparency for many candidates who have run for major elected office, an act of disclosure that not only tells the public how much the political hopefuls earn in income but where their financial interests reside, how they have made their money and what potential conflicts of interest could arise if they are elected.

For the bulk of Chicago’s top contenders for mayor, however, that information remains secret.

What investments former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley holds, who paid public policy consultant Amara Enyia and how much former top cop Garry McCarthy has pulled in from his security business are just some of the many questions left unanswered by politicians asking voters to let them run the nation’s third-largest city.

On Nov. 1, the Tribune requested four years of tax returns complete with all schedules and attachments for 16 declared candidates for mayor.

Read more: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-met-chicago-mayor-candidates-tax-returns-20181207-story.html

Idaho Statesman: Mass stabbing suspect flew under the radar in Memphis. Then, he came to Boise.

Several Boiseans interacted with Timmy Earl Kinner Jr. in the weeks before he was accused of going on a murderous rampage at a 3-year-old’s birthday party.

As he sought meals at local shelters and worked to get school transcripts, his behavior seemed normal, they told the Statesman. And they were unaware of the 30-year-old homeless man’s erratic, violent criminal history in Memphis, Tennessee — or what that might portend.

Kinner is a habitual offender, charged with one or more new crimes almost every year since he was 18. Mostly misdemeanors, his past charges include assaulting a relative with a knife and shooting a man during an alleged robbery. Boise is the first place he’s been accused of a murder, according to a Statesman review of his criminal record.

His crimes, while serious, did not capture the attention of police or prosecutors in his hometown. A look at violent crime in Memphis, and it’s not hard to see why: Memphis hit a record high 228 homicides in 2016, with 18 ruled as justified, The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported.

Read more: https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/crime/article222603405.html

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: How Brian Kemp turned warning of election system vulnerability against Democrats

Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor, had a problem. As did Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state.

It was Nov. 3, a Saturday, 72 hours to Election Day. Virtually tied in the polls with Democrat Stacey Abrams, Kemp was in danger of becoming the first Georgia Republican to lose a statewide election since 2006. And, now, a new threat. The secretary of state’s office had left its voter-registration system exposed online, opening Kemp to criticism that he couldn’t secure an election that featured him in the dual roles of candidate and overseer.But by the next day, Kemp and his aides had devised one solution for both problems, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.They publicly accused the Democratic Party of Georgia of trying to hack into the voter database in a failed attempt to steal the election. The announcement added last-minute drama to an already contentious campaign. More important, it also pre-empted scrutiny of the secretary of state’s own missteps while initiating a highly unusual criminal investigation into his political rivals.But no evidence supported the allegations against the Democrats at the time, and none has emerged in the six weeks since, the Journal-Constitution found. It appears unlikely that any crime occurred.

Read more: https://www.myajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/ajc-investigation-how-brian-kemp-turned-warning-election-system-vulnerability-against-democrats/iLOkpHK3ea39t8Eh4PCGxM/

Pensacola News Journal: Neglected: Even when staffs cause patient deaths, Florida nursing homes face few penalties

When 81-year-old Dolly Moore became lethargic and lost her appetite, nurses at Parklands Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Gainesville said there was nothing wrong.

Her children were told to accept that their mother’s worsening dementia triggered the symptoms. Moore was not ill. Her lab results were normal, nurses insisted.

But they were wrong. Moore's lab results showed a severe infection raging in her body.

Parklands' nurses never reported the abnormal lab results to a doctor and didn’t treat the condition, a state investigation found. The infection spread, swelled her head to the size of a basketball and killed her on Oct. 1, 2014.

“The hospital told us it was the worst case of neglect they’ve ever seen,” said Connie Thames, Moore’s daughter.

Florida’s Department of Children and Families found that Moore died because of the nursing home's neglect. Those findings by the agency that investigates elder abuse and neglect were forwarded to Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration, the department that oversees the state’s 687 nursing homes.

Read more: https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2018/12/12/florida-nursing-homes-escape-penalty-despite-staff-causing-patient-deaths/2289194002/

Connecticut Post: State Police, mental-health workers, make highest overtime pay

HARTFORD — In 2018, at least 97 state employees will each take home more than $100,000 in overtime pay.

They are Connecticut State Police officers, nurses for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and patient caretakers for the Department of Developmental Services.

All three agencies had staff reductions this fiscal year, and had some of the highest overtime costs in state government, according to the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.

Stephanie Miller, a 47-year-old state police sergeant, has made $325,520 so far in 2018, making her the 109th highest-paid employee, the state’s Open Payroll database shows. But of that pay, $214,560 was overtime — the most overtime earned by any state employee, a Hearst Connecticut Media analysis has found.

State police staff shortages might be at fault, said Andrew Matthews, executive director of the Connecticut State Police Union. In April 2008, the state police had 1,283 troopers, but now there are 924, Matthews said.

Read more: https://www.ctpost.com/politics/article/State-Police-mental-health-workers-make-highest-13468864.php

The Denver Post: Betrayal, anger, grief haunt victims of Colorado funeral home that sold loved ones’ body parts without permission

MONTROSE — As Rick Neuendorf grieved his wife, Cherrie, he took solace in having her urn by his side where he could speak to it — to her — every day. Eventually, he thought, they would be reunited.

“Our wishes were,” he said, sitting on a chair outside the camper they called home, “that when we were both gone, we would both be cremated, and our ashes would be mixed together so we’d be together forever.”

“But …” Neuendorf paused, his eyes red. He stared straight ahead. Silent. “That can’t happen anymore.”

In early July, the FBI asked him to meet at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction to talk about the Sunset Mesa funeral home, where Cherrie had been cremated and where the owner, Megan Hess, had given her a beautiful send-off in December 2013. They played Christmas music. It was Cherrie’s favorite holiday.

“Your wife is not in that urn,” an agent told him. Her body had been sold.

These days, Neuendorf talks to a portrait of Cherrie. It’s an old photo — her gazing off to the side and smiling. But his daily chats are different now.

“I find myself apologizing to her all time,” Neuendorf said. “It hurts every time because …”

He took another long pause.

“I don’t know where her body is.”

Read more: https://www.denverpost.com/2018/12/13/montrose-sunset-vista-funeral-home-sold-body-parts/

San Diego Union-Tribune: Is San Diego's way of policing the police working?

For decades, communities have grappled with how to police the police.

As early as the 1920s, civilian oversight boards helped keep law enforcement agencies accountable.

To date, about 200 groups have been created across the United States. Some are staffed with volunteers, others with paid investigators, and still others — the newer ones — with auditors who focus on trends in civilian complaints.

Questions persist about whether such groups are effective, fueling debate in San Diego over the Community Review Board on Police Practices.

Critics have long argued the volunteer review board lacks the power to do its job effectively, adding that the board isn’t diverse enough and works too closely with the Police Department. Of more than 2,000 misconduct allegations investigated between 2010 and 2018, the board has disagreed with police findings nine times, according to annual reports compiled by the group.

“Right now, the police investigate the police and the board just reviews it… ,” said Anne Barron of Women Occupy San Diego, a group that pushes for social justice reforms. “There’s an inherent conflict of interest when the police are investigating their own and not someone external investigating.”

But proponents say the board is effective because of its close working relationship with the department, not despite it. City and police leaders point to more than 50 changes in department policy — touching on everything from body-worn cameras to use of a type of hold called a carotid restraint — that the board has helped enact.

Read more: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/sd-me-review-boards-20181216-story.html

San Francisco Chronicle: Selling shipyard safety

Michael Spencer was about to sign the papers on a million-dollar home at San Francisco’s mothballed naval base when he began having second thoughts.

The condominium sat on the first developed piece of the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard — a hilltop area known as Parcel A. The rest of the shipyard, adjacent to the home parcel, is a Superfund waste site tainted with radioactive substances. And something had gone wrong with the cleanup of that land, Spencer had learned from news reports. The Navy suspected fraud by a key contractor, Tetra Tech, raising the possibility that supposedly safe areas might contain hazards — and that thousands of homes might never get built.

A 50-year-old Air Force veteran, Spencer wanted assurance from the seller, Lennar Homes, that the home site was safe and that construction on the other shipyard parcels would still happen. He didn’t want to live on a little island of development surrounded by a wasteland.

“I reached out to my Realtor and said, ‘What the hell’s going on? I’m supposed to be signing tomorrow. I’m not going to spend a million dollars on something that’s not going to have any value.’”

Spencer ended up talking to his Lennar sales agent, Robert Forbes, who connected him with Garrett Chan, Lennar’s vice president of sales and marketing for the shipyard. Chan told Spencer he knew just the right person to speak with him: Amy Brownell, an environmental engineer with the San Francisco health department who has long been the city’s main expert on the cleanup.

… Brownell is the city’s point person on the shipyard, having worked on the project for 25 years. Officially, the cleanup is a federal project, managed by the Navy and overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but San Francisco also has important oversight powers. The city health department is supposed to monitor the cleanup and regulate construction activities related to development, ensuring that companies like Lennar aren’t exposing workers or the public to hazardous substances. Under the city health code, Brownell has the authority to take enforcement action and issue violations to Lennar, which she has done in the past.

But more recently, Brownell has played a different role. At the request of Lennar officials and sales agents, she has gotten directly involved with home transactions on the mega-developer’s $8 billion shipyard project, reassuring nervous buyers like Spencer through phone calls and email exchanges.

In those conversations, Brownell has painted a far more optimistic picture of the cleanup and development timeline than other agencies have, giving some assurances that later turned out to be incorrect, a Chronicle investigation has found. Brownell also repeatedly stressed positive arguments and failed to disclose negative information or public documents that pointed to serious problems, according to emails and interviews with the buyers.

Read more: https://www.sfchronicle.com/green/article/Chronicle-Investigation-SF-health-official-13462076.php

Los Angeles Times: Some L.A. pensions are so huge they exceed IRS limits, costing taxpayers millions extra

Dozens of retired Los Angeles employees are collecting such generous retirement pay that they exceed pension fund limits set by the Internal Revenue Service, saddling taxpayers with additional costs, a Times data analysis has found.

Their lavish pensions forced the city to establish an “Excess Benefit Plan” to pay what the pension system cannot legally cover, using money that could otherwise be tapped to fix sidewalks, fight homelessness or hire more cops.

In all, the little-known fund has paid $14.6 million to 110 retired employees since 2010, The Times’ analysis showed.

The list of recipients is dominated by former cops and firefighters whose million-dollar payouts from a separate retirement program drove their incomes well over the $220,000 annual limit the IRS allows pension funds to pay.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-drop-pension-excess-20181216-story.html

Palm Springs Desert Sun: This river is too toxic to touch, and people live right next to it

The Río Nuevo flows north from Mexico into the United States, passing through a gap in the border fence.

The murky green water reeks of sewage and carries soapsuds, pieces of trash and a load of toxic chemicals from Mexicali, a city filled with factories that manufacture products from electronics to auto parts.

For people trying to cross illegally into the United States, the river offers a route to try to slip past Border Patrol agents. But the water is so polluted that people who wade in get itchy rashes or sores, and anyone who gets even a splash in the mouth becomes violently ill.

Just north of the border in Calexico, the New River is treated like a toxic waste site. On the edge of its trash-strewn ravine, a yellow sign is planted in the dusty soil with a skull-and-crossbones symbol and the warning: “CONTAMINATED SOIL AND NEW RIVER WATER, KEEP OUT!!”

For people who live next to the river, the odor can be so overpowering that it gives them headaches. Their eyes water and their nasal passages sting. To escape the stench, residents avoid spending time outdoors in their yards.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/in-depth/news/environment/border-pollution/poisoned-cities/2018/12/05/toxic-new-river-long-neglect-mexico-border-calexico-mexicali/1381599002/

Chicago Tribune: From shopping malls to violent street corners, security guards are meant to protect the public but operate with little scrutiny

The shooting took place at the upscale Oak Brook mall, on a Sunday in June, in the middle of the afternoon.

Stores went into lockdown, customers took cover and police raced to the scene, only to find that the gunman was a security guard who had shot someone trying to steal Rolex watches from a jewelry store.

The suspect had attempted to smash a display case with a hammer. Records show that when the guard drew his gun, the man put his hands in the air and lay face down on the floor.

The guard told police that when he approached with handcuffs, the man jumped up and came toward him, so he shot the man in the leg.

The Oak Brook police chief described an even more aggressive suspect, telling reporters initially that the man ignored the guard’s order to put down the hammer and then “started to advance.”

But store surveillance video obtained by the Tribune contradicts both the guard’s account and the police chief’s statement in key ways.

The video shows that the man dropped the hammer and that he remained on the floor, with his hands behind his back, as the guard walked toward him. Holding a gun in one hand and handcuffs in the other, the guard stepped beside the man, bent down and fired his gun while the man was still on the ground, according to the video, police reports and court records.

The bullet ripped through the man’s lower torso, damaging his appendix, small intestines and colon, medical records show.

The man survived, pleaded guilty to attempted armed robbery and served nearly four years in prison. But since the 2013 shooting, no one, including the state regulators responsible for monitoring the security industry, has challenged the guard’s version of events.

Unlike police officers, who in recent years have faced widespread and intense scrutiny over excessive force, including the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, the growing industry of private security guards often operates unwatched and unchecked, a Tribune investigation has found.

Read more: http://graphics.chicagotribune.com/security-guards-oversight/mall

The New York Times: As Facebook Raised a Privacy Wall, It Carved an Opening for Tech Giants

For years, Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules, according to internal records and interviews.

The special arrangements are detailed in hundreds of pages of Facebook documents obtained by The New York Times. The records, generated in 2017 by the company’s internal system for tracking partnerships, provide the most complete picture yet of the social network’s data-sharing practices. They also underscore how personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age, traded on a vast scale by some of the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley and beyond.

The exchange was intended to benefit everyone. Pushing for explosive growth, Facebook got more users, lifting its advertising revenue. Partner companies acquired features to make their products more attractive. Facebook users connected with friends across different devices and websites. But Facebook also assumed extraordinary power over the personal information of its 2.2 billion users — control it has wielded with little transparency or outside oversight.

Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/18/technology/facebook-privacy.html

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Dec. 13, 2018

Palm Springs Desert Sun: Poisoned Cities-Deadly Border: This city’s air is killing people. Here’s why.

A suffocating brown haze hangs over Mexicali.

Clouds of smoke billow out of the city’s factories and float through neighborhoods where children run and play in the dusty streets. Soot rising from smokestacks mixes with exhaust from traffic-clogged avenues and columns of smoke swirling from blazing heaps of trash.

When acrid fumes and particles fill the air, the pollution stings the nasal passages, grates in the throat and leaves people coughing and wheezing.

The air along this stretch of the border is so polluted it’s killing people. The tiny airborne particles ravage human lungs, triggering asthma and other chronic diseases. Children as young as 6 have been among the victims. The air leaves countless other people coping with illnesses throughout their lives.

The poisoned air drifts across the border into the United States and California’s Imperial Valley, entering the smaller city of Calexico. The pollution here regularly violates U.S. air-quality standards, and children in Imperial County are taken to emergency rooms for asthma at one of the highest rates in the state.

The air pollution that plagues the Mexicali area isn’t just some of the worst in Mexico. It’s also some of the worst particulate pollution measured anywhere in the Americas.

The toll in lives lost is ghastly. Mexican health records show at least 78 people died of asthma and 903 people died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the Mexicali area between 2010 and 2016. Officials in the state of Baja California have estimated that pollution causes about 300 premature deaths annually in Mexicali.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/in-depth/news/environment/border-pollution/poisoned-cities/2018/12/05/air-pollution-taking-deadly-toll-u-s-mexico-border/1381585002/

Los Angeles Times: More than 20 women accused a prominent Pasadena obstetrician of mistreating them. He denied claims and was able to continue practicing

For the birth of their first child, social worker Diane Vidalakis and her husband chose one of Pasadena’s most prominent obstetricians, Dr. Patrick Sutton, vice chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Huntington Memorial Hospital.

Labor initially progressed smoothly, with the couple listening to music and watching “Dancing With The Stars” in the hospital maternity ward.

Sutton arrived for the delivery in what the Vidalakises would later testify was a frenzied state. He shouted that he had to do an emergency caesarean section and then backtracked, picked up a pair of scissors and made three progressively deeper incisions into the base of Vidalakis’ vagina, according to interviews, court records and a medical board complaint.

A minute later, she delivered a healthy daughter. Her own body, however, was grievously wounded. Vidalakis would never regain control of her bowels, and specialists who examined her would express shock that such extensive injuries resulted from a delivery at an American hospital by a licensed physician.

“I never challenged or questioned his authority,” Vidalakis said in an interview. Without admitting wrongdoing, Sutton settled a 2011 lawsuit she and her husband filed for $750,000.

What Vidalakis and many other women who sought care from Sutton did not know was that he had a long history of patient complaints about his conduct before, during and after labor.

A Times investigation identified more than 20 women who claim Sutton mistreated them during his medical care. Their allegations date to 1989, his first year at Huntington, and include unwanted sexual advances, medical incompetence, the maiming of women’s genitals and the preventable death of an infant. Sutton denied each allegation in an interview with The Times.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-huntington-doctor-misconduct-allegations-20181209-story.html

The Washington Post: ‘Death is waiting for him’

On the day he pleaded for his life in federal immigration court, Santos Chirino lifted his shirt and showed his scars.

Judge Thomas Snow watched the middle-aged construction worker on a big-screen television in Arlington, Va., 170 miles away from the immigration jail where Chirino was being held.

In a shaky voice, Chirino described the MS-13 gang attack that had nearly killed him, his decision to testify against the assailants in a Northern Virginia courtroom and the threats that came next. His brother’s windshield, smashed. Strangers snapping their photos at a restaurant. A gang member who said they were waiting for him in Honduras.

“I’m sure they are going to kill me,” Chirino, a married father of two teenagers, told the judge.

It was 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, and Chirino was seeking special permission to remain in the United States. His fate lay with Snow, one of hundreds of administrative judges working for the U.S. Justice Department’s clogged immigration courts.

Their task has become more urgent, and more difficult, under President Trump as the number of asylum requests has soared and the administration tries to clear the backlog and close what the president calls legal loopholes.

In the process, the White House is narrowing the path to safety for migrants in an asylum system where it’s never been easy to win.

Snow believed Chirino was afraid to return to Honduras. But the judge ruled that he could not stay in the United States.

Nearly a year after he was deported, his 18-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son arrived in the Arlington immigration court for their own asylum hearing. They were accompanied by their father’s lawyer, Benjamin Osorio.

“Your honor, this is a difficult case,” Osorio told Judge John Bryant, asking to speed the process. “I represented their father, Santos Chirino Cruz. … I lost the case in this courtroom . … He was murdered in April.”

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/local/asylum-deported-ms-13-honduras/?utm_term=.5f362b73066b

South Florida Sun Sentinel: Florida schools cover up crimes: Rapes, guns and more

From rapes to arsons to guns, Florida’s school districts are hiding countless crimes that take place on campus, defying state laws and leaving parents with the false impression that children are safer than they are.

Many serious offenses — and even minor ones — are never reported to the state as required, an investigation by the South Florida Sun Sentinel found. A staggering number of schools report no incidents at all — no bullying, no trespassing, nothing.

The state largely takes the districts at their word, and state law provides no penalties for administrators who allow the lies to continue. Several districts pledged to change their ways only when confronted by journalists.

No one told the state after a registered sex offender trespassed at the Deane Bozeman School in Panama City in 2016. Or that police charged a woman in 2014 with trying to choke and kidnap a student at Eccleston Elementary in Orlando. Or that a drunk Tampa Bay man brought a Glock pistol to a Seminole High football game in 2015 and threatened to shoot a teacher.

Even murder has been ignored. A student at Coral Gables Senior High got a 40-year prison sentence for a fatal stabbing in 2009, a case that attracted national attention, but the Miami-Dade County school district never reported it to the state.

The Sun Sentinel first raised concerns about false crime reports in June after a former student with an assault rifle slaughtered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.

Read more: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/florida-school-shooting/fl-ne-florida-school-crime-reporting-20181127-story.html

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Judge says JQC director ordered him off case involving influential attorneys

Earlier this year, the director of the state’s judicial watchdog agency called a judge about his oversight of a business dispute and influenced him to withdraw from the case.

That involvement by the Judicial Qualifications Commission in a south Georgia lawsuit now is raising the kinds of concerns critics voiced when the Legislature overhauled the agency, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found.No formal complaints had apparently been filed against the judge with the JQC, nor was there a motion for him to recuse.However, some high-profile politicians were attorneys in the case: Ken Hodges, at the time incoming president of the State Bar of Georgia and a candidate for the state Court of Appeals, and state Sen. John F. Kennedy, the Republican caucus majority leader and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.Critics of the 2016 overhaul of the commission had worried that by giving lawmakers most of the power over it, the agency would turn into a political tool.

The lawsuit had started as a nasty battle among former friends over control of a business that managed an apartment complex and dozens of rental homes in Albany. But before the JQC’s call, the judge overseeing the case had been asking Hodges’ tough questions: How deeply involved had he been as a lawyer for an ex-partner before becoming the court-appointed receiver over the company? How did he get appointed to that job by a prior judge on the case?

Read more: https://www.myajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/judge-says-jqc-ordered-him-off-case-involving-influential-attorneys/0x0TGJO85jZObrDAXvd8lK/

Portland Press Herald: As Wreaths Across America has grown, so has scrutiny about its practices

Portland police Officer Terry Fitzgerald places wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery in 2012. Maine's Wreaths Across America has seen its revenues skyrocket from $227,000 in 2011 to $14.6 million last year.

Portland police Officer Terry Fitzgerald places wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery in 2012. Maine's Wreaths Across America has seen its revenues skyrocket from $227,000 in 2011 to $14.6 million last year. Associated Press/Jose Luis Magana

A Maine nonprofit that places wreaths on veterans’ graves has seen explosive growth in donations over the past decade, its revenues growing from $227,000 in 2011 to $14.6 million last year. As Wreaths Across America has grown, the company from which it buys all of its wreaths has reaped similar rewards.

But the nonprofit and the company, Worcester Wreath Co., are run by the same family, and that arrangement is drawing more criticism as the two entities have become more successful.

Wreaths Across America paid $10.3 million – 70 percent of its revenue – last year to Worcester Wreath for about 1 million circles of balsam that adorn headstones, including a quarter million at Arlington National Cemetery. In five years the company has nearly tripled its business from the nonprofit.

That relationship, which nonprofit attorneys agree is unusual though not illegal, has not changed since its inception. Yet as more money has flowed in, heightened scrutiny from charity watchdogs has followed. Wreaths Across America has added a bidding process for wreath purchases and now discloses the relationship with Worcester Wreath on its website.

But even some of the changes have prompted criticism. This February the nonprofit CharityWatch listed Wreaths Across America among three “outrageous” examples of nonprofits operating with clear conflicts of interest. It drew attention specifically to the bid process that it said seemed designed to ensure the business went to Worcester Wreath.

Read more: https://www.pressherald.com/2018/12/09/as-wreaths-across-america-has-grown-so-has-scrutiny-about-its-practices/

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Denied Justice: A better way to investigate rape

West Valley City, Utah — Detective Justin Boardman had a reliable way of clearing many of the rape cases that crossed his desk.

When the only witness was the victim, he would call her, warn that it was a “he said, she said” case that would be tough to investigate, and hope that she would drop it.

Usually, she did.

Then one day, Boardman ducked into a class on the trauma caused by rape. He heard scientific explanations for why rape victims could not scream or fight back, and why they often initially struggled to remember details of the crime.

Soon he realized that he had closed dozens of cases in which the victim likely was telling the truth. It shook him to the point of tears.

“I did a lot of damage,” he said.

Chastened, the veteran detective helped the police department in Utah’s second largest city transform the way it investigated sex crimes. Within a year, the number of cases sent to prosecutors by West Valley City police doubled. Convictions tripled. Inspired in part by that success, Utah’s Republican-led Legislature adopted reforms last year that will require all new officers to be trained in brain trauma, and make available more specialized three-day training to all detectives who investigate sex assault cases.

Utah’s shift is a promising sign of how a state can do more to help rape victims get the justice that so often eludes them — if everyone involved is working with the same priorities.

But the changes were eight years in the making. Police chiefs, lawmakers and victims of sexual assaults here didn’t know how badly the system was failing until a police officer responding to an attack on a young woman asked a nurse, “Was she really raped?”

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/a-better-way-to-investigate-rape-denied-justice-part-eight/501636971/

The New York Times: The Wooing of Jared Kushner: How the Saudis Got a Friend in the White House

Senior American officials were worried. Since the early months of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, had been having private, informal conversations with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son of Saudi Arabia’s king.

Given Mr. Kushner’s political inexperience, the private exchanges could make him susceptible to Saudi manipulation, said three former senior American officials. In an effort to tighten practices at the White House, a new chief of staff tried to reimpose longstanding procedures stipulating that National Security Council staff members should participate in all calls with foreign leaders.

But even with the restrictions in place, Mr. Kushner, 37, and Prince Mohammed, 33, kept chatting, according to three former White House officials and two others briefed by the Saudi royal court. In fact, they said, the two men were on a first-name basis, calling each other Jared and Mohammed in text messages and phone calls.

The exchanges continued even after the Oct. 2 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was ambushed and dismembered by Saudi agents, according to two former senior American officials and the two people briefed by the Saudis.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/08/world/middleeast/saudi-mbs-jared-kushner.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

The Columbus Dispatch: Side Effects: Ohio leads way as states take on 'pharmacy benefit manager' middlemen

Officials in states across the U.S. showed little interest for years about looking into the black box of pharmacy benefit managers, the pharmacy supply-chain middlemen who were shrouded in secrecy and also have been pouring billions of dollars worth of prescription drug rebates into state coffers.

That setup provided states with more than $20 billion in rebates last year alone, an average of $450 million for each state that uses the so-called PBMs to help manage their Medicaid programs, a three-month national survey by The Columbus Dispatch revealed. Rebates are meant to be a price concession meant to lower drug costs.

But now officials in many states are realizing that the rebates helped PBMs maintain an opaque system. Within that system, pricing data typically has been shielded by contract or law, allowing for drug prices to be easily manipulated without scrutiny. Drug prices continue to rise while the middlemen — whose main purpose was to help control costs — reap billions in profit from taxpayer dollars meant to care for the poor.

In 2018 alone, legislators in 28 states enacted 45 laws attempting to curb rising drug costs, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.

Ohio is among 11 states that began investigating PBMs in 2018.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/sideeffects/ohio-leads-way-as-states-take-on-pharmacy-benefit-manager-middlemen/site/dispatch.com/

Austin American-Statesman: How a lack of state oversight leaves children in day cares across Texas UNWATCHED

Shane Martinez. Jaxson Partridge-Reed. Sebastian Bingley. Amani Ball.

Their parents sent them to Texas day care facilities, assuming they would be safe and secure until it was time to come home. Instead, like scores of other children, they died while under the watch of their caregivers.

Each day, hundreds of thousands of parents send their children to Texas day care facilities. But more often than publicly posted state numbers indicate, children are victims of molestation, physical abuse or neglect at child care sites with long histories of trouble. Some children have died or been hurt at day care facilities that had already been punished for similar violations, but which the state had allowed to keep operating.

A yearlong American-Statesman investigation for the first time reveals in stark detail the dangerous conditions that exist inside many Texas day care sites, leaving hundreds of children with serious injuries and nearly 90 dead as a result of abuse or neglect since 2007.

Meanwhile, hundreds of children have been victims of sexual abuse at the hands of those entrusted with their care – an alarming aspect of child care dangers that has never been comprehensively examined by the state.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/unwatched/overview/site/statesman.com/

The Dallas Morning News: Pain & Profit: Eight steps Texas can take to fix its managed-care mess

Texas spends $22 billion every year to buy health care for its most vulnerable residents. But taxpayers aren’t getting their money’s worth.

As The Dallas Morning News reported this year, thousands of elderly and disabled Texans can’t get the medical care they need. Many chronically sick children have to fight for life-sustaining treatments. Countless foster kids can’t get doctors’ appointments.

Under a program called Medicaid managed care, health care companies promise to save taxpayer money and to help patients by hiring care coordinators to connect them with doctors and treatments.

But Texas cannot prove it is saving money, and the state’s own analysts found that most patients aren’t getting much — or any — care coordination.

The good news is that Texas leaders can fix this mess. We interviewed more than a dozen experts, looked at what’s working in other states, and identified eight specific steps that could mend the state’s broken public health-care system and protect vulnerable Texans.

Some require action from lawmakers, who convene in Austin in January. But most could be implemented by Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration now.

Read more: https://interactives.dallasnews.com/2018/pain-and-profit/part8.html#_ga=2.64947881.704266019.1544394532-1929016054.1526065298

Houston Chronicle: As Houston Methodist’s lung program grew, so did its rate of failed transplants

Godfrey “G.W.” Biscamp could barely breathe. After months of struggling with an inflammatory lung disease, his doctor told him he was in need of a transplant, and in 2013, he sent him to Houston Methodist.

There was no better transplant program in the country for patients in need of new lungs, one physician told him. But by the time Biscamp arrived, the program had begun to change.

Biscamp spent more than a year as a patient at Methodist, hoping for a lung transplant that never came. Instead, after numerous appointments and tests, he said doctors reversed themselves in early 2015, saying his condition was too perilous to risk a transplant.

Biscamp did not realize that, behind the scenes, Methodist had been struggling with a high rate of failed lung transplants, or that the hospital had significantly scaled back the number and difficulty of transplants it was willing to perform. Those issues have never before been reported publicly.

Read more: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/investigations/article/As-Houston-Methodist-s-lung-program-grew-so-13432191.php?cmpid=gsa-chron-result

Honolulu Civil Beat: Hawaii Public Schools Sued Over Unequal Treatment Of Female Athletes

A federal class action lawsuit against the Hawaii Department of Education was filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii over gender inequities for female athletes at the state’s most populous high school.

The 67-page complaint, brought under the federal anti-discrimination law known as Title IX, comes 10 months after the organization sent a demand letter to the DOE requesting the agency address the glaring disparity in locker room availability for boys and girls sports teams at Campbell High School.

That letter was sent to the DOE shortly after a Civil Beat report exposed the lack of girls locker room facilities on the Ewa Beach campus, with female softball team players forced to change for practice on school bleachers, run to an off-campus Burger King to use the restroom and haul heavy athletic gear from class to class because they had no place to store equipment. By contrast, male athletes faced no such hardships.

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/12/hawaii-public-schools-sued-over-unequal-treatment-of-female-athletes/

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Hundreds of sex abuse allegations found in fundamental Baptist churches across U.S.

Joy Evans Ryder was 15 years old when she says her church youth director pinned her to his office floor and raped her.

“It’s OK. It’s OK,” he told her. “You don’t have to be afraid of anything.”

He straddled her with his knees, and she looked off into the corner, crying and thinking, “This isn’t how my mom said it was supposed to be.”

The youth director, Dave Hyles, was the son of the charismatic pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, considered at the time the flagship for thousands of loosely affiliated independent fundamental Baptist churches and universities.

Hyles’ flight to safety has become a well-worn path for ministers in the independent fundamental Baptist movement.

For decades, women and children have faced rampant sexual abuse while worshiping at independent fundamental Baptist churches around the country. The network of churches and schools has often covered up the crimes and helped relocate the offenders, an eight-month Star-Telegram investigation has found.

More than 200 people — current or former church members, across generations — shared their stories of rape, assault, humiliation and fear in churches where male leadership cannot be questioned.

“It’s a philosophy — it’s flawed,” said Stacey Shiflett, an independent fundamental Baptist pastor in Dundalk, Maryland. “The philosophy is you don’t air your dirty laundry in front of everyone. Pastors think if they keep it on the down-low, it won’t impact anyone. And then the other philosophy is it’s wrong to say anything bad about another preacher.”

The Star-Telegram discovered at least 412 allegations of sexual misconduct in 187 independent fundamental Baptist churches and their affiliated institutions, spanning 40 states and Canada.

Read more here: https://www.star-telegram.com/living/religion/article222576310.html

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Disabled students at Edinboro are pitted against the school that has been their champion

An enterprise piece from education reporter Bill Schackner about one of the few universities in the country that employs the support personnel to enable a university education for students with disabilities. But at the end of the school year, the university is discontinuing its unique in-house attendant care operation.

In Rebecca Vassell’s high school, there were seven Beckys, and what distinguished her had less to do with hair color or height than something else.

“I was the Becky in the wheelchair,” said the young woman with cerebral palsy.

That changed at Edinboro University. In her four years here, the communication major from New Jersey who back home rarely ventured out, did more than just excel in class — with a 3.83 grade point average.

She built a busy social life, joined an honors fraternity, and even found time to be captain of her department’s “quiz bowl” team.

Her disability mattered less, she said, thanks largely to personal care attendants in a rare campus program. They make sure Edinboro students with severe physical disabilities never worry about reaching the toilet in the middle of the night, struggling to dress themselves for an early morning class, or — worst of all — finding themselves on the floor in their dorm far from home with no one to help.

“Here, I am another girl in a wheelchair, yes, but I can be more than that,” said Ms. Vassell, 22, a senior from Mount Royal, N.J., due to graduate in May. “It allowed me to come out of my shell, to grow as a person and connect with hundreds of people I otherwise would not have met.”

But the program she and her peers flourished under is going away — at least as it now exists — because Edinboro is eliminating its in-house attendant care operation after this academic year.

Many of those students say the stakes are too high to let that happen. So they are in a struggle this fall with the very university that long has been their champion.

Read more: https://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2018/12/10/Edinboro-University-Pennsylvania-State-System-Higher-Education-attendant-care-disabilities/stories/201812050135

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Ex-priest accused in Pa. grand jury report denies allegations, assails process

Reporter Paula Ward talks to one of the Pennsylvania former Catholic Church priests who gives compelling details as to how the state attorney's grand jury probe was flawed for those who proclaim their innocence. Former priest Stephen Jeselnick was never invited to testify.

By the time former priest Stephen Jeselnick learned in May that he had been named as an abuser in the Pennsylvania attorney general’s investigation into child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, the two pages of the grand jury report accusing him were already completed.

He wasn't invited to testify, and though he challenged the accusations before the supervising judge of the grand jury when he learned of them, Mr. Jeselnick was told he and others named had no recourse except to submit a written response that would be appended to the final report.

The summary provided scant detail, alleging the abuse happened in the late 1970s at St. Brigid church in Meadville and that the victims’ mother worked there.

He did not know who was accusing him or why they had never come forward before 2017.

So Mr. Jeselnick, who served as a colonel and chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, retiring from there in 2011 and from the Erie diocese in 2010, said he had to respond blindly to the allegations.

His attorney, Chris Capozzi, challenged the grand jury allegations against his client and wrote an eight-page response that was included in a document separate from the 884-page report released in August.

Read more: https://www.post-gazette.com/news/faith-religion/2018/12/10/Stephen-Jeselnick-priest-catholic-church-diocese-clergy-sex-abuse-grand-jury-pennsylvania/stories/201812040152

Tampa Bay Times: Top All Children’s executives resign following Times report on heart surgeries

The CEO of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and two other hospital administrators have resigned following a Tampa Bay Times investigation that found dramatic increases in the hospital’s mortality rates for heart surgeries, Johns Hopkins announced Tuesday.

In a statement, the health system said All Children’s CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen, Vice President Jackie Crain and deputy director of the hospital’s Heart Institute Dr. Jeffrey Jacobs had resigned.

Dr. Paul Colombani also stepped down as chair of the department of surgery, the statement said. He will “continue in a clinical capacity” at the hospital, a Johns Hopkins spokeswoman said.

The Times investigation, “Heartbroken,” reported that the mortality rate at the hospital’s Heart Institute tripled between 2015 and 2017. Last year, it was the highest of any pediatric heart surgery program in Florida.

Read more: http://www.tampabay.com/investigations/2018/12/11/top-all-childrens-executives-resign-following-times-report/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Dec. 6, 2018

Arizona Daily Star: Steller column: Gaps in gun, mental-health laws left deputy marshal killed in Tucson vulnerable

You would think that when a disturbed man threatens police officers and tries to arrest them, and when he tells detectives he has an illegal way to buy guns, something could be done about him before he kills a cop.

This time, apparently, it couldn’t. The fact that it couldn’t is especially tragic and frustrating here and now, almost eight years after then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot and six people were killed by a Tucson man with untreated, severe schizophrenia.

Tucson police spent months dealing with Ryan Schlesinger, getting injunctions against him, trying to get him into court-ordered mental-health treatment, and finally obtaining an arrest warrant for him. It was in serving that warrant, a last-gasp effort to deal with Schlesinger in the criminal justice system instead of the mental-health realm, that Deputy U.S. Marshal Chase White was killed.

Two gaps in state laws and practices may help explain why it came to this, despite the progress made in catching people with mental- health crises and in trying to keep them away from guns.

Read more: https://tucson.com/news/local/steller-column-gaps-in-gun-mental-health-laws-left-deputy/article_5905d7ce-32cc-5ab1-b256-87fb6abd0107.html#tracking-source=home-top-story

Washington Post: Overdoses, bedsores, broken bones: What happened when a private-equity firm sought to care for society’s most vulnerable

POTTSVILLE, Pa. — To the state inspectors visiting the HCR Manor­Care nursing home here last year, the signs of neglect were conspicuous. A disabled man who had long, dirty fingernails told them he was tended to “once in a blue moon.” The bedside “call buttons” were so poorly staffed that some residents regularly soiled themselves while waiting for help to the bathroom. A woman dying of uterine cancer was left on a bedpan for so long that she bruised.

The lack of care had devastating consequences. One man had been dosed with so many opioids that he had to be rushed to a hospital, according to the inspection reports. During an undersupervised bus trip to church — one staff member was escorting six patients who could not walk without help — a resident flipped backward on a wheelchair ramp and suffered a brain hemorrhage.

When a nurse’s aide who should have had a helper was trying to lift a paraplegic woman, the woman fell and fractured her hip, her head landing on the floor beneath her roommate’s bed.

“It was horrible — my mom would call us every day crying when she was in there,” said Debbie Bojo, whose mother was treated at ManorCare’s Pottsville facility in September 2016. “It was dirty — like a run-down motel. Roaches and ants all over the place.”

Under the ownership of the Carlyle Group, one of the richest private-equity firms in the world, the ManorCare nursing-home chain struggled financially until it filed for bankruptcy in March. During the five years preceding the bankruptcy, the second-largest nursing-home chain in the United States exposed its roughly 25,000 patients to increasing health risks, according to inspection records analyzed by The Washington Post.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/opioid-overdoses-bedsores-and-broken-bones-what-happened-when-a-private-equity-firm-sought-profits-in-caring-for-societys-most-vulnerable/2018/11/25/09089a4a-ed14-11e8-baac-2a674e91502b_story.html

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Hide, deny, spin, threaten: How the school district tried to mask failures that led to Parkland shooting

Immediately after 17 people were murdered inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the school district launched a persistent effort to keep people from finding out what went wrong.

For months, Broward schools delayed or withheld records, refused to publicly assess the role of employees, spread misinformation and even sought to jail reporters who published the truth.

New information gathered by the South Florida Sun Sentinel proves that the school district knew far more than it’s saying about a disturbed former student obsessed with death and guns who mowed down staff and students with an assault rifle on Valentine’s Day.

After promising an honest assessment of what led to the shooting, the district instead hired a consultant whose primary goal, according to school records, was preparing a legal defense. Then the district kept most of those findings from the public.

The district also spent untold amounts on lawyers to fight the release of records and nearly $200,000 to pay public relations consultants who advised administrators to clam up, the Sun Sentinel found.

School administrators insist that they have been as transparent as possible; that federal privacy laws prevent them from revealing the school record of gunman Nikolas Cruz; that discussing security in detail would make schools more dangerous; and that answers ultimately will come when a state commission releases its initial findings about the shooting around New Year’s.

Read more: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/florida-school-shooting/fl-florida-school-shooting-district-secrecy-20181112-story.html

Miami Herald: How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime

On a muggy October morning in 2007, Miami’s top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta, had a breakfast appointment with a former colleague, Washington, D.C., attorney Jay Lefkowitz.

It was an unusual meeting for the then-38-year-old prosecutor, a rising Republican star who had served in several White House posts before being named U.S. attorney in Miami by President George W. Bush.

Instead of meeting at the prosecutor’s Miami headquarters, the two men — both with professional roots in the prestigious Washington law firm of Kirkland & Ellis — convened at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away. For Lefkowitz, 44, a U.S. special envoy to North Korea and corporate lawyer, the meeting was critical.

His client, Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, 54, was accused of assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day, the Town of Palm Beach police found.

The eccentric hedge fund manager, whose friends included former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, was also suspected of trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties at his other homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and the Caribbean, FBI and court records show.

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/article220097825.html

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Federal inquiry linked to rail

Federal investigators are taking an interest in Hono­lulu’s $9 billion rail project, but it is unclear what has attracted their attention.

Officials with the city, state and federal governments who spoke on condition that they not be identi­fied told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that they are aware of the federal inquiry, which involves the Honolulu branch of the U.S. Attorney’s office. An investigator with the state Attorney General’s office is also involved, according to multiple sources.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Tong would not confirm the existence of a federal investigation into issues related to rail, but it is standard practice for law enforcement agencies to refrain from publicly discussing or even acknowledging ongoing investigations.

Andrew Pereira, spokesman for Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, said in a written statement that Caldwell is not aware of an investigation of the project by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“The rail project is federally funded. That being the case, federal agencies tasked with project oversight often times review the project, which some might think is an ‘investigation of rail by the federal government.’ If that is an investigation, then that’s the only type of federal investigation the mayor is aware of,” Pereira said in the statement.

Read more: http://www.staradvertiser.com/2018/12/02/hawaii-news/federal-inquiry-linked-to-rail/?HSA=1c69aa50f9958c5821843091e1dfd9d2ab807a12

Indianapolis Star: Special treatment? Veterans Affairs director grants state relief funds to employees

State lawmakers created the fund to help veterans in need.

But records show at least 11 employees — many making $40,000 to $50,000 a year — dipped into it. Several did so repeatedly, including the fund’s manager.

One employee received $1,100 for new tires. Another application was OK’d even before it was submitted. At least four got more than the $2,500 published limit. 

An IndyStar investigation has found employees of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs have an inside track on emergency assistance grants through the Military Family Relief Fund. In all, employees have received roughly $40,000 or more through the fund in recent years.

Many of the grants happened during a two-and-a-half year period when veterans affairs officials failed to adopt rules governing the $1.7 million annual program. Instead, the agency continues to rely on the discretion of its director, James Brown.

Brown, a decorated Vietnam veteran, insists his system is working."No one is being hurt by what is happening here," he said. "There is no great tragedy here. No laws have been broken."

But other veterans — including one living in a camper with her two children — describe a strikingly different experience from that of state employees. They say their applications languished for weeks or months. They were denied assistance for services that middle-income state employees received. And they were not told they could receive more money than the $2,500 limit advertised in application materials and on the agency’s website.

Read more: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/2018/11/29/indiana-department-veterans-affairs-assistance-fund-favored-employees/1986693002/

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Many abandoned buildings seem beyond repair in St. Louis. So do the people inside them.

ST. LOUIS    There are so many abandoned houses to pick from and as many reasons why people occupy them. Jimmy Johnson said his was strategically situated between the north riverfront salvage yards and a large apartment complex that throws out a lot of junk.

Johnson earned $15 on a recent day from cutting the metal out of a shaggy recliner and other finds. He spent $2.50 of that on a pair of cold and flu tablets at the convenience store. The money could have bought more beer, but he wasn’t feeling well, and the temperature was dropping fast.

“I really need to see a doctor or something to get back on track,” Johnson, 58, said from a home that looked like a forgotten shipwreck.

Attempts to secure the two-family brick row house, built in 1892, couldn’t keep up with decay. The living room was open-air because the brick wall caved in. The floors and roof were full of holes. Tires were piled in the basement. A 30-foot tree jutted out from the second story at a 45-degree angle.

… No candles lit, it was pitch dark in the closet, which was big enough for a bed and a few belongings. Johnson planned to regain heat under thick covers. If that didn’t work, maybe he’d look up one of his relatives to stay with for the night, then start anew the next day.

But he’d have to get very cold for that to happen. He doesn’t want to put people out.

He liked his own space.

“In order to receive your blessing, you need to wait your turn,” Johnson said, often invoking the divine.

He waited for that blessing in one of at least 7,000 vacant buildings in St. Louis and one of 12,000 properties owned by the city’s bloated land bank. Many of the structures seem beyond repair. So do the people who flock to them for shelter.

How many Jimmy Johnsons are holed up in these abandoned buildings isn’t known. The annual homeless census doesn’t capture them all and land bank officials suggest the number is small, at least in city-owned buildings.

But they’re there — if you look.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/many-abandoned-buildings-seem-beyond-repair-in-st-louis-so/article_b677f224-c6b9-5a02-bf1d-5b2055d82cf9.html#tracking-source=home-top-story

NJ.com: Hundreds of N.J. cops are using force at alarming rates. The state's not tracking them. So we did.

Police have the right to punch you if you’re resisting arrest.

They have the right to tackle you if they think you might flee.

And they have the right to shoot you if they fear for their lives.

The single greatest authority granted a police officer is the right to harm another person, and most use it sparingly to protect themselves and the public.

But who's watching the ones who abuse their power? Who's making sure people of all colors, all communities and all backgrounds are treated equally? Who's tracking trends and stopping overly aggressive officers before someone needlessly gets hurt, costing taxpayers big money?

Nearly two decades ago, state officials envisioned a centralized system to track police force and flag bad policies and bad actors. Instead, paper records detailing tens of thousands of violent encounters between police and the public now collect dust in filing cabinets.

The Force Report, a 16-month investigation by NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, found New Jersey's system for tracking police force is broken, with no statewide collection or analysis of the data, little oversight by state officials and no standard practices among local departments.

In an unprecedented undertaking, the news organization filed 506 public records requests and collected 72,607 use-of-force reports. They covered every municipal police department and the State Police from 2012 through 2016, the most recent year of data available. The results are now available at nj.com/force. It is the most comprehensive statewide database of police force ever created and made public in the United States.

Read more: https://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2018/11/nj_police_use_of_force_punch_kick_pepper_spray_sho.html

The New York Times: He’s Built an Empire, With Detained Migrant Children as the Bricks

Juan Sanchez grew up along the Mexican border in a two-bedroom house so crowded with children that he didn’t have a bed. But he fought his way to another life. He earned three degrees, including a doctorate in education from Harvard, before starting a nonprofit in his Texas hometown.

Mr. Sanchez has built an empire on the back of a crisis. His organization, Southwest Key Programs, now houses more migrant children than any other in the nation. Casting himself as a social-justice warrior, he calls himself El Presidente, a title inscribed outside his office and on the government contracts that helped make him rich.

Southwest Key has collected $1.7 billion in federal grants in the past decade, including $626 million in the past year alone. But as it has grown, tripling its revenue in three years, the organization has left a record of sloppy management and possible financial improprieties, according to dozens of interviews and an examination of documents. It has stockpiled tens of millions of taxpayer dollars with little government oversight and possibly engaged in self-dealing with top executives.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/02/us/southwest-key-migrant-children.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

The New York Times: ‘If Bobbie Talks, I’m Finished’: How Les Moonves Tried to Silence an Accuser

Saturday, April 28, 2018, was Marv Dauer’s 75th birthday. It was also going to be his comeback.

After more than three decades as a Hollywood talent manager, Mr. Dauer, tanned and silver-haired, had the aura of success: a house in the tony Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, a cherished collection of sports memorabilia, membership at a country club. People liked to say that Marv knew everyone.

In reality, his client list had dwindled to a few B-list actors. Casting directors ignored his emails. His finances were precarious. He had nearly lost his home to foreclosure.

But now Mr. Dauer had coaxed to his party someone who could change all that.

More than 100 friends, sports figures, casting directors, actors, golf and bridge partners — even kindergarten classmates from Austin, Minn. — had gathered to celebrate at a friend’s Los Angeles home. At a V.I.P. table were the biggest names Mr. Dauer could muster: the actor-turned-polemicist James Woods; former Senator Norman Coleman; and Bruce McNall, the former Los Angeles Kings owner who served time for fraud.

Then, at about 8 p.m., a star arrived: Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS and one of Hollywood’s most powerful people. Mr. Moonves presented Mr. Dauer with a yellow tie embossed with the logo of the Masters golf tournament.

Mr. Moonves’s presence sent a powerful message: Marv Dauer was back. “I didn’t even know they were friends,” recalled Paul Ruddy, a casting director who was at the party. Jan Daley, a jazz singer and a former client of Mr. Dauer’s, said that when she saw Mr. Moonves she was convinced that “Marv had gone up a couple of notches since he managed me.” She rehired him days later.

Mr. Moonves had never attended Mr. Dauer’s previous parties. So what was he doing there?

Four months later, Mr. Moonves was pushed out by CBS’s board after 12 women told The New Yorker that he had sexually harassed or assaulted them. But those accusations didn’t directly cause Mr. Moonves’s fall. As Mr. Dauer says the mogul told him before and after the birthday party, only one woman could bring him down: “If Bobbie talks, I’m finished.”

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/28/business/les-moonves-bobbie-phillips-marv-dauer-cbs-severance.html

The Oregonian: Ghosts of Highway 20

Kaye Turner vanished 40 years ago while running along an empty road in a rustic central Oregon retreat. She was kidnapped and killed, her remains dumped in the deep woods.

Then Rachanda Pickle went missing from the desolate highway compound where she lived, never to be seen again. She was 13.

It wasn’t long before teenagers Melissa Sanders and Sheila Swanson disappeared from a camping trip to the coast. Their bodies were found off a logging spur.

It now appears their killer was the same man. The breadth of his crimes has never been revealed until now.

John Arthur Ackroyd was a longtime state highway mechanic whose route along U.S. 20 wound through some of Oregon’s most spectacular scenery from the Cascade foothills to the coast.

From the outside, Ackroyd seemed to lead an ordinary life: Raised in small-town Oregon, he hunted and fished, held a steady job and married a woman with a couple of young kids.

But detectives long suspected Ackroyd preyed on women who disappeared along or around Highway 20 from the late 1970s through the early 1990s. They could prove only a single case -- Turner’s 1978 murder. The rest haunted investigators who had pursued him through the years.

They were still after him when Ackroyd died alone in his prison cell two years ago.

By then, The Oregonian/OregonLive also was investigating Ackroyd.

Read more: https://projects.oregonlive.com/ghostsofhighway20/marlene/

The Inquirer: Shot and Forgotten: America’s hidden toll of gun violence: shooting victims face lifelong disabilities and financial burdens

Whenever Jalil Frazier opened his eyes, he found himself on an island barely wide enough to contain his frame, boxed in on both sides by unforgiving metal bars. A familiar landscape surrounded him: four bare walls, a beige tile floor, and a tiered chandelier that hung above what used to be his family dining room.

He was stuck on this uncomfortable hospital bed because he’d had the misfortune of being inside a North Philadelphia barbershop on an unseasonably warm January night at the same moment two men barged in, looking to rob the place.

Frazier, whose round face is framed by a scraggly beard and short dark hair, glanced at three children who happened to be in the shop. He was a father, with two kids at home, and felt an instinctive urge to protect them. He hurled himself at the would-be thieves. One had a handgun, and fired two shots. The bullets punched through Frazier’s midsection and leg, ricocheting off his insides, tearing through tissue and bone before exiting his body.

At age 28, he was paralyzed from the waist down.

Frazier was a hero by anyone’s definition of the word, but he was also a victim, one of the estimated 116,255 people who are shot in the U.S. every year. He belongs to an often-overlooked fraternity of gun-violence survivors who are left with lifelong disabilities, whose ranks include schoolchildren, movie-theater patrons, politicians, and grandmothers.

Read more: http://www2.philly.com/news/gun-violence-philadelphia-shooting-victims-columbine-wheelchair-jalil-frazier-ralph-brooks-20181127.html

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee 'scamlord' pretends to be with government to try to seize people's homes

John Wesley Jr. was driving past his late father's house when he spotted strangers on the upstairs porch, a busted out door and a broken picture window. Even his father's old pickup truck, normally parked in the driveway, had been pushed onto the street.

The scene had all of the hallmarks of a burglary.

In reality, it was worse — somebody was trying to take the entire house.

"They broke the lock out. They brought a ladder," Wesley said. "It was just crazy. It was just crazy."

Earlier that day, Wesley had found a bizarre "notice" taped to a front window of the home, where his father had lived until his death a few weeks earlier, in May 2017. The paper was riddled with spelling and grammar errors and virtually devoid of punctuation.

The "NOTICE OF POSSISSION" declared the house was being placed in receivership because it was abandoned and had building code violations.

The man behind the effort to take the Wesley home was John W. Hemphill, 49, who at the time was on probation from federal prison. He was arrested in 2009 and had spent six years and eight months behind bars for a 2011 conviction for mail fraud and impersonating a federal officer. He was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years.

It was part of a scheme involving the sale of properties Hemphill did not own through the guise of his company,United States Receivers Caretakers Association. According to prosecutors, Hemphill was passing himself off as a federal agent.

The documents say Hemphill had twice been convicted for the same activity in Illinois state court, the first time in 2006.

After he got out of federal prison in 2016, Hemphill came to the Milwaukee area, where he had family and business ties.

He soon got back into the real estate business, using many of the same tactics that landed him in prison in the first place, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found.

… The Journal Sentinel found five cases, including the Wesley home, where Hemphill or an associate improperly attempted to take control of properties. In three cases, it appeared unsuspecting families were already lined up to rent the homes.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2018/11/29/milwaukee-landlords-scammers-try-seize-peoples-home/1980151002/

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Doctors who surrender a medical license in one state can practice in another — and you might never know

In Louisiana, Larry Mitchell Isaacs gave up his medical license in the face of discipline after he removed an allegedly healthy kidney during what was supposed to be colon surgery.

In California, he mistakenly removed a woman’s fallopian tube. According to medical board records, he thought it was her appendix — which already was gone. More surgeries on the woman followed, including one in which he allegedly left her intestine unconnected.

Facing state sanctions, he surrendered his license there, too.

In New York, where regulators were moving to take action based on his California problems, he also agreed to give up his license.

But in Ohio, he has found a home.

There, his medical license remains unblemished, allowing Isaacs to work at an urgent care clinic in the Cincinnati area.

Surrendering a license is often done in the face of overwhelming evidence of unprofessional conduct. It can come after repeated surgical mishaps, churning out improper opioid prescriptions, or years of having sex with patients.

A license surrender can spare a doctor the time, expense and reputational harm that might come with formal charges and a hearing before a state medical board. Typically it comes with no restriction on practicing elsewhere.

States can take action against doctors based on license surrenders in other places. But, as with other matters in the broken world of doctor discipline, such a step is spotty. Some states don’t even search a national database of troubled physicians.

What’s more, voluntary license surrenders can mean the public gets no access to information about what happened, putting future patients at risk.

More than 250 doctors who surrendered a medical license were able to practice in another state, an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA Today and MedPage Today found.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2018/11/30/doctor-good-record-might-have-troubled-history-given-up-medical-license-elsewhere/2048657002/

Toledo Blade: Performance of Toledo's charter schools on par with public counterparts

When Tereasa Withrow first started thinking about where she wanted her daughter to go to school, she didn’t even consider a charter school.

But she wasn’t really satisfied when her daughter, then 4, spent a year in a Toledo public elementary school preschool program, so she transferred her to Imagine Hill Academy, a charter school near Hill Avenue and Holland-Sylvania Road.

Her daughter enrolled in Imagine Hill Academy in kindergarten, and Mrs. Withrow saw an immediate change.

“Probably within the first six weeks of school she excelled so much in reading and math,” Mrs. Withrow, of Toledo, said about her daughter’s performance.

Mrs. Withrow is one of thousands of parents who have turned to charter schools — public educational institutions that receive taxpayer funding but are independent of local districts — as an alternative education option for their children.

For the past decade, charter school enrollment across the state and nation has boomed. But an examination of several academic metrics shows that Toledo Public Schools students performs as well as — and in some cases better than — their charter school counterparts.

Across the city, about 20 percent of charter school students rated proficient in English, compared with 22.14 percent of TPS students, according to state Department of Education data reviewed by The Blade. In math, 19 percent of charter school students rated proficient, as did 19 percent of TPS students.

Read more: https://www.toledoblade.com/local/education/2018/12/01/performance-of-toledo-charter-schools-on-par-with-public-counterparts/stories/20181128191

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Influence & Injustice: A investigation into the power of prosecutors

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.

Read more: http://projects.heraldtribune.com/influence?_ga=2.61594601.491143075.1529598109-1753919281.1529598109

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Nonprofit cashed in using Arkansas program for mental services

A Missouri-based nonprofit became Arkansas' largest provider of state-funded mental health services by milking a flawed system that has drawn the attention of federal prosecutors, an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette investigation found.

The state's Rehabilitative Services for Persons with Mental Illness (RSPMI) program rewarded service providers with handsome reimbursement rates, limited competition and little oversight.

Preferred Family Healthcare Inc. of Springfield, Mo., previously known as Alternative Opportunities Inc., collected $43.9 million from the RSPMI program in 2016 -- one in every seven dollars Arkansas spent on the program that year.

From fiscal 2011 to 2018, Preferred Family/Alternative Opportunities received $245 million in Medicaid payments, a third more than the state's second-largest provider over that span, according to state data.

Now, the nonprofit's former executives are targets of a federal political corruption investigation. And Preferred Family sold its Arkansas subsidiaries in October.

State officials already had identified the RSPMI program's weaknesses in 2008, when they adopted a moratorium on new clinics to try to curb ballooning costs.

But they failed to resolve fundamental problems that made the program susceptible to abuse, the Democrat-Gazette found.

Read more: https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2018/dec/02/nonprofit-cashed-in-using-state-program/?news-arkansas

The New York Times: Les Moonves Obstructed Investigation Into Misconduct Claims, Report Says

Facing multiple sexual misconduct allegations and fearing his career as an entertainment titan was over, Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, destroyed evidence and misled investigators in an attempt to preserve his reputation and save a lucrative severance deal, according to a draft of a report prepared for the company’s board.

The report, by lawyers hired by the network, says the company has justification to deny Mr. Moonves his $120 million severance. Mr. Moonves reigned as one of Hollywood’s most successful and celebrated executives for decades before being forced to step down in September after allegations by numerous women.

The report, a copy of which was reviewed by The New York Times, says Mr. Moonves “engaged in multiple acts of serious nonconsensual sexual misconduct in and outside of the workplace, both before and after he came to CBS in 1995.” The report includes previously undisclosed allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/04/business/media/les-moonves-cbs-report.html

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Nov. 23-Dec. 6, 2018

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Failure to deliver: How the rise of out-of-hospital births puts mothers and babies at risk.

Baby Aquila never took a breath.

Her limp body slipped from between her mother’s legs in a river of blood during a Texas home birth in December 2009. The certified professional midwife, who missed a cascade of earlier indications of the baby’s distress, tried to save the girl. But she had locked her medical kit in the car and had to improvise.

So she sucked blood from the baby’s airway and spit it on the floor. Sucked more and spit. Sucked again and spit. Over and over until the room looked like a crime scene. Paramedics arrived minutes later.

But it was too late. The baby died from an infection with symptoms that should have prompted the midwife to call 911 sooner, according to a state investigation D.

Liz Paparella buried her daughter two days before Christmas.

Liz Paparella didn't get to hold her daughter Aquila until three days after the home birth, when they were in the funeral home preparing to bury her. | Courtesy photo | Liz Paparella

“I had always heard home births were safer,” Paparella said, “but it’s not true.”

Planned births outside the hospital nearly doubled nationally in the past decade, riding a wave of disdain for the medicalization of pregnancies. Rather than endure the epidurals and C-sections, women sought a more natural experience.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/failuretodeliver/#

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Surprised by dangerous fumes in coffee roastery and cafe, Stone Creek takes steps to protect employees

Eric Resch, like many other coffee roasters at the time, didn’t think his workers were in danger.

A few years ago, when he read a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation detailing how five employees at a coffee processing plant in Texas had suffered major lung damage, he hadn’t heard of workers being injured by the chemical diacetyl or any coffee flavoring compounds.

And Stone Creek Coffee in Milwaukee, which Resch opened in 1993, was different. His company seldom added flavoring to its beans and had stopped using flavors altogether the previous year. There was little to worry about, he thought.

Then came another story by the Journal Sentinel exposing how coffee workers in small and mid-sized roasteries and cafes — in operations like his that did not use added flavorings — were being exposed to elevated levels of diacetyl and another chemical known to destroy lungs.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, later did its own testing that confirmed the news organization’s findings and went on to uncover similar problems at coffee plants across the country.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2018/11/21/coffee-shop-chemicals-stone-creek-takes-steps-protect-employees/2053324002/

Austin American-Statesman:Amid historic flooding, Austin water systems sank

On Oct. 18, two days after historic flooding swept away a concrete bridge on the Llano River upstream from Austin, an operator at Austin Water Treatment Plant 4 noticed something alarming: High levels of silt in the water at a rising Lake Travis were affecting the plant’s operations.

“Tested raw (water) turbidity @ 9 am and found it to be 72.4 NTU,” he wrote, underlining for emphasis the number for nephelometric turbidity units, used to measure particles in water. “High turbidity from lake. Increased chemicals to offset.”

Despite his efforts, he wrote that a test on one of the filtered results exceeded city standards.

That first troubling result came three days before turbidity in the city’s water system would soar to 400 NTU — close to 200 times its normal levels — three days before shutdowns at two treatment plants would prompt city officials to ask residents to reduce their water use, and four days before the declaration of an emergency boil water notice that would persist for a week.

Early signs of a water quality crisis that would flow downstream from Plant 4 to the city’s other two water plants, were evident in the operator’s report on Oct. 18. He checked a box indicating a problem, or “nonroutine event,” had occurred. By the end of his shift, raw water turbidity had more than doubled, from 72 to 157 NTU.

Operations reports for the city’s three water treatment plants, obtained by the American-Statesman through a Texas Public Information Act request, shed light on what went on at the plants during the city’s recent water crisis. It’s rare for a U.S. city the size of Austin to have a citywide boil water notice, and water officials are now considering whether they should have acted differently.

Read more: https://www.statesman.com/news/20181123/amid-historic-flooding-austin-water-systems-sank

The Tennessean: TED Talks, the darknet and killer pills: A life and death in Nashville

… No one knows exactly how Josh Holton died, but it is clear he wasn’t killed by Xanax.

His body was found a little more than two years ago, in the early morning hours of Sept. 15, 2016, at his parents’ home in southeast Nashville. Police closed all investigations into the death earlier this year and deemed it an accidental overdose involving no prosecutable crime.

But, in a state that has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic, recording more than 7,000 casualties in five years, Holton’s death was something different. He was not a surgery patient who became addicted to painkillers after being prescribed too many for too long. Nor was he a heroin addict who died while scouring the streets for the biggest high of his life. And he didn’t overdose on meth, or cocaine, or a deadly combo of opioids and benzodiazepines, all of which kill hundreds of people in Tennessee each year.

Family photographs show Josh Holton, a 20-year-old Antioch resident who died of a drug overdose in 2016. Holton attended classes at Nashville State Community College and worked full time at the Nissan plant in Smyrna.

Instead, based on multiple interviews and a review of police documents, personal text messages and emails, it appears that Holton fell victim to the little-known threat of counterfeit medication, which experts say is thriving in the anonymous and unregulated corners of the internet. Holton, who was quietly mourning the death of his biological father, bought Xanax, a sedative often used to treat anxiety, on the darknet to help himself cope. Instead, Holton received pills containing only fentanyl, an opioid 50 times stronger than heroin.

Much of the research into Holton's death was done by Blado herself, who spent months probing her son's computer and squeezing answers out of his friends, some of whom were too scared to speak with police. For this story, she shared much of her research with The Tennessean in an effort to spotlight the danger of counterfeit pills.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2018/11/19/fentanyl-counterfeit-xanax-ted-talks-dark-net-josh-holton/1566223002/

The Inquirer: Philadelphia Councilman Kenyatta Johnson helped friend make $165,000 flipping city-owned lots

Felton Hayman has done it again.

With the backing of City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, a childhood friend, the Point Breeze developer sidestepped a thicket of city policies and made a killing in September by reselling two of three properties he purchased from the city just a month before at a fraction of their market value — money that could have gone to taxpayers.

Hayman pocketed $165,000 — 2½ times what he paid — in the deal, records show. Multiple city rules are in place to prevent precisely those types of transactions. In this case, the city ignored them, as well as at least four other developers who had expressed interest in buying one or more of the lots.

"For these properties, Councilman Johnson's indication that he supported the sale of the property to Mr. Hayman made Mr. Hayman the only eligible purchaser," Paul Chrystie, a spokesperson for the city's landholding agencies, said in an email this month.

Read more: http://www2.philly.com/philly/news/kenyatta-johnson-councilman-felton-hayman-house-flip-profit-philadelphia-20181120.html

The Oregonian: Buried: The state hides how children die on Oregon's watch

Trevor Secord nearly died at 14. He drank so much liquor that his blood alcohol rose to a level that would have killed many adults. Emergency responders rushed him from Warrenton to a Portland hospital. Friends were so convinced he was going to die that they told his family about the adult who provided him alcohol.

Oregon child protection workers decided not to investigate.

The next time the Department of Human Services received a call about Trevor, the boy who dreamed of building shelters for homeless people was dead.

He was struck and killed by a pickup truck on U.S. 101 while drinking with friends.

Any time a child dies from likely abuse or neglect within a year of child welfare workers being asked to check on the child, the public should be informed. Oregon law requires the state to do a prompt review and disclose what went wrong.

But state officials have failed to issue those reports in a timely manner -- or at all -- in the case of every child who has died since March 2017.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2018/11/buried_the_state_hides_how_chi.html

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia teachers who have sex with students seldom go to prison

On a Friday morning in 2012, a couple of hours past midnight, an East Georgia mom heard a noise from her daughter’s bedroom. What she discovered in the 18-year-old’s closet would disturb any parent: a naked man.

“You’re the coach,” the stunned woman yelped. Her daughter had graduated from high school the month before. The man, who had been her basketball coach, ran from the house without his clothes.

That anecdote is from one of about 200 state investigations that resulted in teachers losing teaching licenses from 2011 to 2016. The case files don’t identify the students, but do contain enough detail to conclude the bulk of them were in high school, many 16 or older, the age of consent in Georgia.

The investigations, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission using the state Open Records Act, cost the teachers their careers. But many were not prosecuted as Georgia law allows. The evidence was often too weak for the criminal courts, with no witness beyond the student in the relationship, who was sometimes uncooperative. Also, while it is a felony for a teacher to have sex with a student, regardless of age, prosecutors complain of a loophole that lets teachers get away with it. In 2010, state lawmakers added teachers and school administrators to the list of authority figures who could go to prison for seeking “sexual gratification” from their charges, but there was a caveat: the educator had to have “supervisory or disciplinary authority” over the student, a condition that prosecutors have found difficult to prove. Court cases have established that every teacher in a school doesn’t have authority over every student.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/local-education/georgia-teachers-who-have-sex-with-students-seldom-prison/19km7Vn2iyxOZT59tKlr0L/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New York Times: Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis

Sheryl Sandberg was seething.

Inside Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, top executives gathered in the glass-walled conference room of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. It was September 2017, more than a year after Facebook engineers discovered suspicious Russia-linked activity on its site, an early warning of the Kremlin campaign to disrupt the 2016 American election. Congressional and federal investigators were closing in on evidence that would implicate the company.

But it wasn’t the looming disaster at Facebook that angered Ms. Sandberg. It was the social network’s security chief, Alex Stamos, who had informed company board members the day before that Facebook had yet to contain the Russian infestation. Mr. Stamos’s briefing had prompted a humiliating boardroom interrogation of Ms. Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and her billionaire boss. She appeared to regard the admission as a betrayal.

“You threw us under the bus!” she yelled at Mr. Stamos, according to people who were present.

The clash that day would set off a reckoning — for Mr. Zuckerberg, for Ms. Sandberg and for the business they had built together. In just over a decade, Facebook has connected more than 2.2 billion people, a global nation unto itself that reshaped political campaigns, the advertising business and daily life around the world. Along the way, Facebook accumulated one of the largest-ever repositories of personal data, a treasure trove of photos, messages and likes that propelled the company into the Fortune 500.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/14/technology/facebook-data-russia-election-racism.html

The Post and Courier: Minimally adequate: South Carolina’s persistent failures in education are leaving students unprepared for the world that awaits them

Divided by race, mired in inequities and hobbled by its history, South Carolina’s public school system is among the worst in the nation, saddled with a legacy of apathy and low expectations that threatens the state’s newfound prosperity.

South Carolina’s schools trail other states by nearly every measure, leaving students unprepared for the world that awaits them as businesses struggle to find qualified workers to fill skilled jobs, a Post and Courier investigation has found.

The Legislature has largely sat idle while gaps in achievement and resources have widened across the state, leaving daunting divides between rural and urban districts, poor and affluent schools, and white and black students.

Lawmakers have ignored their own mandates for funding education as generations of students languish, buildings crumble and teachers abandon their profession in droves. Lawmakers can’t even agree on what the most significant problems are, let alone raise the “minimally adequate” benchmark the state has prescribed for public education.

Meantime, the Palmetto State’s education system has, in many respects, become an impediment to growth rather than an engine of progress.

Read more: https://data.postandcourier.com/saga/minimally-adequate/page/1

Arizona Daily Star: EVICTIONS: Low-income housing crisis takes toll on Tucson renters

… For low-income families living on the edge, an eviction can upend the precarious balance that kept them afloat and push many into homelessness, said Bonnie Bazata, program manager for Pima County’s Ending Poverty Now program.

“It’s like a bomb going off,” she said.

Over the last fiscal year, judges in Pima County Consolidated Justice Court ordered an average of 25 evictions each day, an Arizona Daily Star analysis found. The stakes are high for families with no savings and no safety net. After an eviction, renters often struggle to come up with a security deposit and first month’s rent for a new home. Personal belongings are lost or cast aside if the family can’t afford a storage unit. Pets are abandoned or taken to the pound.

The court includes monetary judgments with the eviction judgment, ordering tenants to pay rent owed, plus hundreds of dollars in late fees, court fees and attorneys’ fees. Debts are sent to collection agencies, and wages are garnished. Many bounce between motels or friends’ couches as they search for a new home, draining their limited resources. Parents can lose their jobs in the chaos, and children are sometimes forced to change schools.

Read more: https://tucson.com/low-income-housing-crisis-takes-toll-on-tucson-renters/article_ab1605a8-e39f-11e8-9618-5363f9cf82f5.html

Los Angeles Times: The Robinson R44, the world’s best-selling civilian helicopter, has a long history of deadly crashes

The flight lasted all of a minute.

The four-seat helicopter had barely lifted off from John Wayne Airport when it nosed down, clipped two houses and slammed into a third, killing the pilot and two of his three passengers.

“It was like a train hitting a wall,” said Paddi Faubion, who saw the Jan. 30 crash from her balcony in a gated Newport Beach neighborhood.

The cause has yet to be determined, but the type of helicopter is well known to accident investigators: the Robinson R44. It is the world’s best-selling civilian helicopter, a top choice among flight schools, sightseeing companies, police departments and recreational pilots.

It also is exceptionally deadly.

Robinson R44s were involved in 42 fatal crashes in the U.S. from 2006 to 2016, more than any other civilian helicopter, according to a Times analysis of National Transportation Safety Board accident reports.

That translates to 1.6 deadly accidents per 100,000 hours flown — a rate nearly 50% higher than any other of the dozen most common civilian models whose flight hours are tracked by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-robinson-helicopters/#nt=oft-Double%20Chain~Flex%20Feature~~helicopter-110am~~1~yes-art~curated~curatedpage

Fresno Bee: MS-13 terrorized Mendota for nearly a decade. Why didn’t help come sooner?

The graves of brothers Daniel and Rene Leon aren’t hard to find at Fresno Memorial Gardens cemetery.

Bright white and yellow flowers decorate the headstones, while two bright orange metal pumpkins hold court amid opened cans of Budweiser, Pepsi and strawberry yogurt bottles.

Daniel, 15, and Rene, 22, were killed on Sept. 11, 2011, by members of MS-13 in Mendota.

Back in August, investigators declared a major victory against the MS-13 gang in Mendota, saying 25 arrests had been made in an operation following more than a dozen killings in and around Mendota in recent years.

For Cecilia Leon, mother of Daniel and Rene Leon, the effort was too little, too late, given the threat posed by the gang in Mendota for years. “I don’t understand why it took them so long,” she said in Spanish. “Why just now?”

Leon isn’t the only one who wonders why it took so long for federal and state authorities to take the Mendota MS-13 problem seriously.

Current and former city officials in Mendota say they had been pleading for outside help to deal with the gang’s activities for more than half a decade before the August operation. They say those pleas largely went ignored.

Read more: https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/crime/article220910125.html

The Denver Post: “It’s a dragnet”: Denver police far more likely to cite Latino kids for violating curfew

Rosa sat, trembling slightly, in a fourth-floor courtroom in downtown Denver. She wore a black sweatshirt printed with the word AMERICA. She was waiting for a translator for her mother.

Other kids were in the half-full courtroom for destroying property or fighting. But Rosa, 17, was in trouble because she stayed out too late in Denver.

Police picked her up on a summer night in Barnum Park, where she was eating McDonald’s with friends after getting off work. Officers sent her in a white van to a downtown building, where she waited for her mother to be roused.

“That was annoying,” Rosa said later. “They could have just told me to go home.”

She was one of hundreds of young people cited this year for violating Denver’s juvenile curfew. She’s also Latino, like 67 percent of the kids cited this year in a city where Latinos make up only about 30 percent of the population, according to a Denver Post analysis.

Read more: https://www.denverpost.com/2018/11/18/denver-police-latinos-curfew-violations/

Des Moines Register: How Trump administration pressure to dump 4-H's LGBT policy led to Iowa leader's firing

The Trump administration pushed the national 4-H youth organization to withdraw a controversial policy welcoming LGBT members — a move that helped lead to the ouster of Iowa's top 4-H leader earlier this year, a Des Moines Register investigation has found.

The international youth organization, with more than 6 million members, introduced the new policy to ensure LGBT members felt protected by their local 4-H program — part of a larger effort to modernize the federally authorized youth group and broaden membership.

Several states posted the policy on their websites, including Iowa, where it prompted fierce opposition from conservatives and some evangelical groups.

"The current focus of this campaign may be Iowa, but the values and vision of the entire Cooperative Extension are under attack," Andy Turner, director of the New York 4-H program, wrote in an email to John-Paul Chaisson-Cárdenas, Iowa's top 4-H leader, last April.

But within days of the LGBT policy's publication, Heidi Green, then-chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, requested that it be rescinded, Sonny Ramaswamy, then-director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the federal department that administers 4-H, told the Register.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2018/11/18/4-h-transgender-lgbt-iowa-john-paul-chaisson-cardenas-iowa-state-university-civil-rights/1572199002/

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: A Victim Heard, Justice Served

MOUNTAIN IRON, MINN. — The telephone rang after dinner: A young woman was at the hospital, bruised and frightened, saying she had been raped.

Investigator Steve Heinrich told his family not to wait up. He headed out the door, into a case fraught with all the challenges that can complicate sexual assault investigations: The victim had a history of drug use and behavioral problems. She had been drinking with her assailant and had blacked out during the assault. The suspect insisted the encounter was consensual.

Hundreds of rape cases in Minnesota end right there, with a victim’s first police report, according to more than 1,300 case files reviewed by the Star Tribune. Time after time, documents show, law enforcement officials say no to victims who come forward to report an assault.

But this time, a caring cop, a confident prosecutor and a devoted advocate of victimized women on the Iron Range proved it’s possible to get justice even in the most difficult cases.

And they started simply by saying yes.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/a-minnesota-rape-victim-heard-justice-served-denied-justice-part-six/500384682/

Kansas City Star: Professor used students as servants. UMKC knew and didn’t stop him

Kamesh Kuchimanchi traveled halfway across the globe to earn his Ph.D. alongside one of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s top researchers.

Ashim Mitra’s sterling reputation as a scientist wasn’t the lone draw. Like Kuchimanchi, the professor was from India, and that was a comfort. Their common bond, Kuchimanchi hoped, would make America feel more like home.

Instead, their relationship soured almost from the start, he said, because Mitra exploited that cultural kinship with students from India.

“I considered my life at UMKC nothing more than modern slavery,” Kuchimanchi said.

“Slavery” to Kuchimanchi meant bailing putrid water from Mitra’s basement after a flood and serving food at Mitra’s Indian cultural celebrations off campus.

His was not an isolated case.

The Star found that over Mitra’s 24 years as a leader in the UMKC School of Pharmacy, the professor compelled his students to act as his personal servants. They hauled equipment and bused tables at his social events. They were expected to tend his lawn, look after his dog and water the house plants, sometimes for weeks at a time when he and his wife were away.

The Star talked to nearly a dozen former students about Mitra’s demands. Dozens more declined to go on the record for this story.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article220872325.html

The New York Times: Hazing, Humiliation, Terror: Working While Female in Federal Prison

VICTORVILLE, Calif. — Makeup, earrings and perfume are off limits. So are smiles.

Even the swing of a ponytail can attract unwanted attention, so women slick their hair back into a style known as the “bureau bun” — as in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

They wear oversized uniforms to hide the faint outlines of their undergarments, or cover themselves from neck to thigh with baggy black windbreakers known as “trash bags,” even on hot summer days on the concrete yards.

For women who work in federal prisons, where they are vastly outnumbered by male colleagues and male inmates, concealing every trace of their femininity is both necessary and, ultimately, futile. “They never even see what you are wearing,” said Octavia Brown, a supervisor in Victorville, Calif., of the inmates she oversees. “They see straight through it.”

Some inmates do not stop at stares. They also grope, threaten and expose themselves. But what is worse, according to testimony, court documents, and interviews with female prison workers, male colleagues can and do encourage such behavior, undermining the authority of female officers and jeopardizing their safety. Other male employees join in the harassment themselves.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/17/us/prison-sexual-harassment-women.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

The Oregonian: Moving Oregonians with mental illness out of locked facilities was the goal. But things didn't go as planned.

A state effort to dramatically reduce the number of Oregonians with severe mental illness in locked facilities has been plagued by problems, including serious injuries to three vulnerable patients discharged to lower levels of care.

Family members and advocates contend that the state and its private contractor have been too aggressive in denying individuals eligibility for care, and the state's internal reviewers warned that a mass of former patients entering the community all at once could leave many homeless.

"We keep kicking over rocks in this program and finding snakes," said Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority. "And I'm not confident we're done kicking over rocks."

The agency has placed a key employee involved in the project on paid leave pending the conclusion of an investigation. But that employee says he is being punished after raising detailed concerns about his agency's handling of the project with Allen and the Oregon Department of Justice.

Chad Scott told The Oregonian/OregonLive that the agency's actions against him were "classic whistleblower retaliation."

As of April, more than 600 mentally ill people were notified they no longer qualified for the treatment they were receiving. But the Oregon Health Authority sent some of those notices to the mentally ill patients, rather than their guardians. In addition, the agency found that the notices did not comply with federal law because they didn't adequately explain why a person was losing eligibility.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2018/11/moving_oregonians_with_mental_illness_out_of_locked_facilities_was_the_goal_but_things_didnt_go_as_planned.html

The Tennessean: 13 suicide attempts, 18 hospitalizations, few options: Lost in Tennessee's mental care system

When Lauren Clements feels at her lowest, it’s like she’s stuck in a thunderstorm that will never stop.

Sometimes, that leaves her empty and excruciatingly sad.

Other times, her thoughts are of incessant self-hatred.

You are worthless. Everyone hates you. The world would be better off without you.

Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it.

Kill yourself.

At 24 years old, Clements has attempted suicide 13 times. Hospitalized at facilities across the state, she has received short-term care only to be rehospitalized weeks or months later.

The day she ended up at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute, she did everything she could to convince the intake examiner that she did not belong there.

One of four state-run psychiatric hospitals, the Nashville facility serves only the most severe cases. Most of its patients are admitted involuntarily. A separate building for patients in criminal custody housed Travis Reinking — the man accused of killing four people in a Nashville Waffle House — until he was deemed competent to stand trial.

The goal of Tennessee’s public psychiatric hospitals is to serve as a last-resort safety net to stabilize patients in crisis and then link them to ongoing treatment in their communities.

Yet, nearly one in three adults admitted to Tennessee’s public psychiatric hospitals will return within six months, according to federal data.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/11/18/tennessee-mental-health-care-psychiatric-hospitals/1380288002/

The Dallas Morning News: 'They’re gonna kill me': Why did a man die in jail near Fort Worth as untrained guards watched?

Andy DeBusk’s family thought a night in jail might save him.

It was Christmas Eve of 2016. He was in the Parker County jail in Weatherford, west of Fort Worth, coming down from a meth high. He called his mother to ask for bail money.

Hoping a night in a cell would sober him up, his family decided to wait until Christmas Day to bail him out.

But before their holiday dinner was over, the phone rang again: DeBusk was dead.

Video obtained by The Dallas Morning News shows him shackled after guards used pepper spray on him in a cell. Jailers then placed him face down and piled on him, making it hard for him to breathe and contributing to his death at age 38, an autopsy found.

The jail operator has rules that strictly limit the use of pepper spray and bar guards from holding down prisoners in ways known to cause asphyxiation. But at least four jailers that night had virtually no training, state records show. An officer who dug his knee into DeBusk’s back minutes before his death had been on the job just seven weeks and hadn’t gone through any of the state’s mandated instruction.

Read more: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/investigations/2018/11/18/gonna-kill-man-die-injail-near-fort-worth-untrained-guards-watched

The Dallas Morning News: 'Anything he could grab, he would try it': Dallas sexual misconduct case reopened decades after twins reported priest

The lives of twins Myrna and Micaela Dartson had revolved since birth around St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church, a historic African-American place of worship near downtown Dallas.

But they say in the mid-1980s, when they were young adults, their longtime spiritual home dissolved into a place of fear and disgust because of what they describe as the inappropriate behavior of the church’s priest, Father Czeslaw “Chester” Domaszewicz. They say the priest sexually harassed them, grabbed at their breasts and buttocks, pulled on their bras and made suggestive comments.

“Anything he could grab, he would try it,” Micaela Dartson Hicken, now 52, recalled, saying Domaszewicz’s actions drove her away from the Catholic church for good. Twin sister Myrna Dartson estimates that over several summers and holidays, he physically harassed her “every week.”

The twins say the diocese didn’t adequately investigate and deal with their allegations — and those of other parishioners. Myrna Dartson wrote multiple letters to the Dallas bishop this year detailing her allegations, only to feel rebuffed. But after recent inquiries by The Dallas Morning News, the diocese reported the twins’ allegations to Dallas police, who have begun investigating.

The fresh look at the allegations come as the Dallas diocese and others worldwide have grappled with sexual misconduct scandals. Allegations in Dallas and Pennsylvania — where a scathing grand jury report found decades of widespread abuse and cover-ups by the church — and elsewhere have prompted top church officials to push for new transparency measures. For instance, all Texas dioceses recently announced plans to comb through old files and, by the end of January, name clergy members who have been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of minors since 1950.

Read more: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/news/2018/11/16/anything-could-grab-try-dallas-sexual-misconductcase-reopened-decades-after-twins-reported-priest

The Seattle Times: Gov. Jay Inslee’s out-of-state trips strain budget of Washington State Patrol security detail

Over the past year, Gov. Jay Inslee has crisscrossed the country in his role as chair of the Democratic Governors Association, visiting more than a dozen states, from Hawaii to New York, and most recently stumping this month for candidates in Florida and Georgia.

The spike in out-of-state political travel has heightened Inslee’s national profile as he considers a possible 2020 bid for president.

It also has helped bust the taxpayer-funded budget of the plainclothes State Patrol security detail assigned to protect the governor, leading the Patrol to seek a $1.3 million budget increase for the unit.

In the past fiscal year, the Patrol’s Executive Protection Unit (EPU) overshot its $2.6 million budget allotment by $400,000, with overtime and travel accounting for 62 percent of the higher-than-budgeted spending, according to a Patrol analysis.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/gov-jay-inslees-out-of-state-trips-strain-budget-of-state-patrol-security-detail/

The Toledo Blade: Man's allegations of abuse by Fostoria priest surface after 40 years

FOSTORIA — Riley Kinn thought he was handling it.

Nevermind the drinking, the substance abuse, the difficulty in interpersonal relationships that had intermittently plagued him since he was a teenager.

He’d been to therapy. He thought he’d managed to push down and push away the months of grooming and abuse by the Rev. Joseph Schmelzer, predatory behavior that he says culminated in sexual assault in the rectory of St. Wendelin Parish in 1980.

Then came 2015. Mr. Kinn took a new client for his information technology business — his childhood parish in Fostoria.

Once on site to run new wires for the internet and phone systems, he found himself drawn to the rectory bedroom. The memories flooded back. So did a fierce panic attack. He fled to his truck and took off.

Mr. Kinn, 51, is speaking publicly about his allegations for the first time. That decision, after nearly 40 years of silence, comes as he’s struggled to understand why the Diocese of Toledo, where he reported the abuse last year, found his claims not substantiated, despite two other previous credible accusations that led to Father Schmelzer’s permanent removal from public ministry in 2007.

That Mr. Kinn’s allegations would be denied “defies logic,” said Claudia Vercellotti, a leader in the Toledo chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Read more: http://www.toledoblade.com/news/religion/2018/11/16/abuse-allegations-fostoria-priest-reverend-joseph-schmelzer-toledo-diocese-catholic/stories/20181110001

Honolulu Civil Beat: Black Market Babies

The first adoption boom caught everyone by surprise.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands, a string of low-lying coral atolls halfway between Hawaii and Papua New Guinea, had no law governing international adoptions in the 1990s.

There were no systems in place for the RMI to track or regulate the number of foreign adoption agencies setting up shop. No legal remedy for the growing drama at the airport, where American families and adoption agents were often seen leaving the country with crying children.

“These children, they just didn’t stop crying,” says Daisy Alik-Momotaro, a senator in the Marshallese parliament. “Nonstop crying.”

By the time the Marshallese government instituted a temporary moratorium on adoptions in 1999, the remote island nation had the highest per-capita adoption rate in the world.

But even that failed to stem the tide. A Hawaii lawyer and her adoption facilitator came up with a plan for circumventing the moratorium by flying pregnant women to Hawaii to give birth here.

Hawaii quickly turned into a hub for what American judges and newspapers widely described as “black market adoptions.” The flow of babies soon spread to other states.

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/projects/black-market-babies/

The New York Times: ‘If Bobbie Talks, I’m Finished’: How Les Moonves Tried to Silence an Accuser

Saturday, April 28, 2018, was Marv Dauer’s 75th birthday. It was also going to be his comeback.

After more than three decades as a Hollywood talent manager, Mr. Dauer, tanned and silver-haired, had the aura of success: a house in the tony Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, a cherished collection of sports memorabilia, membership at a country club. People liked to say that Marv knew everyone.

In reality, his client list had dwindled to a few B-list actors. Casting directors ignored his emails. His finances were precarious. He had nearly lost his home to foreclosure.

But now Mr. Dauer had coaxed to his party someone who could change all that.

More than 100 friends, sports figures, casting directors, actors, golf and bridge partners — even kindergarten classmates from Austin, Minn. — had gathered to celebrate at a friend’s Los Angeles home. At a V.I.P. table were the biggest names Mr. Dauer could muster: the actor-turned-polemicist James Woods; former Senator Norman Coleman; and Bruce McNall, the former Los Angeles Kings owner who served time for fraud.

Then, at about 8 p.m., a star arrived: Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS and one of Hollywood’s most powerful people. Mr. Moonves presented Mr. Dauer with a yellow tie embossed with the logo of the Masters golf tournament.

Mr. Moonves’s presence sent a powerful message: Marv Dauer was back. “I didn’t even know they were friends,” recalled Paul Ruddy, a casting director who was at the party. Jan Daley, a jazz singer and a former client of Mr. Dauer’s, said that when she saw Mr. Moonves she was convinced that “Marv had gone up a couple of notches since he managed me.” She rehired him days later.

Mr. Moonves had never attended Mr. Dauer’s previous parties. So what was he doing there?

Four months later, Mr. Moonves was pushed out by CBS’s board after 12 women told The New Yorker that he had sexually harassed or assaulted them. But those accusations didn’t directly cause Mr. Moonves’s fall. As Mr. Dauer says the mogul told him before and after the birthday party, only one woman could bring him down: “If Bobbie talks, I’m finished.”

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/28/business/les-moonves-bobbie-phillips-marv-dauer-cbs-severance.html

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Hiding behind God: Three men sexually abused as boys by Catholic priest Cipolla still struggle with the horror"

Tim Bendig was repeatedly abused by Catholic priest Anthony Cipolla from 1982 to 1986. That came after the Catholic Church declined to remove Cipolla from the priesthood for the abuse of two brothers in the 1970s. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently followed Mr. Bendig as he returned to the vacant rectory and church, St. Canice, where his life changed forever 36 years ago.

“That’s the room,” said a shaken Tim Bendig.

He was pointing at the bedroom on the second floor in the former St. Canice Church rectory where he was first sexually abused 36 years ago by a Catholic priest, Anthony Cipolla.

Mr. Bendig had not expected to be here on a sunny day in September, inside the rectory, and later the crumbling church in Knoxville next door. In both are the places where he was abused at least 15 times in the first of four years of abuse he endured, starting when he was 13 years old.

A request by a reporter to take photographs of Mr. Bendig had led here because he said he wanted to go back to where his story started, to St. Canice. As he was being photographed outside, and speaking matter-of-factly about his memories, the new owner of the properties arrived and allowed Mr. Bendig to go inside.

There, the ripples of memories turned into torrents of emotion that came pouring out of him in raw, vivid detail, between sobs and tears.

“He molested me here, and behind the altar, and in that cloak room, too,” he said while walking through the old church. “That over there was the confessional; you don’t want to know what happened in there.”

Cipolla, who died in 2016, is one of the more than 90 priests from the Pittsburgh diocese, and more than 300 priests statewide, accused in the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s grand jury report on Catholic clergy sexual abuse in August.

But Cipolla’s case may well be one of the best known.

That’s largely because of Mr. Bendig, who came forward to tell his story in 1988 and sued the Pittsburgh diocese, which then engaged in a battle with Cipolla to remove him from the priesthood, a struggle within the Vatican court system that played out in the media off and on for 14 years.

Read more: https://newsinteractive.post-gazette.com/catholic-priest-anthony-cipolla-pittsburgh-church-sex-abuse-victims/

The Columbus Dispatch: Unserved Justice: Suspects run free while authorities drown in open arrest warrants

Millions of Americans are wanted on open arrest warrants, including hundreds of thousands of fugitives accused of murder, rape, robbery or assault, while victims wait for justice.

Many of the cases stay open for years, even decades, and often are forgotten as law enforcers and judges struggle to keep up with thousands of new warrants filed in courthouses across the nation each day.

An investigation by The Columbus Dispatch and GateHouse Media found more than 5.7 million cases in 27 states with open arrest warrants — enough to lock up every adult in West Virginia and Colorado combined. Add in the rest of the nation, and that number easily could double. Reporters sought records from all 50 states, but 23 did not provide usable data.

Among those warrants, reporters identified nearly 240,000 cases that involved violence, a weapon or sexual misconduct. That’s enough to fill every state prison cell in Texas, Michigan and Virginia.

There are at least 23,623 such criminal warrants just in Ohio's six largest counties.

When such warrants remain unserved, the violent suspects linger on the street, increasing the risk that someone else will be harmed, possibly killed. Law enforcement officials across the nation said it’s their biggest fear when they don’t have the resources to track everyone down.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/warrants/wanted-suspects-run-free-while-authorities-drown-in-open-arrest-warrants/site/dispatch.com/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Nov. 15, 2018

The (Baton Rouge) Advocate: How an abnormal Louisiana law deprives, discriminates and drives incarceration: Tilting the scales

Matthew Allen was 20 when he stared across a courtroom in Houma at the 12 men and women who would decide whether he would spend the rest of his life in prison.

Only two of the faces in the jury box were black, like him.

Allen stood accused in the killing of Dicarie James on a back road south of Houma. The two men had quarreled over a drug deal inside James’ car. As he lay dying, James told deputies it was Allen who shot him three times with a .22-caliber revolver, twice in the chest.

Allen initially professed innocence, but he later admitted killing James, saying he fired in self-defense. The jury deliberated for 2½ hours until it reached a decision: guilty as charged of second-degree murder.

But as with many verdicts in felony trials across Louisiana, this one came with serious misgivings — and a pronounced racial divide.

The two black jurors disagreed with the rest. It didn’t matter.

In Louisiana, unlike anywhere else in America, that was good enough to send Allen off to a mandatory life prison term, with no chance of parole.

Read more: https://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/news/courts/article_16fd0ece-32b1-11e8-8770-33eca2a325de.html

Montgomery Advertiser: Alabama Democratic Party sat on cash as Election Day approached

Democrats’ defeats on Tuesday have renewed criticism of Alabama Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley and Alabama Democratic Conference Chairman Joe Reed as a review of campaign finance records raises questions about the party’s efforts and money solicited by the ADC for get out the vote (GOTV) work.

According to an Advertiser review of campaign finance records:

— The Alabama Democratic Party had approximately $508,000 in a state account and $284,000 in a federal account in mid-October, but spent almost none of it on federal or state races as the state Republican Party was pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into its campaigns;

— An entity called the Fund to Advance Democracy, set up by the ADC, accepted at least $108,000 from three Democratic candidates in late May and early June, but did not legally exist at the time;

— In at least one instance, a federal PAC run by the Alabama Democratic Conference did not report a $5,000 check from a Democratic congressional candidate, a sum negotiated down from $15,000.

Reed and Worley have been prominent and polarizing figures in the state Democratic Party, with many members accusing them of preventing the party from getting back on its feet after nearly a decade of electoral frustration. While improving margins in cities and suburban counties on Tuesday, Democrats lost every statewide race, every congressional race and saw five House seats flip to the Republicans. Following the dismal showing, several candidates, including Chief Justice nominee Bob Vance and Democratic congressional candidate Mallory Hagan, called for new leadership.

Read more: https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/politics/elections/2018/11/09/alabama-democratic-party-sat-cash-election-day-approached-democratic-party-criticism-reed-worley/1942847002/

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: How Robert Bowers went from conservative to white nationalist

When Robert Bowers came to work at Dormont’s Potomac Bakery in the early 1990s, he struck his colleagues as a guy who liked beer, Hooters, action films and guns, with a bit of an anti-government streak — not as a virulent anti-Semite primed to explode.

“He wasn’t like that back then, with the hate,” said Robert Walters, 50, of Beechview, who described himself as Mr. Bowers’ best friend for around a decade, ending in 2004. “He was a happy dude.”

There were, however, hints of paranoid theories and violent thoughts.

Pa. AG subpoenas host of favorite social media site of accused Tree of Life shooter

“He had a shotgun right at the door,” said Patrick Kelly, 54, of Dormont, who also worked at the bakery and lived in an apartment atop it, across the hall from Mr. Bowers, for much of the 1990s. “And if the [United Nations] blue hats or tactical [team] came to get him, he said, they’d be decked out in [body] armor,” so he practiced aiming the shotgun at face height, said Mr. Kelly.

Now Mr. Bowers, 46, of Baldwin Borough, is charged with 44 federal counts in the Tree of Life massacre, which authorities have designated a hate crime, as well as 36 counts in state court, including 11 homicides of mostly-elderly worshipers at the synagogue.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2018/11/10/Robert-Bowers-extremism-Tree-of-Life-massacre-shooting-pittsburgh-Gab-Warroom/stories/201811080165

San Francisco Chronicle: Left in the dirt

Lewis Fong didn’t know what was happening next to his office building in summer 2007, only that it involved a lot of dirt.

“Just dirt,” Fong recalled recently. “Mounds and mounds.” The dirt sat in a giant yard surrounded by a chain-link fence. Trucks kept dumping soil inside, spewing clouds of dust, “truck after truck.”

At the time, Fong, a San Francisco police officer, was one of more than 100 police employees stationed at Building 606, a warehouse in the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. The city has leased Building 606 from the Navy since 1997, using it as a training base and headquarters for units that require a lot of space (SWAT, K-9, the crime lab). Although the shipyard is a Superfund site, contaminated with radioactive materials and other toxins, the city has always assured police it is safe to work there.

Fong trusted the city. In 2007, he’d been accepted into the Honda Unit, a prestigious squad of cops on light motorcycles, and when his training began at Building 606, he was more worried about falling off a bike than breathing dust from the mysterious yard next door. “You’re just stressed out from being trained, so you don’t notice what’s out there,” he said.

Fong and the other cops may not have understood what was going on next to their office, but the city did. The area was a “radiological screening yard,” one of the most hazardous locations on any Superfund site — a place that processes large amounts of contaminated soil.

And it was managed by Tetra Tech, the Navy contractor now at the center of a ballooning scandal over falsified and suspect shipyard cleanup records.

Officials with the city health department had known about the yard for some time, according to emails and memos recently obtained by The Chronicle through a public records request. About two months before the yard opened, an industrial hygienist with the health department questioned whether the yard would pose a danger to the employees in Building 606, potentially exposing them to unsafe levels of radioactivity.

Read more: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/SF-let-shipyard-cops-work-amid-tons-of-toxic-13375196.php

Courier Journal: Sex abuse survivors: Archbishop Kurtz isn't doing enough to protect his flock

Two senior Catholic officials who remained silent decades ago when priests were accused of sexually abusing Louisville children have been kept in power — and even promoted — on Archbishop Joseph Kurtz's watch.

That's not what many Louisville Catholics expected when Kurtz arrived in 2007 to take over the archdiocese, which was rocked by a major child sex abuse scandal a few years earlier.

Previous church leaders in Kentucky's largest Catholic community had allowed abusive priests to remain in ministry while silencing their victims, a practice laid bare when hundreds sued the church, winning a $25.7 million settlement in 2003.

Kurtz came in as a warm and inviting man with a remarkable ability to remember everyone's name. It was hoped he would help heal wounds in the archdiocese. Abuse survivor Cal Pfeiffer recalls thinking the new archbishop was either incredibly nice or just a great politician.

A decade later, some abuse survivors say they know which it is.

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2018/11/07/priest-sex-abuse-survivors-wary-kentucky-catholic-leaders/1603163002/

Times-Picayune: New Catholic priest abuse reports test legacies of archbishops Joseph Rummel, Philip Hannan

As the rain ceased and the skies cleared on the afternoon of Sept. 12, 1987, the world leader of Roman Catholicism stepped to the altar of a canopied pavilion at the University of New Orleans and, before 130,000 sweltering faithful, raised the eucharistic host to heaven. Standing just behind and to the right of Pope John Paul II was the concelebrant of the outdoor Mass, Archbishop Philip Hannan, who would later recall the future saint’s three-day stopover in his city as the apogee of his 24-year episcopate.

Hannan died in 2011, a tough, colorful prelate who not only scored the coup of a papal visit but more broadly was revered as the architect of a sprawling network of new social services for poor people, elderly people and immigrants in southeast Louisiana.

Now, however, Hannan’s legacy – and that of one of his predecessors, Joseph Rummel, the longest-serving archbishop in New Orleans history -- is coming under new scrutiny, the result of changing societal values and of a belated effort by the Catholic Church, especially in the United States, to come clean about its history of pedophile priests and its institutional coverup of their misbehavior.

The current archbishop, Gregory Aymond, on Friday (Nov. 2) released information showing that 55 priests and two deacons who served in the archdiocese – far more than previously acknowledged – had been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse since 1917, and that almost all of it occurred while Rummel or Hannan was in charge. Nineteen clergy members allegedly molested children during Rummel’s tenure, and at least five of those cases were brought to the church’s attention while he was still its leader, according to the archdiocese’s list. Twenty-seven allegedly molested children during Hannan’s tenure, with at least six of them accused while Hannan was archbishop.

Read more: https://www.nola.com/news/2018/11/new-catholic-priest-abuse-reports-test-legacies-of-archbishops-joseph-rummel-philip-hannan.html

Newark Star-Ledger: With investigation looming, Gov. Murphy's office gives new details about hire

As state lawmakers prepare to probe the hiring practices of Gov. Phil Murphy's administration, his office is providing new details about the duties of a former campaign consultant who was involved in a Bermudan political scandal.

The push to clarify the role of Derrick Green and provide documentation of his employment comes three weeks after NorthJersey.com and the USA TODAY Network New Jersey began asking about the work he does for the governor.

The legislative probe was spurred by a sexual assault allegation a former Murphy campaign volunteer made against Al Alvarez, who resigned last month as chief of staff at the state Schools Development Authority. Alvarez denied the allegation and was not charged, but a bipartisan committee plans to investigate the hiring process of the Murphy transition team. Murphy has also ordered an independent investigation.

Green and Alvarez were among Murphy's first hires after taking office. But it was unclear from public records exactly what Green did.

Read more: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/governor/2018/11/08/phil-murphys-office-gives-more-details-derrick-green-hire/1893967002/

Seattle Times: Orcas thrive in a land to the north. Why are Puget Sound's dying?

igger and bigger, with a puff and a blow, the orca surfaces, supreme in his kingdom of green.

Northern resident orcas like this one live primarily in the cleaner, quieter waters of northern Vancouver Island and Southeast Alaska, where there also are more fish to eat. They are the same animal as the southern residents that frequent Puget Sound, eating the same diet, and even sharing some of the same waters. They have similar family bonds and culture.

The difference between them is us.

The southern residents are struggling to survive amid waters influenced by more than 6 million people, between Vancouver and Seattle, with pollution, habitat degradation and fishery declines. The plight of the southern residents has become grimly familiar as they slide toward extinction, with three more deaths just last summer. Telling was the sad journey of J35, or Tahlequah, traveling more than 1,000 miles for at least 17 days, clinging to her dead calf, which lived only one half-hour.

Read more: https://projects.seattletimes.com/2018/orcas-in-peril/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Nov. 8, 2018

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Size of state grants spurred investigation that led to convictions in Arkansas corruption scandal

FAYETTEVILLE -- The sheer size of state grants to a small Christian college spurred the investigation that led to the convictions of four former legislators on bribery and corruption charges, U.S. Attorney Duane "Dak" Kees said in an interview Oct. 22.

"There's no proof to this, but if Jon Woods had kept the funds low, like $50,000 a year and where he was getting maybe a $10,000 or $15,000 kickback a year, I don't think we would have ever caught it," Kees said of kickbacks from Ecclesia College in Springdale.

Woods, a former state senator, is serving a sentence of 18 years and four months in federal prison in Fort Worth.

The investigation uncovered a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving Medicaid that has nothing to do with Ecclesia College, said the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. The investigation into that scandal spread to other states, mainly to Missouri, and is not done yet, he said. He gave no details, other than a rough date, regarding coming developments.

Read more: https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2018/nov/04/grants-size-1st-thread-pulled-in-unrave/

Seattle Times: Three years into a state of emergency, what we’ve learned about homelessness

The pleas were unambiguous: Seattle and King County leaders, three years ago, asked the state and federal governments to open their wallets up wide and offer disaster relief for the homelessness crisis, like they would after an earthquake.

That didn’t happen — here, or in other West Coast cities that made similar proclamations — leaving the disaster response mostly a local problem.

Yet three years into the emergency declarations, Seattle and King County have rarely acted as if they were responding to an emergency.

Seattle’s proclamation gave it extraordinary authority to bypass “time-consuming procedures and formalities prescribed by ordinance, statute, rule and regulation,” but the city has used it sparingly, mostly to site tiny-house villages. King County’s Board of Health only recently suggested a typical disaster response — deploying massive tent shelters. The county and city continue to operate separate homelessness bureaucracies.

Friday marked the third anniversary of the emergency declarations, and it coincided with the first anniversary of The Seattle Times’ Project Homeless, a community-funded journalism initiative to explore the ongoing crisis of homelessness.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/three-years-into-a-state-of-emergency-what-weve-learned-about-homelessness/

Houston Chronicle: Out of Control: Walking, cycling in Houston region can be risky

Doug Baysinger remembers everything up to the crash.

One moment he and his wife were about five miles into a long weekend bike ride from their home in Sugar Land west into the Texas prairie. The next moment, he was sliding along the pavement.

"It felt like five minutes, but I'm sure it was just a few seconds," he said.

It was two years ago in July. Baysinger had been vaulted from his bike by a red Toyota Camry, driven by a drowsy woman who drifted into the group of about 10 riders. Bikes and riders flew through the air as she plowed through the rest of the bicyclists and finally stopped.

His pain was excruciating — doctors later discovered he had two fractured vertebrae — but then he saw Joyce, lying face down in the street, blood pooling by her head.

"I thought she was dead," he said. "I thought she'd gotten completely run over by the car."

Baysinger crawled over to his wife.

He saw her chest rising and falling. At least she was breathing.

The Baysingers were among the lucky ones. In the past 16 years, Houston-area drivers have mowed down nearly 2,000 pedestrians and cyclists. That's more than 100 deaths a year, with the number increasing in the past three years to more than 150 fatalities annually and an average of more than 350 serious injuries.

Read more: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/investigations/article/Out-of-Control-Walking-cycling-in-Houston-13330465.php?cmpid=gsa-chron-result

The Tennessean: Nashville police have taken 7,900 guns off the streets since 2015. Here's where they found them.

The two teens ran from the stolen Chevy Lumina and ducked into an apartment in the red-brick public housing project, police say.

Moments later, officers were at the door. They had been searching for the car one Wednesday in April when they got a tip to check the apartment in East Nashville’s James Cayce Homes.

Inside they found four guns, a stash of marijuana and crack cocaine. Two of the guns, black Glock semi-automatic pistols, were loaded with high-capacity magazines that hold about 30 rounds each. Police tagged and bagged the firearms.

The haul added to the growing cache of guns seized by the Metro Nashville Police Department. This year, the department is on track to take more than 2,700 guns off the streets — nearly a third more than in 2017, according to a Tennessean analysis of Metro police data. Officials attribute at least some of the uptick to heightened enforcement by the Juvenile Crimes Task Force, which was formed in February to combat youth violence.

Metro police recovered 7,911 guns from across the city between January 2015 and September 20, 2018, the department data shows.

“You can’t have a violent crime if you don’t have the tools,” said Lt. Blaine Whited, the task force leader. “We’ve really focused on trying to get the tools out of their hands.”

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/10/26/nashville-police-gun-seizures-confiscations/1567496002/

The Tennessean: Martha O'Bryan Center builds school in Nashville's Cayce Homes, but some residents feel forgotten

The Martha O’Bryan Center surprised the East Nashville public housing project that it has served for 70 years in June 2017, when it decided to shutter its longtime preschool and day care program for low-income children.

Citing money problems and facility issues, the Martha O’Bryan Center, located in the heart of the James A. Cayce Homes, pulled the plug on the program with just a few weeks' notice. Parents were left scrambling for a new place to send their children, and workers lost their jobs.

The organization faced more scrutiny when, after making some repairs to the building, it moved the kindergarten class from Explore, its newest charter school, into the former child care center. The new occupants are children from mostly middle-class families who do not live in Cayce.

The changes highlight the rapid evolution of the Martha O’Bryan Center, moving the century-old nonprofit from a community organization gearedprimarily toward providing public housing residents with safety net services to one focused on growing charter schools.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/11/04/cayce-homes-nashville-charter-school-martha-obryan-center/1426898002/

Philadelphia Inquirer and The Boston Globe: America’s Catholic bishops vowed to remove abusive priests in 2002. In the years that followed, they failed to police themselves.

Bishop Robert Finn wasn’t going anywhere.

He never alerted authorities about photos of young girls’ genitals stashed on a pastor’s laptop. He kept parishioners in the dark, letting the priest mingle with children and families. Even after a judge found the bishop guilty of failing to report the priest’s suspected child abuse — and after 200,000 people petitioned for his ouster — he refused to go.

“I got this job from John Paul II. There’s his signature right there,” Finn had told a prospective deacon shortly after the priest’s arrest in 2011, pointing to the late pontiff’s photo. “And that’s who I answer to.”

Sixteen years after the clergy sexual-abuse crisis exploded in Boston, the American Catholic Church is again mired in scandal. This time, the controversy is propelled not so much by priests in the rectories, as by the leadership, bishops across the country who like Finn have enabled sexual misconduct or in some cases committed it themselves.

More than 130 U.S. bishops – or nearly one-third of those still living — have been accused during their careers of failing to adequately respond to sexual misconduct in their dioceses, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer and Boston Globe examination of court records, media reports, and interviews with church officials, victims, and attorneys.

At least 15, including Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington who resigned in July, have themselves been accused of committing such abuse or harassment.

Most telling, the analysis shows that the claims against more than 50 bishops center on incidents that occurred after a historic 2002 Dallas gathering of U.S. bishops where they promised that the church’s days of concealment and inaction were over. By an overwhelming though not unanimous vote, church leaders voted to remove any priest who had ever abused a minor and set up civilian review boards to investigate clergy misconduct claims.

Read more: http://www2.philly.com/news/pennsylvania/catholic-church-bishops-sex-abuse-coverup-pennsylvania-west-virginia-wyoming-20181103.html

Chicago Tribune: 'It’s medically sanctioned violence and torture': Intersex patients call for end to genital surgeries on children

hen Jennifer Pagonis was born in the winter of 1986, her parents brought her home to a wardrobe of pink and white, ruffles and frills.

But three months later, Jennifer’s mother arrived at the pediatrician’s office with what would turn out to be a life-changing question: Did her baby girl’s genitals look swollen?

Jennifer was referred to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where doctors ran blood tests and quickly reached a conclusion: Jennifer was one of a tiny number of babies who are born intersex, or with bodies that don’t fit standard anatomical definitions of male or female. She was genetically male — with XY chromosomes and internal testes, but she also had a small vagina and an enlarged clitoris. Doctors told her stunned parents that she could never have children, but with surgery, she could look entirely female.

And that was how, at age 4, Jennifer was admitted to what is now Lurie Children's Hospital for cosmetic surgery on her genitals. During a two-hour operation, to which her parents consented, a plastic surgeon cut into Jennifer’s clitoris, removing about two centimeters of tissue. In a follow-up operation when Pagonis was 11, doctors enlarged her vagina.

The result of those two operations, according to Pagonis, now 32, was scarring, loss of sensation, emotional trauma and severe sexual impairment.

“No matter what they say, or how they sugarcoat it, it’s medically sanctioned violence and torture,” said Pagonis, who no longer identifies as female and now goes by the first name Pidgeon.

For more than two decades, intersex people have denounced the surgeries performed on their genitals during infancy or childhood as nonconsensual and damaging, citing consequences including pain, loss of sexual sensation and incorrect gender assignment.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, three former U.S. surgeons general and Human Rights Watch are among those who have recently called for the childhood surgeries to stop until research can show a clear benefit, or to end immediately. In August, California became the first state to pass a resolution discouraging the surgeries.

“We want to ‘first do no harm,’” said former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who last year co-authored a report on genital surgeries on intersex children, citing the risk of “severe and irreversible physical harm and emotional distress.”

Read more: https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/ct-life-intersex-surgeries-20181018-story.html

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: No help for tenants sickened by mold in their homes

Water poured into Madrika Gray’s apartment from a busted pipe last December, ruining her furniture and puddling onto the worn tiles. Then there was mold, which grew in dark, fine-haired blots on her furniture and made her clothes smell no matter how much she washed them.

Now Gray and her children wake up with piercing headaches. A throat and lung infection forced her to the emergency room. She blames it on mold, which continues to grow inside the drywall and through the paint on her walls, she said, but calls to management of Forest Cove apartments, city of Atlanta code enforcement, and the Fulton County Health Department have failed to fix the problem. Gray, who is visually impaired, earns too little money to move out.

“It put me into a depression stage where I felt like giving up hope,” Gray, 37, said from her apartment in southeast Atlanta’s Thomasville Heights neighborhood. “Nobody would listen.”

Tenants who find mold in their homes have no safety net in metro Atlanta and elsewhere in Georgia, placing them and their children at risk of chronic breathing problems, infections and lost school days. Local and state government agencies lack the legal authority and funding to test the air in Gray’s apartment, much less make it healthy to breathe, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found. And while the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says that housing under its programs, such as Forest Cove, must be free of mold, there are no national public health standards for mold levels.

What’s more, Georgia law gives landlords little incentive to clean up unhealthy conditions. Tenants may not withhold rent under any circumstances — even if their apartments are uninhabitable. They may only complete repairs themselves and deduct the costs from their rent.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt--politics/help-for-tenants-sickened-mold-their-homes/OYx8slCAnZHlxi0saf9a3I/

AP: 56,800 migrant dead and missing: ‘They are human beings’

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — One by one, five to a grave, the coffins are buried in the red earth of this ill-kept corner of a South African cemetery. The scrawl on the cheap wood attests to their anonymity: “Unknown B/Male.”

These men were migrants from elsewhere in Africa with next to nothing who sought a living in the thriving underground economy of Gauteng province, a name that roughly translates to “land of gold.” Instead of fortune, many found death, their bodies unnamed and unclaimed — more than 4,300 in Gauteng between 2014 and 2017 alone.

Some of those lives ended here at the Olifantsvlei cemetery, in silence, among tufts of grass growing over tiny placards that read: Pauper Block. There are coffins so tiny that they could belong only to children.

Read more: https://apnews.com/e509e15f8b074b1d984f97502eab6a25

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Unbroken: A gunman shattered a sacred space, but not a community's spirit

Augie Siriano sat down for tea with Cecil and David Rosenthal in the lobby of the Tree of Life Synagogue before last Saturday morning’s services.

This was a weekly ritual, the longtime building janitor taking tea with two longtime congregants, men he considered brothers, in a place they all loved.

Sometimes, David was there waiting when Mr. Siriano arrived to unlock the synagogue doors, and they’d turn on the lights together before the brothers went to services and Mr. Siriano prepared a meal for everyone to share afterward.

For 20 years, Mr. Siriano shared Saturday mornings with the brothers.

But this morning would be the last.

Read more: https://newsinteractive.post-gazette.com/pittsburgh-squirrel-hill-synagogue-massacre/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Nov. 2, 2018

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: A high school dropout and trucker, Robert Bowers left few footprints -- except online

Robert Bowers cut short his time in high school, worked for a small trucking firm, and became enamored of extremist theories circulated online.

He moved through the Pittsburgh area, primarily the South Hills, leaving relatively little impression before he emerged Saturday as the suspect charged in the fatal shooting of 11 people at the Tree of Life Congregation in Squirrel Hill. Mr. Bowers' family has not communicated with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but online resources suggest a troubled early life.

There were recent warning signs, but they may have been invisible, except to those in a remote corner of the social media landscape.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks the activities of extremists, on Monday released an analysis of Mr. Bowers’ online social media activity.

Pittsburgh police name officers injured in Tree of Life mass shooting

The center found that, “in the 19 days before Bowers carried out his act of mass murder, he posted or reposted memes and comments at least 68 times.” Many of those reflected “antisemitic conspiracy theories that have long been in circulation among neo-Nazis and white nationalists,” the center found.

The analysis indicated that Mr. Bowers seemed to be influenced by white nationalist fixations on the caravan of Central Americans moving through Mexico, and by fringe “white genocide” theories that Jews and minorities were, in combination, threatening whites with “extinction.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2018/10/29/Robert-Bowers-suspect-gunman-Pittsburgh-Tree-of-Life-synagogue-massacre-attack-federal-court/stories/201810290090

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Timeline of terror: A moment-by-moment account of Squirrel Hill mass shooting

Gunshots and terror filled Squirrel Hill for more than an hour Saturday morning at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Wilkins Avenue at the intersection of Shady Avenue when a shooter entered the synagogue and opened fire. He killed 11 people and wounded six others, including four police officers.

The shooter, believed to be 46-year-old Robert Bowers, eventually surrendered after a gunbattle with police on the third floor of the synagogue.

Below is a timeline of the attack, pieced together from police reports, radio dispatches, witness accounts and official statements made on Saturday, Oct. 27:

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2018/10/28/TIMELINE-20-minutes-of-terror-gripped-Squirrel-Hill-during-Saturday-synagogue-attack/stories/201810280197

The Wall Street Journal: At Netflix, Radical Transparency and Blunt Firings Unsettle the Ranks

At a Netflix Inc. corporate retreat in July, Chief Executive Reed Hastings teared up as he addressed some 500 executives.

Mr. Hastings had recently fired his chief communications officer for saying the “N-word” in full form. The executive, who is white, was attempting to make an emphatic point during a meeting about offensive words in comedy programming and said the slur wasn’t directed at anyone.

Read more: https://www.wsj.com/articles/at-netflix-radical-transparency-and-blunt-firings-unsettle-the-ranks-1540497174

Sacramento Bee: An ‘F’ in oversight: California fails to police for-profit colleges as feds back down on regulations

Jana Bergevin’s dream was as elusive as it is common: a career in Hollywood. Growing up near Sacramento, she didn’t imagine herself in front of a camera or even behind one. She wanted to be an animator, able to turn her imagination into stories for screens big and small.

Admissions officers at The Art Institute of San Francisco convinced her the for-profit college could all but guarantee her a job in the industry if she graduated from its expensive program. They talked about their connections to studios such as Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks.

She completed her bachelor of arts in 2007 but no entertainment job materialized. Admissions officers stuck to their selling points, persuading her to return for a graduate degree, she said. After seven years at the school, Bergevin said, she had $114,000 in debt and a monthly loan payment of $1,200.

She still did not have the job she expected, nor the help getting one she said The Art Institute assured her it would provide.

Angry at what she describes as fraud by the school – including false promises, poor teaching and job placement statistics that seemed inflated – she filed a complaint in 2016 with California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, the state agency charged with licensing and regulating for-profit colleges and vocational schools. She wanted its investigators to find out if the school’s marketing materials were fair and accurate, or if she and her classmates had been duped.

“I was like, you need to really look at this school,” she said. “You need to stop what’s going on.”

Years passed with no answers – as with hundreds of other complaints filed with the BPPE.

Read more: https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article219960675.html

San Francisco Chronicle: A killer game: Now that we know football can destroy players: What are we going to do about it?

I loved playing football.

The camaraderie. The physical and mental challenge. The sheer speed and chaos of it all.

It wasn’t always fun. I suffered a concussion on my very first play of varsity football as a sophomore. I remember vomiting on the sideline and running right back out there. That’s just what you did.

And I still loved most every minute of it. When the drums began to play on Friday nights, my heart would race in anticipation. I still get amped when I hear that sound.

As I’ve written before, my teammates and I used to joke that football was “sanctioned violence ... with all your friends.”

Sadly, the joke was on us. Thirty years removed from the last time I buckled a chin strap, the true cost of football has come into clear focus.

The sport I loved to play. The sport we love to watch, on Friday nights, on Saturday afternoons, on Sundays and Mondays and Thursdays, too. The sport of football is a killer.

It’s not a matter of much debate anymore, after decades of denial. Scientific evidence has shown a clear connection between repeated head trauma suffered while playing football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain condition that can manifest itself in a slew of awful ways, including depression, aggression, dementia, Parkinson’s disease — and suicide. After seeing generations of its players suffer, the NFL acknowledged the link only in 2016.

Read more: https://www.sfchronicle.com/sports/article/We-know-football-is-deadly-What-are-we-going-to-13319238.php

The Times-Picayune: For New Orleans gangs, it's kill or be killed, no matter the collateral cost

Taiesha Watkins, a 27-year-old Houston-area mother, stood outside a daiquiri shop during a July girls' trip to New Orleans.

Earnest McKnight, a 63-year-old Central City man, went to his neighborhood corner store in September 2016.

Deshawn Kinard, 7 months old, sat strapped in a car seat in 2013 as his mother steered a Honda toward the Crescent City Connection.

Deborah Cotton, a 48-year-old culture writer, was marching in a second-line on Mother's Day 2013 in the 7th Ward.

None of them could have expected they were about to become victims of New Orleans gang violence. All four were fatally wounded, joining a growing list of collateral damage from the city's gang-related shootings that the New Orleans Police Department superintendent, city officials and relatives of the victims decry as "senseless."

Last year, 585 people were shot in New Orleans, and 153 of them died - staggering levels of gun violence for a city our size. Gangs account for at least 40 percent, and as much as 60 percent, of those shootings, criminologists and law enforcement officials estimate.

The vast majority of shootings have one or two victims, though it's unclear how often uninvolved bystanders are shot. But the frequency of shootings - more than a one a day - chips away at residents' sense of safety, and LSU School of Public Health criminologist Peter Scharf said the wounding or killing of bystanders can strip it completely away.

Read more: https://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2018/10/new_orleans_gang_violence_cult.html
Portland Press-Herald: Pro-offshore oil group chaired by LePage is run by energy lobbyists

A coalition of governors headed by Gov. Paul LePage that seeks to open most federal waters to oil and gas exploration is staffed by employees of an oil industry lobbying firm, according to records obtained by the Maine Sunday Telegram.

The Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, which LePage joined in 2015 and has chaired for the past two years, outsources all of its day-to-day staffing, research and communications tasks to an advocacy group purporting to represent energy consumers. But a closer look at the group – the Consumer Energy Alliance – reveals that it is funded by energy producers and staffed and run by senior officials of HBW Resources, a Houston energy-focused lobbying and consulting firm.

The coalition – whose five other members are all governors from oil-producing states – has sought to greatly expand the area open to offshore energy development, streamline permitting and increase the share of revenues states receive. The group has relied on HBW officials to organize meetings, draft responses to press inquiries, research and develop its talking points and even design its logo.

“If you want to put the fox in charge of the henhouse, that’s what these governors have done in using CEA to drive their work,” says Sean Mahoney, executive vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation, which spearheaded the 1982 moratorium on drilling in New England waters that the Trump administration has proposed overturning. “They’re unabashedly an organization formed and staffed by oil companies and drilling companies with the sole purpose of fostering greater oil exploration both offshore and onshore.”

Read more: https://www.pressherald.com/2018/10/28/pro-offshore-oil-group-chaired-by-lepage-is-run-by-energy-lobbyists/

The Baltimore Sun: Baltimore Sun database of police reports details acts of anti-Semitism in Maryland

Members of the Jewish community in the Baltimore region and across the nation have expressed shock and grief over the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 dead on Saturday.

They fear anti-Semitic acts that are showing up with other hate crimes with alarming frequency across Maryland.

Last year, Maryland law enforcement agencies received 398 reports of hate or bias — alleged incidents that ranged from vandalism and intimidation to threats and attacks, according to an investigation by The Baltimore Sun.

The reported incidents represented an increase of 35 percent from 2016 — and a pace of more than one report a day.

An investigation by Baltimore Sun reporter Catherine Rentz examined all of the nearly 700 reports filed over two years. The Sun built a database from the reports, which were made to local authorities and collected by the Maryland State Police.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/investigations/bs-md-hate-crimes-synagogue-20181028-story.html

Kansas City Star: Stalk. Murder. Repeat.

A voice cried out in the dark: “Fire!”

It was a witness who saw flames eating up the second-floor apartment where Ying Li, a 52-year-old woman, lived.

Li herself made not a sound.

When Kansas City firefighters rolled into the Northland apartment complex shortly before 6 a.m. that summer morning in 2016, they uncovered a grisly scene.

Fires had been staged in several places inside the apartment. Li’s body lay in the living room, decapitated.

Li had been advertising herself online as a massage worker, police learned — a clue that would link her murder to a series of crimes that began in the 1960s. Homicide detectives suspected the killer was a man long known to police as an incredibly violent predator.

It was not the first time they had connected him to a woman’s death, or a suspicious fire.

Yet, he had remained elusive to them for more than four decades. And as the smoke cleared that morning, he was still a free man.

The story of Robert J. Gross begins in an era before DNA evidence, at the dawn of the FBI’s profiling science. It traverses Kansas City’s heyday of violence, bypasses the modernization of police forensic techniques, and deposits Gross deep in the 21st century with his worst crimes unpunished.

Generations of survivors, victims’ families and flummoxed detectives are familiar with Gross’ bloody trail of death and destruction. Women he encountered a generation ago are still terrified to speak of him. Gross, through an attorney, declined to comment on this story.

For the first time, The Star is revealing Gross’ darkest secrets, presenting a full picture of the longtime serial murder suspect, his victims, and the prodigious efforts of police to catch a killer.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article216750900.html

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Bills to taxpayers for Greitens prosecutions exceed six figures; some not yet released

ST. LOUIS • Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s decision to prosecute two felony cases against former Gov. Eric Greitens has cost taxpayers at least $115,000 so far, with the office contractually bound to pay at least $10,000 more for related litigation, according to an analysis of expense records obtained by the Post-Dispatch.

Greitens was indicted in February on one felony count of invasion of privacy, accused of taking a photo of a semi-nude woman without her consent during their 2015 affair. Greitens was planning a run for governor but hadn’t made a public announcement at the time. He was later charged with computer tampering for allegedly using a charity donor list for political fundraising.

A day before opening statements in a May 14 trial, Gardner dismissed the case rather than subject herself to questioning under oath about perjury allegations against the private investigator she had hired for the case. Two weeks later, Gardner, a Democrat, announced a deal to drop the computer tampering case in exchange for the Republican governor’s resignation.

“It is time for us to move on,” Gardner said on May 30.

Still outstanding are bills related to Gardner’s battle against the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate perjury allegations. The bulk of the money Gardner’s office spent went to outside consultants and a private investigator, work and testimony that a judge barred from coming into evidence. If the trial had gone forward, the prosecution’s only evidence that Greitens snapped a compromising photo of the woman was her testimony that she had seen a flash and heard the shutter sound an iPhone makes.

Gardner, through her spokeswoman, Susan Ryan, declined an in-person interview. Gardner instead released a statement Friday, after a report about the expenses was posted online.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/bills-to-taxpayers-for-greitens-prosecutions-exceed-six-figures-some/article_6da499d2-5689-505b-9613-dc3840a57843.html

Democrat & Chronicle: Brighton Reserve: An exclusive Costello community under a cloud

When Ellen and Irwin Solomon moved into their condominium at the Reserve last winter, they thought their days of outdoor chores were behind them. The homeowners association would cut their grass, trim their hedges and plow their driveway.

But a few months ago, Irwin Solomon went out and bought himself a new lawnmower.

The homeowners association, the Solomons had learned, wasn’t doing what it being paid to do, and Anthony J. Costello & Son was at fault.

These are dark times for Costello & Son, the Rochester company that developed the Reserve and several other ambitious, innovative projects.

The Reserve, located on the Erie Canal in Brighton, is half-finished. Million-dollar mansions sit amid vacant lots. Rubble and weeds fill plots where loft apartments were supposed to be.

Staff have been dismissed and the project's finances are in disarray, the Democrat and Chronicle learned in an investigation over recent months. The state Attorney General's Office has stepped in once and is being asked to intervene again. Residents are threatening to sue their own developer.

Read more: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2018/10/27/brighton-reserve-unfinished-sale-costello-son-lawsuits-exclusive/1760577002/

The News and Observer: Will charging opioid dealers with murder prevent fatal overdoses? NC prosecutors hope so.

In April 2016, Cindy Patane found her son unconscious in his bedroom, needles on the table nearby, beaten by a disease he could not conquer.

After years of struggle to stay clean, including a six-month stay at a halfway house, Matt Eyster ground up and injected Opana, a synthetic opioid so powerful and addictive it is no longer sold by pharmaceutical companies. The drug left him brain dead at 21.

In their last moments together before Matt was taken off life support, Patane pressed her forehead to her son’s face as he breathed through a tube. Then she went to her Eastern North Carolina home, took a shower and started searching through Matt’s phone records, his Facebook account and his deleted texts.

Through those messages, Patane retraced the fatal Opana pill to the moment of the sale. Within six months, the woman who sold the drugs to Matt would be indicted for second-degree murder, largely due to Patane’s investigation. The prison sentence for Melinda Chaulk, now 40, on a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter: four years, 10 months.

Charging opioid suppliers with murder in fatal overdoses is increasingly common in North Carolina. No one keeps track of the total across all 100 counties, but prosecutors have brought at least 20 cases in the last two years as the state’s opioid crisis worsens.

Opinions differ on whether tougher sentences can steer dealers away from drugs with a deadly history, especially the cheap, synthetic opioid fentanyl. Disagreements also abound on whether dealers need longer prison time when many are addicts themselves. But for mothers such as Patane, nothing but a murder charge could fit the crime.

“That’s the only way you can fix it,” said Patane, a second-grade teacher with two other children. “You just want accountability. Somebody did this to my boy. Just because Matt made a bad choice doesn’t make your crime less of a crime. Matt had consequences. She should have consequences as well.”

North Carolina saw 2,323 people die from opioid and other drug overdoses in 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated, nearly double the number who died in car crashes. That total rose 14.5 percent from 2016 — one of the most dramatic increases in the country.

Read more: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article219944210.html

Akron Beacon Journal: Summit County prosecutor employees file harassment, discrimination complaints

Several employees in the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office say they have been bullied, denied raises, harassed and brought to tears.

They also say they felt they had to campaign or contribute to longtime Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh’s campaign or face consequences.

“I have worked for three administrations,” Yolanda Richardson, a secretary in the prosecutor’s office for 21 years, wrote in a complaint she recently filed with Summit County. “The Bevan Walsh administration is by far the worst.”

Jennifer Cline, a grand jury coordinator who filed a complaint and later resigned, compared working in Walsh’s office to a real-life “Mean Girls.”

Richardson and Cline are among five current and former prosecutor employees who filed complaints being investigated by Summit County’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office. The complaints allege discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation. They are hoping for the terminations of one or more supervisors in Walsh’s office.

Read more: https://www.ohio.com/news/20181027/summit-county-prosecutor-employees-file-harassment-discrimination-complaints

Austin American Statesman: Is the Texas DPS skewing its border security stats - again?

In December 2016, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers arrested a woman on drunken driving charges in the picturesque Hill Country town of Brady. The arrest took place a few blocks from the Heart of Texas Country Music Museum and a few miles from the historical marker on the edge of town delineating the geographic center of Texas.

But the DPS classified this routine police work in the literal heart of Texas — about 200 miles from the Mexico border — as one of the nearly 40,000 border arrests it has made over the past two years, a statistic the department provides in online fact sheets and in testimony to lawmakers when touting its $350 million per year border security effort.

The Brady arrest is not an outlier in DPS statistics. According to an American-Statesman analysis of what the DPS considers border arrests, nearly 30 percent occurred more than 100 miles from the border — in Hill Country cities like Brady and Mason, as well as Panhandle towns like Seminole and Denver City. Included in the numbers are thousands of arrests in the West Texas cities of Odessa, Midland and San Angelo, nearly 200 miles from Mexico. Many of those far-flung arrests lack a nexus to cartel activity or smuggling offenses.

Read more: https://www.statesman.com/news/20181025/is-texas-dps-skewing-its-border-security-stats---again

Dallas Morning News: Texas patients lose in the state’s appeals system

he first time doctors prescribed a special breathing device for Zak Farquer, he had just woken from a coma in a Dallas hospital, paralyzed from the neck down. A car had crashed into the 13-year-old as he rode a scooter.

Over the next few years, four other doctors also said he needed the $13,000 machine, which pumps vapor medicine to clear out his lungs and prevent deadly infections. The state health commission agreed, ordering the company it hired to care for him to cover the cost of the equipment he has used every day since he left the hospital.

But the company ignored that order and refused to pay, again and again, according to his medical records. The company denied him other equipment, too. Six times in five years, Farquer had to get a lawyer and file formal appeals and complaints to get coverage for the treatment and devices his doctors prescribed, legal records show.

“I didn’t understand,” said Farquer, now 22. “I need this equipment to keep me alive and healthy.

“Why would you put my life on the line to save money?”

When health care companies hired by the state refuse to cover doctor-ordered medical treatments, patients and their families are supposed to be able to fight back through a so-called “fair hearing.”

In these proceedings, employees of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission weigh testimony from the patient and from the company, typically by phone. Experts say this system is crucial to making sure companies that manage the Medicaid health-care system aren’t boosting their profits by refusing to pay for treatments patients really need.

But in Texas, the system is stacked against patients, a Dallas Morning News investigation found.

Read more: https://interactives.dallasnews.com/2018/pain-and-profit/part7.html#_ga=2.226758046.248284641.1540761186-1929016054.1526065298

Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Sex offenders in Hudson Valley skirt rules on photographs, residency

Ten percent of sex offenders in Westchester who are deemed a high or moderate risk to re-offend have failed to provide updated photographs as required, a review of the state Sex Offender Registry by The Journal News/lohud found.

That figure is even higher in Mount Vernon, despite a state audit four years ago that faulted city police for not acting on notifications from the state when photos were overdue.

And while the Westchester Department of Probation has a policy of keeping all registered sex offenders more than 1,000 feet from schools and playgrounds, lohud found several probationers who were living closer than that to those locations.

"There needs to be very strict rules regarding residency restrictions because otherwise it leaves departments with too much discretion and then the rules vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction," said Laura Ahearn, the founder and executive director of Parents for Megan's Law and the Crime Victim Center.

Read more: https://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/2018/10/24/sex-offenders-violate-various-state-rules-hudson-valley-level-3-level-2/1695927002/

The Virginian-Pilot: Virginia Lottery says it will monitor frequent winners after Virginian-Pilot investigation

RICHMOND — In the wake of an investigation by The Virginian-Pilot on frequent winners, the Virginia Lottery has rolled out three policy changes aimed at identifying and stopping potential fraud among its roughly 5,200 retailers.

The most significant step: The state lottery will start regularly analyzing its winner database to identify those frequently claiming tickets, Director Kevin Hall announced Wednesday.

"Going forward, this will identify repeat winners and help us determine if circumstances warrant further investigation," Hall said at one of the lottery's public meetings.

Lottery spokesman John Hagerty confirmed that the agency has started reviewing the state's most frequent winners, as long as they have claimed a winning ticket in the last year. The roughly 40 top players, which The Pilot identified to the agency months ago, had not previously been investigated.

The Pilot's investigation found that between 2008 and 2016, 92 people won at least 50 tickets worth $600 or more apiece, according to data from the Virginia Lottery. Some of these players collected prizes with statistically impossible frequency.

Read more: https://pilotonline.com/news/government/virginia/article_49102ec0-d91c-11e8-bdf9-33ec09c1bae3.html

Courier Journal: Kentucky's tech czar enjoyed free housing — until we asked about it

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Charles Grindle, Kentucky’s highly paid chief technology officer, was given 64 nights of free housing in the Old Governor’s Mansion and in a Governor’s Mansion cottage during his first four months on the job in late 2017 and early 2018.

But it wasn’t until Oct. 19 of this year — nearly nine months after he moved out and 31 days after the Courier Journal asked about the arrangement — that Grindle paid the state $6,976 in rent.

Pamela Trautner, spokeswoman for the Finance and Administration Cabinet, said Tuesday that she had no immediate explanation for the payment delay. In an email, she added that "After Mr. Grindle became a state employee, he was invoiced for his lodging at the Old Governor's and New Governor's Mansions, which he paid."

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2018/10/30/kentucky-technology-chief-stayed-free-governor-mansion/1818426002/

In wake of Khashoggi's killing, Washington Post announces "Press Freedom Partnership"

"Thirty days ago, Jamal Khashoggi was lured into a death trap," Washington Post publisher and CEO Fred Ryan said at the International Women's Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Awards tonight in DC on Thursday night.

Ryan, who was there to accept the group's leadership award, dedicated his speech to Khashoggi. "If Saudi Arabia faces no consequences for Jamal’s murder, it sends a powerful message of tolerance, perhaps even encouragement. And every journalist in every country will be at greater risk," Ryan said.

Then he shared an announcement. "To help in this effort, today we announce an important new Washington Post initiative called the Press Freedom Partnership," Ryan said. "Working with the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, Reporters Without Borders, and other interested groups, we are making a major global commitment to increase awareness of the importance of an independent press."

Ryan said the Post would devote "ongoing" resources; deploy its "marketing and advertising capabilities;" and use the reach of the paper's platforms "to champion the journalists who take risks every day to expose the truth."

Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/02/media/reliable-sources-11-01-18/

Associated Press: AP finds guns sold by police were used in new crimes

The Spokane, Washington, City Council is considering a proposal to stop the police department from selling forfeited firearms, following an Associated Press investigation found that guns sold by Washington state law enforcement agencies were later used in new crimes.

Councilwoman Candace Mumm said Thursday that the AP investigation coupled with a review of the proceeds from the gun sales inspired the council to want to end the practice.

“They’re putting assault weapons back into the community,” Mumm said. “I felt the benefit of destroying them outweighed the costs.”

Under state law, police and sheriff’s departments have the option to sell, destroy or trade firearms confiscated in criminal investigations, but the law requires the Washington State Patrol to sell the guns. All sales are conducted through a federally licensed gun dealer.

Read more: https://www.theolympian.com/article221002270.html

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Oct. 26, 2018

L.A. County firefighters earn massive overtime pay, busting budgets and raising questions

Overtime costs at the Los Angeles County Fire Department surged 36% in the last five years, placing some firefighters among the highest-compensated workers in local government.

The increase comes as the department grapples with staffing shortages and several seasons of extreme wildfires. Yet some county officials and outside experts question whether fire commanders are properly managing their $1-billion payroll.

The county recently launched an audit of the department’s overtime costs and payroll procedures, though it will be months before that is complete. The Times conducted an analysis of the county payroll database, which lists salaries, overtime and fringe benefits received by about 100,000 employees in the last five years.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-county-fire-overtime-20181021-story.html

San Francisco Chronicle: Oakland police applicants asked to disclose whether they were sexually assaulted

The Oakland Police Department, which has long struggled to recruit women, asks all officer applicants to disclose whether they have been sexually assaulted, The Chronicle has learned.

The inquiry does not appear to be common. The Chronicle checked with police departments in the 10 most populous cities in California and could not find another that screens for whether candidates are sexual assault victims.

The practice is “inexcusable,” said retired Portland, Ore., Police Chief Penny Harrington, the first woman to lead a major city police force.

“There’s absolutely no reason to be doing that,” said Harrington, who founded the National Center for Women and Policing. “I can’t imagine why they would need to know that information, except as a way to wash out women.”

Legal experts said the inquiry is odd and potentially problematic, although there is disagreement over whether it’s illegal.

Read more: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Oakland-police-applicants-must-disclose-if-they-13322272.php

Orlando Sentinel: Orlando airport chairman Frank Kruppenbacher's global travels span 100 days and $100,000

As the appointed, unpaid chairman of Orlando International Airport, Frank Kruppenbacher has traveled globally for more than 100 days in the past six years and cost the public more than $100,000, shows an examination by the Orlando Sentinel of hundreds of pages of his expense reports.

Kruppenbacher went to Shanghai twice, Beijing three times, Tokyo four years in a row and to Buenos Aires, Argentina; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Frankfurt, Germany; Istanbul; Panama City; Santiago, Chile; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Turin, Italy, among other cities. He is currently making his fifth visit to Tokyo.

Kruppenbacher, 66, said his trips on behalf of the nation’s 11th-busiest airport are important to help recruit premier airlines of other countries, a common quest of major airports in the United States.

“As Chairman, it is essential that I participate in discussions where Aviation Authority leadership can add weight to the negotiations or provide the necessary gravitas,” Kruppenbacher said in a written statement for the Orlando Sentinel. “International business is built on establishing relationships and cultivating trust.”

Read more: https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-ne-orlando-airport-globetrotting-chairman-20181018-story.html

Pensacola News: Stays at Escambia County detention center spike as juvenile arrests increase, law changes

Seven elementary school-aged boys sit around a table at a community center, passing baked chicken and sides. They avoid the green beans as children do, and hold hands as they say grace.

For a few hours inside the small, barred-window building on North Miller Street, they forget that many of them will walk home through unforgiving streets that saw three shootings in as many weeks.

The woman reminding them to sit up straight and wash their hands before they eat is Evelyn Webber, known to them as "Miss Evelyn." Once a guard at a juvenile justice facility in Milton, she now runs programs at Pensacola's Dorrie Miller Community Center to teach neighborhood kids the consequences of their actions, how to mentally process the violence they witness and life skills they aren’t being taught at home.

On this particular day in mid-September, the younger boys are learning mealtime etiquette in the hopes that discipline and manners will build a foundation for a successful future.

But some of the boys don’t go back to homes where families eat meals together.

Even more don’t have a dinner table at all.

Webber’s hope is that inside that small center, she and her volunteers can wrap the children with enough love and support to offset the overwhelming factors that put some of these kids at a very real risk of overburdening juvenile justice facilities and agencies across the state.

Department of Juvenile Justice data shows the Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center experienced a huge spike in use in the most recently reported year, 2016-2017, putting it at a 94 percent average utilization rate, compared to 69 percent the year prior. The utilization rate is an average showing how full the detention facility likely was on any given day that year.

Read more: https://www.pnj.com/story/news/crime/2018/10/20/escambia-county-juvenile-detention-stays-spike-arrests-increase/1344227002/

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Atlanta paid Reed’s former law firm millions for vague flat-fee bills

During former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s last four years in office, the city paid $2.2 million to a global law firm where Reed once worked for services only vaguely described on invoices as “litigation consultation” and “legal research.”

The Paul Hastings LLP bills don’t identify the lawyers who performed the work and offer no detail about the nature of the legal services provided to the city. The bills topped out at $125,000 per month during a run from April through December of 2016.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution over the past year has reviewed thousands of pages of legal invoices submitted to the city by outside law firms. The “flat rate” bills from Paul Hastings are just a fraction of the $10 million the firm billed during Reed’s two terms as mayor, but could have serious consequences for Atlanta’s airport.

Prompted by the AJC’s reporting, the Federal Aviation Administration in July began investigating if Atlanta improperly used airport revenues to pay outside law firms, including Paul Hastings, for work associated with the federal corruption probe of the Reed administration.

Using airport funds to pay for non-airport services, known as revenue diversion, is against FAA regulations and could jeopardize tens of millions of dollars in future aviation grants if the FAA found the city engaged in it.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt--politics/atlanta-paid-reed-former-law-firm-millions-for-vague-flat-fee-bills/GjS8VuKc8eQYzT6kbsc6fM/

Indianapolis Star: 'They lost what they call home': Danger of natural gas explosions lurks just beneath surface

When two loud booms shook their quiet neighborhood last November, residents of Camby, Indiana, rushed outside and received a shocking lesson in gas line safety.

What they saw was far less harsh than the catastrophe that struck three small communities outside Boston in September, where aging iron gas lines and human error caused more than 30 explosions and house fires.

But the incident in Camby shows that Hoosiers are not immune from the worst, despite recent strides in pipeline safety.

About once a year — eight times in eight years — gas line damage led to an explosion in Indiana, a federal pipeline safety agency reports. In the Camby case, neighbors watched a house “crack apart” and a garage door blow out before the “house collapsed inward on itself in a ball of fire.” It was one of more than 20 major incidents since 2010 that injured a total of 11 people, killed one, and ignited buildings across the state.

Business owners share their best advice for cutting costs

Here in Indiana, an IndyStar analysis of records and data reveals, most of the iron pipe blamed for the Boston disaster has been removed. And pressurization is not a problem here, either, as it was there.

Read more: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/environment/2018/10/17/massachusetts-indiana-pipeline-explosions-could-happen/1455017002/

Des Moines Register: Confused, anxious and far from home: Dementia patients turned away from many Iowa nursing homes

STORY CITY, Ia. — Gailen Clausen and Tommy Nash are unwelcome in most Iowa nursing homes.

Clausen, 55, and Nash, 47, have severe forms of dementia, caused by a mysterious rotting away of their brains.

The men can become confused and anxious when caregivers they don't recognize try to touch them, their families say. They have sometimes responded by trying to push or slap at staff members or relatives.

Lashing out is a common symptom of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. It's increasingly a reason for Iowa's 416 nursing homes to turn away patients, especially if they're relatively young, experts say.

“Once they get marked as aggressive, it’s over. It’s like, ‘Oh, we can’t deal with them,’” said Linnea Clausen, Gailen's wife.

That's why Gailen Clausen is living in Story City's Bethany Life nursing home, which is 190 miles from his family's home in the northwest Iowa town of Craig. And it's why Tommy Nash is living in a nursing home in Newton, 125 miles south of his hometown of Osage.

"It's an awful, awful thing that's going on all over the country," said Nash's ex-wife, Deb Scharper of Osage, who has two adult children with him and serves as his legal guardian.

Nursing homes aren't required to report when they turn away potential residents, so there are no solid numbers on how often it happens.

But families and Iowa and national experts say the problem is growing. They say its causes include a shortage of money, increasingly strict regulations and the burgeoning population of relatively young — and strong — adults struck with early onset Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/health/2018/10/16/dementia-patient-iowa-nursing-home-alzheimers-disease-frontotemporal-degeneration-mental-health-care/1458481002/

Times-Picayune: Everyone saw the French Quarter attack. Few saw the mental health care failures behind it.

As officers placed Dejuan Paul in handcuffs outside of Covenant House, a youth shelter on the edge of New Orleans’ French Quarter, the distraught 21-year-old pleaded with his counselor.

“Miss Foots!” he shouted. “I thought you weren’t going to send me away!”

Cynthia Foots, who has worked at the shelter for more than 10 years, tried to tell Paul everything was going to be OK. “You can come back home, baby,” she said, trying to reassure him. “They’re going to take you to get some help.”

A few minutes earlier, Paul had warned Foots there were voices in his head. They were telling him to kill her.

“I’m losing control. I can’t control them!” Paul had shouted. “I need my medicine!” He then made a “loud squealing noise,” according to a Covenant House critical incident report.

Foots didn’t want to call police. She promised Paul she wouldn’t, that she would stay by his side and help him, no matter what. But he was a danger to himself and others and needed help.

As she watched the patrol car drive off, taking Paul to the behavioral health emergency room at University Medical Center, she assumed he would be committed for several days, possibly weeks, to receive the treatment and medication he so desperately needed. But only 27 hours later, Paul appeared back at Covenant House. The hospital had released him with instructions to follow-up with a mental health care provider.

A week later, on June 24, 2017, Paul and three other young men attacked and robbed two tourists in town for a Unitarian conference, leaving one hospitalized in critical condition.

Today, Paul is an inmate at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, serving an 8-year sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree armed robbery.

Foots is a product of the Desire and Melpomene public housing developments. There are few things capable of unsettling her. And yet, what she experienced that day, and the events that unfolded over the ensuing months, shocked her conscience, she said.

It wasn’t just the crime itself, captured on dramatic surveillance video that stunned even New Orleans and made headlines across the country. It was also what the crime exposed – widespread failures in a broken Louisiana mental health system that, Foots asserts, is partly responsible for a preventable violent act.

A review of Paul’s UMC medical records by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune raised significant questions. Four hours after he was admitted, a doctor wrote that Paul was “having auditory hallucinations” and that he was “a potential threat to himself and other people as well as gravely disabled.”

Read more: https://www.nola.com/expo/news/erry-2018/10/5d06e0ae423128/everyone-saw-the-french-quarte.html

Times-Picayune: RTA commissioner resigns amid dubious deals with vendors, then punches back

The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority’s finance committee chairman has resigned following an internal investigation that found evidence suggesting he improperly sold parts to an RTA vendor and sought to circumvent public bidding to benefit a “business partner.”

Al Herrera, the RTA commissioner who resigned Thursday (Oct. 18), says he’s actually the “target of misguided and malicious attacks.” The Kenner businessman pledged in his resignation letter to become a “watchdog” and blow the whistle on other unspecified, alleged transgressions at the RTA.

Herrera’s resignation, first reported by The Advocate, comes after an Oct. 10 report found he had shown “a clear pattern of abuse of office that cannot be ignored.” Signed by the RTA’s interim executive director, Jared Munster, the 67-page report lays out emails and invoices documenting Herrera’s business dealings with the company building the RTA’s new ferry boats, attempts to drum up business with the RTA’s vendor for bus stop shelters and signs and a bidding workaround for a streetcar wheel manufacturer.

“The facts are undeniable that there was notice and clear intent to violate the ethics regulations and state statues prohibiting officials from benefitting from their positions in this matter,” the report, signed by Munster, says.

Read more: https://www.nola.com/politics/2018/10/rta-commissioner-resigns-amid-dubious-deals-with-vendors-then-punches-back.html

Baltimore Sun: The Baltimore Sun investigated 2 years of hate incident reports in Maryland. Here's what we found.

Founded as a place of religious freedom, Maryland has seen a sharp increase in reported hate – formal reports that people were harassed, threatened or even attacked because of their religion, race or sexual orientation.

In all, Maryland law enforcement agencies got 398 reports of hate or bias last year — up by more than a third from 2016.

An investigation by Baltimore Sun reporter Catherine Rentz took a close look at all of the nearly 700 reports filed over two years. The Sun built a database from the reports, which were made to local authorities and collected by the Maryland State Police.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/investigations/bs-md-hate-summary-201810-story.html

The Boston Globe: Lawmakers make most of travel option

In May 2016, Beacon Hill lawmakers gathered inside the Senate chamber to make history: They voted overwhelmingly to bar public discrimination against transgender people in what advocates hailed as a giant leap forward for civil rights.

But Senator Marc R. Pacheco didn’t cast a vote that day.

The Senate’s third-highest-ranking member was 4,000 miles away in Austria, delivering a speech on climate change in the picturesque mountain village of Fresach, his travel costs picked up by Austrian groups. He was the only member of the Senate who missed the chance to move the momentous bill forward.

This was just one of nearly 50 trips — all subsidized by outside groups — that the Taunton Democrat has taken since January 2013. And each was made possible by what one watchdog calls a “galactic-sized loophole” in state ethics regulations, one that Pacheco and scores of lawmakers take advantage of, according to a Globe analysis of more than 600 disclosures filed by legislators.

Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/10/20/junkets/A8IRH8IH9IjD0dFPn0JBlN/story.html

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: In Minnesota, half of sex assault cases police send to prosecutors never result in charges.

Hannah Traaseth told the deputies things she had been too afraid and ashamed to tell her father.

How she got into the car of a man she had never met before. How he and his friend had taken turns raping her, an experience so violent that she said she later texted a friend, “My body hurts.”

Traaseth was 13. The men were 21.

Investigators in Wisconsin and Maplewood spent the next 8 months working the case, even though Traaseth, afraid for her safety, initially misled them on how she met the men and where the assault occurred. Still, detectives combed through her text messages and social media accounts to identify possible suspects, and Traaseth soon told them everything. Then they obtained warrants for Facebook accounts, arrested and questioned two men and took samples of their DNA, which matched the samples found on the teenager’s underwear.

Police, convinced the evidence was strong enough to charge both men with rape, sent the case to the office of Ramsey County Attorney John Choi in May of 2016.

“We generally don’t send cases over unless we think there’s enough evidence,” said David Kvam, a commander at the Maplewood Police Department.

Choi’s office declined to charge the men, saying in a letter to the family that the teenager’s “conflicting versions” of what happened that night made it unlikely they would win at trial.

“We strongly believe that no responsible prosecutor in the state of Minnesota would charge this case,” Choi told the Star Tribune.

Bradley Traaseth, Hannah’s father, begged Maplewood police to resubmit the case.

They did. Five months later, Choi’s office again declined to press charges, citing the same reasons. In total, Choi’s office would review the case four times, each time electing not to charge either of the men.

Bradley Traaseth is still furious.

“This should be an open-and-shut case,” he said.

But most people accused of sexual assault in Minnesota won’t ever face a reckoning in court.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-rape-cases-rejected-by-the-prosecution-denied-justice-special-report-part-five/497700641/

Kansas City Star: One bishop could lead the way to another bishop being the first charged for sex abuse

The call last year from Pope Francis’ representative in Washington took the Rev. Steven Biegler by surprise.

A priest in South Dakota, Biegler learned he was the choice to become the ninth bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyo., leading the state’s 55,000 Catholics.

Though sad to leave his parishioners in Rapid City, Biegler was eager to begin ministering to a diocese that encompasses the entire state of Wyoming and covers nearly 100,000 square miles.

Biegler said he was excited to be continuing his journey “of saying yes to the Lord.”

But as it turned out, one of his first major decisions upon arriving in Cheyenne involved saying no.

No to a man who for nearly a quarter century had run the diocese he was now going to lead. A man who spent his first two decades as a beloved priest in Kansas City. And a man who — in large part because of Biegler’s persistence — could become the first Roman Catholic bishop in the country to be prosecuted for sexual abuse of a minor.

Bishop Joseph Hart, 87, stands accused of multiple acts of sexual abuse now deemed credible by both the Missouri and Wyoming dioceses that he served. And though the allegations involve incidents from decades ago, Wyoming stands out from most states when it comes to criminal prosecutions. It has no statute of limitations on criminal cases.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article220124815.html

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: How Josh Hawley shook up the Missouri attorney general's office — and what happened next

JEFFERSON CITY • In January 2017, Josh Hawley became the first Republican to lead the Missouri attorney general’s office in a quarter century. Hawley was going to take on the federal government. He was going to shake up his office’s organization chart.

His employees were bracing themselves.

Critics say Hawley’s administration bled staffers and dedicated limited resources to firing salvos toward the federal government. They say he carried a lighter load than his predecessors.

Seven lawyers interviewed by the Post-Dispatch described a turbulent transition from Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster to Hawley, triggered in part by his overhaul of the office. Former staffers complain of low morale.

“You don’t come in and shake it up just for the sake of shaking it up,” said Bernard Rhodes, a partner at the Lathrop and Gage law firm who has worked with the agency off and on for 30 years.

Hawley is running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat. In an interview, he said he “streamlined” the chain of command and said that after 25 years without big changes, the office needed a shake-up.

In 2017, Hawley’s first year, 98 employees left the attorney general’s office, according to state data obtained by the Post-Dispatch.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/how-josh-hawley-shook-up-the-missouri-attorney-general-s/article_28d323ab-5d76-564d-8f24-0f3743116812.html

Newark Star-Ledger: In Newark, reporting lapses hide thousands of student suspensions from public view

Newark schools are suspending thousands of students, the majority of them black, according to 2015-16 federal data collected by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

But because of reporting lapses, those suspensions are nowhere to be found in the state's published school report cards, where parents typically turn to seek out such data. Instead, the reports give the false impression that Newark has all but eliminated suspensions.

The flawed reports reveal the district's longtime struggle to track suspensions -- a data challenge that has impeded efforts to stop schools from inappropriately removing students or punishing students of one race more harshly than others.

ProPublica has compiled the federal data, which many people never see, in a new user-friendly portal, allowing the public to explore racial inequities across districts and schools. Using the tool to analyze suspensions in Newark, Chalkbeat found stark disparities between schools and between students of different races -- troubling patterns masked by the inaccurate state reports.

Read more: https://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2018/10/in_newark_reporting_lapses_hide_thousands_of_stude.html

Rochester Democrat: The $100 Million Man: How Cuomo’s campaign war chest became one of the nation’s largest

ALBANY - Halmar International did not have a state construction contract since 1988.

But that soon changed.

The Nanuet, Rockland County-based construction firm started to donate to Andrew Cuomo's election campaigns.

It gave $10,000 just prior to Cuomo's first win in 2010, and $135,000 overall in his eight years in office.

The company has since landed $236 million in state construction projects, plus a multitude of projects through the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, including a 23 percent stake in the massive $1.8 billion Long Island Railroad expansion, state records show.

While Cuomo denies any quid pro quo, similar examples are found throughout state government after he amassed one of the largest campaign funds of any Democratic governor in the nation.

As Cuomo seeks a third term in November, a review of records by the USA TODAY Network's Albany Bureau found Cuomo's campaign coffers are filled with donations from companies with business before the state — and regularly made through a massive loophole in state law.

The influence of money on New York politics is important: Taxpayers are often the ones on the hook for contracts and benefits awarded to donors.

Read more: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2018/10/18/andrew-cuomo-campaign-donations-donors-database/1409896002/

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Despite new DNA results, many rape cases statewide not reopened

CLEVELAND — Testing rape kits may be the law in Ohio. But following up on the results of those tests is not.

Outside of Cleveland, which has logged convictions in 382 rape kit cases, only a few dozen other cases across the state have made it to a courtroom.

A survey of police agencies, conducted by The Plain Dealer and community volunteers, found that in many cases, police departments and sheriff’s office are not reinvestigating thousands of older cases tested in recent years, even when they get DNA results.

Agencies that have followed up cases say victims are often reluctant to have their cases reopened, or recant allegations, if they can locate them at all. When police do have a victim willing to cooperate, prosecutors often decline to file charges or present the case to a grand jury.

The Plain Dealer, with the help of more than 100 community volunteers, attempted to survey all 294 law enforcement agencies that sent in rape kits for testing as part of the Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiative, which kicked off in late 2011 when Attorney General Mike DeWine issued an “open call” for the more than 800 law enforcement agencies in Ohio to send any kits that had not previously been tested for DNA.

Read more: https://www.ohio.com/news/20181021/despite-new-dna-results-many-rape-cases-statewide-not-reopened

Columbus Dispatch: Audit shows company failed to keep drug costs low for taxpayer-funded Medicaid

The health insurance group that billed Ohio twice the amount of its competitors to deliver medicine to Medicaid patients also fell significantly short of its goal to keep drug costs low.

The revelation is yet another from an audit by HealthPlan Data Solutions that was commissioned by the Ohio Department of Medicaid to determine whether the state is getting fair prices on drugs.

Portions of the audit were at first kept from the public, but a judge recently ordered that they be made public in response to a Dispatch public records request.

Auditors for HealthPlan found that the pharmacy benefit manager Envolve charged too much overall for drugs as compared to what it agreed to in its contract with Buckeye Health Plan. It is unclear how much more Envolve charged for prescription drugs because the number is redacted, or blacked out.

Three sources, including one who helped write the contract, told The Dispatch the overcharge was in the millions.

The finding is significant because Medicaid agrees to pay managed-care plans based on contracts from the previous year. So an underperforming pharmacy benefit manager raises costs. Pharmacy benefit managers are middlemen in the supply chain, and their intended purpose is to keep costs down.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/sideeffects/audit-shows-company-failed-keep-drug-costs-low-taxpayer-funded-medicaid/site/dispatch.com/

The Oregonian: On Hold: Crime victims, public wait 6 weeks or more for Portland police reports

One February night in Portland, a college student had a seizure while driving and crashed into a tree. No one, not even doctors, could figure out why. But there was hope, the physicians said: Clues to the medical mystery might be in the police report.

So, the 23-year-old went online and made a public records request. It would have been plain to anyone who read the request that it was urgent.

“This will help my doctor in providing me with an accurate diagnosis,” Mia Wait typed into the online form. Descriptions of Wait’s behavior and other facts in the report, Wait wrote, could help doctors piece together a timeline and diagnostic picture.

But Portland police responded to Wait’s request the way they do virtually all requests for public records: slowly. Weeks went by, then months, then half a year.

It took the Portland Police Bureau 10 months to respond.

By then, Wait’s doctors had given up. What’s more, the single page police eventually turned over was useless. The document it took police so long to send appeared to be from the wrong car accident.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/expo/news/erry-2018/10/cd13a8f84c9704/on-hold-crime-victims-public-w.html

Philadephia Inquirer: Acclaimed Philly scholastic chess coach sexually abused boys in 1980s, former pupils say

A nationally acclaimed chess coach who for decades taught math in Philadelphia's public schools sexually abused preteen and teenage boys in his Fairmount home in the 1980s, according to three former pupils who say they either endured or witnessed the abuse.

In independent interviews with the Inquirer and Daily News, the men described how the coach, Stephen Shutt, molested members or former members of his chess team from Frederick Douglass Elementary School in North Philadelphia.

One said he was about 11 when Shutt performed oral sex on him in the shower at Shutt's house; the other two said they saw Shutt do the same in his bed to boys who were in their early to mid-teens.

Shutt, 76, denied the accusations in interviews outside his home Thursday and Friday. "No, that did not happen," he said, speaking softly and at times shaking his head.

Read more: http://www2.philly.com/philly/news/crime/philadelphia-chess-coach-stephen-shutt-sex-abuse-masterman-frederick-douglass-elementary-20181019.html

Philadelphia Inquirer: Inside the city's polarizing, no-middle-ground war with Trump over sanctuary cities.

A small, impish grin spread across Jeff Sessions' face. It was a sun-drenched June afternoon in Scranton, a northeastern Pennsylvania town a few generations removed from its coal-mining heydays, and the U.S. attorney general was ensconced in a window-lined university hall, preaching to cops, prosecutors, and police cadets about the importance of President Trump's war on illegal immigration. Outside, protesters  jeered.

Sanctuary cities, Sessions said, reject the law, reward criminals, and put U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in peril. Then he smiled, and began attacking Jim Kenney, Philadelphia's Democratic mayor.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/illegal-immigration-ice-sanctuary-city-philadelphia-propublica-part-4.html

The Tennessean: Heroes in horror: Mass shootings across America create a celebrity culture around victims

When James Shaw Jr. lunged for a crazed gunman, wrestling an AR-15-style rifle from the man's hands and tossing it behind the counter at a terrorized Waffle House, he unexpectedly launched himself into a role he never could have imagined.

Within hours, Shaw Jr. was being heralded as a hero for his bravery.

His actions catapulted him into the spotlight at a police news conference less than 12 hours after the mass shooting that killed four people, wounded several others and left the city of Nashville in a panic.

Days later, he stood before the Tennessee state legislature, lauded for his altruism. He appeared on CNN and in the New York Times. He shook hands with NBA star Dwyane Wade on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." He had to hire a public relations representative to field all the appearance and interview requests.

He used his newfound celebrity to raise money for victims and start a nonprofit.

"I know you don't want to be called a hero," Wade said to Shaw Jr. on "Ellen" that day, "but I look at you as an American hero."

James Shaw Jr. holds his daughter, Brooklyn Shaw, 4, and cries while speaking during a prayer vigil for those affected by the Waffle House shooting, at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Antioch on April 23.Buy Photo

It is a remarkable story. A regular Nashvillian put on a metaphorical superhero cape and saved lives. And the nation latched on. Why?

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/10/21/mass-shootings-celebrity-culture-victims-heroes/1347434002/

The Greenville News: Amid Upstate's opioid epidemic, people with addiction struggle to find safe recovery homes

Taylor Smith fell in love with opioids at age 12.

He remembers suffering a knee injury from playing football and vividly recalls the feeling his first hydrocodone prescription gave him. He craved more.

The next 10 years of his life became nothing short of a nightmare.

After three overdoses, 16 failed rehab programs and a handful of jail visits, Smith became addicted to prescription opiates, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. He was sleeping in an abandoned house in Anderson, stealing anything he could to get his hands on to sell for drugs. He wanted to die.

It took his mother breaking down in tears after spotting him on the side of an Anderson street for him to realize how far he had sunk.

April 9, 2017. That day marked the first day of his sobriety.

“I’m sitting here, 21 years old, in an abandoned house with dirty needles on the floor, maggots on the floor, piss on the floor. I’m thinking, ‘If I’m 21 right now, it’s only going to get worse. I just can’t do it.”

For the next year, he remained clean, benefiting from the living environment at a Greenville County recovery residence called Freedom House.

But like many with an addiction, his story of recovery didn’t end there.

Read more: https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/local/greenville/2018/10/19/opioid-epidemic-finding-worthwhile-recovery-home-barrier/1345621002/

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: At-risk kids swell Arkansas truancy rate

Thousands of Arkansas children skip too much school to make academic progress each year, according to recent federal data.

At-risk youths struggle more with attendance, experts say -- especially children in foster care and those sent to juvenile court for truancy.

In 2015, 46 Arkansas school districts reported that at least 1 in 5 students were "chronically absent," according to U.S. Department of Education records.

Thirty schools, including Hot Springs High, Jacksonville High and Little Rock's Hall High, had at least 40 percent chronically-absent -- defined as missing at least 15 days in a school year -- students that year.

Overall, Arkansas' 14 percent chronically-absent rate placed the state just below the national average of 16 percent. Maryland topped the list, with more than 29 percent.

Chronic absenteeism is tied to graduation rates -- even more so than how many students receive free or reduced-price lunches or hold minority status in certain years, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's analysis of the data.

Read more: https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2018/oct/21/at-risk-kids-swell-state-truancy-rate-2/

AP analysis: ‘Obamacare’ shapes opioid grant spending

With Republicans and Democrats joining forces again in a bipartisan effort to target the U.S. opioid crisis, an Associated Press analysis of the first wave of emergency money from Congress finds that states are taking very different approaches to spending it.

To a large extent, the differences depend on whether states participated in one of the most divisive issues in recent American politics: the health overhaul known as “Obamacare.”

The AP analysis found states that expanded Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health overhaul reported spending their allocations more slowly than states that didn’t expand the health insurance program to poor, childless adults.

Read more: https://apnews.com/8866670406e84ac38dbbbd80a3426f5e

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Oct. 18, 2018

Anchorage Daily News: Alaska psychiatric patients being held in jail cells due to hospital staffing shortage

Workplace safety fears and staffing shortages at the state-run psychiatric hospital has the Alaska prison system bracing to house more and more psychiatric patients in jails.

Officials at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage said the facility recently halted admissions amid alarm by a spike in staff injuries over a two-week period from the end of September to early October. Cynthia Montgomery, the acting director of nursing, said administrators decided API could not safely take on more patients without additional staff.At the moment, API is now using only about 50 of its 80 beds. If there isn't room for a patient at API, the next step is placement at another treatment facility, like a local emergency room.

But Anchorage's hospital emergency rooms have been overflowing this year with psychiatric patients, in part because of API staffing shortages. Without hospital beds available, some potential API patients are expected to find themselves held in a mental health unit at a jail, even if they are not accused of a crime.

Read more: https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2018/10/12/more-alaska-psychiatric-patients-may-be-held-in-jail-cells-due-to-hospital-staffing-shortage/

Los Angeles Times: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s family benefited from U.S. program for minorities based on disputed ancestry

A company owned by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s in-laws won more than $7 million in no-bid and other federal contracts at U.S. military installations and other government properties in California based on a dubious claim of Native American identity by McCarthy’s brother-in-law, a Times investigation has found.

The prime contracts, awarded through a federal program designed to help disadvantaged minorities, were mostly for construction projects at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in McCarthy’s Bakersfield-based district, and the Naval Air Station Lemoore in nearby Kings County.

Vortex Construction, whose principal owner is William Wages, the brother of McCarthy’s wife, Judy, received a total of $7.6 million in no-bid and other prime federal contracts since 2000, The Times found.

The Bakersfield company is co-owned by McCarthy’s mother-in-law and employs his father-in-law and sister-in-law, Wages said. McCarthy’s wife was a partner in Vortex in the early 1990s.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-na-pol-mccarthy-contracts-20181014-story.html

San Francisco Chronicle: Warnings on risks of intensive teen camps led to dismissals, ex-employees say

Former employees of a Bay Area nonprofit that runs intensive retreats for teenagers to encourage empathy say they repeatedly warned their bosses that some of the camps’ methods were dangerously misguided and risked a potential lawsuit.

But the ex-employees of Silicon Valley Faces, including its former executive director, say they were dismissed after raising their concerns, even as thousands of high schoolers continued to attend the remote Camp Everytown retreats.

“The first time I heard of Camp Everytown was when I took over Faces, and as soon as I took over, I thought something is very wrong here,” said the former executive director, Samina Masood, who joined the organization in 2016. “What they do at camp is mental and psychological manipulation. It’s dangerous.”

Masood and two other former Faces employees — former program director Lauren McCabe and former manager Margaret Petros — said they were inspired to speak out after a Chronicle investigation of Camp Everytown and similar overnight retreats held nationwide since the 1950s.

Read more: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Warnings-on-risks-of-intensive-teen-camps-led-to-13301405.php

The San Diego Union-Tribune: Meant to help with mental illness, money from tax on millionaires piles up

hile the hepatitis A virus ran unchecked through the streets and homeless camps of San Diego last year, claiming 20 lives and sickening hundreds of others before it was corralled, $170 million in special funding for mentally ill people sat in a county bank account.

So much Mental Health Services Act revenue piled up, San Diego County collected more than $12 million in interest from the unspent cash.

Even today, as the homeless crisis deepens and suicide remains persistently high, critics say too much of the money the county spends from the fund goes to consultants, reports, public relations and pilot projects rather than direct treatment for patients most affected by mental illness.

“They’re not addressing the seriously mentally ill,” said Theresa Bish, who used to serve on the county mental health advisory board. “They have allowed the problem to be on the shoulders of our jails and prisons and hospitals.”

At the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year, the latest period for which data are available, San Diego County had $170.6 million in unspent Mental Health Services Act revenue, including $42 million held in reserve as required by the state.

The amount rose steadily over years, state records show. In 2007, the county had $23 million in unspent cash. By 2009, the bank balance swelled to $58 million and by 2011 it reached $133 million.

Read more: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sd-me-millionaires-tax-20181014-story.html

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Think no one can know how much you have in the bank? Think again

In a shadowy world seemingly ignored by regulators, something’s for sale that most people believe is theirs alone to know: bank account information.

Your account, your neighbor’s, your parents’ — all can be had for a price, and, even at a time of heightened interest in protecting personal privacy, little is being done to stop it.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution examined dozens of websites and Facebook pages in which private investigators and other so-called information brokers boast that they can locate bank accounts and balances.

What the review found was companies seemingly thumbing their noses at long-standing federal regulations and policies put in place by the banks themselves to protect financial privacy.

Give them a name, address and Social Security number and they will find the bank account and how much is in it, down to the last cent.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/crime--law/think-one-can-know-how-much-you-have-the-bank-think-again/abHXi57YOcM1E7jHztphLN/

Indianapolis Star: Migrant workers in Indiana: They harvest our food, but risk labor trafficking

BICKNELL, Ind. — The migrant workers, still soaked with sweat, lumber off an old school bus an hour before midnight and slowly file toward a cluster of mobile homes set back from the highway that cuts through this Knox County farm town.

It is the peak of harvest season, and days filled with picking cantaloupe and watermelon for 12 hours or more in the August heat are routine.

A young man, his feet bare, limps past me carrying a pair of tattered shoes. He grimaces in pain and fatigue.

"Hola."

He nods and then gingerly climbs the steps into a trailer and toward his bunk. Another exhausting day in southwest Indiana's melon fields is done.

Each year, thousands of migrant workers follow the harvest from Florida, Georgia and other parts of the South to Northern states such as Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. They pick and pack asparagus, melons, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables that grace Americans' dinner tables. They settle, sometimes for months, into roadside motels, apartment buildings and mobile home parks in farm towns across the country.

Read more: https://www.indystar.com/story/opinion/columnists/tim-swarens/2018/10/11/invisible-harvest-how-migrant-workers-who-harvest-indianas-crops-vulnerable-exploitation/934423002/

Des Moines Register: Capitol harassment: Lewd, intimidating conduct has created a 'toxic' Statehouse, staffers and lawmakers say

For more than a decade, Iowa legislators and staff members engaged in lewd and sexually aggressive behavior, creating a "toxic" environment and a "culture of secrets" at the state Capitol, according to detailed court depositions reviewed by the Des Moines Register.

The depositions, taken under oath by about two-dozen lawmakers and legislative staffers, comprise more than 1,000 pages of documents previously unreleased to the public. They were part of a landmark sexual harassment case that resulted in the state of Iowa paying a $1.75 million settlement last year.

The depositions detail more than 50 instances of inappropriate behavior that played out over years at the Capitol, including allegations that:

• Multiple staff members watched pornography at work, including male staffers who gathered to view a video of topless women jumping on a trampoline to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

• Staff members and lawmakers described female co-workers and lobbyists in lewd or sexually derogatory ways. For example, male legislative staffers would “go out in like a little pack,” assessing the physical attributes of female lobbyists. One male legislative employee called women "c----", a vulgar term referring to female genitalia.

• A senator gossiped with a colleague that a female senator was sexually promiscuous, while another senator asked a staff member on the Senate floor about the size of her nipples. The latter senator's drinking problems prompted a Senate leader to bring a breathalyzer to test his colleague before he spoke on the Senate floor.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2018/10/14/iowa-capitol-legislature-sexual-harassment-me-too-depositions-lawmakers-porn-senate-kirsten-anderson/1187425002/

Times-Picayune: Terrain, broken drains and too much rain: Why New Orleans floods

Like many New Orleans neighborhoods, low-lying Broadmoor dips below sea level. Its wide stretches of pavement and houses leave few options for rain to escape besides the city's drainage system of catch basins, underground pipes, canals and pumps.

When uncommonly heavy rain hits, Broadmoor's streets can flood along with areas surrounding it, including parts of Central City, Audubon, the Lower Garden District and Uptown. That's even if the pumps are all working at full tilt, the underground pipes are in perfect condition and the catch basins are completely unclogged.

Mid-City, the Central Business District, Gentilly, Lakeview and several other neighborhoods would fare little better during a severe storm, according to a key document city officials commissioned in 2010 called the Drainage Master Plan.

While the Sewerage & Water Board's pumps have been the focus of much public attention over the past year, New Orleans remains at risk of flooding from standard seasonal downpours -- not to mention hurricane season threats -- due to a confluence of inadequate and broken underground pipes, geographical dips in the terrain, several square miles of surface concrete and steadily sinking land that compounds all the negative effects.

This portrait is the consistent view of several local experts, drainage assessments and scientific studies that NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune has reviewed.

Read more: https://www.nola.com/expo/news/erry-2018/10/2f84ec67dd1323/terrain-broken-drains-and-too.html

Kansas City Star: A grocery divide: Why do so many stores east of Troost lack healthy food?

Denise Brunston lives miles east of Troost Avenue, but when she goes grocery shopping she heads west. Far west.

Past the stores that are more convenient to her home and over to the Cosentino’s Price Chopper in Brookside.

“It’s just a part of life,” says Brunston, a chemist who is black. “If you want the best of something, you’ve got to go where the white people are. This includes groceries.”

From the moment shoppers enter that store, like others west of Troost, they are greeted with a vibrant smorgasbord of colorful, fresh produce.

But on Brunston’s side of town, just inside the double doors at the Blue Parkway Sun Fresh Market, tiers of assorted Lay’s potato chips beckon. Across the aisle, boxes of Kool-Aid and gallon jugs of Best Choice fruit punch tower 6 feet high over a few displays of healthier options.

Customers must walk back 100 feet before they encounter the produce section.

“This is our normal,” Brunston says. “It’s frustrating. What does that mean for us, for our kids when our own stores push those kinds of foods?”

In a review of grocery stores east and west of Troost — the city’s historic racial dividing line — The Star found similar disparities in variety and quality.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/living/health-fitness/article219528630.html

Albuquerque Journal: Alleged sexual abuse continued after warnings

For more than two decades, parents, victims, nuns and others reported alleged sexual assaults or raised other red flags about Fr. Arthur Perrault to Catholic priests and diocesan officials, including two archbishops. None of those warnings, according to court records, stopped him from preying on children here until he vanished from Albuquerque in 1992.

When Fr. Arthur Perrault ushered the altar boy into his bedroom at Our Lady of Guadalupe rectory and locked the door, the 13-year-old feared what would happen next. Years later, he remembered the cleaning lady knocking at the door three times. The Catholic priest warning him to keep quiet. And how the unwanted fondling of his “privates” resumed when she went away. …

Hours later, his father told him, “I want you to sit down, write out what happened, and I’m going to go to the archbishop, and we’re going to make sure that he doesn’t do this any more.”

The former altar boy, who gave the account in a deposition in the early 1990s, is known as Victim #17 in redacted state court records.

But despite the boy’s letter to then-Archbishop James Peter Davis in December 1971 and the parents’ intervention, Perrault went on to sexually assault at least 21 more children over the next two decades, according to allegations in court records.

Read more: https://www.abqjournal.com/1232915/alleged-sexual-abuse-continued-after-warnings.html

The New York Times: Kushner Paid No Federal Income Tax for Years, Documents Suggest

Over the past decade, Jared Kushner’s family company has spent billions of dollars buying real estate. His personal stock investments have soared. His net worth has quintupled to almost $324 million.

And yet, for several years running, Mr. Kushner — President Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser — appears to have paid almost no federal income taxes, according to confidential financial documents reviewed by The New York Times.

His low tax bills are the result of a common tax-minimizing maneuver that, year after year, generated millions of dollars in losses for Mr. Kushner, according to the documents. But the losses were only on paper — Mr. Kushner and his company did not appear to actually lose any money. The losses were driven by depreciation, a tax benefit that lets real estate investors deduct a portion of the cost of their buildings from their taxable income every year.

In 2015, for example, Mr. Kushner took home $1.7 million in salary and investment gains. But those earnings were swamped by $8.3 million of losses, largely because of “significant depreciation” that Mr. Kushner and his company took on their real estate, according to the documents reviewed by The Times.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/13/business/jared-kushner-taxes.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Hostile culture, education shortfalls, understaffing hinder 'safe and humane' detention of Cuyahoga County youth, report says

CLEVELAND, Ohio – In 1997, Cuyahoga County’s old 87-bed juvenile detention center was called “one of the most adult-oriented, bleak, depressing, unsafe and psychologically harmful facilities” that a team of national detention experts had ever visited.

More than 20 years later, youth who are awaiting juvenile court appearances are held in the county’s new 180-bed center, part of the stately $189 million Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court complex, referred to by some as the “Taj Mahal.”

In many ways, though, the atmosphere hasn’t changed.

A report obtained by The Plain Dealer last week that was compiled by a six-person team of national juvenile justice experts who visited the center in May and July found:

The majority of youth confined in the center were not receiving legally mandated education or special education services.

Staffing shortages, forced overtime and inadequate training that hindered “safe and humane” supervision of the youth.

The center had a “significant and dangerous dependence” on confining youth in their rooms for long periods of time.

A culture of conflict between the detention officers and the youth.

The 92-page report by The Center for Children’s Law and Policy in Washington, D.C., makes clear that problems in the detention center run deep and appear to stem from an ingrained culture that diverges from the court’s purpose of rehabilitating youth.

Read more: https://www.cleveland.com/expo/news/erry-2018/10/4e9c83626d7675/hostile-culture-education-shor.html

The Oregonian: Rampant turnover, low pay: Insiders on Oregon dementia care

Grueling work. Rampant turnover. Elderly people with dementia, abused and neglected for lack of staff.

The Oregonian/OregonLive asked more than 200 current and former memory care employees what they experienced on the job. Their stunning responses shed light on why memory care too often falls short of its promise of specialized support for people with dementia.

The pay that workers reported didn't reflect the responsibility or the stakes. Hourly wages for caregivers equalled those of Oregon dishwashers, motel clerks and parking lot attendants: $11 and change. On average, the caregivers reported taking on 15 memory care residents at a time.

Confirmed cases of abuse and neglect in senior care are rare, state data show. Yet 70 percent of employees who answered the newsroom's call for comments said they witnessed abuse or neglect. Eight in 10 of those people blamed a shortage of staff.

The candid responses from people on the ground offer a unique viewpoint on memory care, which has more than twice as many confirmed cases of abuse per occupied bed as other forms of assisted living, a newsroom analysis found.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/expo/news/erry-2018/10/17fb8964386666/rampant-turnover-low-pay-insid.html

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Jim Kenney 1,000 days in: The fine print of the Philly mayor’s promises

Three and a half years ago, Mayor Kenney won the Democratic primary in a historic landslide with an unapologetically progressive platform.

End stop-and-frisk. Implement universal pre-K. Send tens of millions of dollars more to Philadelphia's schools.

Create family-sustaining jobs. Make the city a place where your zip code isn't your destiny. And do this all not by raising property taxes but by selling tax liens, increasing the land assessments of abated real estate, and saving money through "zero-based budgeting."

Since becoming mayor, Kenney has tapped the relationships he's developed throughout his decades-long career in government to pass far-reaching legislation. But some of his biggest achievements, such as signing the first soda tax into law in a major American city, and beginning to overhaul the city's parks system, were never part of his campaign.

Electricians from local 98, Joseph Fareri (left) and Alfio Sorbello hold up photos of Mayor Kenney, in front of Famous 4th Street Deli, in Philadelphia on Nov. 7, 2017. | More photos from Kenney’s first 1,000 days in office

Other bold, flashy promises faded after Kenney was elected. Stop-and-frisk is reformed but not abolished. Pre-K is expanded but not universal. And zero-based budgeting? It's nonexistent.

On his 1,000th day in office, Kenney released a progress report. We ran a fine-tooth comb through it to determine what he's really gotten done. Here's what Kenney has accomplished, where we quibble with his account, and what remains unsaid.

Read more: http://www2.philly.com/philly/news/jim-kenney-promises-philadelphia-mayor-1000-days-20181010.html

The Tennessean: 3 alarming scripts from a nurse practitioner who was one of Tennessee’s biggest opioid prescribers

The Tennessee Department of Health is attempting to revoke the nursing license of Christina Collins, a nurse practitioner who was once one of the top opioid prescribers in the state.

State officials have said Collins’ prescriptions were so "colossal" that their only reasonable purpose was suicide or drug trafficking. She wrote these prescriptions in 2011 and 2012 while working for Bearden Health Associates, a pain clinic in the Knoxville suburbs.

On Thursday, The Tennessean published a 2,000-word investigation into Collins case, based on a review of more than 4,000 pages of public documents.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2018/10/11/opioids-tennessee-methadone-roxicodone-opana-ambein-xanax-fentanyl/1590268002/

Before she won a Nobel Prize, Frances Arnold frustrated her parents and teachers in Pittsburgh

A multi-gifted Frances Arnold spent much of the first half of her life in Pittsburgh and elsewhere maddening her parents, frustrating her teachers and searching for the right scientific field to suit her unconventional nature.

The 1974 Allderdice High School graduate found her place in sunny Southern California over the past three decades, pioneering a bioengineering field and winning multiple prestigious awards that culminated Oct. 3 with a middle-of-the-night call from the Nobel Prize committee.

Among different locations and vocations, there’s a common thread for the first American female to have won a share of the Nobel Prize for chemistry: a fearless, independent streak she’s had since her grade school days in Edgewood.

“I’ve done that my whole life — I’ve taken the way people think and turned it on its head,” Ms. Arnold explained last week in her office at the California Institute of Technology, a small but prestigious university that attracts some students precisely because they want to work under and learn from her.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/science/2018/10/16/Frances-Arnold-Nobel-Prize-chemistry-Pittsburgh-Edgewood-Allderdice-Caltech-enzyme-research/stories/201810130004

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Oct. 11, 2018

The Journal News: Section 1: Unwritten deal costs taxpayers millions for high school sports

Section 1 has long been a household name for Lower Hudson Valley student athletes, parents and coaches, the driving force behind every scholastic sporting event in the region for decades.

Yet, little is known about the nonprofit's inner workings, its dominance over local school district athletic programs, nor the millions of tax dollars that pay for it all.

Section 1 operates under a murky, unwritten arrangement with Southern Westchester BOCES, a $160 million-a-year public school district that, despite not having its own athletic teams, subsidizes the section with nearly $6 million in tax dollars every year.

Section 1 Executive Director Jennifer Simmons is not officially employed by the section, but is instead paid $172,000 a year as a teacher with Southern Westchester BOCES, an acronym for Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Read more: https://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/westchester/2018/10/03/millions-tax-dollars-section-1-sports-but-documentation-scarce/1356632002/

 

Rockford Register Star: Less gunfire detected in Rockford despite new ShotSpotter technology

ROCKFORD — The jury is still out on the $310,000 ShotSpotter gunfire detection system deployed six months ago in two areas of Rockford.

Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea had expected the new technology to result in the detection of as many as 75 percent more shots fired. But there has so far been a sharp decline in gunfire this year.

Police say ShotSpotter, based in Newark, California, has detected shots fired that may otherwise have gone unreported or were reported more quickly than would have been the case without it, and credited it with assisting Rockford police in making a few arrests.

But with money tight, O’Shea said he will form a committee of police officers, police commanders and crime analysts to review the effectiveness of ShotSpotter in helping police stop gun violence before deciding whether the system is worth the city’s continued investment in 2019.

“We are going to look at it, analyze it and see if we want to stick with it or we don’t,” O’Shea said. “Everything we do, we keep watching, going back, examining — are we doing the right things? I am not afraid, and I don’t want my staff to be ever afraid, ‘Hey, we are doing this — we thought this was going to work. It ain’t working.’ Well, let’s change tactics and go a different way.”

There were 331 shots-fired incidents through August this year in Rockford — 19 percent fewer than the 408 recorded in the same period last year.

Read more: http://www.rrstar.com/news/20181006/less-gunfire-detected-in-rockford-despite-new-shotspotter-technology

 

The Missoulian: In charting the future of the Clark Fork River, lessons exist on Blackfoot, Bitterroot rivers

TURAH — You can’t see the Clark Fork River from John Carlon’s house, but occasionally it comes to visit.

“A big chunk of the dike broke off this spring because of the high water,” Carlon said of the right-angle bend in the Clark Fork about 10 miles east of Missoula. “The Army Corps (of Engineers) said they were out to protect the houses, but I know they were also taking care of the fiber-optic lines and gas lines and the power lines that go through here, and the Yellowstone (oil) pipeline. The river took out a 50-, 60-foot chunk. If they hadn’t fixed that, it would have made it to my house.”

The 30-year flood of 2018 wasn’t the only change Carlon’s noticed in two decades living along this isolated reach of the Clark Fork River. The number of fly-fishermen boating by has jumped. So has the “tube hatch” of recreational floaters. Billboards along Interstate 90 advertise home-building opportunities for people who work in Missoula but want the rural lifestyle of Turah or Clinton.

The rebirth of the Clark Fork River after a century of neglect and heavy-metal contamination presents a rare chance to think about how to live alongside it.

To focus those conversations, the Missoulian staff and local residents floated more than 60 miles of the Clark Fork, Blackfoot and Bitterroot rivers to get a sense of their distinctive characters. The raft passed ranches dating back to the Homestead Era, wildlife refuges, mansions and golf courses, man-made whitewater parks, super-secret fishing holes, ancient cliff walls and dead-end sloughs that didn’t exist the summer before. It floated over the scarp where Milltown Dam once stood, and along the levy screening thousands of acres of defunct industrial cooling ponds at the old Smurfit-Stone pulp mill.

Read more: https://missoulian.com/news/local/in-charting-the-future-of-the-clark-fork-river-lessons/article_4b6be638-f271-5354-b2dd-3a91c4a7fea7.html#tracking-source=home-top-story

 

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Despite progress, Sarasota schools achievement gap remains an issue

After three years of focused initiatives, Sarasota County’s minority students are still far under-performing the district’s white students based on state test scores.

The gap between the test scores of white and minority students, dubbed the achievement gap, is actually higher in most instances in Sarasota County, the state’s fourth-highest ranked district, than it is in the state overall.

White students in Sarasota consistently perform significantly higher on state tests than white students in the entire state, while black and Hispanic students often outperform their peers in the state only by a few points. How students perform on these tests can impact whether they graduate from high school, go on to college and achieve success in their career, so school districts focus on the tests as more than just indicators of academic success.

District administrators attribute Sarasota’s wider achievement gap to students’ higher test scores here. If Sarasota County students are scoring significantly higher than the state in most categories, they will naturally have a higher achievement gap, they say.

Read more: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20181006/despite-progress-sarasota-schools-achievement-gap-remains-issue

 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee’s school turnover thwarts academic progress

A sense of unwavering optimism fills Angie Kaper’s classroom at Carver Academy.

The veteran sixth-grade teacher trains her “honey bunnies” to welcome visitors with a basket of crackers and candy. She coaxes students to try harder at math by insisting her memory is bad and she needs their help. She prods and celebrates and coddles and charms them — and many quickly improve their skills from fall to spring.

Kaper’s room and others at Carver — a low-income, predominantly African-American K-8 school in the Brewers Hill neighborhood — feel like places where students can succeed. A school chant that begins “Where are you going?,” elicits a one-word response in student assemblies: “College!”

Test scores tell another story. Less than 5 percent of students are proficient in English and math on the state exam. The vast majority score “below basic,” the lowest category, in both subjects.

Despite devoted teachers, a spirit of achievement, extra money and five years of attention from Milwaukee’s best minds in business and education as part of an unprecedented turnaround effort, Carver’s students are stuck academically.

The school’s biggest obstacle turned out to be something nobody was even tracking: Student turnover.

Read more: https://projects.jsonline.com/news/2018/10/5/high-student-turnover-in-milwaukee-stalls-achievement-despite-reforms.html

 

The Seattle Times: Attacks on staff surge at Western State Hospital: ‘How bad does it have to get?’

Day after day, the teenage patient at Western State Hospital showed flashes of violence.

On Jan. 29, he hit a fellow patient bending down to fix his shoe, and punched a staff member repeatedly in the face, “inflicting blood injury to the mouth,” according to excerpted chart notes entered into a court record.

He continued to display “physical aggression” on Feb. 8, and assaulted another patient without provocation on Feb. 13. Three days later, he attacked a patient again with “multiples punches to face and body.”

Finally, on Aug. 26 came the attack that profoundly shook staff at the state’s largest psychiatric hospital. The patient, now 19 and 260 pounds, allegedly punched a nurse in the face and repeatedly stomped on her face, leaving her so bloodied that a nursing supervisor thought she was going to die.

She didn’t. But the attack illustrates a sharp increase in patient-on-staff assaults at Western State, despite tens of millions of dollars the state has spent trying to fix problems that have plagued the 850-bed hospital for decades. The issue was thrust into the spotlight again last Sunday when a patient allegedly vaulted over a nurse’s station, started choking her and bit off part of an ear lobe.

After years of declining violence, patients are now attacking staff at the highest rate in a decade, even as reports of attacks on other patients have generally gone down, according to records reviewed by The Seattle Times.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/attacks-on-staff-surge-at-western-state-hospital/

 

Houston Chronicle: Even after Harvey, Houston keeps adding new homes in flood plains

One in 5 new homes permitted in Houston in the year after Hurricane Harvey is in a flood plain — some on prairie developed for the first time after the storm — even as new rainfall data showed existing flood maps understate the risk posed by strengthening storms.

The city Planning Commission also approved 260 plats in Houston’s flood plains during the same period, signing off on developers’ requests to redraw property lines to create hundreds more parcels awaiting development in flood-prone areas, a Houston Chronicle analysis found.

About 615 of the home construction permits were issued in the 100-year flood plain, the area deemed to have a 1 percent chance of being inundated in any given year, city data show. Another 600 were approved in the 500-year flood plain, the area deemed to have an annual 0.2 percent chance of inundation, according to the Chronicle analysis.

Many of these permits were issued to homeowners razing and elevating their flooded homes; more than 300 of the homes were approved on lots for which a demolition permit was issued after the storm. Others were issued to builders, many of whom tore down existing bungalows and replaced them with clumps of townhomes, packing more families into the flood plain. Still others were issued to developers building brand new subdivisions in areas that previously were open fields.

Read more: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Even-after-Harvey-Houston-keeps-adding-new-homes-13285865.php?cmpid=gsa-chron-result

 

The Dallas Morning News: 9 Seconds: A cop raised his rifle and an innocent boy died. Inside the quest for justice.

At first, they weren’t sure what they were looking at. The images on the screen were dark and blurry, but the sounds were clear.

Gunfire. Girls screaming. A cop shouting “Stop that f---ing car.” More shots.

It was a sunny Monday afternoon in May 2017, and a half-dozen prosecutors and investigators sat around a mahogany table. At the head was their boss, Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson. They had just received two bodycam videos that were key evidence as they tried to decide whether a crime occurred two days earlier, in America’s latest killing of an unarmed black male by a white police officer.

They knew very little. They had a dead 15-year-old, Jordan Edwards, who’d been a passenger in a car and seemed to be, from what the news was saying, a good kid. They had a police officer, Roy Oliver, 37, who said he fired to save his partner as the car moved toward him.

Swiveling in their black leather chairs, the prosecutors played the videos over and over, trying to distill the flashes of chaos into answers of law and justice.

The whole thing lasted 54 seconds.

“Wow,” a prosecutor said. “Why did he shoot?”

Read more: https://interactives.dallasnews.com/2018/9-seconds/#_ga=2.183580645.2111784177.1538940508-1929016054.1526065298

 

Austin American Statesman: ‘Texas reneging’: State’s expansion of sex-offender laws challenged

When the Beaumont police detective called him in 2014, Curtis wondered what the officer might want. His only run-in with the law had been half a lifetime ago.

In 1985, he had been charged with indecency with a child, his stepdaughter. Curtis, then 34, struck a deal with prosecutors: He would plead guilty — but, if after 10 years he kept out of trouble, the conviction would go away. He paid his fees, performed his community service and attended sex offender counseling. The charge was dismissed in 1996.

Curtis said his crime stayed with him: “It never leaves me; it’s always in front of me.” (The paper is not using his last name, because he is fighting to keep it private and it does not appear in court documents.) He kept a low, steady profile. Over the next three decades, he raised his three boys in the house in which he’s always lived. He worked at a nearby chemical plant until his retirement in 2009.

So, the news from the detective was alarming. Despite the deal he’d cut with the state of Texas 30 years ago, Curtis was dismayed to learn that he now would have to register as a sex offender. His name and photo and details of the crime would appear on the state’s public website. He would need to check in with police regularly. The new rules, the detective informed Curtis, applied for the rest of his life. …

Over the past 20 years, state and federal lawmakers have passed ever-stricter laws for sex offenses that require more people to be listed on public sex offender registries — typically for life. In some cases, the new laws have reached back to include those whose crimes occurred years before the statutes were enacted, and counter the deals they struck with prosecutors.

The U.S. Constitution prohibits new laws that pile additional punishments onto old crimes. In the past, government lawyers have successfully sidestepped that by arguing that retroactively requiring sex offenders to register for decades-old crimes is not really a punishment. Instead, they contended, it is merely a regulation that promotes public safety.

Now, however, at least four older sex offenders in Texas have floated a new argument that has earned early legal victories. They say the deals they agreed to in the past were essentially contracts between them and the state.

Read more: https://www.statesman.com/news/20181006/texas-reneging-states-expansion-of-sex-offender-laws-challenged

 

The Tennessean: In Tennessee, a gun or threat is reported at school every 3 days

It was a little after 2 p.m. in August 2007 at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis when a young man entered the building, pulled out a handgun and said, “Everybody get on the ground.”

Earlier that day, he’d threatened school officials who escorted him out of the building as a part of his pending expulsion from the school.

Instead of shooting anyone, the young man bolted out a door of the wood shop classroom. He was quickly arrested about a half-mile from the school, according to a police report.

That event received little public attention. A 2017 fight outside a Rutherford County elementary school on orientation day also went largely unnoticed. A student’s mother reportedly pulled a handgun on the student’s father in the school parking lot, but no shots were fired.

Few likely remember in 2001 when a 57-year-old man walked into a psychiatrist’s office at East Tennessee State University armed with two handguns and said his wife was “out to get him.” Police responded after he refused to hand over his weapons to psychiatrists.

Mass killings — generally defined as attacks in which four or more people are killed — at schools are meticulously chronicled. Victims are remembered, motives are studied, new policies or laws are discussed. The horror burrows into the memories of viewers and readers around the world.

Yet near misses — incidents in which a student or adult has a real firearm (as opposed to a BB or toy gun) or other gun at a school but does not carry out a mass attack — happen in Tennessee public schools at far greater rates than most other states, according to a USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee analysis.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/investigations/2018/10/07/guns-school-shootings-tennessee-parkland/1442061002/

 

The Oregonian: Costly dementia care failing to keep Oregon seniors safe

Janet Annal recalls administrators at Lydia's House telling her not to worry about her mother's Alzheimer's disease.

They could handle even the violent outbursts the 85-year-old had been showing, she said they told her. It was the kind of expertise that separated the Albany-based memory care center from typical senior care homes.

Dementia was their specialty, and the $9,000 monthly fee seemed well worth it. Annal felt reassured.

But months after Joanna Vanderwilt arrived in 2015, she slapped a visitor. Now the retired engineer needed one-on-one attention.

The new monthly fee: about $25,000.

The quality of care didn't match the enormous price tag.

An urgent care doctor examining two sores on Vanderwilt's right ankle found a skin infection so bad that she spent three days in the hospital. State investigators blamed the memory care center for letting her symptoms go untreated.

"One of the biggest sensations was betrayal," said Annal, who also felt that Lydia's House was taking advantage of her family.

"I was gouged."

She's not alone.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/expo/news/erry-2018/10/07165d5cf21014/dementia-care-is-expensive-but.html

 

The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio taxpayers may be paying twice for the same Medicaid drug services

The team that discovered that Ohio taxpayers were overcharged up to $186 million for Medicaid prescription drugs last year has uncovered an additional $20 million that might have been wasted to fund services for which taxpayers already were paying.

And state Medicaid officials initially did not want that information made public.

Now, however, they concede that the consultant hired by the state after a series of Dispatch stories is justified in questioning the $20 million outlay.

The possible misspending was found deep in the bureaucratic maze through which Ohio's poorest residents get needed drugs.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/sideeffects/taxpayers-may-paying-twice-medicaid-drug-services/site/dispatch.com/

 

The Record: No eye rolling, no yelling. How Trump supporters and critics try to find common ground

GETTYSBURG, Pennsylvania — They sat in a circle, Republicans next to Democrats, Trump supporters alongside Trump critics.

No one pointed fingers.

No one yelled at anyone.

When it was over, everyone shook hands.

On a recent rainy evening, 10 people gathered inside a Gettysburg church — not far from the rolling hills where Union and Confederate soldiers fought a climactic battle that turned the tide of the Civil War — and tried to find ways to heal the deep political divisions that have engulfed America in another sort of civil war.

First, however, the group, which calls itself Politics, Facts and Civility, had to agree on a few rules.

“We’re here to be nice to each other,” said Currie Kerr Thompson, a retired Gettysburg College professor and the group’s leader.

Read more: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/columnists/mike-kelly/2018/10/03/donald-trump-critics-supporters-meeting-divided-road-trip-trumps-america/1364235002/

 

Louisville Courier Journal: Elementary school suspensions are soaring and JCPS isn't sure why

The littlest learners in Jefferson County Public Schools were suspended more than 7,600 days last year — the equivalent of 21 years — as the district's use of its harshest punishment on elementary students skyrocketed.

JCPS is doling out suspensions at a higher rate — in one case, at roughly five times the rate — than its peer districts across the country, a Courier Journal investigation has found.

Louisville's black and special-needs elementary students have disproportionately borne the brunt of the surge. More than 1 in 11 black elementary students were kicked off campus last year alone.

Some people are appalled.

"We are criminalizing and dehumanizing kids, and it starts at 4 and 5 years old," said Michelle Pennix, principal of Mill Creek Elementary. "We've got to do better."

The Courier Journal analysis of preliminary JCPS elementary suspension data obtained through Kentucky's public records law found:

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/education/2018/10/04/jcps-elementary-school-student-suspensions-soaring/1144145002/

 

The Washington Post: ‘You shouldn’t be doing this’ She was 16. He was 25. Should marrying a child be allowed?

It was the day of the birthday party, and the husband and wife had invited everyone they knew. They’d spent the morning buying food — a sheet cake, jumbo hot dogs, ground beef, soda, chips — and were now standing around a picnic table covered with it all, along a long lake under a cloudless sky, hoping at least some people would show up to eat it.

Today was the first time both sides of their family were supposed to come together, something that hadn’t happened at their wedding four months before. On that day, not a single member of the husband’s family had attended — not his brothers, who’d called him a fool for marrying like this, and not his parents, who’d told him the relationship would only get him into trouble. Just about the only people who’d gone that day, and were here so far on this day, had been the people involved in the wedding itself.

There was Maria Vargas, a shy and brooding girl who looked older than her 16 years, and her husband, Phil Manning, 25, who often acted younger than his. And nearby, smoking a cigarette, was a slight woman with long, narrow features, Michelle Hockenberry, 39, the mother who’d allowed her daughter to marry.

Even in an era when the median age of marrying has climbed higher and higher, unions like Phil and Maria’s remain surprisingly prevalent in the United States. Between 2000 and 2010, an estimated 248,000 children were married, most of whom were girls, some as young as 12, wedding men. Now, under pressure from advocates and amid a nationwide reckoning over gender equality and sexual misconduct, states have begun ending exceptions that have allowed marriages for people younger than 18, the minimum age in most states. Texas last year banned it, except for emancipated minors. Kentucky outlawed it, except for 17-year-olds with parental and judicial approval. Maryland considered increasing the minimum marrying age from 15, but its bill failed to pass in April. Then in May, Delaware abolished the practice under every circumstance, and New Jersey did the same in June. Pennsylvania, which may vote to eliminate all loopholes this autumn, could be next.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/national/wp/2018/10/05/feature/child-marriage-in-the-u-s-is-surprisingly-prevalent-now-states-are-passing-laws-to-make-it-harder/?utm_term=.9451e1803f08

 

The Denver Post: Coloradans pay more as hospital building spree leads to empty beds and profits nearly twice the national average

Colorado hospitals hiked prices by 76 percent over a seven-year stretch as they pushed their profits to among the largest in the nation and built more aggressively than hospitals in all but one other state, according to data the state plans to use to change spending priorities.

Along the way, hospitals doubled their administrative costs from 2009 through 2016 and contributed to residents in the state’s mountainous west region paying the highest insurance rates in the nation, according to the information collected for the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

The state sought the data to gain clarity into why health care costs are rising so much here. While the Colorado Hospital Association is disputing aspects of the findings, state officials say they expect to finalize the data this fall and eventually release hospital-by-hospital information.

The scrutiny is hitting an industry dominated by nonprofits, which operate about three-fourths of the hospitals in Colorado. That nonprofit status allows them to escape paying income, property and sales taxes and to benefit from other tax advantages that lower their borrowing costs.

Read more: https://www.denverpost.com/2018/10/04/colorado-health-care-costs-escalate/

 

The San Diego Union-Tribune: California's carbon-credit market often pays for greenhouse gas reductions that would've happened anyway

squinted under a dusty baseball cap as he explained, over the roar of its natural gas-burning engine, the advantages of installing a methane digester.

He pointed to several football-field-sized ponds of cow manure covered in industrial-strength tarps. The methane coming off the animal waste is trapped, he said, and sucked into a generator that creates more than enough power to run the 4,000-cow operation.

“It’s basically like solar, but we make power all the time, and we don’t have to use five acres of land for panels,” said the 27-year-old diesel mechanic. “Saving money is making money.”

The project also generates revenue by selling carbon-offset credits through California’s cap-and-trade program — part of the state’s ambitious plan to reign in greenhouse gases.

Under the offset program, everyone from dairy farmers trapping methane to timber companies embracing progressive logging practices to nonprofits preserving natural landscapes can sell carbon credits and get paid for their efforts to fight climate change.

Industrial polluters purchase those carbon credits to claim the ton-for-ton reductions in climate-warming emissions as their own. They use the offsets to stay in line with the state’s strict environmental regulations, or voluntarily, to green up their public personas.

However, reporting by the San Diego Union-Tribune has revealed numerous instances where companies and nonprofits selling offsets didn’t shrink their carbon footprint as a result of the program — raising questions about the ability of the program to fight climate change.

Read more: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/environment/sd-me-carbon-credits-20180917-story.html

 

Los Angeles Times: L.A. County deputies stopped thousands of innocent Latinos on the 5 Freeway in hopes of their next drug bust

The team of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies cruises the 5 Freeway, stopping motorists on the Grapevine in search of cars carrying drugs.

They’ve worked the mountain pass in Southern California since 2012 and boast a large haul: more than a ton of methamphetamine, 2 tons of marijuana, 600 pounds of cocaine, millions of dollars in suspected drug money and more than 1,000 arrests.

But behind those impressive numbers are some troubling ones.

More than two-thirds of the drivers pulled over by the Domestic Highway Enforcement Team were Latino, according to a Times analysis of Sheriff’s Department data. And sheriff’s deputies searched the vehicles of more than 3,500 drivers who turned out to have no drugs or other illegal items, the analysis found. The overwhelming majority of those were Latino.

Several of the team’s big drug busts have been dismissed in federal court as the credibility of some deputies came under fire and judges ruled that deputies violated the rights of motorists by conducting unconstitutional searches.

The Times analyzed data from every traffic stop recorded by the team from 2012 through the end of last year — more than 9,000 stops in all — and reviewed records from hundreds of court cases.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-sheriff-latino-drug-stops-grapevine-20181004-htmlstory.html

 

CivilBeat.org: Are we ready?

Hawaii was already weary from months of floods and fiery lava flows.

Then in August, it faced the worst-case scenario.

Hurricane Lane bore down on the islands, threatening thousands of aging homes. The state endured menacing storms before — most notably Iniki, which devastated Kauai in 1992. But Lane was different.

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/10/are-we-ready-or-not/

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Oct. 4, 2018

Montgomery Advertiser: Peer-to-peer: How former addicts help guide others through recovery

Larry Snow's walk to the University of Alabama's commencement stage in May took a little bit longer than most of his classmates'.

The Birmingham native struggled without a support system in his childhood. With a mother addicted to drugs, Snow had to look out for himself, and grew up lacking important “coping skills," falling into a cycle of addiction that was difficult to emerge from.

“I was homeless, I slept on a bench in Birmingham,” Snow said. “But I walked across that stage at Alabama, too.”

He emerged with the help of fellow men in recovery, a community he found in Tuscaloosa as he worked to complete his degree. And now Snow is ready to pay that work forward as the coordinator of Montgomery’s Council on Substance Abuse peer recovery support program, a holistic approach aimed at offering recovering addicts assistance and bridging the gap between everyday life and medical care.

“Research shows that a peer can play a valuable role in recovery by sharing their lived experience with people in recovery,” Snow said. “Counselors and clinicians have their roles, and we don’t replace those therapies. But we complement it. We’ve been through and overcome those barriers that they’re trying to overcome. If they see us living successful and productive lives that we’re proud of, hopefully they can identify. Recovery is all about hope. If there’s no hope for anything better, why would you try?”

Read more: https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/local/solutions-journalism/2018/09/28/alabamas-recovery-support-specialists-helping-recovering-addicts-navigate-everyday-life/1443601002/

Montgomery Advertiser: With spotlight on blight, Montgomery focuses on more than 68K complaints

Overgrown lawns, boarded-up houses, trash in yards and shoddy properties dot the city landscape, angering residents and city officials.

With no perfect solution in site, a small team of Montgomery employees in the Public Works department are tasked with handling the thousands of complaints that roll in each year.

So far this year, there have been more than 13,800 complaints. Over the last five, there have been almost 68,800, and the city has been able to resolve almost 80 percent. Those efforts are one slice of the multifaceted approach that the city is taking to tackle blight, an attack that has seen mixed effects.

Each day, inspectors hit the streets, often first inspecting a property within 48 hours of a complaint, to measure progress on what many consider to be city eyesores.

Read more: https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/2018/09/28/68000-nuisance-complaints-montgomery-311-service-over-last-5-years/1431444002/

LA Times: Extra inventory. More sales. Lower prices. How counterfeits benefit Amazon

Jon Fawcett wanted to build a cellphone cable that wouldn’t fray. So he developed a charging cord wrapped in stainless steel sturdy enough to withstand an electric chainsaw.

It was a niche product that turned Fuse Chicken, Fawcett’s company of half-a-dozen employees, into a quick success. Customers raved about Fawcett’s durable designs — until he started selling them on Amazon.

“Really bad quality,” read a description of an iPhone car charger in a review titled, “Broke in a week.”

Fawcett was dumbfounded. Then he found a clue in one of the reviews: a picture of a charger emblazoned with a Fuse Chicken logo that wasn’t quite right.

Over the following months, Fawcett placed numerous Amazon orders for his own merchandise. What he found would become the basis of a lawsuit he filed last year against Amazon.

Mixed in with Amazon’s inventory of authentic merchandise were crude copycats. Some looked like the real thing but didn’t include Fuse Chicken’s name. Others bore the name but weren’t made by his company, Fawcett said in an interview with The Times in his Ohio office.

His experiment suggests there is no way for even the savviest Amazon shopper to avoid the threat of counterfeits. The goods may look real online, but there is no guarantee of authenticity — whether sold by a brand, a third-party seller or Amazon’s direct-sales arm.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-amazon-counterfeits-20180928-story.html

Sun-Sentinel: Broward schools give big raises to administrators

The Broward County School District gave 11 district administrators big raises last school year, drawing scrutiny from critics.

While Superintendent Robert Runcie defended most of the increases, he acknowledged one was improper and would be corrected.

The raises ranged from 7 percent to 21 percent, well above the 2.2 percent increases approved for most of the 27,000 district employees. None of the 11 employees received promotions but continued to work in their same jobs. District officials said the raises were given to ensure employees received competitive pay so they would stay in the district.

Read more: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/education/fl-ne-broward-schools-raises-20180927-story.html

Orlando Sentinel: In Orlando's restaurant industry, drug and alcohol abuse is 'as common as ketchup'

For restaurant worker Matt Hinckley, booze was everywhere.

Beer was in the kitchen. There was a “shift drink” after the restaurant closed, still a tradition at most eateries. Late nights would turn into late mornings with co-workers at bars because everyone else Hinckley knew was asleep.

“Alcohol is on the menu, and it’s your job to know the menu,” said Hinckley, 45, a former line cook at restaurants in Central Florida, Miami, Alaska, New York and New Zealand.

After watching co-workers collapse on the line next to him and others kill colleagues in drunken driving accidents, Hinckley quit his job, moved back home to Orlando and sobered up.

Restaurant employees and managers say there is an epidemic of alcohol and drug abuse that is only getting worse, a problem rarely shared with those outside cramped kitchens and hot cook lines. Restaurant and hotel workers have the highest rate of substance abuse in the nation, and no area of the country has a higher percentage of restaurant workers than Central Florida.

One in six workers in the restaurant and hotel industries nationwide have reported a problem with substance abuse, according to a 2015 study by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Read more: https://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/consumer/os-bz-alcoholism-drug-abuse-restaurant-industry-20180926-story.html

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Georgia maternal death rate, once ranked worst in U.S., worse now

Eight years ago the human rights organization Amnesty International declared a “maternal health care crisis in the U.S.A.” and said worst of all was the state of Georgia.

National health organizations reached out. Shaken Georgia leaders mobilized, passed legislation, and created a task force and pilot projects. And things have changed — but apparently for the worse.

The best estimate of the state’s maternal death rate is now double the one Amnesty International called out.

However, the data are still so bad that no one really knows how high the rate is. They’re just pretty sure what they have is an undercount.

“We know what we don’t know at this point,” said Diane Durrence, the women’s health director in the Maternal and Child Health Section of the state’s Department of Public Health. “Our numbers are higher (than average). Why? We don’t have the answers completely to it.”

As the state of Georgia prepares for the 2019 legislative session, study committees are weighing changes to the state’s health care system, above all in rural health care. In spite of similar efforts in the past, Georgia continues to swim at the bottom of the barrel on several key U.S. health rankings.

Read more: https://politics.myajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/georgia-maternal-death-rate-once-ranked-worst-worse-now/qG8xWYMufoW2OEiiZNDRmM/

The Times-Picayune: What you think you know about gun deaths is probably wrong

When most people think about the number of gun-related deaths in America each year, the first images that likely come to mind are of gang violence or mass shootings. Our national debate on gun control is almost always centered on an active-shooter event or a plea to get guns off the streets.

But while gang activity devastates many neighborhoods and communities, that violence accounts for only 1 out of 5 gun-related deaths nationally. And while mass shootings are horrific in so many ways, they are responsible for less than 1 percent of firearm deaths annual.

The largest number of gun deaths in the United States by far -- 63 percent -- are a result of something rarely even mentioned in the gun control discussion: suicide.

That statistic tends to escape notice because most news organization don't report on suicides the way they do homicides based on studies that show publicity can sometimes lead to more suicides. Details of a suicide, such as the specific method, also are often left out of news reports for the same reason.

The policy is no doubt an example of practicing responsible journalism, but it also masks the understanding of how big a role suicide plays in the annual gun death total and skews the overall debate on firearms toward ownership rights rather than cause of death.

Katrina Brees wants to change that.

Read more: https://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2018/09/gun_deaths_suicide_law.html

The Baltimore Sun: Bringing a dark chapter to light: Maryland confronts its lynching legacy

A bright moon hovered above Westminster, Md., that evening in June 1885, its “still rays lighting up every nook and corner,” The Baltimore Sun reported at the time, when the sounds of “a cavalcade of horses” broke the silence.

Dozens of riders, their faces masked, rode toward the downtown jail.

They overpowered the sheriff on duty and tied him up. They found a key in the jailhouse, yanked open the cell of 21-year-old Townsend Cook, and threw a rope around his neck.

And the mob of about 50 took Cook, a black day laborer accused of assaulting a white woman, to a nearby farm, hanged him from an oak tree, and fired shots into his body as it dangled.

“[The] ghastly corpse, with two bullet wounds in the back of the head, swung with pendulum-like motion in the sweet, morning breeze,” The Sun reported. “Everyone, save the officers of the law, seemed pleased.”

Cruel, harrowing and illegal as it was, the lynching of Townsend Cook was far from unique in Maryland. Mobs in the Old Line State committed dozens of the terror killings in the decades following the Civil War.

While the gruesome practice of lynching is most closely associated with the Southern states of the former Confederacy, hundreds were committed elsewhere in the country — including at least 44 in Maryland.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-lynching-in-maryland-20180919-htmlstory.html

Boston Globe: Inside our secret courts

Leneeth Suazo, four months pregnant, had tried to ignore her ex-boyfriend’s menacing voice mails, phone calls, and text messages since he kicked her out of his apartment.

Now it was New Year’s Eve and the doorbell wouldn’t stop ringing at the apartment complex where Suazo had taken refuge. She knew it was Jim Phane outside, pressing every buzzer in the building.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the front door. Phane, let in by a neighbor, was standing there, begging Suazo to talk to him.

Fearful that he’d attack her as he had once before, Suazo discreetly pressed record on her cellphone. Phane threatened her, and when he noticed the phone was recording their conversation, he lunged.

“Jim, don’t touch me. Don’t touch my face. I don’t want you to touch me . . . Stop!”

Suazo later told police that he grabbed her jaw, shoved her, and elbowed her belly before fleeing as she screamed. A judge granted a restraining order, based on her application outlining the alleged history of violence, and police sought a felony assault and battery charge against the ex-boyfriend.

But justice would elude her. The case would go into the darkest corner of the Massachusetts criminal justice system, where closed-door hearings are often held in private offices without public notice, where the outcome is up to the discretion of a single court official who may not have a law degree, and where thousands of substantiated criminal cases go to die every year.

Read more: https://apps.bostonglobe.com/spotlight/secret-courts/?p1=HP_SC

Star Tribune: Police overwhelmed and undertrained

Bryan Schafer saw the struggle over and over in the Minneapolis Police Department: Too few investigators for too many rape cases, too many victims never getting justice.

Then he discovered it was not only a big-city problem.

When he became police chief in Hastings five years ago, Schafer learned that most of his officers had little or no training in investigating sexual assaults. Some said they were uncomfortable handling sex crimes and, given a choice, preferred a crime like burglary. An outside review of 86 Hastings sexual assault investigations showed the consequences: Less than one-quarter had resulted in criminal charges.

Schafer was shocked.

“How can we expect our officers to … do justice for the victim if they’re not trained to do so?” he said. “This is not like having your TV stolen.”

Scant or nonexistent training for police officers who investigate sexual assaults is a chronic problem across Minnesota. Most of the state’s largest law enforcement agencies don’t require it. Neither does the state board that oversees the licensing and training of police officers.

Constant turnover and thin ranks compound the problem.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-police-undertrained-overwhelmed-by-rape-cases-denied-justice-part-four/488413351/

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Financial pressures add to the stress as bills pile up after a dementia diagnosis.

Lonni Schicker, 63, sets up her laptop on a small table in the corner of the kitchen of the apartment. The computer is on loan from the Alzheimer's Association. She opens a spreadsheet.

A stack of bills sits between her and her son, Dan Schicker, 32.

“So, what I need, Dan, is the name of the provider, the date of service and the amount due,” Lonni tells him. “And the billing phone number.”

The plan is for him to call each one, ask for discounts and negotiate a payment plan.

When medical bills come in the mail, Dan can't bear to open them. He just adds them to the stack.

The bills are for his mom, whom he's been caring for in their Fenton apartment since memory problems ended her career as a college professor almost five years ago at the age of 59. Her problems have since progressed to dementia.

Read more: https://graphics.stltoday.com/apps/stolenfuture/part-4-tight-budgets-and-drained-savings.html#tracking-source=home-top-story

NJ Advance Media: He's 30, from Mexico and has a job: Meet N.J.'s most typical unauthorized immigrant

New Jersey is a small state, far from the Mexican border. But, the state has long been a magnet for immigrants coming into the U.S. illegally.

By some estimates, there are nearly 500,000 unauthorized immigrants currently living in New Jersey. That is more than 5 percent of the population.

Only Nevada, Texas and California have a higher percentage of unauthorized immigrants in their total population.

But, how much do we know about the immigrants living in New Jersey illegally? The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., has compiled Census data, population surveys and economic data to create a profile of the state’ unauthorized immigrants.

NJ Advance Media used that profile and other available statistics to put together the traits and demographics on the average New Jerseyan living in the country illegally.

Read more: https://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2018/09/unauthorized_immigrant_nj.html

The Record: Single mom thought she found the perfect Wayne home. Turns out it's sitting on a sinkhole

Five years ago, Meaghan Kelly found what seemed like the ideal place to call home, Brittany Chase, a housing complex in the Preakness section of Wayne.

After the single mother of three moved in, however, the walls of her three-bedroom town house began to crack.

The home Kelly thought was perfect was literally dropping into a quagmire of tree stumps and other organic debris upon which it was built a quarter-century ago. Little did she know, the foundation was failing, and the retaining wall that she can see outside one of her windows was starting to give.

Soon, Kelly realized her unit, one of 395 condominiums and town homes in the complex, was built on top of a sinkhole. It was a landslide risk — collapsing into the ground, just feet away from the edge of a 50-foot cliff.

Kelly, 53, a neonatal nurse at NYU Langone Medical Center, now finds herself in the middle of a crisis haunting the complex. Her unit, 8017 Brittany Drive, was identified by the condo association as one of two with problem foundations. The other, 8018 Brittany Drive, is vacant.

Because of the "construction defect," owners at the Berdan Avenue complex, including Kelly, are subject to a potential emergency assessment, totaling at least $3 million.

Read more: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/passaic/wayne/2018/09/27/owner-middle-brittany-chase-fiasco-wits-end/1335193002/

Democrat and Chronicle: Can taxpayers afford to say no to mall developers with their hands out?

If owners of The Mall at Greece Ridge had prevailed in their request for tax breaks to help renovate the nearly 50-year-old retail center, Greece Central School District taxpayers could have taken a hit to their pocketbooks to the tune of about $14 per year.

Call it a mall tax.

But earlier this month, the Greece school board unanimously shot down that request to provide 10 years of taxpayer support to Wilmorite Management Group LLC. The mall owners said the tax break would help insulate the property against prevailing winds of what some industry experts call a "retail apocalypse."

But school officials were uncertain the tax break was worth the cost.

"I do not believe taxpayers should bail out private companies," said board member Michael Valicenti on Sept. 11, voting along with seven other members of the Greece school board to deny the company's request. Had the proposal gone through, the district faced the potential loss of about $620,000 in annual revenue over the next decade — about $6.2 million in total that could otherwise be spent for teachers, for equipment and other district needs.

Read more: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2018/09/28/tax-breaks-mall-developers-wilmorite-greece-ridge-mall-eastview-mall/888501002/

Philadelphia Inquirer: How could a cop’s use of force land a Philly kid in an institution? When you’re truant, almost anything can

As the SEPTA train hurtles southward along the Broad Street Line, a video camera records a teen acting the way teens sometimes do — which is to say, stupidly — rapping "F— the police," right in front of an officer and making a hand gesture that the officer believed to represent a gun.

In the video, the officer's face wrinkles in annoyance. He speaks up, accusing the kid and his friends of having been in a fight at a different train station the previous week.

That's when the officer gives him a hard shove, knocking him backward, then grabs him by the collar and pushes him around the subway car. In a video of the March 27 incident, the officer can be seen holding the kid by the neck for several tense minutes, before finally hauling him off the train while the boy resists.

The kid, a 17-year-old from North Philadelphia who goes by Yaz, described a frightening moment: "He was choking me." But it was Yaz who was charged and found guilty, of harassment and disorderly conduct, in Philadelphia Family Court.

As for the officer? SEPTA says he did an admirable job managing a tough situation.

Yaz is now locked up in an institutional placement. Advocates call such settings dangerous and detrimental to kids' education, and city leaders acknowledge they're problematic.

Read more: http://www2.philly.com/philly/news/philadelphia-schools-truancy-jail-septa-police-20180930.html

The Seattle Times: As facial-recognition technology grows, so does wariness about privacy

As Mike Vance approaches the glass door that leads to RealNetworks’ engineering office, he smiles slightly at a small camera mounted in front of him. Click. The door unlocks, responding to a command from software powering the camera that recognized Vance’s face and confirmed his identity.

Vance, a senior director of product management at the Seattle tech company, leads the team that created Secure, Accurate Facial Recognition — or SAFR, pronounced “safer” — a technology that the company began offering free to K-12 schools this summer.

It took three years, 8 million faces and more than 8 billion data points to develop the technology, which can identify a face with near perfect accuracy. The short-term goal, RealNetworks executives say, is increased school safety.

“There’s a lot of benefit for schools understanding who’s coming and going,” Vance said.

The introduction of the technology has thrust RealNetworks into the center of a field that is growing quickly as software gets better at identifying faces. But growing along with it are privacy concerns and rising calls for regulation — even from the technology companies that are inventing the biometric software.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/technology/as-facial-recognition-technology-grows-so-does-wariness-about-privacy/

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Investigation: Wisconsin DOT knowingly paid twice on stretch of roadwork for Zoo Interchange

As a percentage of the nearly $200 million budget for rebuilding a chunk of Wisconsin’s busiest freeway, $404,250 might seem insignificant.

But what if the money were paid by Wisconsin taxpayers for work that was never done? And what if the state knew it when the bill was paid?

That’s what happened when contractors for the Milwaukee Zoo Interchange project double billed the state for 15,000 cubic yards of gravel, enough to help pave one lane of highway for five miles.

Although a project engineer with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation discovered the discrepancy in advance, and alerted supervisors, those in charge insisted the contractor be paid the additional money anyway, an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has found.

When regulators at the Federal Highway Administration learned of the payment, the agency made a rare decision to withdraw federal funding that had been allocated for the work, saying justification for the expenditure “seems inconsistent” and “makes no sense,” according to documents obtained by the Journal Sentinel through state and federal open records laws. As a result, state taxpayers had to cover the cost.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2018/09/28/wisconsin-dot-knowingly-overpays-milwaukees-zoo-interchange/1443896002/

AP: Watchdog: EPA asbestos protection for schoolchildren lagging

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is shifting money away from a congressionally mandated program meant to get harmful asbestos out of schools, even though the threat of contamination remains, the agency's internal watchdog said on Monday.

Asbestos, which builders used for decades as insulation and as a fire-resistant material, can cause lung diseases, cancer and other health problems. Under a 1986 federal act, the EPA remains responsible for monitoring whether local officials are checking for asbestos in schools and cleaning it up, the agency's Office of the Inspector General said.

The watchdog office is an independently funded operation within EPA.

The inspector general's report says half the EPA's regional districts only check for asbestos in a school if they receive a specific complaint.

One EPA regional office — the Dallas-based headquarters for the south-central U.S. — did no asbestos inspections in schools between 2012 and 2016, the inspector general found.

Read more: https://missoulian.com/news/national/govt-and-politics/watchdog-epa-asbestos-protection-for-schoolchildren-lagging/article_c3958627-515e-55e1-8f9c-2e4b1fbfaba9.html

Peoria Journal-Star: Illinois residents pay more taxes than any other state

PEORIA — Harry Canterbury is a native Peorian who’s not happy with what he’s seen happen to the city.

Canterbury, the former owner of Adventure Sports Outdoors, the fishing-hunting publication, recently purchased a home in Port Charlotte, Fla.

“This was a great community. Now it’s overtaxed, suffers from high crime and there’s no place to work. It breaks my heart,” he said.

Canterbury sees taxes as a growing problem here. “They’ve got a hotel tax, sales tax, flush tax and now a rain tax,” he said, referring to Peoria’s new stormwater utility fees.

“We (Peorians) have high property taxes, and they can’t even fix the roads.”

The fact that Illinois residents are heavily taxed isn’t a secret. WalletHub, a national personal finance service, recently ranked Illinois as 51st in the nation in terms of the severity of its overall tax burden — that’s last among the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Read more: http://www.pjstar.com/news/20180929/illinois-residents-pay-more-taxes-than-any-other-state

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh colleagues stunned by Wuerl's turn of fate

More than two decades ago, Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl made a fateful trip to Rome where he challenged the highest court in the Catholic Church over its poorly informed order to lift a suspension on a sexually abusive priest. The trip helped seal his reputation as an early, bold proponent of zero-tolerance toward sexual abusers.

With that reputation now under siege, now-Cardinal Wuerl is making an equally momentous trip to Rome. A photo from the Vatican showed Cardinal Wuerl with the pope on Friday. Cardinal Wuerl previously said he would go to Rome to ask Pope Francis to immediately accept his resignation as archbishop of Washington, D.C.

Cardinal Wuerl says he is stepping down for the good of the church after a Pennsylvania grand jury assailed his record. It cited cases in which known abusers stayed in ministry under his watch and accused the cardinal of presiding over administrative actions that “showed no concern for public safety or the victims of child sexual abuse.”

Now those who worked with Cardinal Wuerl in Pittsburgh when he was bishop here from 1988 to 2006 are processing the shock of the imminent halt to his clerical career.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/faith-religion/2018/09/28/donald-Wuerl-colleagues-resignation-legacy-pittsburgh-diocese-cardinal-washington-dc/stories/201809240165

The New York Times: Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father

President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/02/us/politics/donald-trump-tax-schemes-fred-trump.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Sept. 27, 2018

The Journal News: Educators’ salaries rise in New York, but ranks drop again

ALBANY -- Educator salaries in New York rose 11 percent over the past five years, but the total number of employees in its schools fell slightly over the same period, new state records show.

The 1.2 percent drop in employees over the past five years meant that the remaining school workers, including teachers and administrators, earned more.

So the number of educators earning more than $100,000 last school year was up 21 percent compared to five years ago.

The average salary was $66,000 for the 2017-18 school year, compared to $59,450 in the 2013-14 school year, according to the records from the state Teachers' Retirement System obtained by the USA Today Network's Albany Bureau through a Freedom of Information request.

Read more: https://www.lohud.com/story/news/politics/politics-on-the-hudson/2018/09/20/most-recent-teacher-salaries-westchester-state/1350616002/

Rockford Register Star: Rockford tax liens worsen neighborhood blight, but may also bring about change

ROCKFORD — Juan Franco has invested about $17,000 in a ramshackle Clifton Avenue house that was vacant and had years of unpaid property taxes before he bought it last year.

He’s made electrical and plumbing repairs and has installed new windows and floors, but for weeks he’s been at a standstill. The city won’t give Franco the permits he needs to make additional repairs until he pays off thousands of dollars worth of liens — money the city spent to clean up trash and cut the grass while the property wallowed in tax delinquency.

Franco said he’s willing to walk away from the house if the city refuses to waive the liens.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Franco said. “Waive the liens and you’ll have a good property owner. I’ll keep fixing up the house, I’ll be mowing the grass and I’ll be paying the taxes. But I shouldn’t have to pay liens for what happened before I bought the house.”

Franco’s experience with the Clifton Avenue house represents a small skirmish in a much larger battle that the city is waging against neighborhood blight. Rockford’s primary target is a decades-old Winnebago County program that aims to return delinquent properties to the tax rolls through an elaborate system of foreclosures, tax sales and property auctions.

The program finds investors to pay delinquent taxes. But there are warped incentives at play that keep hundreds of these properties trapped in blight and cost local governments more than $1 million a year in lost property tax revenue.

Read more: http://www.rrstar.com/news/20180922/rockford-tax-liens-worsen-neighborhood-blight-but-may-also-bring-about-change

USA Today: What states aren't doing to save new mothers' lives

If you were going to try to stop mothers from dying in childbirth, you might try what most states in America have done: assign a panel of experts to review what’s going wrong and offer ideas to fix it.

But that hasn’t worked.

Death rates among pregnant women and new mothers have gotten worse, even as wealthy countries elsewhere improved. Today, the U.S. is the most dangerous place in the developed world to deliver a baby.

Turns out, well-meaning states across the country have been doing it wrong.

At least 30 states have avoided scrutinizing medical care provided to mothers who died, or they haven't been studying deaths at all, a USA TODAY investigation has found.

Instead, many state committees emphasized lifestyle choices and societal ills in their reports on maternal deaths. They weighed in on women smoking too much or getting too fat or on their failure to seek prenatal medical care.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/in-depth/news/investigations/deadly-deliveries/2018/09/19/maternal-death-rate-state-medical-deadly-deliveries/547050002/

Houston Chronicle: Houston is ‘ground zero’ for drunken and drugged driving

Mishann Childers slowed as the flashing lights came into view.

Telge Road in northwest Harris County was closed. A crash, a sheriff's deputy said. Someone hit a silver Buick.

Her husband, Wayne, drove a silver Buick. He often took that road.

Owen McNett's blood-alcohol content was nearly four times the legal limit when he crashed into Wayne Childers' car, killing him, police said. Five times before, McNett had been arrested for driving drunk, with two lengthy prison stays. That rainy Friday night in February became the sixth. He had a valid Texas driver's license.

Consider the tragedy for the Childers, then multiply it by more than 300 each year. Drivers impaired by booze and drugs are dying — and killing — in the Houston area at a startling rate, an epidemic unchecked by police, prosecutors or public-awareness campaigns.

The nine-county region tallied more fatal drunken-driving crashes during the last 16 years than any other major metropolitan area in the country, a Houston Chronicle analysis of federal highway data shows. Drivers and passengers died in more than 3,000 wrecks caused by drunk or drugged drivers, roughly 1,000 more than Los Angeles, which has about twice the population.

Read more: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/investigations/article/Out-of-Control-Houston-is-ground-zero-for-13212707.php

The Dallas Morning News: How Atmos Energy’s natural gas keeps blowing up Texas homes

They were normal Texas families, doing normal things at home: napping on the couch; rinsing off in the shower; flipping on the light.

Then their houses exploded.

More than two dozen homes across North and Central Texas have blown up since 2006 because of leaking natural gas, an investigation by The Dallas Morning News found. Nine people died; at least 22 others were badly injured.

These explosions all happened along a massive network of pipelines owned and operated by Atmos Energy Corp. It’s one of country’s largest natural gas companies, headquartered in a gleaming tower on LBJ Freeway near the Galleria mall. Atmos pipes run under streets and behind homes across Dallas and Fort Worth, north to Sherman and south to College Station.

No single state or federal agency tracks all natural gas accidents, making it hard to get a handle on the destruction. Not all deaths and injuries are reported, and regulatory records are sometimes contradictory or incomplete.

We compiled our tally by searching thousands of regulatory records, lawsuits and news reports. We examined government documents related to pipe corrosion and other safety problems on Atmos Energy’s system.

Read more: https://interactives.dallasnews.com/2018/time-bomb/#_ga=2.172720227.1967436266.1537720936-1929016054.1526065298

NJ Advance Media: Dogs are dying after groomings at PetSmart and families are left wondering why

A nationwide investigation by NJ.com documented 47 cases across 14 states since 2008 in which families claim they took their dog to PetSmart, the nation's leading pet retailer, for a grooming only to have it die during or shortly after the visit.

PetSmart, which fiercely defends its safety record, has not admitted wrongdoing in any of the cases.

But the nine-month investigation found such deaths -- once portrayed by company officials as "entirely separate and unrelated" anomalies -- appear to happen far more frequently than customers and the general public know. And grieving families want to know why.

Read more: https://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2018/09/dogs_are_dying_after_groomings.html

Akron Beacon Journal: Analysis comparing academic performance among Ohio school districts surprises some

Deeper learning and more difficult tests — no longer taken by filling in bubbles with No. 2 pencils — have led to a wholesale resorting of academic performance among Ohio’s 608 school districts.

Though experienced everywhere, the dramatic dip in test scores hit some school districts harder than others. Meanwhile, the state has rolled out new accountability to paint local school systems with a single and consequential letter grade on report cards.

In a first-ever multi-year analysis, the Beacon Journal ranked every Ohio school district based on how students scored on state tests, assigning from highest to lowest a rank of 1 to 608. The analysis covers the past 14 years to look beyond the report cards’ snapshot performance of school districts. Instead, the goal is to uncover models of success and signs of failure as school districts climb or fall multiple rungs on Ohio’s newly built ladder of academic success.

For many, the shift in rank has been the statistical equivalent of taking an elevator up a couple floors, or jumping out a mid-floor window and landing on the porch roof.

Read more: https://www.ohio.com/news/20180922/analysis-comparing-academic-performance-among-ohio-school-districts-surprises-some

Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin: Toxic algae is invading our lakes and lack of transparency makes it difficult to track

With 4,300 cows filing into an automated rotating milking parlor — one every few seconds around the clock — Sunnyside Farms is one of the most technologically advanced dairies in New York state.

Many in the industry consider the farm on a hill rising from the east shore of Cayuga Lake one of the most well-run.

But in February 2017, the farm staff emptied about 3 million gallons of liquefied manure — enough to fill nearly five Olympic-sized pools — from a leaking lagoon and injected it into the fields.

In subsequent days, the manure sloughed off and ran down the hill with melting snow, darkening tributaries on its way to Cayuga Lake. That summer, as water temperatures warmed, a pea-green slime, toxic algae, covered parts of the lake. Beaches were closed. Warnings were posted.

Was the Sunnyside manure spill a factor?

An explosion of toxic algal blooms is degrading lakes across the state and country. Although some reports point to agriculture as a leading cause, answers are elusive because of a lack of public records, and reluctance by regulatory officials to specify sources of pollution.

State regulations requiring toxic spills to be logged into a database, for example, do not apply to manure. Rich in phosphorous and nitrogen, manure is perfect toxic algae food. When it washes into water bodies, it supercharges the ecosystem for algae blooms when temperatures rise.

Read more: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2018/09/20/blue-green-algae-bloom-toxicity-agriculture-dairy-farms-clean-water-cayuga-hemlock-lake/1355394002/

Santa Fe New Mexican: Saving lives, bleeding cash at Santa Fe animal shelter

The Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society was flush with cash at the close of 2012, thanks in large part to millions of dollars received in a bequest from Bert Coughlin, a longtime Canyon Road resident.

The shelter’s audited financial statement showed the nonprofit had $9.6 million in investments in publicly traded and other securities at the end of 2012. It also had nearly $1.5 million in cash.

But five years later, those investments had dwindled to $5.7 million. The shelter also owed $1.2 million on a line of credit at the close of 2017.

The shelter has been drawing down its investment accounts to help cover operating losses. From 2014 through 2017, those losses have totaled about $7.1 million.

Taken together, the numbers raise questions about the financial health of one of Santa Fe’s most beloved and critical institutions.

Can this Cadillac of an animal shelter continue to spend more than other shelters on the animals it takes in? Can it afford to be a place where no animal is turned away and where only those animals with severe medical and behavioral issues are euthanized?

Read more: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/saving-lives-bleeding-cash-at-santa-fe-animal-shelter/article_7ac834aa-a5fe-52d6-9eed-e2d61d4653c5.html

Kansas City Star: Troubled Kansas system for protecting kids was making progress. Then this happened

After months of headlines about missing runaways, foster children sleeping in offices and high-profile deaths, this was the last thing the Kansas Department for Children and Families wanted to see.

A 13-year-old in the state’s custody reportedly was raped inside a child welfare office in Olathe. And the young man charged with the assault earlier this month also was in Kansas’ care. Both were at the KVC Behavioral Healthcare office waiting to be placed in an available foster home or facility.

“It’s tragedies like that that folks have been deeply worried was going to happen,” said Benet Magnuson, executive director of Kansas Appleseed, a nonprofit justice center serving vulnerable and excluded Kansans. “It’s one of these moments: if this doesn’t shake us and get us to take action at the deep level that’s needed, I don’t know what will.”

The assault happened in early May, although it didn’t become public until last week after The Star had obtained police calls for service to the KVC office. It occurred just as DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel and her administration were in the midst of making changes and implementing programs that some say are beginning to show success.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article218683590.html

The Times-Picayune: In small town Louisiana, where help is scarce, stigma of mental illness can kill

AMITE CITY – Down Bickham Chapel Road, near the church of the same name, is Jyne Williams' childhood home. It looks about the same as when her family lived there 20 years ago, though her mom says the paint is a different shade of blue now.

This five-room house was the site of frequent family parties when Jyne was a child. Her aunts, uncles and cousins -- maybe 50 in all -- spilled out to the lawn, temporarily doubling the neighborhood population those days.

She has more fond memories of that time: Early Sunday mornings spent reading Bible verses before heading to grandfather’s church, ensuring she and her two younger siblings would have their hands raised when he quizzed his congregation. Or that winter after her mom started working for Amtrak, when they went to the train station in Hammond and rode 18 hours to Chicago so the family could see snow.

But signs of problems were just beneath the surface. Dad often came home from work and stayed in his bedroom the rest of the night. He rarely played with his kids or joined those family train trips. Mom cried when she thought no one was watching. No one knew why. But no one really asked either.

Jyne’s family, friends and neighbors didn’t understand mental illness or know how to recognize its symptoms. It wasn’t a topic of discussion, in public or in private. It was viewed not as a medical condition, but as a sign of weakness.

That’s how mental illness grabs hold of families like Jyne’s and tens of thousands of other families who live in one of Louisiana’s 35 rural parishes. It disguises itself as a father’s private side or a mother’s sudden tears. And it spreads, unabated, through countless small towns where churches vastly outnumber clinics and where lawmakers’ decisions to slash health care spending only serve to muffle the suffering of so many.

Read more: https://www.nola.com/expo/news/erry-2018/09/b4633ba9ad9696/in-small-town-louisiana-where.html

Des Moines Register: Gone Daddy, Part I: A cheatin’ heart, murder and binding DNA

Alton W. Barron was about 23 the night his young wife caught him with an 18-year-old redhead named Betty Lou.

His wife, Nina Looney, already had two babies to look after when the 22-year-old saw her lanky husband and a waitress out on a winter’s night in downtown Des Moines.

Nina Looney and A. W. "Dub" Barron in an undated photo from the 1940s. Barron married Looney in July of 1945.

The year was 1949. Barron, a larger-than-life charmer who had a rapacious appetite for women, tried to spirit the waitress out of town in his Cadillac. Looney didn't know it, but Betty Lou was pregnant — about 8½ months.

Looney flagged a cab and gave chase. South of Des Moines, the Cadillac ran out of gas.

Looney would later tell others that she bashed out Barron’s windows with a crowbar that night on the side of the highway, leaving the father of her children out in the cold.

But for Barron, leaving and never looking back became a lifestyle, and dodging pregnant women and angry husbands his second nature.

Over the next three decades, the charismatic rake from Tyler, Texas, would carry on dozens of affairs in California, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin while he was married to at least eight women.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/readers-watchdog/2018/09/19/gone-daddy-part-1-alton-dub-barron-cheating-heart-murder-ancestry-dna-infidelity-genealogy-iowa/1190557002/

Miami Herald: The lights are back on, but after $3.2B will Puerto Rico’s grid survive another storm?

The lights are on again in Puerto Rico. The island’s dilapidated electric grid hums with life a year after a meteorological jackhammer named Maria battered the island, toppling its high-tension towers and sending Puerto Ricans into prolonged darkness.

It took a mammoth effort to repair the grid. Thousands of linemen arrived from as far as California, Hawaii and even the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean to stand up power lines and reconnect homes. Twenty massive barges brought 1,000 bucket trucks on loan.

But despite spending as much as $3.2 billion, the federal effort over the past year to restore power to the island didn’t build a better and more resilient system. In fact, the grid is more fragile. A severe new storm would put Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million residents into deep trouble.

“It’s weaker today than before,” said José F. Ortiz, chief executive of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

Ortiz and others involved in getting the lights back on in Puerto Rico offer no apologies for the lack of improvements to the grid. They said that would have been impossible — practically and legally.

“You don’t have the time to design it, get the right material and build it,” said Carlos D. Torres, a retired vice president at Consolidated Edison, the large utility in New York City. Torres was deployed to Puerto Rico by the Edison Electric Institute, then appointed by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló as coordinator for storm restoration.

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article217480370.html

Stamford Advocate: Job transfer reveals Stamford’s contentious pit

STAMFORD — A city mechanic who photographed the improper dumping of sludge collected from catch basins claims he’s been transferred out of his job as punishment.

James Fasoli filed a complaint against the city saying, “I believe this transfer is retaliatory, harassing and discriminatory because I spoke out about the … reckless dumping and decrepit condition of the storm-drain material sludge dump pit” at the Magee Avenue transfer station.

Dana Sanders, business representative for IUOE Local 30 Operating Engineers, confirmed the union action.

“He did file a grievance that was submitted to Human Resources Thursday,” Sanders said.

According to a Sept. 12 letter from Interim Operations Director Laura Burwick, Fasoli is being moved from the solid waste division, where he says he does light repairs, to the vehicle maintenance division, where the work will be physically demanding.

Read more: https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/local/article/Job-transfer-reveals-Stamford-s-contentious-pit-13249917.php

Los Angeles Times: California police uphold few complaints of officer misconduct and investigations stay secret

Angry that she had been falsely accused of a drug crime, Tatiana Lopez filed a complaint against a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who had arrested her on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine.

But when Lopez met with a sheriff’s lieutenant to discuss her accusation, he urged her to drop her complaint, she said.

After a preliminary investigation, the Sheriff’s Department ruled the deputy had done nothing wrong, without giving her any explanation.

It would take years of legal battles before a judge exonerated Lopez and a new internal investigation led the department to fire the deputy for lying about her arrest.

Lopez is one of nearly 200,000 members of the public who filed a complaint against California law enforcement officers in the last decade. Her initial complaint ended the way most did — with police rejecting it without saying why.

A Times analysis of complaint data reported to the California Department of Justice shows law enforcement agencies across the state upheld 8.4% of complaints filed by members of the public from 2008 to 2017.

In a state with some of the strictest police privacy laws in the country, those who make complaints against officers are entitled to learn little more than whether their allegations were found to be true or not. They are given no other explanation about how a final decision was reached, what was done to investigate their allegation or whether an officer was disciplined.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-police-misconduct-complaints-20180923-story.html

Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Little Blue's legacy: As country's biggest coal landfill closes, residents face uncertain future

As FirstEnergy prepares to exit Beaver County, controversial coal ash dump Little Blue Run leaves a complicated legacy for nearby residents.

Read more: https://newsinteractive.post-gazette.com/little_blue_run/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Sept. 20, 2018

Arizona Republic: In the Phoenix area, rapid evictions leave delinquent renters with almost no options

So much was at stake, but there was nowhere to sit. The courtroom’s wooden pews couldn’t hold them all. So the people called into Country Meadows Justice Court sat in the jury box and pressed themselves against the white walls. A group waited in the hallway outside. They clutched bright green eviction papers and practiced what they would tell the judge.

They were going to lose. They just didn’t know it yet. …

The eviction cycle had reached its peak. It was the third Wednesday in June, one of the busiest times of the year in a Justice Court system that often works more like an eviction mill.

Last year, Maricopa County’s Justice Courts issued 42,460 eviction judgments, one for every 14 rental households in this massive county that's sinking ever-deeper into an affordable-housing crisis.

Once a person is sucked into the system, there’s almost no way to escape. A lawyer can help, but only a minuscule minority of tenants have one. The rest are overpowered by expert attorneys and overwhelmed in courtrooms where more time is spent on a single traffic ticket than a dozen life-altering evictions.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-investigations/2018/09/13/maricopa-county-justice-courts-rapid-evictions-leave-renters-few-options/865658002/

San Francisco Chronicle: Navy’s Hunters Point retesting plan draws on questionable cost-cutting study

The U.S. Navy’s latest promise to clean up radioactive soil and buildings at its former San Francisco shipyard relies on an earlier Navy effort to remove less radioactivity in order to cut costs, The Chronicle has learned.

The perplexing move has complicated the already-troubled project to rid the site of harmful radioactivity, provoking criticism from multiple government agencies that oversee the cleanup, as well as environmental groups. At stake is the city’s dream of one day filling the shipyard’s derelict land with thousands of new homes and businesses — San Francisco’s most ambitious redevelopment project in more than a century.

A 2012 report obtained by The Chronicle details some of the Navy’s reasoning behind its new approach to the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Back around 2010, the Navy was spending a lot of money to dig up and haul away radioactive waste at the shipyard. It paid a major defense contractor to help it find ways of saving money. The resulting report suggested changes to cleanup rules. These changes would reduce costs by allowing the Navy to declare that more soil at the site does not pose a risk and therefore does not need to be removed.

Read more: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Navy-s-Hunters-Point-retesting-plan-draws-on-13232708.php

Hartford Courant: Taxpayers To Pay $5.5M For Democratic Donor's Land At 11 Times Its 2015 Price

A businessman who has donated $20,000 to the state Democratic Party since 2013 would be paid $5.5 million in taxpayer funds for a vacant, 8-acre parcel in the town of Orange — 11 times what he paid for it three years ago — under a deal he’s made with the administration of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Malloy administration officials deny that the political contributions by businessman Edward Crowley had anything to do with their willingness to enter the deal on their way out of office, as Malloy’s term will expire in January when a newly elected governor will take over.

Crowley — the former president/co-owner of Dichello Distributors in Orange who now operates the Stony Creek Brewery that he founded in his hometown of Branford — bought the eight acres adjacent to the Dichello beer wholesaler’s facility in 2015 for $500,000 through his limited liability company, Orange Land Development LLC, records show.

The state has agreed to give the town of Orange a $6.1 million “Urban Grant,” of which $5.5 million would be used for the town’s purchase of the parcel on the Metro-North commuter line that had been proposed as a site for a train station — a proposal that was given the thumbs-down by state transportation officials in late 2017 for budgetary reasons. The remaining grant funds would go toward costs associated with the transaction, such as legal fees and an environmental study.

Read more: http://www.courant.com/politics/government-watch/hc-pol-lender-state-land-deal-20180914-story.html

Indianapolis Star: Two years after Larry Nassar: Challenging culture still deeply rooted in USA Gymnastics

Even as USA Gymnastics fought to contain a broadening sex abuse scandal last year, it allowed an official accused of misconduct to sit on a committee judging his own accuser’s performance, IndyStar has learned.

When it came time to vote on who would attend the World Championships, that official cast his ballot for another athlete. One with a lower score.

Even after USA Gymnastics was confronted about the official's apparent conflict of interest, a hearing panel upheld the selection. And the system that failed to detect and prevent that conflict remains in place today — raising questions about the potential for retaliation and the silencing of abuse survivors.

Two years after IndyStar revealed the first public allegations of sexual abuse against longtime USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, the Indianapolis-based national governing body is still struggling to overhaul the culture that many say enabled Nassar to sexually assault as many as 330 women and girls under the guise of medical treatment.

Some wonder if it can ever regain the trust of the athletes it serves.

And the case of former coach George Drew and gymnast Kristle Lowell offers one narrow glimpse into the complexities of changing a culture that has been a stunning success in competition, yet a miserable failure when it comes to athlete protection.

Read more: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/investigations/2018/09/16/usa-gymnastics-larry-nassar-sex-abuse-olympics-karolyi/1214396002/

The Des Moines Register: Iowa tries to help families 'hunting in the dark' for mental health care for children

Carrie Clogg hopes that this time, Iowa leaders will do more than just talk about helping children like her son.

Sam, 11, has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He is part of the 20 percent of children who experts estimate will develop mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety or eating disorders. In Iowa, that translates to about 150,000 children.

“It is possible for these kids to live fairly normal lives — but without treatment, it can be a catastrophe,” said Clogg, who lives in Des Moines. Untreated mental illnesses can lead kids to drop out of school, run away from home or even commit suicide.

“None of that has to happen,” she said.

Iowa is critically short of mental health treatment for children, and there is little coordination of the few services that are available, health care leaders say. Parents like Clogg are left to flounder, trying to use Google or the telephone to figure out where their kids should go for help, how long they would have to wait for it and whether their insurance would pay.

A new state children’s mental health committee, appointed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, started work last month. It is the fourth such committee since 2011. The previous panels disbanded after releasing reports on what should be done. Little changed.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/health/2018/09/12/iowa-mental-health-care-scarce-kids-new-committee-tackles-issue/913169002/

The Times-Picayune: Louisiana is failing families dealing with mental illness

Reggie Seay, a 63-year-old attorney and father from Kenner, wrote legislators a letter June 1 pleading for mental health services to be funded.

"I am writing again to let you know I STRONGLY oppose cuts to mental health care funding in the budget proposals under consideration. The cuts to mental health care funding would have a devastating effect on my son and my family. ... My adult son, Kevin, has schizo-affective disorder and is disabled because of this disease. His health insurance is Medicaid. The services he receives, minimal though they may be, are an absolute necessity. I cannot imagine how he will survive without them. ..."

The Legislature kept in place the funding Mr. Seay and other families dealing with mental illness need. But Louisiana's mental health resources had already been decimated over the past decade. The needs are great: an estimated 634,000 adults in Louisiana have a mental illness or substance abuse disorder.

Over the coming weeks, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune's "A Fragile State" project will show how Louisiana's fragmented and severely underfunded mental health network fails families. The Seay family's experience, told by reporter Katherine Sayre, is the first of these stories.

We will look at the particular difficulties people in rural Louisiana have getting help, the ongoing stigma of mental illness and the dwindling resources for people who are suicidal, among other problems.

Read more: https://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2018/09/fragile_state_mental_health.html

The Boston Globe: Stranger in the house

NEW BEDFORD — At first, Sarah Estrella seemed like the answer to Deborah Lesco’s prayers.

An old spinal injury had slowly robbed Lesco of her ability to walk, leaving her lower body racked with pain that only medical marijuana could ease. The 68-year-old former special education teacher got around in a wheelchair and needed help with her daily activities.Luckily, Lesco had found this “nice, sweet girl” on a state-sponsored caregiver website who was happy to take care of it all. “She had experience, she was smart, she was clean, she could lift me up,” said Lesco, who was further reassured because she knew some of Estrella’s relatives.

What could go wrong?

Everything. …

PEOPLE LIKE SARAH ESTRELLA are the stuff of baby boomers’ nightmares as they increasingly rely on an army of nurse’s aides, personal care attendants, and others to help them remain in their homes deep into old age. The category of personal care aide is projected to add more jobs by 2026 than any other occupation in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many of these aides enter the home as virtual unknowns, undergoing no background check and receiving little, if any, training. Consumers often know more about what aides cost than whether they can be trusted. And with demand for home aides so high, those seeking care are simply relieved to find someone to take the job.

Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/09/15/stranger-worse-house-frail-seem-elderly-people-scarcely-know-many-aides-they-invite-into-their-homes-leaving-them-vulnerable-theft/XJOMrmv46Ruu94B2ZbTZgK/story.html

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Tipping point: St. Louis struggles to keep up with rising tide of broken, abandoned buildings

ST. LOUIS  • When Shadiah Thomas steps out the front door of her duplex in the 3900 block of Labadie Avenue, she sees crumbling homes all around her.

To her right are five vacant buildings, including one frequented by drug users and two gutted by fire. To her left, next to an empty lot, is a two-family brick building that’s been empty for at least three years. Across the street, facing her, are more vacants.

“It’s depressing here,” she says.

Thomas and her family have lived in the Greater Ville neighborhood of north St. Louis since 2015, surrounded by long-abandoned houses that serve as magnets for crime and drug use. Those broken buildings — most owned by the city — represent just a fraction of a problem that’s plagued St. Louis for decades but has gotten much worse in recent years.

As is the case in most older, industrial cities in the United States, the number of abandoned properties has festered for decades, a symptom of dramatic postwar population loss, suburbanization, flat regional population growth, older housing stock and a history of racial bias.

In a city of just over 300,000 people now — a big drop from its postwar high of 856,000 — there are about 25,000 abandoned properties, according to a city estimate. More than 7,000 of those are vacant buildings, including about 4,000 that have been condemned.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/tipping-point-st-louis-struggles-to-keep-up-with-rising/article_fb0c5dd4-bcfa-588d-b2e2-301abbc0a728.html

Providence Journal: Crime in R.I.: A town by town analysis

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Over a two-decade period, crime rates have declined statewide, according to a Providence Journal analysis of statistics compiled by the FBI.

While violent crime declined 31 percent statewide from 1996 to 2016, the latest year for which complete data is available, nearly a quarter of the communities that report data to the FBI saw an increase in that category of crime, including the state’s second-largest city, Cranston, and fourth-largest, Pawtucket. Violent crimes include rape, murder, robbery and aggravated assault.

The state’s property-crime rate declined 47.9 percent from 1996 to 2016, while just two communities, Charlestown and Westerly, saw increases. Property crimes include burglary, car theft and other types of theft. …

The FBI statistics that the newspaper analyzed come from a publication called “Crime in the United States,” which is put out by the agency’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The FBI has been compiling the statistics since 1930, which are currently produced from data received from more than 18,000 municipal, college, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies, based on crimes that are reported to them.

Read more: http://www.providencejournal.com/news/20180915/crime-in-ri-town-by-town-analysis

Honolulu Civil Beat: Hawaii’s Mental Health Care Crisis

When Stephen Kemble closed his Honolulu psychiatry practice last August, he tried to match 500 patients with a new psychiatrist.

It was an impossible task — especially for recipients of Med-QUEST, Hawaii’s version of Medicaid.

Kemble found only two psychiatrists in private practice on Oahu who were willing to treat new patients covered by the state’s public health insurance for low-income people. A few of Kemble’s patients got in with these two psychiatrists — but they had to wait up to three months for an appointment, he said.

“The willingness of psychiatrists to take in new Medicaid patients has dwindled to almost nothing,” Kemble said. “Even if you do get in with someone, the doctor has five minutes to renew your prescription and that’s it. I mean, they’re trying, but the psychiatrists don’t even have time to talk to you — they’re totally overwhelmed.”

New data from the University of Hawaii reveals a health system in crisis. In 2017, Hawaii was short more than 750 physicians across the medical field, according to University of Hawaii professor Kelley Withy, who conducts an annual workforce survey. This calculation accounts for differing needs on neighbor islands and the unique demand for medical specialties like psychiatry.

Experts say filling the void is practically impossible, as it would require that the state increase its physician workforce by about 25 percent. Luring new doctors to Hawaii is complicated by myriad factors, not the least of which is the state’s high cost of living coupled with its relatively low rates for insurance reimbursement.

When it comes to psychiatrists, the UH data reveals a 10 percent statewide shortage. The gravest scarcity is on Kauai and Hawaii islands, which are tied with a whopping 33 percent shortage.

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/09/hawaiis-mental-health-care-crisis/

AP: #NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing, dying?

It's a subject that has been largely ignored by the public and mainstream press in the U.S.: the plight of thousands of missing and murdered Native American women across the country.

Albuquerque reporter Mary Hudetz and national enterprise journalists Sharon Cohen and David Goldman teamed up to deliver an impressive all-formats package that illuminated these tragedies, getting play as far away as New Zealand and earning praise from the industry for their efforts.

Cohen spent weeks finding victims' relatives who would talk and agree to be photographed and go on camera. Hudetz, a member of the Crow Tribe and past president of the Native American Journalists Association, sifted through databases and reports with missing person cases and numbers to try to shed light on the volume of cases that the government knows about and has compiled. Cohen and Goldman traveled to the Blackfeet Reservation, where persistence and patience won them the access needed to intimately show and tell this story. At one point, Goldman was invited along on a BBQ and to the room where the main character in the package was staying when she disappeared. Data journalist Angel Kastanis was brought in to help with the numbers, and West region enterprise editor Katie Oyan was instrumental in guiding the project along.

Hudetz sifted through databases and missing person reports to shed light on the number of known cases. Persistence and patience won the access Cohen and Goldman needed to intimately tell this story.

Read more: https://www.theolympian.com/latest-news/article217584590.html

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Sept. 13, 2018

Montgomery Advertiser: Montgomery Fire/Rescue burns through budgeted overtime by more than $2M

Montgomery Fire/Rescue's multiyear worker shortage continues to produce a glut of overtime that far exceeds the department's budgeted amount.

As of mid-August, MFR has spent $2.2 million on overtime. That amounts to $2,079,470 more than expected, or 1,411 percent over budget.

Officials say that overtime is a temporary solution for an ongoing problem that stems from continued recruitment and retainment issues. Some, including Mayor Todd Strange, sought to downplay the budget overages, saying it is a small part of a larger fiscal plan that remains intact.

"At the end of the day, you've got to have firefighters in place," Strange said. "You can't understaff."

That was stressed by several city officials, who cited regulations that require a certain amount of firefighters per truck and unit. When workers call in sick, take vacation or can't come to work for any reason, the slot they have left empty needs to be filled, said Director of Public Safety Ronald Sams.

Read more: https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/politics/2018/09/06/fire-department-burns-through-budgeted-overtime-more-than-2-m/1203527002/

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: A Catholic superstorm staggers a weakened church

On the morning of June 13, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops seemed to find their voice.

Gathering in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., they came to the microphone one by one, issuing passionate denunciations of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdowns and separation of asylum-seeking families. And to confound any partisan pigeon-holing, they made clear their defense of asylum seekers, an issue associated with Democrats, was part of their “right-to-life” agenda that include opposition to abortion, an issue where they align with Republicans.

It might have seen the bishops were returning to their full-throated prophetic advocacy that became their hallmark in the late 20th century before the crisis of clerical sexual abuse erupted.

It’s not that such scandals were over — given Pope Francis’ slow response to damaging revelations overseas and a looming Pennsylvania grand jury report. But 16 years since that crisis went nuclear in 2002, forcing bishops into adopting a charter that included zero-tolerance toward abusers and increased safe-environment rules for children, the crisis might have seemed less than all-consuming.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/faith-religion/2018/09/09/roman-catholic-sexual-abuse-pope-francis-cardinal-donald-wuerl-bishop-david-zubik/stories/201809060209

Pittsburgh Post Gazette: The money owed in eviction cases is often small, but the consequences can be huge

In District Judge Robert Ravenstahl’s North Side courtroom, stacks of manila folders are piled beside the judge.

An American flag stands in the corner.

There are several water stains on the ceiling.

On this Friday afternoon, he will hear nearly 30 eviction cases in about 90 minutes.

Many of the cases this afternoon are tenants from nearby Northview Heights, a large public housing complex on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

From the small courtroom, you can hear the chatter of people on the street outside, either waiting to hear their case called, or lingering after theirs has already been heard.

One of cases before the district judge today is that of LaShea Davis Harris, who owes $787.95 for two months of rent and late fees to the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh.

Despite her protesting that the money order she sent for her July rent wasn’t cashed by the Housing Authority and that she had to pay money to have her apartment sprayed because of bed bugs, her case is decided in a few minutes, with a judgement entered against her of $932.31 — the amount she already owed, plus $144.36 in court fees.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2018/09/06/evictions-pittsburgh-pay-stay-housing-authority-poverty-judgments-court-costs/stories/201808300097

San Francisco Chronicle: After 14 years and $3 billion, has California's bet on stem cells paid off?

It was an extraordinary political proposal: Approve a $3 billion bond measure to fund the cutting-edge science of stem cell therapy, and soon some of the world’s cruelest diseases and most disabling injuries could be eradicated.

The 2004 measure was Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. The campaign to pass it was led by a Palo Alto real estate developer whose son suffered from an incurable illness that he believed stem cells, the keystones of human biology, could heal. Other supporters included preeminent scientists, Hollywood celebrities, business leaders and elite investors.

"How many chances in a lifetime do you have to impact human suffering in a really fundamental way, including possibly even in your own family?" Robert Klein, the campaign leader, would say shortly after the vote.

Read more: https://projects.sfchronicle.com/2018/stem-cells/politics/

Chicago Tribune: In Illinois’ understaffed nursing homes, deadly infections persist from bedsores and common injuries that go untreated

Shana Dorsey first caught sight of the purplish wound on her father’s lower back as he lay in a suburban Chicago hospital bed a few weeks before his death.

Her father, Willie Jackson, had grimaced as nursing aides turned his frail body, exposing the deep skin ulcer, also known as a pressure sore or bedsore.

“That was truly the first time I saw how much pain my dad was in,” Dorsey said.

The staff at Lakeview Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, she said, never told her the seriousness of the pressure sore, which led to sepsis, a severe infection that can quickly turn deadly if not cared for properly. While a resident of Lakeview and another area nursing home, Jackson required several trips to hospitals for intravenous antibiotics and other sepsis care, including painful surgeries to cut away dead skin around the wound, court records show.

Dorsey is suing the North Side nursing center for negligence and wrongful death in caring for her dad, who died at age 85 in March 2014. Citing medical privacy laws, Lakeview administrator Nichole Lockett declined to comment on Jackson’s care. In a court filing, the nursing home denied wrongdoing.

The case, pending in Cook County Circuit Court, is one of thousands across the country that allege enfeebled nursing home patients endured stressful, sometimes painful, hospital treatments for sepsis that many of the lawsuits claim never should have happened.

Year after year, nursing homes around the country have failed to prevent bedsores and other infections that can lead to sepsis, an investigation by Kaiser Health News and the Chicago Tribune has found.

Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-met-nursing-home-sepsis-deaths-20180828-story.html

Kansas City Star: Lethal inaction: As fatal truck crashes surge, U.S. government won’t make an easy fix

Trucker Jeff Kolkman was an ace within Green Transportation’s squadron of “road pilots.”

The lanky, 38-year-old father of four was, according to his dispatcher, “a very safe driver who followed the rules. He always put safety first.”

Until one spring afternoon when he didn’t.

In a dash-cam recording from inside the cab of a 2016 Volvo semi, Kolkman stares down at a black tablet computer in his right hand while piloting the 18-wheeler down the interstate at 70 mph. It ends seconds later as the truck slams into the rear of a 2014 Toyota Camry stuck in traffic outside West Terre Haute, Ind.

Kolkman’s big rig never braked, one witness told the state police. It “barely slowed down,” said another.

Four lives were lost in that fiery crash near the Illinois-Indiana border last year, adding to a grim toll: fatal truck wrecks are growing at a clip almost three times the rate of deadly crashes overall.

More than 4,300 people were killed in accidents involving semis and other large trucks in 2016, a 28 percent increase over 2009, according to the federal government. It would be equal to a 737 airliner crashing twice a month, killing all on board.

“Those should be eye-opening numbers,” said John Lannen of the Truck Safety Coalition. “If air carriers or railroads reported similar numbers, there would be national outrage.”

Yet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal regulatory agency responsible for protecting us from danger on the nation’s roads, has failed to mandate changes that over the past two decades might have averted thousands of rear-end truck crashes like that one outside West Terre Haute.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article217849815.html

The New York Times/ProPublica: Top Cancer Researcher Fails to Disclose Corporate Financial Ties in Major Research Journals

One of the world’s top breast cancer doctors failed to disclose millions of dollars in payments from drug and health care companies in recent years, omitting his financial ties from dozens of research articles in prestigious publications like The New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet.

The researcher, Dr. José Baselga, a towering figure in the cancer world, is the chief medical officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He has held board memberships or advisory roles with Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb, among other corporations, has had a stake in start-ups testing cancer therapies, and played a key role in the development of breakthrough drugs that have revolutionized treatments for breast cancer.

According to an analysis by The New York Times and ProPublica, Dr. Baselga did not follow financial disclosure rules set by the American Association for Cancer Research when he was president of the group. He also left out payments he received from companies connected to cancer research in his articles published in the group’s journal, Cancer Discovery. At the same time, he has been one of the journal’s two editors in chief.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/08/health/jose-baselga-cancer-memorial-sloan-kettering.html

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Hundreds at risk of water shutoffs in Camden’s semi-privatized water system

Jasmine Walker's brick-face home in Camden's Waterfront South section appeared ordinary at first: A purple cutout of the alphabet was pasted to the wall, and a television set rested in the living room, which was cluttered with her kids' toys. But in the next room, dirty laundry lay in piles, the defunct sink overflowed with dishes, water containers of every size littered the tables and floor, and a putrid smell permeated the air.

"I just feel hopeless," Walker said as she sat in her home, anxiously bouncing her 7-month-old daughter, Elaya, on her knee. "I can't seem to win."

In July, American Water, the for-profit company that leases Camden's water system, stopped service to her home due to failure to pay, leaving Walker, 25, and her two daughters, newborn Elaya and 6-year-old Naja, without running water for months. That finally changed on Wednesday, Walker said, after she submitted a form detailing the symptoms of her severe epilepsy and American Water reestablished her water service.

Throughout the city, there are more than 400 homes at risk of having their water shut off like Walker's under Camden's privatized water contract, according to a report acquired by the Inquirer and Daily News through the state's Open Public Records Act.

Read more: http://www2.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/american-water-company-shutoffs-camden-water-privatization-20180907.html

The Tennessean: Have insurance? There's still no guarantee you can get mental health care

In January, Nashville therapist Brian Poynter faced the prospect of losing 25 patients whose sessions were primarily paid for by a major employer.

The employer previously covered 80 percent of each session's cost, leaving patients to pay the remaining bill. In a drastic change, the employer stopped the popular program, instead telling employees to use insurance.

However, the insurance company did not cover Poynter's counseling services. 

Like many therapy offices, Poynter accepted only cash payments, citing the low reimbursement rates and the substantial paperwork required to navigate the corporate insurance claims systems.

Faced with the prospect of losing 25 clients who needed his services, Poynter embarked on the weekslong process of applying to have his care covered by the insurance provider. After months of waiting, he learned his application was rejected because he failed to check a single box on the questionnaire. 

The result: 25 clients battling depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses were left scrambling for new therapists or counselors. Many of them elected not to continue therapy, Poynter said.

“I told the woman on the phone, ‘You really don’t want to add providers, do you?’ ” Poynter said, adding he was still deciding whether to reapply.

The complicated process confronting Poynter highlights a major problem in the treatment of mental health issues in Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services estimated 411,037 Tennesseans had a serious emotional disturbance or a serious mental illness last year.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/09/09/mental-health-care-insurance/1041412002/

Houston Chronicle: Houston’s roads, drivers are country’s most deadly

The risk surrounds us, moves with us, passes us. It follows us on the way to work, to school, to church. We see it coming in the rear-view mirror.

A pickup plows into the back of a helpless car at 100 mph in northwest Harris County, killing two. A 17-year-old loses control on a narrow rural road in Fort Bend County, strikes a power pole and lands in a cornfield, pronounced dead at a hospital.

A driver doesn't stop after hitting and killing a woman standing on Texas 249. Two drivers collide head-on in Fort Bend County, killing both and sparking a five-car pileup. A motorcyclist exiting Loop 610 at Richmond dies after a BMW barrels into him and two other riders.

We drive past the crashes, numbed to their frequency, by how they add up. But they do: 640 people a year die on Houston-area roads, and 2,850 more are seriously injured.

The carnage, all factors considered, makes Houston the most deadly major metro area in the nation for drivers, passengers and people in their path, a Houston Chronicle analysis of 16 years of federal highway data reveals.

Read more: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/article/Houston-s-roads-drivers-are-nation-s-most-12865072.php?cmpid=gsa-chron-result

The Seattle Times: Sound Transit is taking a $300 million gamble on a new I-405 bus station in Kirkland

Sound Transit is betting $300 million that people will flock to freeway buses at a Kirkland site where nobody catches transit now.

Design is moving ahead for the Northeast 85th Station in Kirkland, even though the agency’s own projections say only a few hundred people would go there to catch new Interstate 405 buses, to arrive in 2024.

It’s the most expensive stop among 11 stations in a $1.1 billion, 37-mile corridor around the east side of Lake Washington. A new bus rapid transit (BRT) service, arriving every 10 minutes at peak times, was promised by the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure.

“A river of bus rapid transit, from Everett to Bellevue to Renton to SeaTac,” is how Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen described the project in her state of the city address in February.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/sound-transits-300-million-gamble-on-new-i-405-bus-station-in-kirkland/

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bice: Golden retirement -- seven ex-Milwaukee County prosecutors gets $1 million-plus cash payouts

It's good to be a retired Milwaukee County prosecutor.

How good?

Former Deputy District Attorney James Martin walked away from his job last month with lump-sum payment of nearly $1.5 million and an annual pension of $78,438, according to documents released via open records request.

That made Martin the seventh staffer to leave the DA's office as a newly minted millionaire under the county's backdrop program, which has proved abundantly lucrative to select retirees but a financial albatross around the necks of the hard-working taxpayers of Milwaukee County.

Only four county retirees outside the DA's office have scored $1 million-plus backdrop payouts.

Why so many from the prosecutor's office?

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/daniel-bice/2018/09/10/seven-ex-prosecutors-get-1-million-plus-cash-payouts/1215099002/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Sept. 6, 2018

Los Angeles Times: Lead paint threatens to undo California's biggest residential cleanup, officials warn. But they're doing little to fix it

Officials have long known that children across a swath of southeast Los Angeles County are exposed to brain-damaging lead from two distinct sources: pollution from a now-shuttered battery recycling plant and lead paint in the walls of their homes.

The state has begun cleaning soil contamination from yards near the Exide Technologies plant in California’s biggest-ever lead cleanup. But bureaucratic mistakes and a lack of cooperation between state and local agencies have blocked efforts to fix lead house paint, state records reviewed by The Times and interviews show.

The result, officials acknowledge, is that children in the area remain at risk of lead poisoning.

Failures occurred at multiple levels. State agencies let scarce lead abatement money slip away and refused to tell local officials which homes were in need of remediation. And the county health department, now in line to receive millions to remove lead paint from hundreds of homes, has not repaired any homes using federal grant money awarded for that purpose more than a year ago.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-exide-lead-paint-20180831-story.html

Sacramento Bee: Calling 911 in rural California? Danger might be close, but the law can be hours away

As urban areas such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Fresno grapple with discussions about use of force and the over-policing of minority communities, the state’s rural counties face a growing and no-less-serious law enforcement crisis: a severe shortage of staff that puts the public — and deputies — in danger.

A McClatchy investigation found that large stretches of rural California — where county sheriffs are the predominant law enforcement agencies and towns often run only a few blocks — do not have enough sworn deputies to provide adequate public safety for the communities they serve.

Departments in multiple jurisdictions are operating with skeleton staffs, McClatchy found, pushing response times into hours, or sometimes leaving residents without a response at all. In Trinity County, deputies regularly cover hundreds of miles of territory alone, leaving people like the Gunds to fend for themselves. When law enforcement does arrive in many outlying places, it’s often a single officer cut off from backup and, in some cases, communication with her or his department.

“We have no money. We have no people,” said Modoc County Sheriff Mike Poindexter, echoing more than a dozen rural California sheriffs. “We don’t have near enough people. We just don’t.”

Read more: https://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/article215453050.html

San Francisco Chronicle: Oakland schools’ blunder shows larger issue: Girls’ sports stuck at 2nd

Nearly half a century after a federal law barred gender discrimination at schools and universities, blatant inequities remain, with girls and women routinely cheated out of academic and athletic opportunities, research shows.

The inequities leave girls at a disadvantage on playing fields and in life.

Oakland Unified School District recently offered an extreme example when it eliminated sports programs to save money, ignoring a disproportionate impact on girls, according to civil rights attorneys.

Across California, 819,625 students participated in competitive sports last school year — 57 percent were boys and 43 percent girls, even though enrollment is nearly equal, the National Federation of State High School Associations reported in its annual survey. A legal advocacy group found that less than half of California school districts are complying with a state law requiring them to report gender participation in sports.

“The public does not seem to have that grasp, nor do the schools, that it is a systemic problem,” said Amy Poyer, senior staff attorney at the California Women’s Law Center. Girls are “just so used to being pushed to the side.”

The Oakland district’s decision to cut 10 high school competitive sports, announced Aug. 24, affected twice as many girls as boys, which represented a clear violation of federal Title IX law against sex discrimination in schools, the legal experts said.

Read more: https://www.sfchronicle.com/education/article/Oakland-schools-blunder-shows-larger-issue-13199449.php

Des Moines Register: An Arizona developer who owes Iowa millions turned nursing homes and apartments into his cash cows, court filings allege

Alan Israel owes the people of Iowa $2 million but lives in a $1.3 million home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, the wealthiest suburb of Phoenix.

He has lived in Arizona for at least 30 years, though many of his business dealings — encompassing nursing homes, apartments and housing development — have been in Iowa.

His story, based on hundreds of filings in state and federal court, is about the intersection of commerce and health care in Iowa, and the profits that nursing homes can generate for owners whose primary business is real estate, not health care.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2018/08/31/arizona-developer-owes-iowa-millions-nursing-homes-apartments-medicaid-fraud/1123542002/

Portland Press Herald: Fewer foster parents on the front lines

It was 4:30 p.m. on a Monday this spring when the caseworker came to Stefanie Millette’s house to collect the teenager.

The child, one of hundreds in foster care in Maine, was supposed to be with Millette only for a weekend, but two days had turned into two months.

Millette provides respite foster care but not indefinite placement, so she had been calling every day, pleading with caseworkers to find another option. There was nothing.

“The caseworker said (the child) could either go stay with a relative who has always been a trigger or go to a youth homeless shelter. Or, if there were any thoughts of suicide, to the emergency room,” Millette said. “How are these the options?”

The teen ended up at the youth shelter and then ran away after two hours. A child in state custody on the street.

Millette’s experience underscored a stark reality: The number of people willing to become foster parents in Maine has declined at a time when the number of kids entering care has increased significantly. In cases where children don’t go to a shelter, a hospital or with a family member who might not be suitable, they routinely stay in hotels with caseworkers who already are overburdened.

Read more: https://www.pressherald.com/2018/09/02/fewer-foster-parents-on-the-front-lines/

Boston Globe: Ethnicity not a factor in Elizabeth Warren’s rise in law

CAMBRIDGE — The 60-plus Harvard Law School professors who filed into an auditorium-style room on the first floor of Pound Hall on that February 1993 afternoon had a significant question to answer: Should they offer a job to Elizabeth Warren?

The atmosphere was a little fraught. Outside the hall, students held a silent vigil to demand the law school add more minorities and women to a faculty dominated by white men.

The discussion among Harvard professors inside that room is supposed to remain a secret, but it’s still being dissected a quarter of a century later because the resulting vote set Warren on her way to becoming a national figure and a favored target for conservative critics, among them, notably and caustically, President Trump.

Was Warren on the agenda because, as her critics say, she had decided to self-identify as a Native American woman and Harvard saw a chance to diversify the law faculty? Did she have an unearned edge in a hugely competitive process? Or did she get there based on her own skill, hard work, and sacrifice?

The question, which has hung over Warren’s public life, has an answer.

In the most exhaustive review undertaken of Elizabeth Warren’s professional history, the Globe found clear evidence, in documents and interviews, that her claim to Native American ethnicity was never considered by the Harvard Law faculty, which voted resoundingly to hire her, or by those who hired her to four prior positions at other law schools. At every step of her remarkable rise in the legal profession, the people responsible for hiring her saw her as a white woman.

Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2018/09/01/did-claiming-native-american-heritage-actually-help-elizabeth-warren-get-ahead-but-complicated/wUZZcrKKEOUv5Spnb7IO0K/story.html

The Oregonian: Inside the Hart family home, police search reveals debts, contradictions

The police search of the Hart family home, days after a March crash off the northern California coast presumably killed them all, turned up few indications that six children were being raised there. The home contained only one twin bed for them.

Nearly half the family’s income in most recent years came from money designated for care of the kids, all adopted out of foster care in Texas, an analysis of recently released records by The Oregonian/OregonLive found.

Investigators couldn’t figure out where the children slept in the Woodland, Washington home, the new records from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office show.

The parents had a double bed. Another bedroom contained two foam loveseats and a padded mat where police believed some of the children may have slept. The third bedroom held the twin bed.

Jennifer and Sarah Hart, parents of the six, lived beyond their means, and aspects of their lifestyle diverged widely from what they presented publicly online, the records show.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/expo/news/erry-2018/09/457f99a9ef7947/inside-the-hart-family-home-po.html#incart_m-rpt-2

Houston Chronicle: Breaking all the rules: Lax oversight undercuts Houston housing program goals

The idea was simple: Houston would acquire lots in blighted neighborhoods and sell them at a discount to developers, who would build affordable homes.

Low-income residents would become homeowners, gaining a foothold on the climb to financial security. Struggling neighborhoods would get millions in new investment, flipping eyesore lots into productive properties and sparking a turnaround in neglected areas.

Fifteen years and $15 million later, however, it is clear the Houston Land Bank frequently has fallen short of its mission.

The land bank — Houston’s largest locally-funded affordable housing program — has operated with little to no oversight from city officials, who acknowledge they have no idea how many of the roughly 400 reduced-price houses built through the program actually went to low-income buyers. Public records and interviews suggest dozens of buyers’ incomes were too high to qualify under program rules.

It was not until the Chronicle started asking questions last year that housing department leaders grasped the rules surrounding the program, and it took them a year to take steps to begin enforcing them, undercutting Houston’s housing goals at a time when rising prices are putting homeownership out of reach for an ever-growing share of families.

Read more: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Breaking-all-the-rules-Lax-oversight-undercuts-13197828.php?cmpid=gsa-chron-result

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: 'Absolute incompetence': Prison nurses didn't get teen at risk of dying to hospital for 3 days in 2016

MADISON - Nurses at the state’s troubled juvenile prison failed to detect for three days in 2016 that a 14-year-old inmate’s appendix was about to burst and gave him crackers and Gatorade instead of rushing him to a hospital — putting him at risk of dying, records show.

Prison officials fired one nurse over the situation but didn’t discipline others, including a nurse who failed to contact a doctor about the boy even though he should have under Department of Corrections policies because his pulse was so elevated.

The doctor who performed emergency surgery on the inmate said she saw widespread problems with the way he was treated at the prison.

“I mean, if this had happened at the hospital, I would demand that the nurse be fired for absolute incompetence,” physician Kristen Wells told a sheriff’s investigator without naming the nurse she was referring to. “She has no idea what she’s looking at. What we call it in the hospital setting is ‘failure to rescue.’ ”

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2018/08/30/prison-nurses-didnt-get-teen-risk-dying-hospital-3-days/1138014002/

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Wide racial disparities show up in prosecutor's sentencing numbers.

Dean Morphonios was the sole prosecutor in this tiny Panhandle county for nearly a decade.

He’s the son of a flamboyant Miami judge — Ellen Morphonios — but could not be more different in character and temperament.

Where his mother was bold and bawdy and bragged about her sexual conquests, he is humble, deeply religious and devoted to his wife.

Where she earned the nicknames “Maximum Morphonios” and “The Time Machine” for doling out long sentences to criminal defendants, he has a reputation for leniency and favoring probation over prison.

Where she co-wrote an autobiography and hosted a radio show for years, he prefers anonymity and declined to be interviewed.

Morphonios’ mother, who died in 2002, was no racist. Morphonios isn’t one either.

But a decade of crime data from the state’s massive Offender Based Transaction System shows that black defendants he prosecuted for felony drug crimes spent four times longer behind bars than whites on average.

Read more: http://projects.heraldtribune.com/influence/madison?_ga=2.235030917.522365795.1535903577-1232896354.1529875220

Pittsburg Post-Gazette: In Greene County, school budgets are being hollowed out by dwindling coal reserves

he firehall whistle blew in town a few miles away, marking the big moment of the night: the crowning of the 2018 Bituminous Coal Queen at Carmichaels High School.

Craig Baily, retired school superintendent and master of pageant ceremonies, wore a black tuxedo and tails. Teenage girls packing the school auditorium shrieked.

Albert Gallatin High School senior Holly Lesko (“Go Colonials!”) crouched slightly in her heels and gown and smiled wide as the crown was placed on her head by Gary Wilson, superintendent of the Cumberland Mine, a coal operation 20 miles from the high school.

The crowning of the queen is a Greene County tradition that started in 1954, a time when bituminous coal fueled an economy — feeding, clothing and schooling generations. But King Coal’s grip is slipping.

Bituminous represents 90 percent of all coal burned in the United States, but most of the mines around Carmichaels played out years ago. Two big Greene County mines closed in the past year. Production at a third, Cumberland, has been falling in recent years.

Nowhere has the sting been felt more acutely than at the county’s five school districts, where 27 percent of the tax base — $414 million in value — is tied to coal. And that erodes with each chunk torn from the ground.

Read more: https://newsinteractive.post-gazette.com/blog/declining-coal-reserves-siphon-tax-money-from-greene-county-school-districts/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Aug. 30, 2018

Peoria Journal Star: In last four fatal fires, firefighters didn’t call the closest reinforcements

BARTONVILLE — There’s no guarantee that a different strategy would have resulted in a different outcome — that the victims would be alive today if something as mundane as an administrative spreadsheet had one more agency added.

But in each of four fatal fires over the last 11 years, the structure of mutual aid calls for volunteer fire departments just beyond Peoria city limits has resulted in scenarios that appear to contradict the most basic tenets of firefighting.

In each instance, when the primary firefighting agency called for help, that call did not go to the next nearest fire station, where full-time crews respond around the clock.

The calls instead went to other departments staffed by trained volunteers, either personally selected by a fire officer on scene or according to a predetermined order on file with the agencies and dispatchers.

In practice, that meant calling firefighters who had to assemble at a station as far as a 15-minute drive away rather than the crew already on standby at a station within a few minutes of driving time from the scene.

And that practice appears inconsistent with the notion that the most successful firefighting outcomes result from getting as many firefighters as possible to the scene as quickly as possible.

Read more: http://www.pjstar.com/news/20180825/in-last-four-fatal-fires-firefighters-didnt-call-closest-reinforcements

Montgomery Advertiser: 8 years after Deepwater Horizon, beaches look good, but are they really?

GULF SHORES — Cory Phipps didn’t know what to expect on the family vacation to the Alabama Gulf Coast this year.

The last time he visited Gulf Shores and Orange Beach was 2008, some two years before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill sparked an environmental and economic disaster of monumental proportions.

“We were hoping it would be nice,” the Gadsden resident said in late July as he frolicked in the waters off Gulf State Park with his daughters Rory and Tory.

“Of course we had heard about the oil spill and all the trouble it caused," Phipps said. "But just look around, it’s beautiful. We like Gulf Shores much more than Panama City and some of the other beaches. It’s more family friendly down here.”

On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire on the Deepwater oil well set in motion what  many experts have called the greatest marine ecological disaster in history. The offshore well was about 40 miles south of Louisiana. The fire and explosion took 11 lives on the rig. And when the gushing well was declared sealed on Sept. 19, 2010, 4.9 million barrels of oil (or about 210 million gallons) had poured into the Gulf, according to U.S. government estimates.

Fisheries and beaches were closed as the oil spill migrated north and east along the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle coasts. Hotels and condos went empty and cities that rely on tourism, such as Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, became veritable ghost towns at the height of the season.

So fast-forward eight years. Where do we stand? Using environmental and economic yardsticks, the beach is back. But still there’s a specter hovering over this stretch of sugar white sand, lurking just off the surfline like an ominous cloud.

Read more: https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/local/solutions-journalism/2018/08/09/8-years-after-devastating-oil-spill-gulf-beaches-bounce-back/923937002/

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: With release of grand jury report, Mary Robb Jackson and her sister make a terrible discovery

Mary Robb Jackson grew up with a devout Catholic mother.

So, when the Rev. Lawrence O’Connell asked the young girl to work for him in the parish house in the late 1950s, she said yes.

The work was easy — copying church bulletins, answering phones, filling out Mass cards and doing homework in between.

But Father O’Connell would often call Mary Robb back into his office.

As he wrapped his arms around her, touched her breasts and kissed her, he would say, “’Does this bother you?’”

“You’re 12 years old, a little Catholic girl,” said Ms. Jackson, now 70. “What are you going to say? Of course it does.

“He was the first man to stick his tongue down my throat.”

Last week, as news of the statewide grand jury report broke, Ms. Jackson’s sister, Cynthia Carr Gardner, who lives in Marblehead, Mass., read a story that referenced Father O’Connell as one of 90 Pittsburgh Diocese priests identified as an abuser.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2018/08/22/mary-robb-jackson-grand-jury-report-victims-catholic-church-diocese-pa-lawrence-oconnell-abuse-cynthia-sisters-pittsburgh/stories/201808210251

San Diego Union-Tribune: Wounded warriors and others react to Rep. Duncan Hunter's alleged deceptions involving their causes

Daniel Riley joined the Marines in 2007 and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010, in Afghanistan, he stepped on an IED, losing both legs and half of his left hand.

As a fellow Marine, he said, he had a physical reaction to the allegations against Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of Alpine.

Daniel Riley joined the Marines in 2007 and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010, in Afghanistan, he stepped on an IED, losing both legs and half of his left hand.

As a fellow Marine, he said, he had a physical reaction to the allegations against Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of Alpine.

Congressman Hunter denied the allegations Wednesday and pleaded not guilty on Thursday. He and his attorneys say the prosecution is a witch hunt tainted by partisanship.

However, in a case laid out over 47 pages that included 200 allegations of questionable spending, the government brought the receipts.

Read more: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sd-me-charity-react-20180826-story.html#

Miami Herald: Fewer people are using cash, which means fewer tips. And Miami workers are hurting

Julio Valdez, a valet at a major hotel chain on South Beach, has parked cars for more than a decade. But in recent years, a crucial part of his income has changed: Fewer drivers are tipping him.

“Before, if you worked valet, you earned good tips. It didn’t really matter that companies paid little,” he said.

The culprit: Cash—and lack of it. It seems fewer and fewer customers are carrying bills in their wallets, he said.

As a tourist and hospitality destination, South Florida is home to an army of doormen, waiters, valets, hotel housekeepers, tour guides and drivers. Like Valdez, they rely on cash tips to help make ends meet.

But for these workers, getting by is getting harder as more people ditch cash for cards and apps.

Valdez said his current employer has not upped his pay, despite the fact that he and his co-workers can no longer count on tips to boost their hourly wage of around $9. (The employer declined to comment.)

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/technology/article216885945.html

Des Moines Register: Mollie Tibbetts' death put a spotlight on undocumented immigrants. But can Iowa's economy thrive without them?

In the northwest corner of Iowa, Sioux County is an agriculture powerhouse: Farmers raise more pigs and cattle, and milk more cows, than anywhere else in a state known for its powerful farming economy.

But without nearly 2,000 foreign-born workers, Sioux County's economy would fold, said cattleman Kent Pruismann.

In Sioux County, four of every five immigrants are not U.S. citizens, Census data show. That includes people who are authorized to be here as well as undocumented immigrants.

Across Iowa, an estimated 40,000 workers were undocumented in 2014 — about 2 percent of the state's labor force, the Pew Research Center estimates.

"If all of Sioux County's immigrant labor left tomorrow, we'd have a huge problem. … We don't have the people to replace them," said Pruismann, a former Iowa Cattlemen's Association president who feeds up to 5,000 cattle.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2018/08/24/mollie-tibbetts-slaying-iowa-student-exposes-need-undocumented-illegal-workers-everify-immigration/1071563002/

Kansas City Star: ‘I can’t lose this money’: KC area investors, IRAs ensnared in big Florida bankruptcy

A $283 million bankruptcy in Florida has knocked Khosrow “Kevin” Sohraby off his plan to retire in a house he’d picked out in Overland Park.

The bankruptcy has left Beverly Durant in financial limbo not knowing where her money is, a small inheritance that she could use for a car, dental work or to help her adult children.

And it swallowed the money Wanda Christensen received after her son, Nick Moeder, was killed five years ago by a downed and unattended power line at Rosedale Park in Kansas City, Kan.

“It feels like I’ve lost Nick all over again,” Christensen said in a statement through her attorney.

They are among scores of people in the Kansas City area and thousands nationwide who sank their money into “memorandums of indebtedness” from the now bankrupt 1 Global Capital in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The company uses the name 1st Global Capital.

Each of them had been offered the deals by Matthew Walker or others working for his Overland Park-based group of Pinnacle Plus companies.

Public records show Walker has financial partners, among them Americo Financial Life and Annuity Co. It’s owned by Americo Life Inc., which served as financial backer for Burns & McDonnell in its failed bid to build a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/business/article217071995.html

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: For those living north of Delmar Boulevard, trash complaints addressed at a slower rate

ST. LOUIS • The city’s customer service department records trash complaints made by residents, but how long it takes to get a response varies by neighborhood.

For residents in some north St. Louis neighborhoods, wait times to get an issue resolved through the Citizens’ Service Bureau can be three times longer than in some areas of south city. That prolonged time has brought with it fading confidence in City Hall’s ability to provide basic services.

“It sucks, and people get tired of calling and calling and not getting results,” said 3rd Ward Alderman Brandon Bosley, who represents Hyde Park and Fairground, two of the neighborhoods that get the slowest response. “It’s like nothing is getting done.”

The Post-Dispatch, as part of a continuing series of reports on the city’s mounting trash problems, reviewed almost nine years of complaint data, showing the disparities in response times by neighborhood. People who reside in the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood, along with those in Walnut Park East and Kingsway West, can wait three weeks or more to see a complaint resolved, compared with those living in Tower Grove South, Compton Heights and the Central West End, who may wait less than a week. The 10 neighborhoods with the longest wait time are all north of Delmar Boulevard.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/for-those-living-north-of-delmar-boulevard-trash-complaints-addressed/article_366fd05d-11a9-54fd-bac1-0a9ce7bc1f4d.html

The New York Times: For Female Candidates, Harassment and Threats Come Every Day

Four days before the 2016 congressional primary in her Northern California district, Erin Schrode woke up to tens of thousands of messages. They were everywhere: in her email, on her cellphone, on her Facebook and her Twitter and her Instagram.

“All would laugh with glee as they gang raped her and then bashed her bagel eating brains in,” one said.

“It’d be amusing to see her take twenty or so for 8 or 10 hours,” another said, again suggesting gang-rape.

It has been two years since Ms. Schrode, now 27, lost her Democratic primary and moved on. But the abuse — a toxic sludge of online trolling steeped in misogyny and anti-Semitism that also included photoshopped images of her face stretched into a Nazi lampshade and references to “preheating the ovens” — never stopped.

“She needs to stop moving her hands around like a crackhead,” said one tweet this year. “Another feminazi’s plans foiled!” said another.

The 2018 election cycle has brought a surge of female candidates. A record number of women ran or are running for the Senate, the House and governorships, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Many more are running for state legislatures and local offices. And in the process, they are finding that harassment and threats, already common for women, can be amplified in political races — especially if the candidate is a member of a minority group.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/24/us/politics/women-harassment-elections.html

The Oregonian: Portland 911, at rock bottom, looks to reach the top

Portland’s 911 center, roiled by scandal for falsifying data to cover its failure to answer calls on time, has faltered as it works to improve under new leadership.

Since the agency began publishing accurate data in late 2017, its call times have lagged far behind national benchmarks and reached a record low in June.

That leaves those who call Portland 911 at risk of getting help from first responders too late to put out a house fire, revive someone after cardiac arrest or stop a crime in progress.

National standards say 90 percent of 911 calls should be answered in 10 seconds at peak call times. So far this year, just 14 percent of Portland’s were. In June, the agency dipped to its lowest point – answering just 8 percent of peak-time calls within 10 seconds – before rebounding to 16 percent in July.

Any 911 agency so far behind the national standards ought to undertake a “wholistic, widescale assessment” to identify and correct its problems, said Christopher Carver, who oversees 911 standards at the National Emergency Numbers Association, the benchmark-setting group.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/expo/news/erry-2018/08/e4717a3af44510/portland-911-at-rock-bottom-lo.html#incart_target2box_default_#incart_target2box_targeted_

The Tennessean: When we have mental health crises, are our schools, churches or doctors offices prepared?

On one of his more challenging days, Johnathan refused to get on the school bus.

He threw chairs and ran away from the teachers, fleeing to hide under a table at his elementary school.

He lay there, curled up and crying when his mom was called to come and pick him up. And when Shaunqueen Leatherman arrived, worried and stressed, her son was asleep on the floor in that same spot.

His mother and grandma, who works as a teaching assistant in Metro Nashville Schools, asked for help from the school and were connected with a school-based therapist.

For a year, Johnathan's behavior underwent a "dramatic change," Leatherman says. He saw Laurie Jackson, a therapist from Centerstone who worked full time at Rosebank Elementary. He learned calm-down techniques. And if he was having a particularly tough day, he had someone nearby at school who understood him well enough to help.

"It was nice having someone who knew him mentally being right there," Leatherman says.

But this year, Johnathan changed Metro Nashville schools, and there is no longer a full-time therapist there to work with him. The 7-year-old's behavior is escalating again. He's becoming more jittery, and more wild, his mom says, leaving Leatherman — who is raising three kids on her own — to worry again about the mental wellness of her son.

"It's more difficult now because he doesn’t have that person to talk to every day," she says.

Johnathan is just one example of a significant and persistent need in Tennessee schools.

School-based therapy gives kids direct access to treatment, addressing behavior that may be disruptive or dangerous — often in the moments when a child needs it most.

But as the mental health needs of students reach unprecedented levels and fears about school and community violence escalate, experts say Tennessee schools have an inadequate number of psychological staff.

And that is a big problem.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/08/26/tennessee-school-psychologists-pastors-doctors-mental-health-care/1074107002/

Dallas Morning News: How a company’s refusal to cover medical costs is hurting sick foster kids in Texas

Last summer, child-welfare workers dropped a disabled girl, two pairs of pajamas and some diapers at Lorna Spears’ home in Kerrville, about 100 miles west of Austin. The 11-year-old could hardly see, couldn’t eat without choking and couldn’t survive without constant monitoring.

Spears knew that taking in a “medically complex” foster child would be tough, but she had watched her sister, a nurse who lived nearby, care for similar kids. Spears thought she could do it, too.

“I had raised my kids, and I just wanted to help,” says Spears, 52. “It’s just that motherly instinct.”

They had joyous moments, watching Disney’s Moana over and over, and laughing when Spears’ husband played Elvis songs on a guitar.

Often, though, Spears felt overwhelmed. The state assures foster parents that everything the children need, including expensive home nursing, will be provided by a health care company that it pays hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

But Superior HealthPlan wouldn’t provide enough medical supplies to keep the girl clean and comfortable, Spears says. Nor would the company pay for all the home nursing her doctor recommended, covering only 16 hours a day and leaving Spears alone with the child for eight. Foster parents cannot give consent for their children to be publicly identified, so The Dallas Morning News is withholding the girl’s name.

Read more: https://interactives.dallasnews.com/2018/pain-and-profit/part6.html

The Seattle Times: Did Seattle City Hall deliberately withhold records?

Records have emerged showing the Seattle mayor’s office and a City Council staffer privately conveyed to individual council members information about where a majority of their colleagues stood on issues related to the repeal of the controversial business head tax before a public meeting on the issue.

Those records include text exchanges between Deputy Mayor Shefali Ranganathan and Councilmember Rob Johnson two days before the June 12 vote, and a tally sheet of council members’ positions for joining the mayor in a public statement shared with Councilmember M. Lorena González a day before.

The records weren’t turned over by the city in discovery requests in a lawsuit alleging the city violated the state’s public-meetings act, potentially scuttling a settlement of the suit, according to a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs. The city also didn’t disclose the records in response to a public-disclosure request by The Seattle Times.

The new records — obtained by a local blogger this month as part of hundreds of documents released in response to his request about public polling on the head-tax issue — were provided this week to The Times, which verified them with city officials.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/did-city-deliberately-withhold-records-showing-tally-of-council-votes-on-head-tax-repeal/

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Under Wisconsin law, it should be easy to buy the drug to reverse an opioid overdose. It's not

A lifesaving drug that can reverse a heroin or opioid overdose should be easily available at pharmacies across Wisconsin.

But a survey of more than 450 pharmacies in the state turned up conflicting guidance from staff members when asked how to purchase naloxone, known by its brand name Narcan.

About a quarter of pharmacies said a doctor's prescription was required to buy the drug — even though one has not been needed since 2016.

That year, the state's chief medical officer signed a "statewide standing order" allowing licensed pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription. The order was included in a slate of proposals to lower opioid-related deaths approved by state lawmakers and signed by Gov. Scott Walker.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has an online naloxone directory to help the public find pharmacies that provide the drug under the standing order.

Reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin surveyed 465 of those pharmacies, located across 15 counties, and found:

• About 54 percent of pharmacists correctly said no outside prescription was needed.

• Nearly 27 percent said a prescription was needed and did not explain the statewide standing order.

• About 19 percent of pharmacies had a disconnected number, were not a retail pharmacy, served a special population such as an inpatient hospital or would not answer questions.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/wisconsin/2018/08/23/wisconsin-pharmacies-unclear-narcan-laws-reduce-opioid-heroin-overdoses/1013650002/

Providence Journal: Reported attacks on the rise, yet most perpetrators avoid prison

A year-long investigation by a team of Brown University students found that 87 percent of those charged with elder-abuse offenses in R.I. between 2000 and 2017 did not go to prison for those crimes, leaving their elderly victims vulnerable to repeated attacks.

Seventy-eight-year-old Mary Lamar Grancher lived in fear of her son Garry Lamar, 47. He was prone to violent rages — often spitting in his mother’s face, grabbing her throat, shoving her around and calling her crude names, according to police reports.

After allowing Lamar to live in her North Kingstown home for four years without paying rent, Grancher kicked her son out. But Lamar returned daily, banging on her door and begging for money. “I would like to see you dead,” he told her. He repeatedly stole her cat, Melo, which he threatened to kill unless she paid him hundreds of dollars in ransom.

As a neighbor testified, Grancher would often “cry and cave in.” By July 2007, Lamar had forced his mother to hand over more than $15,000.

“I felt like I had to because he is my son,” a trembling Grancher explained to officers. “I don’t want him back in the house.”

Prosecutors initially charged Lamar with one count of blackmail and extortion and another count of domestic assault on a person over 60. However, the assault charge was later dismissed, and Lamar received a five-year suspended sentence for blackmail and extortion. He never went to prison, and to date he has paid less than half of his $450 fine, according to the Rhode Island judiciary.

In a review of all Rhode Island criminal cases since 2000 that included an elder-abuse charge, a group of Brown University student reporters found that victims such as Grancher are routinely left vulnerable to abuse. Despite the fact that all crimes committed against a person over 60 are designated as felonies, tracking these cases through the state’s legal system reveals that perpetrators of these crimes rarely serve significant prison time.

Read more: http://www.providencejournal.com/news/20180824/reported-attacks-on-rise-yet-most-perpetrators-avoid-prison

AP: Tabloid that kept Trump secrets faces losses, legal trouble

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Enquirer has long explained its support for Donald Trump as a business decision based on the president's popularity among its readers. But private financial documents and circulation figures obtained by The Associated Press show that the tabloid's business was declining even as it published stories attacking Trump's political foes and, prosecutors claim, helped suppress stories about his alleged sexual affairs.

The Enquirer's privately held parent company, American Media Inc., lost $72 million for the year ending in March, the records obtained by the AP show. And despite AMI chairman David Pecker's claims that the Enquirer's heavy focus on Trump sells magazines, the documents show that the Enquirer's average weekly circulation fell by 18 percent to 265,000 in its 2018 fiscal year from the same period the year before — the greatest percentage loss of any AMI-owned publication. The slide follows the Enquirer's 15 percent circulation loss for the previous 12 months, a span that included the presidential election.

More broadly, the documents obtained by the AP show that American Media isn't making enough money to cover the interest accruing on its $882 million in long-term debt and that the company expects "continued declines in circulation and advertising revenues" in the current year. That leaves AMI reliant on debt to keep its operations afloat and finance a string of recent acquisitions that are transforming the tabloid news industry.

Read more: https://www.heraldonline.com/entertainment/article217524175.html

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Aug. 23, 2018

Des Moines Register: As nearly $1 billion is spent elsewhere, Des Moines flooding victims wonder why they haven't been helped

Angry that the basement of her Beaverdale home has been inundated with 6 feet of water three times since 1993. 

Angry that she's spent thousands of dollars on repairs, and that more than a month since the latest round of flooding, her home is still not fixed.

And angry that the city has not moved more quickly to fix chronic flooding in Beaverdale and elsewhere, despite knowing about problems since the early 1990s.

The June 30 flash flood that damaged nearly 1,800 Des Moines homes has prompted questions about how the city prioritizes spending on things like roads and parks, and whether enough is being done to protect homeowners from aging storm sewers that have repeatedly flooded basements in the city.

Residents want to know why city officials have not redirected money from other projects to address what they believe has been an emergency for decades.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2018/08/16/des-moines-flooding-beaverdale-drake-storm-sewers-levees-easter-lake-iowa-flood-victims-fema/938573002/

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: 'A playbook for concealing the truth' -- Grand jury's investigative report identifies over 300 abusive priests

Pennsylvania was the focus of international attention in the past week following the release of the grand jury church abuse probe.

While we did dozens of stories, this one from reporter Paula Reed Ward is among the most comprehensive and detailed published via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/faith-religion/2018/08/14/Pennsylvania-Grand-Jury-report-Catholic-church-priests-Sex-Abuse-attorney-general-Shapiro/stories/201808100153

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Cal U says garage contractor lacked state approval for substitute construction material

Reporter Bill Schackner's story: California University of Pennsylvania says builder used unapproved material; university suing over collapsed parking garage.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/2018/08/16/California-University-of-Pennsylvania-Cal-U-Vulcan-garage-collapse-lawsuit-state-owned/stories/201808160142

Wall Street Journal: VA May Have Erred in Rejecting Sexual-Trauma Claims, Report Says

WASHINGTON—The Department of Veterans Affairs didn’t follow proper procedure when it denied hundreds of claims by veterans seeking support and treatment for sexual trauma they said they suffered while in uniform, according to a department watchdog report released Tuesday.

In 2017, the VA denied nearly half of approximately 12,000 claims by veterans seeking support for military sexual trauma, according to the department’s inspector general. Of the claims that were denied, the department erred in processing 1,300 of them, fumbling a variety of procedures put in place to ensure victims of sexual trauma receive the benefit of the doubt by officials processing their claims.

“This comes as no surprise to those of us who follow these issues,” said Scott Jensen, chief executive of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group. “We need not just better laws but better definitions of metrics and follow-up reporting. There are laws on the books but no one is holding them to account.”

The VA declined to comment beyond its official response to the report. In that response, Paul Lawrence, the top VA official for benefits, concurred with the findings and said the department would review all denied military sexual-trauma claims stretching back to late 2016.

Read more: https://www.wsj.com/articles/va-may-have-erred-in-rejecting-sexual-trauma-claims-report-says-1534867267

Leader-Telegram Analysis: Bills move faster under Republicans in Wisconsin Legislature

MADISON — The length of time bills were deliberated dropped significantly soon after Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators took control in 2011, diminishing the public’s opportunities to influence lawmaking, according to an analysis of records and interviews by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

The center’s analysis of all bills enacted into state law over the past two decades shows an overall decline in deliberation time — with the most dramatic drop happening just after Walker took office.

In Walker’s first two years in office, averagedeliberation time was 119 days, compared with a20-year average of 164 days. During that 2011-12 session, 1 out of every 4 bills, including some of the Republicans’ most sweeping and controversial legislation, was passed within two months of introduction.

In comparison, in the 1997-98 session under Gov. Tommy Thompson, it took an average of 227 days for a bill to be introduced, aired in public hearings, passed by the Assembly and Senate and signed into law. Republicans controlled the governor’s office and Senate at the beginning of that session, adding control of the Assembly in 1998.

By the 2017-18 session, when Republicans controlled both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office, the deliberation time averaged 162 days — close to the 20-year average, but well below the levels seen in the pre-Walker years.

Among the bills approved in Walker’s first session was Wisconsin’s 2011 redistricting plan, which the U.S. Supreme Court recently kicked back down to the court that had overturned it. After being crafted in secret by Republicans, it was approved by the Legislature in 29 days.

Read more: http://www.leadertelegram.com/News/Daily-Updates/2018/08/19/div-class-libPageBodyLinebreak-Bills-move-faster-under-Republicans-div.html

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Aug. 16, 2018

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Arkansas ranks 7th in gun deaths, but weapons restrictions not on the table

Francisco Zamora looked like he was asleep, his arms folded under his stomach and head turned to the side.

The 16-year-old had been shot three times — in the arm, chest and hip — by Armando Castillo, someone who shouldn’t have been able to buy a gun under federal law because of previous domestic violence charges.

After killing the teenager, Castillo went on to murder Zamora’s 15-year-old girlfriend, Adriana Hernandez, and her mother, Amanda Murillo, in a rampage that lasted hours. He piled the mother and daughter on top of each other in the back of a car, next to some elementary school fliers and candy wrappers. Then Castillo, who was dating Murillo at the time, shot himself.

The shooting victims that Mother’s Day in 2017 are among the more than 8,000 people slain by gunfire in Arkansas since 1999. More than half of the victims died by suicide. About 200 died in gun accidents. The rest were killed by other people.

Such casualties are the day-to-day reality of gun violence in Arkansas: People here die by gunfire at a rate higher than in 43 other states, according to an analysis of 17 years of federal data by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Read more: https://ww2.arkansasonline.com/guns/

Philadelphia Inquirer: 165,000 Philly homeowners may be paying too much in property taxes. Is the city assessing property fairly?

Christin Phillips received an unwelcome piece of mail this spring: the city’s latest assessment on her Bella Vista rowhouse.

It suggested that her home’s value was about $130,000 above the nearly identical house next door, and that her tax bill next year would top $9,000 — more than double what she paid this year.

But the city, it turns out, had incorrect information: Her house, blocks from the Italian Market, was listed as a duplex but is actually a single-family residence.

Errors are inevitable in mass appraisals involving hundreds of thousands of properties. But an Inquirer and Daily News analysis of recent assessment data and sales prices found that assessment inaccuracy remains a stubborn problem in Philadelphia.

More than a dozen neighborhoods — including Hunting Park, Southwest Philadelphia, and Fairhill — are overvalued, according to the newspapers’ review. Others — University City, Point Breeze, and Center City — are getting relative tax breaks.

More than 35 percent of homes — totaling more than 165,000 — are overassessed, the analysis found, meaning those homeowners are paying more than they should in property taxes and essentially subsidizing others across the city. Lower-priced properties on average tend to be overassessed, while owners of higher-priced properties may be paying too little in taxes.

Philadelphia assessment officials disagreed with the Inquirer and Daily News analysis and said they stand by their calculations.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/philadelphia/philadelphia-property-assessments-appeal-tax-market-value-20180810.html

The Columbus Dispatch: How so-called rebates drive up the cost of prescription drugs

Rebates demanded by pharmacy middleman from drug manufacturers are driving up Americans' prescription-drug costs by billions of dollars.

A Dispatch analysis of financial records from the country’s largest drug manufacturers found that practices of the pharmacy benefit managers, also known as PBMs, push the list price of their drugs well beyond actual costs.

In short, PBMs tell manufacturers that if they want their drugs to be covered by the insurance companies they work with, the manufacturers need to provide the PBMs with "rebates."

In 2017, the country’s largest pharmaceutical companies spent $74.6 billion on research and development to create their brand-name drugs, according to financial reports. They also spent $116 billion to get those medications from their warehouses to wholesalers, and then via pharmacy benefit managers, hospitals and pharmacies to consumers.

These costs affect all patients because the rebates are factored into the price of name-brand prescription drugs.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/sideeffects/called-rebates-drive-cost-prescription-drugs/site/dispatch.com/

Cleveland Plain Dealer: 'Big, big money:' Legal loopholes help property owners avoid taxes, fees

CLEVELAND, Ohio - In April, a Canadian real estate company bought one of downtown Cleveland's largest apartment buildings, the 407-unit Sphere on East 12th Street.

But no purchase price appears in public records. The sale didn't produce a conveyance fee, a government-imposed charge on real estate transfers that would have brought in $160,000 to $200,000 on a likely $40 million to $50 million transaction.

Though it's possible to guess at the price based on a $35.9 million mortgage filing, the cloaked nature of the sale means that Cuyahoga County is missing key data to determine what the property is worth. That makes it harder for the county to raise property taxes on Sphere, which the county's fiscal office values at only $8.6 million, and tougher for appraisers to treat the building as a benchmark for establishing values for similar downtown properties.

And it's all completely legal.

Read more: https://realestate.cleveland.com/realestate-news/2018/08/big_big_money_legal_loopholes.html

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Lessons for Rochester: Failed Bronx school becomes coolest place in town

Before Public School 64 in the Bronx closed, serious disturbances frequently disrupted Taisha Rodriguez's teaching.

Poor, homeless and traumatized students received little support. Parent-teacher conferences might attract 10 percent of parents. The environment, she said, was toxic.

"There were many, many days I would cry upon having to go in or leaving."

The year it closed, 2016, only 11 percent of kids at P.S. 64 passed the English language arts (ELA) exams and 16 percent passed math.

Rodriguez was skeptical that The Walton Avenue School, P.S. 294, which would replace Pura Belpre, P.S. 64, in the same building would be any different.

The students at The Walton Avenue School would be from the same neighborhood, about a mile northeast of Yankee Stadium, where the median household income is $25,771. They would bring the same troubles and baggage.

By 2017, The Walton Avenue School saw 60.9 percent of its students pass state ELA exams and 78.1 percent pass math — results that were more than 20 percentage points higher than the state average.

Last year it had zero suspensions and 93 percent attendance rates.

Read more: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/local/communities/time-to-educate/stories/2018/08/09/walton-avenue-school-ps-294-bronx-64-principal-daniel-russo-transform-rcsd-rochester-kodak-park-41/825859002/

Albuquerque Journal: New Mexico has seen its share of fringe groups

There are plenty of wide open spaces in New Mexico where people seeking to live off the grid can find starry nights, the sound of the wind through the trees – and few prying eyes.

Some of those folks are loners. Others are just checking out of the urban rat race. Others come to practice their religion in monasteries or remote farms in ways that harm no one.

But New Mexico’s remote areas have also attracted groups on the fringe of society who end up in the crosshairs of law enforcement – and often it’s because of their treatment of the children who live in the communes.

Groups like the five adults and 11 children found living in primitive and squalid conditions north of Taos earlier this month. Or the self-described revolutionary Christian group that Cibola County Sheriff’s deputies moved in on last year near Fence Lake, removing roughly a dozen children. Or a 70-member compound in Union County where “Messiah” Wayne Bent ended up being convicted in 2008 of criminal sexual contact.

Calling such groups “cults” is something the FBI rarely does. The FBI doesn’t even like the use of the word cult because it is easily misused and was historically used to describe religious groups like Mormons, Quakers and other groups now considered mainstream religions.

Instead, the FBI has issued risk factors to law enforcement on when they should be concerned about a religious group, couched in careful phrasing because the Constitution protects an individual’s right to religious beliefs. The key issue in those risk factors is a threat of violence to members, children or to people who don’t belong to the group.

Read more: https://www.abqjournal.com/1207930/new-mexico-has-seen-its-share-of-fringe-groups.html

Albuquerque Journal: Victims of Desert State still waiting for restitution

A woman known in court records as “J.W.” died destitute this year.

But she had once been a co-beneficiary of a $600,000 trust at the now-defunct and disgraced Desert State Life Management company of Albuquerque.

Her money, along with savings and trust accounts of more than 70 other vulnerable people who were clients of Desert State, were part of the estimated $4.8 million embezzled by company CEO Paul Donisthorpe, who pleaded guilty last November to federal money laundering and mail fraud charges in the scheme.

J.W.’s death several months ago left her daughters scrambling to find the money to bury their developmentally disabled mother.

They eventually found a “patchwork of people” to pay for funeral expenses, said Charles Reynolds, who had been her conservator.

“But it was very frustrating and sad to think there were no funds for an immediate burial,” Reynolds said. “It highlights how pathetic the situation was.”

More than a year after state regulators uncovered the crime, the dozens of victims who relied on Desert State to keep their savings safe are still waiting for financial relief. A proposed class action lawsuit for those defrauded was filed in June, but one of Desert State’s insurance companies has gone to court to keep from paying claims. Desert State was placed into state receivership last year.

Read more: https://www.abqjournal.com/1207980/victims-of-desert-state-still-waiting.html

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Study shows Nevada schools have largest average class sizes

Denise Lovern wants you to imagine your living room. Start with it empty.

Then add a counter or two, maybe a sink, some built-in shelves and a teacher-sized desk and chair. The space probably still feels roomy.

Now, add 36 smaller desks and chairs and children to sit in them. The kids are 9 and 10, so they’re not big. Still, there are almost 40 of them.

For Lovern, 57, a 28-year veteran teacher in the Clark County School District, this is her day-to-day reality at Steele

Elementary School in Las Vegas. And she says it interferes with her ability to do her job and ultimately penalizes the kids.

“Nevada’s children deserve smaller class sizes. We need to stop setting up our kids for failure,” she said.

Class size is a national issue, with parents and educators generally taking the view that smaller is better, as that affords students more one-on-one attention and provides a more reasonable workload for teachers. But research is mixed, and skeptics wonder whether the extraordinary expense required to reach “optimal” class sizes — whatever that might be — would be worth the achievement gains that might be realized.

Nevada is at the forefront of the debate, after a study by the National Education Association found that the state had the largest average class sizes in the nation last year for the second year running, followed by Arizona and Utah.

Read more: https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/education/study-shows-nevada-schools-have-largest-average-class-sizes/

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Residents of rundown St. Louis area apartment complex trapped by poverty, indifference

BEL-RIDGE • Of all the growth at Springwood Apartments, a 271-unit spread nestled in the woods here near Natural Bridge Avenue and Interstate 170, none of it appears to be economic.

Trees sprout from gutters. Mold creeps in walls. And after a good rain, in at least one of the 17 two-story buildings that make up the complex, a large basement floods.

The water lingers so long sometimes that an ecosystem flourishes.

“It becomes like a swamp,” said Clarence Crumer, 32, who lives above it. “I guess, when it gets hot, the insects need to find their way up, into the apartments.”

There are so many things to fix at Springwood, which was recently cited for at least 167 building code violations, he nearly forgot to mention temperature control. His air conditioner clanked like an old engine that wouldn’t start. He said it’s been broken all summer.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/residents-of-rundown-st-louis-area-apartment-complex-trapped-by/article_b9cf9001-6d7f-56a5-80a4-8388d1e80d94.html

Kansas City Star: County officials wield the power as Colyer vs. Kobach race remains undecided

Local officials spread across Kansas’ 105 counties will exercise an incredible amount of power this week when they determine whether thousands of ballots should count in the closest primary race for governor in Kansas history.

The roughly 9,000 provisional ballots, awaiting rulings from county officials across the state, will likely decide whether Gov. Jeff Colyer or Secretary of State Kris Kobach emerges as the GOP’s standard-bearer in the fall.

More than 40 percent of the provisional ballots were cast in the state’s two most populous counties, Johnson and Sedgwick. The ballots have the power to swing the Kansas race in Colyer’s favor or solidify a victory for Kobach.

Kobach’s role as the state’s chief election official has heightened the scrutiny of the vote-counting process in the contentious race. After a backlash this week, Kobach announced Friday that Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker will oversee the process in his stead.

Colyer’s campaign plans to send representatives to all 105 canvassing board meetings to ensure the governor receives every possible vote. The candidates went into the weekend separated by a mere 110 votes.

The uncertainty about the winner has drawn comparisons to the standoff between George W. Bush and Al Gore during the 2000 presidential election, when a few hundred votes separated the two candidates in Florida.

Bryan Caskey, who works under Kobach as the state’s director of elections, said that usually 60 to 70 percent of provisional ballots end up being counted in the final tally.

“We always count more than we don’t count,” he said.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/election/article216446680.html

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: How alcohol foils rape investigations

Joanna Howe woke up in her bed, naked and uncertain how she got there.

Her friend’s wedding in October 2016 had been a rare night out for the 40-year-old single mom studying to be a preschool teacher. She planned to have a good time. She took a Lyft ride to the event and recalled telling the bartender, after a couple of beers and glasses of wine, not to worry, she would use the service to get home, too.

Her last memory from the night was unsettling: Trying to pronounce the name of a man standing over her as she was lying down. She wasn’t injured, but knew something was wrong. She never slept nude and her apartment door had been left unlocked.

“It was more of an emotional feeling of wrongness,” Howe said.

She suspected her Lyft driver had come into her apartment and raped her. She called the Roseville police.

Over the next year Howe confronted a stark reality faced by many women who report being raped in Minnesota: Their already slight chance of getting justice plummets if they were drinking.

Police are less likely to interview witnesses, assign cases to a detective or forward them to a prosecutor for possible criminal charges, according to a Star Tribune analysis of more than 1,000 sexual assault cases from 2015 and 2016.

When cases involving alcohol do reach prosecutors, suspects are much less likely to be charged with a crime or convicted. When a victim is sober, records show, prosecutors charge about 15 percent of the sex assaults. When a victim is intoxicated, that rate drops to 8 percent.

In cases where the victim was drinking, only 1 in 20 sex assaults resulted in a conviction — about half the overall conviction rate for sex assaults.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/how-alcohol-foils-rape-investigations/488413421/

Boston Globe: New England’s smallest colleges are struggling

Financial conditions are deteriorating at many of New England’s quintessential small private colleges, with tuition revenue failing to keep up with expenses at more than half of the schools, a Globe review shows.

The review of federal data found a number of financial warning signs at many of the schools, which have become increasingly reliant on tuition, even as enrollment has declined.

The College of St. Joseph in Vermont, for example, relies on tuition for 90 percent of its revenue, but the tuition covers just 58 percent of the school’s annual expenses. At Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, tuition makes up 77 percent of the school’s revenue but covers just 65 percent of its expenses. At Newbury College in Brookline, enrollment has declined 24 percent over a five-year period, but it depends on tuition for 74 percent of its revenue.

These findings echo a national trend. Two reports issued recently by national credit rating agencies forecast more troubles for small schools as the gap between their revenue and expenses widens. Moody’s found in July that one in five small private colleges nationwide is under fundamental stress. It predicted more are likely to close or merge in the coming years.

Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/08/11/new-england-smallest-colleges-are-struggling/v60cnP1oEhBX1MEOMb9oSP/story.html

Courier Journal: Shooting exposes weaknesses in Louisville police gun-safety rules

Louisville Metro Police Officer Sarah Stumler had holstered her gun as she and two other officers prepared to leave the vacant home.

But on her way to the door, she peered into the living room, the sun streaming through curtained windows. She saw a mattress box spring leaning against the wall to her left. Behind it, shadow. A figure.

"Show your hands," she yelled, raising her gun and its mounted flashlight.

Bang.

“I meant to turn the light on to see what was behind the mattress and accidentally pulled the trigger,” she told department investigators after the March 2017 shooting of Bruce Warrick, an unarmed homeless man who had been using crack cocaine in the home.

Stumler's flashlight was mounted underneath the barrel, just in front of the trigger guard. She said she meant to hit a switch on the side of the light.

Instead, she pulled the trigger, shooting Warrick in the stomach.

2017 coverage: Police video from the shooting: 'Show your hands,' then a gunshot

The single shot was expensive: It cost the city $1.8 million in a payout to Warrick, who was left with limited kidney function and lifelong digestive system problems.

It also led to important questions about how Louisville police oversee officers' training and the use of such devices, particularly in light of similar shootings in other cities.  

The department's Public Integrity Unit, which investigates all police shootings for criminal wrongdoing, spent five months working the case last year and officially closed the case in June, making the records available to the public.  

A Courier Journal review of the unit's investigation found a lack of thorough policy on the use of these weapon-mounted flashlights.

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/crime/2018/08/09/louisville-police-shooting-raises-questions-gun-safety-flashlights/916963002/

Indianapolis Star: EPA documents: Contamination in Johnson County known for decades but still being cleaned up

With more than 50 children in Johnson County diagnosed with rare forms of brain, blood and bone cancer in the last 10 years, people here are desperate for answers. What is causing this? Is contamination at the source? What is being done to address it?

But even before those questions are answered, thousands of new documents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are raising yet even more troubling questions.

The documents, which date back decades, reveal that federal and state environmental regulators have been aware of contamination at an industrial site in Franklin for more than 30 years.

Furthermore, an IndyStar analysis of the documents raise serious concerns about the extent of the contamination, the steps taken to clean it up and if more could and should have been done sooner. The documents also call into question who is accountable for what some environmental groups and community members call the insufficient response, and if it could have potentially harmed nearby residents and families.

Read more: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/environment/2018/08/12/epa-documents-raise-questions-contamination-cleanup-franklin/874038002/

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Fatal heroin overdose tests limits of amnesty law

Sitting in the basement of his Milton home, heroin flowing through his veins for the first time, Gregg Ivey was euphoric.

“This is the best feeling in the world!” he exclaimed.

Moments later, Ivey collapsed, his face ashen, his lips turning blue. Friends couldn’t find a pulse and someone called 911.

At 10:09 p.m., shortly after arriving at North Fulton Hospital, Ivey, 28, was pronounced dead. The life-of-the-party jokester with the bushy black beard was gone.

That was nearly three years ago. But for Graham Williams, who allegedly helped Ivey locate a vein and shoot up that night, the consequences live on.

The Fulton County district attorney has charged Williams, 35, with “distribution” of heroin — for injecting him with the fatal dose — plus a felony murder charge that could send him away for life. Williams’ lawyer is arguing that his client should be immune from prosecution under Georgia’s 911 Medical Amnesty law.

Adopted in 2014 to encourage drug users to render aid instead of running away, the statute says that a person who calls 911 and remains at the scene “in good faith” providing care for an overdose victim cannot face criminal prosecution.

Williams’ case — replete with the messy details of a night of partying gone tragically wrong — could ultimately set an important precedent in how the law is applied at a time when drug overdoses are soaring.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/local/fatal-heroin-overdose-tests-limits-amnesty-law/npqMlwUfgxWi9uucv79WzO/

Sacramento Bee: In emergencies, cell phone alerts can be too slow to save lives. Can the system be fixed?

Before the flames appeared, Sandie Freeman thought the sky above her Redding home looked especially beautiful.

The evening was golden hued and still; pretty enough that she took a picture. Minutes later, a light wind picked up and leaves from her oak tree began falling like rain, she said.

It was the only warning she received that something was amiss.

The breeze turned into heavy gusts, then a roar that sounded “like a locomotive in your front yard,” she said. The Carr Fire shot up behind the house across the street, leaving her and her husband mere minutes to grab their dogs and make a dash for the road, only to find a line of cars stuck in a slow-motion crawl to safety.

A family of deer with three fawns came up to her car bumper. A long-time animal rescuer, she tried to think of a way to save them. But she didn’t know if she was even going to save herself.

“I honestly thought the fire was going to come up over us,” she said.

Before the Carr Fire gutted the western edge of Redding, causing eight deaths and leveling more than a thousand homes, local emergency services in the Northern California region sent out 59 “Code Red” evacuation warnings to various areas, including at least three aimed at pinging 31,979 nearby cell phones with urgent alerts, according to the Shasta Area Safety Communications Agency.

Some of those critical messages missed people living in the Redding neighborhoods hit first as fire blew across the Sacramento River on July 26 — a fatal lack of effective communication that is disturbingly common during California disasters.

While multiple systems exist for governments to warn people in urgent times — including broadcast TV, radio and internet messages — none is instantaneous and all are hit-or-miss in whom they reach and when they reach them. It is a reality at odds with what many people expect during a disaster.

Read more: https://www.sacbee.com/news/business/technology/article216275210.html

Los Angeles Times: Before becoming LAPD chief, Moore retired, collected a $1.27-million payout, then was rehired

Before Michel Moore was promoted to become the Los Angeles Police Department’s new chief in June, he took a brief, highly unusual retirement.

He left as chief of operations for only a few weeks before rejoining the force in the same job at the same pay. But the move provided him with a financial windfall: a lump sum retirement payment of $1.27 million from the city.

Moore, 58, received the money thanks to his enrollment in the city’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, which pays veteran cops and firefighters their pensions, in addition to their salaries, for the last five years of their careers.

The extra pension payments go into a special account that the employee receives at the end of the five years — so long as they formally retire.

Moore said in an interview that the plan to have him retire and then return almost immediately to work was proposed by former Chief Charlie Beck and approved by Mayor Eric Garcetti.

A few months after he returned to work, Garcetti appointed the well-respected, 36-year veteran as the department’s next chief.

Because chiefs are excluded from DROP, if Moore had won the promotion before he retired he would have been forced to forfeit the $1.27 million in order to take the job. Several other L.A. police and fire chiefs — including Beck — have lost their DROP payments that way.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-chief-drop-2018-08012-story.html

Arizona Daily Star: Tucson group takes in money for foster kids, but has done little to help them

A cloud of ill will is gathering in Tucson over a Phoenix man who for months has collected donations he said would be used to benefit local children in foster care.

Since April, his fundraisers have been a familiar sight at tables outside local stores and eateries where representatives collect cash donations.

But where the money goes isn’t entirely clear.

To date, the organization has held just one event — a chaotic day at a Tucson fun park paid for with a check that didn’t clear the bank.

The fundraisers staffing the tables get to keep half of the money they collect — a fact not disclosed to donors in a state where little public disclosure is required, an Arizona Daily Star investigation found.

In 2013, the Legislature killed a longstanding consumer-protection measure that required fundraisers to register with the secretary of state.

Had it not done so, Tucsonans who drop donations at the collection tables might have known that Southern AZ Foster Kids is actually based in California.

Read more: https://tucson.com/news/tucson-group-takes-in-money-for-foster-kids-but-has/article_cb5ddab5-3aa6-52c6-8775-16354f2d49b9.html#tracking-source=home-top-story

AP Exclusive: Google tracks your movements, like it or not

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.

An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you've used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.

Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP's request.

For the most part, Google is upfront about asking permission to use your location information. An app like Google Maps will remind you to allow access to location if you use it for navigating. If you agree to let it record your location over time, Google Maps will display that history for you in a "timeline" that maps out your daily movements.

Storing your minute-by-minute travels carries privacy risks and has been used by police to determine the location of suspects - such as a warrant that police in Raleigh, North Carolina, served on Google last year to find devices near a murder scene. So the company lets you "pause" a setting called Location History.

Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you've been. Google's support page on the subject states: "You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored."

Read more: https://apnews.com/828aefab64d4411bac257a07c1af0ecb/AP-Exclusive:-Google-tracks-your-movements,-like-it-or-not

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Aug. 9, 2018

Montgomery Advertiser: Reality vs. intent: Alabama Accountability Act serves mostly students from nonfailing schools

Alchico Grant was a T.S. Morris Elementary second-grader when his grandmother, Antionetta Jackson, started looking to get her grandson into another school and learned about the Alabama Accountability Act.

“I didn’t have a problem with his teachers, but he was coming home with too much knowledge from children — street knowledge,” Jackson said.

However, she didn't have the money to pay private school tuition, and school zoning required he stay where he was enrolled.

The 2013 act, which diverts taxpayer money to provide students scholarships to qualified private schools, turned out to be the aid Jackson had been looking for. The scholarship helped the family afford Trinity Presbyterian School, she said, even though the act’s intention didn't quite match Alchico's situation.

Alchico Grant and his grandmother Antionetta Jackson discuss his sixth-grade class schedule Thursday at Trinity. Grant will attend his fourth year at Trinity on a scholarship from the Alabama Accountability Act.Buy Photo

Alchico Grant and his grandmother Antionetta Jackson discuss his sixth-grade class schedule Thursday at Trinity. Grant will attend his fourth year at Trinity on a scholarship from the Alabama Accountability Act. (Photo: Julie Bennett / Advertiser)

The act was created to give students at "failing" public schools the means to exit. But with T.S. Morris not in the failing category, Alchico was still able to secure a scholarship based on financial need, like the majority of students that receive scholarships through the AAA.

Read more: https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/education/2018/08/03/reality-vs-intent-alabama-accountability-act-serves-mostly-students-non-failing-schools/727038002/

Arizona Republic: Arizona's forests are being ravaged by climate change. How much can we save?

Arizona didn’t always burn this way.

In the 1970s, when Wally Covington began studying the world’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest outside his Flagstaff window at Northern Arizona University, people thought about forests and fire on a different scale. He remembers the shock as high country residents watched the unprecedented sight of 500-acre crown fires, the kind that spread from treetop to treetop, killing the mature pines.

Only a few decades earlier no one in Arizona had ever seen a crown fire, let alone one in the hundreds of acres.

“People couldn’t believe fires could get any bigger,” said Covington, a forestry professor and executive director of the university’s Ecological Restoration Institute.

The fires did get bigger. At their most extreme they got a thousand times bigger.

And they blackened acre after acre of ponderosas, the towering, orange-barked pines that clean the state’s water and air, shelter its high-country wildlife and define a great green arc from the Grand Canyon to New Mexico.

Foresters in the 19th century unwittingly set this disaster in motion. 20th century fire suppression and warming made it worse, littering the landscape with “doghair thickets,” dense stands of trees just a few inches in diameter that burn like kindling.

Without major ecological investments, Arizona risks losing its ponderosa forests in a generation.

It's likely too late to save it all, so federal foresters and their allies are racing against the next megafires to choose the places that matter most.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/in-depth/news/local/arizona-environment/2018/08/01/climate-change-wildfires-frantic-fight-save-arizona-forests/609566002/

San Francisco Chronicle: Their costly, unproven treatments can be risky. But for-profit stem cell clinics are flourishing.

In the waiting room of Mark Berman’s Beverly Hills office, the reception counter is crowded with trophies. Mostly made of clear plastic or glass, resembling a row of miniature ice sculptures, they are touchstones of his long career in cosmetic surgery.

For more than three decades, Berman’s focus was breast augmentations and face-lifts. He invented a pocket-like device that can be implanted into the breast to produce better-looking, safer results from augmentation procedures. He calls it his “Sistine Chapel.”

But over the past eight years, Berman has reached far past his specialty into a realm of highly sophisticated, still-nascent medicine. He’s become one of the country’s most outspoken and notorious providers of so-called consumer stem cell therapies: using human stem cells to treat a wide variety of ailments despite little or no scientific proof that they work.

With his business partner, Rancho Mirage (Riverside County) urologist Elliot Lander, Berman has built the largest chain of stem cell clinics in the country. Their Cell Surgical Network has more than a hundred affiliates in 33 states — including 38 clinics in California alone — selling treatments they claim will fix everything from knee pain to symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

“As a cosmetic surgeon, it’s kind of a joke that I’m at the center of this universe,” Berman said in an interview last fall. “But I’m kind of ground zero.”

Seven months later, his words became darkly prophetic: In May, Berman and his partner were targeted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA requested an injunction that, if approved by a federal judge, would stop them from selling stem cell therapies.

Read more: https://projects.sfchronicle.com/2018/stem-cells/clinics/

The Denver Post: Colorado secretly created a way to police medical marijuana doctors, a lawsuit suppressed for years alleges

A Denver Post investigation revealed a lawsuit that accused Colorado regulators of secretly creating a policy to police medical marijuana doctors. The lawsuit is just one of thousands that were hidden from the public as a result of judges’ orders.

Read more: https://www.denverpost.com/2018/08/05/colorado-policing-marijuana-doctors-shrouded-justice/

The Washington Post: An unsavory scam? Company accused of diluting Chesapeake blue crab meat with imported crab

Few things say local like the Chesapeake blue crab.

It has scuttled its way into Maryland’s tourism slogan and is part of the region’s signature dish, proudly touted on menus and in markets as a taste of the Bay in an era when “eat local” has become the mantra of foodies.

But a few years ago, a tipster reached out to authorities with an unsavory allegation: A major Virginia seafood supplier was selling packages of premium Chesapeake blue crab meat cut with cheaper foreign crab. It wasn’t even the same species.

In an unusual probe, federal agents fanned out to markets across Virginia, Delaware and North Carolina, scooping up crab meat from Casey’s Seafood and sending it out for the type of DNA analysis more common in rape and murder cases.

The results would reveal the tip of what authorities say is a massive fraud worth millions of dollars, one so large it has shaken the food industry and raised questions about just how much of the iconic food labeled as local comes from the Chesapeake Bay.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/an-unsavory-scam-company-accused-of-diluting-chesapeake-blue-crab-meat-with-imported-crab/2018/08/04/a8e1ab6c-85f7-11e8-8553-a3ce89036c78_story.html?utm_term=.419167e19742

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Reed, city concealed secret $147K payout to fired Atlanta airport boss

Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed reached secret terms in a settlement with the airport general manager he fired in 2016, agreeing to pay Miguel Southwell $147,000 more than was disclosed to the City Council and the public, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation has found.

The August 2016 settlement, reached in the heat of the presidential campaign, ended public accusations of illegal conduct between Reed and the former airport boss and defused a crisis that had the potential to threaten Reed’s political future.

But the previously unknown terms raise new questions about how the deal was done and why it was kept from the public. Documents reviewed by the AJC and Channel 2 Action News do not show the source of Southwell’s proposed payout, and the city told the AJC that it can find no record of public or insurance funds being used, raising questions about who paid the money on the city’s behalf.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt--politics/reed-city-concealed-secret-147k-payout-fired-atlanta-airport-boss/kuhbVghD3N3FnxAxZxzBnI/?icmp=np_inform_variation-control

Chicago Tribune: Indiana steel mill emits 18,000 pounds of lead a year. Is it blowing toward Chicago?

The nation’s largest source of industrial lead pollution is just 20 miles down the Lake Michigan shore from Chicago, churning more than twice as much of the brain-damaging metal into the air each year as all other factories in the region combined.

ArcelorMittal’s steel mill in Burns Harbor, Ind., emitted nearly 18,000 pounds of lead during 2016 and has topped the national list since a Missouri lead smelter shut down in 2013, according to a Tribune analysis of federal records that raises new questions about the oversight of big lakefront polluters by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Burns Harbor plant also emitted 173,000 pounds of benzene during 2016, the newspaper’s analysis revealed, making the sprawling steel-making complex by far the nation’s largest industrial source of a volatile chemical known to cause leukemia.

Lead and benzene pollution from the steel mill rose sharply during the past decade as airborne levels of both toxic substances dropped nationwide. More pollution could be on the way if Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel-maker, ramps up U.S. production in response to President Donald Trump’s controversial tariff on imported steel.

Yet regulators can’t explain where the steel mill’s pollution ends up.

Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-met-burns-harbor-steel-mill-lead-pollution-20180723-story.html

Des Moines Register: Utility's push for more wind turbines is blowing up trouble with Madison County residents

DEXTER, Ia. — The battle playing out over a second crop of wind turbines that MidAmerican Energy is proposing near this small town is like many playing out across Iowa and the nation.

In the home of the famed covered bridges of Madison County, the utility plans to stand up 52 turbines that will be as tall as skyscrapers — towering 490 feet.

That's led to a tug of war between those who believe that the whooshing, flashing and flickering from the massive turbines will ruin their quality of life and others who see them as an economic windfall in easement payments and tax revenue.

Politicians and power companies proudly promote Iowa's status as the nation's leader in wind energy as a percentage of its overall electric generation, but neighbors of proposed wind farms are increasingly challenging the projects.

“One complaint we have is that most of these property owners (signing agreements with MidAmerican) don’t live on the land where the turbines will be used,” said Dave Marsh, whose home with a new pool overlooks a farm field that will host one of the turbines.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/readers-watchdog/2018/08/01/iowa-wind-turbines-energy-neighbors-midamerican-energy-bridges-madison-county-dexter-adair/809981002/

Courier Journal: Here's how much Bevin's adoption advisers, a pastor and wife, will make

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The cost to taxpayers for the Bevin administration's hiring of a Baptist pastor from Florida and his wife as special advisers to Kentucky on adoption and foster care could total more than $350,000 a year.

The salaries paid to Chris and Alicia Johnson, of Clermont, Florida, will not be so high — $82,500 each per year, said Elizabeth Kuhn, communications director for Gov. Matt Bevin's office.

But state records obtained by the Courier Journal show state government is planning to spend up to $700,000 over the next 23 months for the advisers — when normal job benefits and up to $69,500 for travel and miscellaneous expenses are included.

On Wednesday Gov. Matt Bevin's office announced the Johnsons were retained by the state to support the governor and first lady Glenna Bevin's priority of reforming Kentucky's adoption and foster systems.

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/2018/08/03/kentucky-adoption-advisers-salaries-contracts/896841002/

The Times-Picayune: One year and many fixes since the Aug. 5 flood, questions linger for New Orleans' drainage system

A year has passed since torrential rains flooded New Orleans on Aug. 5, 2017, revealing the shoddy state of the city’s drainage pumps and power systems and exposing administrative failures that forced out the leadership of the Sewerage & Water Board. The troubled agency has poured more than $82 million into emergency repairs, new leaders have taken the helm, and a new mayor has promised to ensure the system’s needs are addressed.

But key questions remain about the risk of flooding and the vulnerability of a system aimed at keeping New Orleans residents dry. Key repairs are still underway, and an engineer hired to analyze the city’s drainage system’s failures highlighted a little-discussed effect that can send water back onto the streets after it’s been pumped. The engineer, Matt McBride, called the effect “reverse flow” in a report provided to the city in November, saying it occurs when drainage pumps lose power and start spinning backwards – as some likely did a year ago, reversing water into already flooded streets.

“The effect is frightening and disturbing, as swimming pools full of water are directed back into a neighborhood in an instant during a downpour,” McBride said in his report, discussing reverse flow in general. “The force and speed of the flow can be so great that manhole covers are blown a dozen feet in the air blocks away from the reverse flowing pump.”

Read more: http://blog.nola.com/expo/news/erry-2018/08/7ad2d5d8dd3232/one-year-and-many-fixes-since.html?__vfz=rtw_top_pages%3D11000079908699

The Boston Globe: Boston’s schools are becoming resegregated

An alarming pattern of racial segregation has re-emerged in the Boston Public School system over the last two decades, according to a Globe analysis, largely the consequence of steps taken by city and school officials to allow more students to attend schools in their neighborhoods as they did prior to court-ordered busing.

Nearly 60 percent of the city’s schools meet the definition of being intensely segregated — meaning students of color occupy at least 90 percent of the seats. Two decades ago, 42 percent of schools were intensely segregated. Many of these schools are low performing.

All the while, the shifting student population is slowly creating more schools where the majority of students are white, climbing over the past two decades from two schools to five.

Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/08/04/boston-schools-are-becoming-resegregated/brwPhLuupRzkOtSa9Gi6nL/story.html

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Caseloads grow in Nevada, US as judicial vacancies unfilled

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans are confirming President Donald Trump’s federal appellate judges at a fairly rapid clip, but vacancies in lower district courts remain unfilled, creating heavy workloads and delays for pending civil and criminal cases.

Nevada has two open seats that were vacated when judges took senior status. One seat, in Reno, has been listed as a “judicial emergency” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts because it has been open for more than 2½ years.

The other Nevada seat is in Las Vegas and came open at the end of June. Judicial vacancies

Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro in Las Vegas said the vacancies have “a huge impact, considering our caseload is going up and up and up.”

According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the number of case filings in the Nevada district is higher than the national average for federal district courts. Nationwide, district court caseloads grew 6 percent last year alone.

The Judicial Conference of the United States recommended in March 2017 that Nevada receive an additional district judge, on top of its seven existing judgeships, due to the state’s high caseload.

Read more: https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/politics-and-government/nevada/caseloads-grow-in-nevada-us-as-judicial-vacancies-unfilled/

Asbury Park Press: NJ marijuana legalization: Why NJ cops are the nation's toughest weed enforcers

Marijuana users in New Jersey — which is on the verge of legalizing weed — are arrested at the highest rate in the nation by local police departments, some of which report that more than a third of their arrests were for pot, a USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey investigation found.

There were 32,279 marijuana possession arrests in 2016 — more than murder, rape, assault or any type of theft, according to the latest data available from the FBI's Uniform Criminal Reporting program. The FBI tracks nearly all arrests across the nation.

More than one-third — 36 percent — of the weed possession arrests were of African Americans, although blacks comprise just 13 percent of the state's population. Learn more about who is arrested for marijuana possession in the video below. There was no breakdown in the data on the arrest of Hispanic suspects.

Statewide, marijuana possession accounted for 10.6 percent of all arrests made by local, state and federal law enforcement officers — about one arrest for every 187 adult residents. It was the highest percentage in the United States, the Network found. The next closest state was South Carolina at 9.9 percent of all arrests.

Read more: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/local/new-jersey/marijuana/2018/08/02/nj-marijuana-legalization-possession-arrests-lawyers/844793002/

The Dallas Morning News: Are Dallas County constables quietly rounding up unauthorized immigrants for ICE?

No one disputes Trinidad Camacho was living in the country illegally. Not even her family.

Her record shows she was deported to Mexico in 1999 after convictions for drunken driving and cocaine possession. Soon after, she sneaked back into the United States.

But the 54-year-old grandmother's recent arrest in Oak Cliff — captured on video and widely shared on Facebook — has stirred questions that a Dallas County constable's office is quietly working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the expense of county taxpayers. It's a question that neither Constable Ray Nichols nor ICE would answer, despite repeated requests from The Dallas Morning News.

Camacho, who wailed as Deputy Constable Jeffrey Hubbard handcuffed her by her white SUV, was taken to an ICE office in Dallas on July 20 and booked at the Euless city jail in Tarrant County on an immigration detainer. Nichols, the constable in Dallas County Precinct 2 and Hubbard's boss, said his deputy stopped Camacho because of a traffic violation and arrested her because of an active federal felony warrant.

Her attorney said there was no federal or state felony warrant for her arrest. Camacho's family is also skeptical of Nichols' explanation. According to their account, one of Camacho's relatives was stopped earlier in the day by the same deputy but given no traffic tickets despite driving without a license or proof of insurance.

And now Dallas County commissioners, who set Nichols' budget, want to know why the deputy was making a traffic stop in Oak Cliff, far from his precinct in the Garland and Mesquite area. GPS data obtained by the county's budget office shows Hubbard drove an unmarked car straight from his home in Mesquite to Oak Cliff, where he lingered for more than two hours before arresting Camacho.

Read more: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/immigration/2018/07/31/dallas-county-constables-quietly-rounding-unauthorized-immigrants-ice

Houston Chronicle and ProPublica: For heart bypass surgery, St. Luke's has been among the nation's worst

Ernest Barnard, a 75-year-old resident of Cypress, checked into Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center in the summer of 2016, feeling lethargic and struggling to catch his breath. After three weeks at the hospital, family members said the medical team concluded Barnard needed a quadruple bypass to improve blood flow to his heart.

The evening before surgery, his children brought him a treat, hoping to lift his spirits.

"I'm a daddy's girl," Graciella Gonzalez said. "He asked for an ice cream ... so I went to the gift shop and got him an ice cream. And that was his last meal he ever had."

For nearly two years, Gonzalez and her family have wondered went wrong.

What they did not realize: Between the middle of 2016 and the middle of 2017, Baylor St. Luke's was rated among the worst hospitals in the country for bypass surgery. Of nearly 600 hospitals that voluntarily report surgical outcomes to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, St. Luke's was one of 18 nationally to earn only one star for overall bypass quality, the group's lowest rating.

Read more: https://www.chron.com/news/investigations/article/For-heart-bypass-surgery-St-Luke-s-has-been-13129937.php

The Seattle Times: In one Washington state immigration court, bonds are among the highest in the country and asylum is granted less often

When Guatemalan migrant Nanci Hernandez appeared before an immigration judge at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma — her kids thousands of miles away at a Texas facility — the government had one week left to meet a court-ordered deadline to reunite families separated after crossing the border.

With the separations sparking international outrage against President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, judges and immigration officials were releasing parents on bond, here and elsewhere, so they could rejoin their children.

But in the Tacoma court that stands out nationally for high bonds, Judge John Odell had questions. He wanted to know if she had ever been in the same room as the person offering to put her up in Georgia, a friend of Hernandez’s mother, according to her lawyer, Malou Chávez of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP). Hernandez had not.

Odell determined she was a flight risk, and denied bond.

Hernandez got out of detention only after being transferred to Texas. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released her there on her own recognizance just in time for the July 26 deadline, allowing her to reunite with her 12-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son.

“It’s arbitrary,” Chávez said of Odell’s decision. “In other situations, where we show the same evidence, he’s granting bonds.”

Six other parents separated from their children were denied bond in one of three courtrooms in the Tacoma detention center and in a makeshift courtroom recently set up at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, according to NWIRP.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/bonds-set-in-tacoma-for-immigrants-are-among-nations-highest/

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Airlines are trimming flights to Mexican resort areas as demand softens after reports of tourist blackouts

Some of the largest U.S. airlines say their bookings to resort areas of Mexico have fallen in recent months, with travel to that region being singled out as one of the few weak spots in an overall robust global air travel market.

In transcripts of conference calls to discuss quarterly earnings with financial analysts, executives from United, Delta, American and Spirit all mentioned Mexico specifically as a weak spot in their flight networks.

Several said they either have or will consider reducing service to Mexican resort areas.

The reductions come after an ongoing Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation into reports of alcohol-related blackouts by American tourists in Mexico.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/money/business/2018/08/03/airlines-trimming-flights-mexican-resort-areas-demand-softens/875348002/

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Jobs are back in Florida, but pay lags and poverty is still up

TALLAHASSEE — Florida unemployment is nearing an all-time low and Gov. Rick Scott says the state is “on a roll” with 1.5 million jobs created since he took office.

But that didn’t stop Angela Edwards-Luckett from coming to the Capitol recently as part of a protest by labor groups and others critical of Florida’s shortage of jobs that pay well.

“It’s a struggle to survive out there,” said Edwards-Luckett, 51, of Clearwater, whose primary source of income is a $10,000-a-year part-time instructor’s job at St. Petersburg College.

Edwards-Luckett, who teaches world religion, said she picks up more money doing ministerial work. But in Pinellas County, she said, many jobs pay only $8.50 or $9.50 an hour.

“If the jobs are there, they really don’t pay what you need, or what you’d call a living wage,” she said.

Almost a decade since the Great Recession ended, Florida’s economic recovery remains uneven, data shows. Scott can point to an abundance of new jobs — although research shows almost half are considered low-wage, paying $10 or less an hour.

Close to half of Florida’s 67 counties still have not returned to the employment levels they had before the recession, which began in 2007 and officially ceased in June 2009.

Read more: http://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20180805/jobs-are-back-in-florida-but-pay-lags-and-poverty-is-still-up

AP: After decades of silence, nuns talk about abuse by priests

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The nun no longer goes to confession regularly, after an Italian priest forced himself on her while she was at her most vulnerable: recounting her sins to him in a university classroom nearly 20 years ago.

At the time, the sister only told her provincial superior and her spiritual director, silenced by the Catholic Church’s culture of secrecy, her vows of obedience and her own fear, repulsion and shame.

“It opened a great wound inside of me,” she told the Associated Press. “I pretended it didn’t happen.”

After decades of silence, the nun is one of a handful worldwide to come forward recently on an issue that the Catholic Church has yet to come to terms with: The sexual abuse of religious sisters by priests and bishops. An AP examination has found that cases have emerged in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia, demonstrating that the problem is global and pervasive, thanks to the universal tradition of sisters’ second-class status in the Catholic Church and their ingrained subservience to the men who run it.

Some nuns are now finding their voices, buoyed by the #MeToo movement and the growing recognition that adults can be victims of sexual abuse when there is an imbalance of power in a relationship. The sisters are going public in part because of years of inaction by church leaders, even after major studies on the problem in Africa were reported to the Vatican in the 1990s.

The issue has flared in the wake of scandals over the sexual abuse of children, and recently of adults, including revelations that one of the most prominent American cardinals, Theodore McCarrick, sexually abused and harassed his seminarians.

Read more: https://www.apnews.com/f7ec3cec9a4b46868aa584fe1c94fb28

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Aug. 2, 2018

Pennsylvania: STATE OF EMERGENCY: Searching for Solutions to Pennsylvania's Opioids Crisis

America is in the midst of the deadliest drug epidemic in its history and Pennsylvania is at the epicenter.

In 2016, more than 2,200 Pennsylvanians died of opioid overdoses, the fourth highest rate in the US, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Opioid deaths made up about half of all drug overdoses in the state that year.

The death toll from opioids abuse has climbed so high that the governor's office this year issued an emergency declaration. That designation calls for increased coordination and tracking of the work of health and safety agencies dealing with the public health emergency.

Newsrooms have been documenting the epidemic's soaring numbers for close to two decades. Now, a special project marshaling their combined strength is focusing on what Pennsylvanians around the state are doing to try to reverse this most deadly trend.

PennLive and the Patriot-News along with other newspapers, websites, and TV and radio stations are using their platforms to spotlight the ways every region of the state is confronting this immense challenge. Words, videos and photos shared by journalists covering more than 50 counties outline a wealth of strategies and initiatives that are showing promise.

These are stories of community support, outreach, care and prevention.

All are about hope.

Read more: https://www.pennlive.com/opioid-crisis/2018/07/state_of_emergency_searching_f.html

USA Today: Hospitals know how to protect mothers. They just aren’t doing it.

Every year, thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster, a USA TODAY investigation has found.

Doctors and nurses should be weighing bloody pads to track blood loss so they recognize the danger sooner. They should be giving medication within an hour of spotting dangerously high blood pressure to fend off strokes.

These are not complicated procedures requiring expensive technology. They are among basic tasks that experts have recommended for years because they can save mothers’ lives.

Yet hospitals, doctors and nurses across the country continue to ignore them, USA TODAY found.

As a result, women are left to bleed until their organs shut down. Their high blood pressure goes untreated until they suffer strokes. They die of preventable blood clots and untreated infections. Survivors can be left paralyzed or unable to have more children.

The vast majority of women in America give birth without incident. But each year, more than 50,000 are severely injured. About 700 mothers die. The best estimates say that half of these deaths could be prevented and half the injuries reduced or eliminated with better care.

Instead, the U.S. continues to watch other countries improve as it falls behind. Today, this is the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth.

Read more: https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/deadly-deliveries/2018/07/26/maternal-mortality-rates-preeclampsia-postpartum-hemorrhage-safety/546889002

Lohud.com: Volunteer fire embezzlement sparks oversight in Croton, Mahopac, Patterson, Briarcliff

Stunned by the rash of brazen embezzlement from volunteer fire departments throughout the Lower Hudson Valley, municipalities and the departments that protect them have shored up oversight to prevent it from happening again.

The thefts were substantial.

The Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department treasurer’s theft of $5.7 million was discovered in 2015, the same year the Patterson Fire Department treasurer swiped $1.1 million by writing 130 checks to companies he owned.

Croton-on-Hudson in 2018 discovered that $313,000 was purloined by one of the department’s former chiefs. The Briarcliff Manor Fire Council's former treasurer drained $120,000 from its accounts by writing 150 checks to himself. 

And federal investigators are still probing the loss of $40,000 from one of the Port Chester Volunteer Fire Department's seven companies — the Putnam Engine & Hose Co.

“We need more eyes on the books,” said Robert Outhouse, president of the Westchester County Volunteer Firemen's Association. “We are trying to get all departments on the same page as far as audits and double checks so this doesn’t happen again.”

Read more: https://www.lohud.com/story/money/personal-finance/taxes/david-mckay-wilson/2018/07/25/embezzlement-sparks-oversight-volunteer-fire-departments-croton-mahopac-patterson-briarcliff/823058002/

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: The confounding state of child care in Florida

BRADENTON — It is 6:45 on a Friday morning, and Carina Piovera is trying to enjoy a cup of Cafe Bustelo coffee in the kitchen of her Bradenton day care, 14 minutes before the first kid will arrive.

The owner and director of My First Steps child care center has reams of paperwork due to the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee later in the day. Nap time will be filled with administrative tasks, and she needs to pay her staff.

As the first kids arrive at 6:59, Piovera receives hugs and updates on what took place in the 13 hours since she last saw them.

“I coughed last night,” says one.

“This morning I had a tummyache,” says another.

It’s toddler small-talk — the equivalent of commenting on the traffic or weather.

“I’ll see you at 6,” parents say as they leave, headed to work at restaurants and construction sites.

Payment for the week is due at the end of the day, so in 11 hours those parents will return with envelopes of cash. For some, the fee will be close to half their pay for the week.

The high cost of child care in Florida is well-documented — a year at My First Steps could easily cost upward of $8,000, more than the base tuition at University of Florida. Though the retail workers, security guards and waitresses who rely on My First Steps struggle to afford that, Piovera can’t charge any less.

But thousands in tuition doesn’t mean child care workers are getting rich.

A parent whose 3 or 4-year old child stays with Piovera from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday will owe her $165 for the week. That comes to $3 an hour for Piovera and her staff of four.

Florida’s child care industry is a case study in market failure — providers are selling their services at fire-sale prices, but it is still too expensive for the consumers.

Providers are just scraping by while parents are breaking the bank to pay for child care. Although the issue isn’t isolated to the Sunshine State, child care experts point to a multitude of Florida-specific factors.

Low barriers to entry means more centers open, creating more vacancy at existing providers. State funding remains flat. And too many providers aren’t demanding to be paid what their services are worth.

Meanwhile, research is proving that high-quality early learning is increasingly valuable. Providers are shedding the “day care” label as academic studies prove the difference a high-quality learning environment makes for a child from birth to age 5.

Read more: http://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20180727/confounding-state-of-child-care-in-florida

Seattle Times: He’s Mexican. She’s American. Deportation forced this Washington state family to make a choice.

HOQUIAM, Grays Harbor County — Erika Lopez woke up feeling sick. She hadn’t slept well, and her mind raced.

It was her last day working the front desk at an Ocean Shores hotel. It was a new job she wanted to keep.

But Erika and her family were moving out of their home in nearby Hoquiam, away from where she was born and raised, where her mother, sister and brother still live, and where at a Cinco de Mayo party many years ago, she caught the eye of the man who would become her husband.

“Honestly, I’m scared as hell right now,” Erika said.

They were going to Mexico. She knew only a little Spanish. The kids knew less.Her husband, like hundreds of thousands of people every year, was being deported. Juan Lopez sneaked across the border when he was about 16, and for a while gained legal residency. Now he’s 50.

As with so many cases, his expulsion affects not just one person but a family. Some split up. Others leave together, even when spouses and children are American citizens.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently reported deporting nearly 12,500 people who said they had at least one child born in the United States. That was just for the first half of 2017. Up to 600,000 children who are American citizens live in Mexico alone, some due to deportation and others whose families have voluntarily returned, according to an estimate by the government there.

For Americans who follow deported spouses, there is no figure. But Randall Emery, president of the advocacy group American Families United, says he’s sure it’s in the thousands.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/hes-mexican-shes-american-a-deportation-order-left-this-washington-state-family-with-a-difficult-choice/

Dallas Morning News: Atmos' gas leaks go far beyond one northwest Dallas neighborhood. See how bad the problem is.

A sharp increase in natural gas leaks has plagued neighborhoods across North Texas this year, from Irving to Oak Cliff to Preston Hollow.

Large swaths of north and northwest Dallas had more hazardous leaks during the first half of 2018 than in any year since 2015, according to a Dallas Morning News analysis of data filed with state regulators by Atmos Energy Corp.

These leaks -- the most serious type, which required immediate fixes -- were reported along neighborhood gas lines that snake through working-class areas between Dallas’ two major airports, as well as tony North Dallas streets dotted with multimillion-dollar homes.

Atmos found so many natural gas leaks in northwest Dallas that it now plans to replace a pipeline network covering an area more than four times the size of White Rock Lake.

This gas line replacement extends well beyond the northwest Dallas neighborhood where leaks fueled three explosions and fires in February, including one that killed 12-year-old Linda Rogers. Those blasts launched a federal investigation and prompted Atmos Energy to replace aging pipelines to 2,800 homes in that neighborhood.

Since then, Atmos has done more frequent searches for gas leaks in the Dallas area using high-tech tools, the company said in a statement Friday.

"As would be expected, the result has been a higher number of found and repaired leaks ultimately enhancing the safety of our system," the statement said.

Our data analysis reveals potential widespread problems with aging and wear and tear in the gas delivery system running under customers’ homes and businesses all over Dallas County.

Read more: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/investigations/2018/07/29/atmos-gas-leaks-go-far-beyond-one-northwest-dallas-neighborhood-see-bad-problem

The Tennessean: In Tennessee, where you live can affect your mental health

DOWELLTOWN, Tenn. — Five-year-old Bryson Hines stands in the bedroom he shares with his sister and pounds repeatedly on the closed door, sending echoes through the brick ranch house in rural Dowelltown.

He's on a timeout.

In the kitchen, his mom, Tasha Burrage, lights a cigarette and exhales in a mixture of stress and release.

Her spirited, and at times aggressive, blond-haired boy was born in a Tennessee June a couple of years after she graduated from high school. Two years later, she had a daughter.

The 25-year-old mother lived in housing projects in rural DeKalb County then, in recovery for addiction, she says. She was dealing with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by childhood abuse, yet she was unable to get the mental health care she needed.

She didn't have insurance and had just sold her beat-up '99 Mazda Protege with its busted transmission to the junkyard, leaving her without transportation.

Life could have continued that way, but when she lost custody of her two kids after a violent night with a previous boyfriend, Burrage finally found a way to get support.

"I didn’t like being away from them," she says, "but it helped me do what I needed most. I went back to counseling ... ."

It is estimated that more than 1 million Tennesseans ages 18 and older have a mental health or substance use disorder. Many are uninsured.

Studies have shown that the risk for serious mental illness is generally higher in cities, but those living in rural areas can face greater barriers to diagnosis and treatment due to lack of services and access to transportation.

Experts say the state has one of the best first-response systems in the country, serving every Tennessee county, but before and after a mental health emergency finding help can be a challenge.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/investigations/2018/07/29/mental-health-tennessee-treatment-urban-rural/771125002/

Columbus Dispatch: Was CVS favored by state in multimillion-dollar deal to provide HIV drugs?

State officials awarded a contract to CVS last year that allowed the national pharmacy company not only to control federal money for HIV drugs in Ohio, but also to require patients to buy their medicine only at CVS pharmacies.

Critics say that the contract arranged by the administration of Gov. John Kasich does not make the $8.1 million worth of drugs as widely available as they would be in an open pharmacy network that went beyond CVS. Nor is it the best way to ensure that HIV patients take their potentially life-saving drugs as they should, they say.

These questions come amid others about whether CVS is benefiting from outsized profits on billions of dollars of business it does with another state agency — the Ohio Department of Medicaid. State legislators, the state auditor and attorney general all are probing that setup.

CVS Caremark also took charge of a mailing to patients last year that potentially exposed their HIV-positive status to the public. But CVS Caremark wasn't supposed to be handling that mailing, according to the state's request-for-proposals that resulted in CVS getting the contract for the HIV assistance program.

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides 6,500 needy, HIV-positive Ohioans with drugs that allow them to live near-normal lives despite carrying an otherwise-fatal virus. The drugs are free for patients who qualify for the state to serve as the "payer of last resort."

The Ohio Department of Health would not answer several questions because of pending lawsuits, including whether anyone other than CVS — with its large retail and mail-order operations — could have even offered a closed network of the kind for which the state expressed a preference going into the process.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/sideeffects/home/site/dispatch.com

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Ten years after the raids: Here were the people charged in the Cuyahoga County corruption probe

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- While the Cuyahoga County corruption probe started in 2007, July 28, 2008 was really the day it broke wide open.

More than 100 federal agents fanned out across the county, armed with search warrants, and raided government offices, homes and businesses. It became readily apparent that the targets of the joint FBI and IRS investigation were county commissioner Jimmy Dimora and auditor Frank Russo.

While some defendants were already aware of the federal investigation, others reacted in panic.

Witnesses and targets started cooperating. Federal investigators uncovered numerous schemes that embodied the pay-to-play culture that had long been taken for granted in the county.

It resulted, depending on how you count, in felony convictions against more than 70 government officials, employees, contractors and business people. The cases spanned years, with the last defendant being sentenced in June 2016.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said it collected more than $5.1 million in restitution.

Ten years later, the change in Cuyahoga County is evident. A year after the raids, county voters elected to change the form of government from commission-based to one with a county executive.

While corruption cases have come to light since then, none has been on the scale of what was known as Operation Airball.

Almost all the defendants pleaded guilty, with the exception of Dimora and a few others. Many cooperated with federal agents. A significant number of people who were imprisoned got out early for good behavior. Others remain incarcerated.

On the 10-year anniversary of the raids that led the corruption probe to go public, here is a comprehensive list over everyone charged, what they did and how they were punished. The cases are presented in the order in which the defendants were charged or penalties were made public, starting in 2009 and ending in 2016.

Read more: https://www.cleveland.com/expo/news/erry-2018/07/8b56b98d6c6686/ten-years-after-the-raids-here.html#incart_target2box_default_#incart_target2box_targeted_

NJ.com: They scammed consumers. Some owe millions. Why can't the state get them to pay?

The list goes on and on.

Contractors who bilked customers for thousands of dollars, not completing work, doing substandard construction or in some cases, never starting the jobs.

Travel gurus who promised discounted trips to would-be vacationers, stealing consumers' cash, even leaving some stranded overseas without reservations or return flights.

A huckster who pledged to install bomb shelters for homeowners looking for safe havens on their properties.

The state of New Jersey is owed more than $76 million in unpaid fines, restitution and fees from prosecution of consumer fraud cases, but taxpayers will probably never see that money because the state said it lacks sufficient tools and resources to go after offenders who don't willingly pay up after civil cases.

The Division of Consumer Affairs can go back to court with renewed civil demands, put liens on real property and bank accounts and even seize assets. Consumer Affairs can also refer a case for criminal prosecution, but that is an extreme step and does not often lead to charges or financial collections.

The biggest challenge? Sometimes the money just isn't there. In some cases, the defendant has declared bankruptcy or has hidden assets in a relative's name, for instance.

Bamboozled reviewed five years of records -- from 2012 to 2017 -- from Consumer Affairs, a civil arm of the Attorney General's office.

We wanted to know how much the state was able to win in court or through settlement agreements, and how much it was able to collect.

Over those five years, Consumer Affairs won or was awarded $177.2 million in more than 1,300 cases that included Notices of Violation, Orders on Default and Final Judgments. (Collectively, we will call these matters "settlements.")

The defendants paid more than $100 million on the debts.

That leaves $76.6 million, or more than 43 percent, uncollected.

Read more: https://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2018/06/pay_up_see_how_much_money_is_owed_to_consumer_affa.html

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Clark County sends many to death row, but executions are rare

Las Vegas sits in the heart of a death penalty triangle.

While Nevada has struggled to execute a condemned killer who volunteered for his sentence to be carried out and as other parts of the country move away from capital punishment, Clark County jurors handed down the second most death sentences of any county in the United States last year.

Of the 39 ultimate penalties imposed across the country in 2017, 31 percent were delivered in three southwest counties, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Riverside County in California issued five, Clark County issued four and Maricopa County in Arizona issued three. The entire state of Texas handed down four death sentences last year, while the rest of the country imposed 23.

In Riverside, considered the leader in California’s death penalty, there are 15 pending capital cases, compared with at least 60 in Clark County. The two counties have nearly identical populations.

Top Clark County prosecutor Steve Wolfson has pursued the death penalty in 71 cases since he took office in 2012. Those numbers have been on the rise in recent years, with his office filing notices of intent to seek the death penalty eight times this year, 16 times in 2017, and 14 times in 2016. In his first year in office, Wolfson sought the death penalty in five cases.

This year, a Las Vegas jury sentenced a 63-year-old man to die.

“We need to recognize that based upon what I’ve been told, a majority of Nevadans still favor the death penalty,” Wolfson said. “The death penalty is still the law of the land.”

Yet in Nevada, condemned prisoners are four times more likely to be taken off death row through the legal process than by execution. Since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1977, jurors have returned 189 death sentences for 160 people, including 140 times in 120 cases in Clark County. Nearly half of the state’s death sentences — 92 — have been reversed. Among those, 51 people have been permanently removed from death row.

Read more: https://www.reviewjournal.com/crime/courts/clark-county-sends-many-to-death-row-but-executions-are-rare/

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: What did we learn from the Great Flood of '93? Not much, say many.

ST. LOUIS • The small town of Valmeyer, Ill., which had hugged the edge of the Mississippi River flood plain for more than 80 years, was essentially wiped off the map — forced to move to higher ground nearby.

Forty miles to the west, the muddy waters of the Missouri River poured into the Chesterfield Valley, inundating some 250 businesses.

Highway 40 (Interstate 64) was closed temporarily by the massive flood; an estimated 4,000 people locally were without jobs for months.

In the region, thousands of homes were flooded; some were swept away entirely.

Twenty-five years ago this week, one of the worst flooding events in U.S. history paralyzed the St. Louis area and much of the Midwest.

In the aftermath of the devastating Flood of 1993, officials vowed to learn from the disaster and reduce future flood risk.

Yet major floods have struck the area with unusual frequency in the years since — and some experts say the region is now even more vulnerable.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/what-did-we-learn-from-the-great-flood-of-not/article_2a02652b-3db8-58b3-ac23-8ba4bfc165d3.html#tracking-source=home-top-story

Kansas City Star: Congress didn’t act after 1999 duck boat tragedy. Experts say it must after Branson

Mary Schiavo read the headlines in horror 19 years ago when 13 people on board a duck boat in Arkansas drowned after it sank in Lake Hamilton.

The former Inspector General for the Department of Transportation thought then that Congress and the U.S. Coast Guard should act immediately. They needed to strengthen regulations regarding canopies on the vessels, enforce stringent life jacket requirements and either ban duck boats altogether or crack down on their industry.

None of that happened.

Then came the horrific headlines last week from another duck boat tragedy on Table Rock Lake near Branson. This time, 17 of the 31 on board were dead, five of them children.

Not again, she thought.

Today, Schiavo is part of a growing chorus of experts, lawmakers and safety advocates who insist change to these boats should happen soon. Not in a year or two when the federal investigation is finished. But now, when duck boats are still transporting tourists on lakes and waterways in several states across the country.

“If people want laws, they need to push for them right now,” said Schiavo, a transportation lawyer who was inspector general from 1990 to 1996. “What happens is you have this critical period of time after a tragedy in which you can get action. ... But as soon as Congress isn’t under the microscope anymore, it becomes very difficult.”

The nation learned that lesson after the deadly duck boat disaster on Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, Ark. A long list of recommendations, which the National Transportation Safety Board came out with three years after the tragedy, was virtually ignored.

“If they had been (implemented), they would have saved this boat,” Schiavo said.

That inaction can’t happen again, lawmakers and safety advocates agree.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article215425010.html

The Boston Globe: Welcome to the Quiet Skies

Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior under a new domestic surveillance program that is drawing criticism from within the agency.

The previously undisclosed program, called “Quiet Skies,” specifically targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” according to a Transportation Security Administration bulletin in March.

The internal bulletin describes the program’s goal as thwarting threats to commercial aircraft “posed by unknown or partially known terrorists,” and gives the agency broad discretion over which air travelers to focus on and how closely they are tracked.

But some air marshals, in interviews and internal communications shared with the Globe, say the program has them tasked with shadowing travelers who appear to pose no real threat — a businesswoman who happened to have traveled through a Mideast hot spot, in one case; a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, in another; a fellow federal law enforcement officer, in a third.

It is a time-consuming and costly assignment, they say, which saps their ability to do more vital law enforcement work.

TSA officials, in a written statement to the Globe, broadly defended the agency’s efforts to deter potential acts of terror. But the agency declined to discuss whether Quiet Skies has intercepted any threats, or even to confirm that the program exists.

Release of such information “would make passengers less safe,” spokesman James Gregory said in the statement.

Already under Quiet Skies, thousands of unsuspecting Americans have been subjected to targeted airport and inflight surveillance, carried out by small teams of armed, undercover air marshals, government documents show. The teams document whether passengers fidget, use a computer, have a “jump” in their Adam’s apple or a “cold penetrating stare,” among other behaviors, according to the records.

Read more: http://apps.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/graphics/2018/07/tsa-quiet-skies/?b9eaj

Boston Globe: Lawmakers demand answers on ‘Quiet Skies’ surveillance program after Globe report

Amid a barrage of criticism from lawmakers, top Transportation Security Administration officials agreed Monday to brief Congress this week on a secret domestic surveillance program in which federal air marshals track ordinary US citizens at airports and on airplanes.

The response came after the Globe reported that the TSA in March began actively conducting surveillance of people who were not suspected of a crime or were not on a terrorist watch list, but who had caught the agency’s attention because of where they had flown, among other criteria.

Teams of air marshals have compiled data on the behavior of thousands of travelers under the “Quiet Skies” program, documenting whether they chatted with others, appeared sweaty or fidgety, or exhibited other actions.

“I am troubled by reports that the TSA is tracking US citizens who are not suspected of any crime and then monitoring seemingly innocuous behavior such as whether a person slept on their plane, used the bathroom, or obtained a rental car,” Senator Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, wrote Monday in a letter to the agency that included a number of questions about the program.

The Globe revealed the existence of the Quiet Skies program on Sunday, prompting complaints from lawmakers and civil liberties groups. In response, TSA officials said they have scheduled briefings later this week with the four committees that oversee the agency.

Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/07/30/lawmakers-demand-answers-quiet-skies-surveillance-program-after-globe-report/tQa7Y5SHFJEbo2z1RHwbYM/story.html

The Baltimore Sun: National firms are starting to snap up Maryland's medical marijuana licenses. Regulators want to prevent that

When state officials wrote the rules for Maryland’s lucrative new medical marijuana industry, they were guided by a few principles. They wanted to foster local businesses, encourage competition and spread opportunity as widely as possible.

To help bring about those conditions, the rulemakers tried to limit companies to owning no more than one store to sell the drug. Their goal was to create a level playing field on which many smaller players could thrive.

But less than a year after the industry launched, some firms have gained control of multiple dispensaries. Now lawmakers are concerned the rules have left the state vulnerable to large out-of-state corporations swooping in and dominating the budding industry.

At least two companies now operate more than one store in Maryland, according to corporate records.

One, Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries, states in investment documents of “controlling ownership over five retail dispensaries” in Anne Arundel, Harford and Montgomery counties, to complement its growing and processing licenses in Maryland and other states.

“We own the booze. We own the bar,” GTI declares in an investor presentation obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-maryland-marijuana-dispensaries-20180718-story.html

Portland Press Herald: Protectors of Maine’s vulnerable kids at DHHS feel hobbled

Maine child protection caseworkers have been concerned since late last year that widespread problems within their agency were making their jobs harder and putting vulnerable children at risk.

High staff turnover. Low morale. Unmanageable caseloads. Some even said they felt intimidated by superiors.

Many workers said their biggest fear at the end of each workday was whether they missed something and, if they did, what the consequence might be for a child.

“This job is hard under the best of conditions and we haven’t been close to (good conditions) for a long time,” said one caseworker, who like others asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution.

After the deaths of Chick and Kennedy, DHHS launched an internal review and started to make changes meant to improve the child protective system. The Legislature also ordered an investigation by its watchdog arm, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, which is still pending.

Caseworkers, though, say many of the corrective steps taken by DHHS have only made matters worse.

More paperwork. A mandate to revisit some cases that had been closed. The sudden and unexplained reassignment of cases from the district office in Rockland, which has resulted in more travel and even bigger caseloads for many. A shift away from a collaborative relationship with families to a more authoritative approach, which has led to more children being removed and, frequently, caseworkers being forced to stay in hotels with children until they can find placement.

Read more: https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/29/were-not-being-heard-protectors-of-maines-kids-feel-hobbled/

The Des Moines Register: Before the fatal crash: What happened the night Benjamin Beary went drinking at The Keg Stand?

Benjamin Beary felt generous the last night of his life.

It was Friday, March 25, 2016, and Beary was at The Keg Stand watching the NCAA men’s basketball Sweet 16. While the Iowa State Cyclone men played poorly, the University of North Carolina — the team Beary said he backed with a bet — won handily. Beary bought a pitcher of beer for a Tar Heel fan and shots of whiskey for others, documents filed in Polk County Court show.

Beary, who weighed about 160 pounds, spent about six hours at the bar, drank at least eight beers and downed a shot of whiskey, a forensic toxicology consultant wrote after reviewing surveillance video from the bar and other materials.

About 30 minutes after leaving The Keg Stand, Beary was driving 103 miles per hour the wrong way on Interstate Highway 80 just west of Waukee. He crashed his vehicle head-on into a Des Moines police vehicle, killing two officers and a prisoner. Beary, whose vehicle burst into flames, was killed instantly.

An autopsy showed Beary had a blood-alcohol content of 0.223 percent, nearly three times the 0.08 percent legal limit for driving. In Iowa, it's also illegal to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person. The families of those killed, including Beary's, claimed in lawsuits that staff at The Keg Stand "knew or should have known" Beary was intoxicated.

Yet Iowa's Alcoholic Beverages Division took no action against the bar.

In fact, the agency rarely sanctions establishments for over-service, a Des Moines Register review of division records shows. In the past decade, just 24 over-service complaints have been filed against the 6,750 Iowa establishments licensed to serve alcohol. Seventeen of the complaints resulted in sanctions.

The horrific March 2016 crash prompted an outpouring of sympathy to the Des Moines Police Department. Iowans spoke out in favor of crackdowns on impaired driving and raised questions about The Keg Stand's culpability in serving alcohol to Beary.

While 47 states have laws that ban providing alcohol to someone who is drunk, most states seldom sanction establishments for over-service. Twelve states with higher sanction rates have adopted a program that tracks where intoxicated people had their last drink. Iowa is now taking steps to implement the program, called Place of Last Drink.

A detailed review of court documents by the Register shows gaps in evidence of Beary's whereabouts before, during and after his time at The Keg Stand, which raised the possibility that he bought and consumed alcohol from elsewhere. Marijuana also was found in his system. And Beary showed no visible signs of intoxication in the surveillance video, the toxicology consultant concluded.

The Register's review sheds new light on Beary’s activities before the crash, why the licensing agency didn’t fine The Keg Stand for serving an intoxicated person and why the bar’s liquor license wasn’t suspended or revoked.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2018/07/26/benjamin-beary-keg-stand-susan-farrell-carlos-puente-morales-drunk-driving-owi/796512002/

Chicago Tribune: Chicago children sexually attacked by peers at school amid lax supervision

The two 15-year-old boys, both with autism and developmental disabilities, were in the Bogan high school bathroom alone. One, a burly sophomore, had a history of violent outbursts and sexual aggression. The other was unable to sense danger.

Each had a special-education plan that required constant supervision by a school aide, their school records show. Even on bathroom trips.

But no one was supervising in 2016 when the towering aggressor allegedly told the other student to bend over and pull down his pants before penetrating the boy, who was slim and shorter by nearly a foot, records show. And no one was watching when the larger boy allegedly attacked the same student two more times that same year, first in a school bathroom and then during an off-campus Special Olympics field trip, also in a bathroom.

"The bottom line is I blame the school because no one was watching them," said the alleged victim's mother. "It shouldn't have happened."

The aggressive student was allowed to be alone with the other boy even though he had been found two years earlier in a bathroom stall with a different boy whose pants were pulled down, according to a pending lawsuit. And after the latest incidents, he allegedly went on to sexually attack another student in a bathroom while unsupervised, according to school and police records.

The Chicago Tribune's reporting on predatory adults in its "Betrayed" series already has resulted in an overhaul of the Chicago Public Schools' child-safety programs as well as bipartisan state legislative support for new laws to protect students.

Now, in an examination of student-on-student sexual attacks, the Tribune found that Chicago students also were violated by classmates as employees failed to keep them safe.

Read more: http://graphics.chicagotribune.com/chicago-public-schools-sexual-abuse/student-offenders

San Francisco Chronicle: Working in a wasteland

Fourteen years before the lump appeared on his neck, Nelson Lum’s San Francisco police unit was transferred to a new office in an unexpected location: the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

The shipyard is a federal Superfund waste site. By definition, it’s one of the most contaminated places in the country, tainted by radioactivity, heavy metals and other pollution. But in 1996, the toxic land offered what few places in San Francisco could: lots of space for a low price.

That year, the city decided to lease a large, empty building owned by the Navy for below-market rates. Known only as Building 606, it became the new headquarters for some specialized police units, including the SWAT team, the bomb squad, the Honda Unit, the K-9 Unit and the crime lab. Before long, more than 100 officers and civilians were clocking in at the shipyard every day.

It was safe, according to the city and the Navy. They told the people in Building 606 that any nearby contaminants were minimal, too scant to cause harm.

“The building is clean, absolutely, and the area around it is clean,” a Navy representative promised in a March 1997 news story.

But at times, the cops felt unsure. Lum took Police Academy recruits on training runs around the shipyard, and more than once he was stunned when they passed Navy contractors outfitted in HazMat gear: goggles, respirators, disposable Tyvek uniforms.

“I’m in my shorts, and here are these guys walking around in space suits,” Lum recalled. “What’s wrong with this picture?”

Lum, 70, spent thousands of hours at the shipyard over eight years. He worked there every day for about a year, then returned regularly as a sergeant to lead SWAT exercises and academy trainings. He retired in 2005 and didn’t think much more about it.

Read more: https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Amid-a-toxic-landscape-SF-found-a-home-for-its-13101114.php

Arizona Republic: As land values rise in Phoenix area, mobile-home parks disappear

Almost 85,000 trailers, manufactured homes and mobile homes dot metro Phoenix.

The Phoenix area has historically had a higher percentage of households living in factory-built homes than other major cities around the West. These mobile-home parks have been a significant part of metro Phoenix’s housing market since the 1950s, particularly for retirees and low-income families.

But as house and land values rise, mobile-home parks are being increasingly pushed out of the Valley's more urban areas. Investors are buying a record number of parks this year, according to an analysis of sales by The Arizona Republic.

Some investors are purchasing popular newer communities with golf courses and other upscale features to rent to the mobile snowbirds visiting in the winter. Others are buying to become landlords because the parks are usually full and provide a steady flow of rents.

But a growing number of new owners of older mobile-home communities are working on turning them into new, higher-priced developments.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/real-estate/catherine-reagor/2018/07/25/mobile-home-parks-disappear-fewer-affordable-housing-options-metro-phoenix/789332002/

Montgomery Advertiser: Wastewater treatment is a problem in the rural South. Who is working to fix it?

HAYNEVILLE — There are times where you walk outside Hayneville’s Family Dollar and smell it, the stench hanging thick in the Black Belt air.

Mary McDonald has seen schoolchildren steer their bikes through it, dark streams spider-webbing the cracked asphalt as rubber wheels splash through.

Charlie Mae Holcombe has heard it, an ominous gurgle from her toilets and sinks after heavy spring rains.

“It’s been so bad, it’s come up through my bathtub,” Holcombe said. “When it really storms, my yard is like a river. It’s terrible. You can smell it through the walls. It purely stinks."

In the best-case scenarios, Holcombe’s grandchildren play inside for a spell, avoiding a front lawn-turned-swamp pooling with sewage from a clogged septic system. In the worst case, the raw waste creeps through pipes inside the Holcombe home, ruining yet another carpet and forcing the family to stay in Montgomery while everything dries out.

Holcombe and McDonald are just two of thousands of Alabamians living with inefficient or failing wastewater treatment systems — a problem that has persisted for decades in both rural and urban areas. Holcombe has been dealing with waste flooding her front yard since the late 1980s when it was built.

Read more: https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/local/solutions-journalism/2018/07/26/what-solutions-wastewater-treatment-crisis-rural-south-and-black-belt/820533002/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • July 26, 2018

Sacramento Bee: Did an innocent man die in prison for a murder committed by the East Area Rapist?

The day after Christmas in 1975, Donna Jo Richmond, 14, was expected home before dark.

She had left her house in Exeter — the Central Valley town between Fresno and Bakersfield — earlier that afternoon, wearing new clothes she’d received as holiday gifts and riding her bike to feed some farm animals and visit friends.

But as the sun sank and the valley fog thickened, she had not returned and her mother grew concerned.

Richmond’s family went looking for her, but all they found was more worry and her bicycle, damaged and abandoned, in a neighbor’s orange grove. Underneath it was a handyman’s invoice book with a name inside that pointed to a suspect: Oscar Archie Clifton.

Police knew Clifton, then 35, a carpenter and painter, with a decade-old conviction for assault and attempted rape, who lived nearby. Just after midnight, they arrested him for kidnapping. Hours later, a farm worker found Richmond dead in another grove a few miles away. She had been strangled and stabbed and was naked from the waist down.

The charges against Clifton were upped to murder, and a year later, he was convicted of abducting, attempting to rape and killing Richmond. He died in prison in 2013 while serving a life sentence, but maintained his innocence during his decades of incarceration.

Recently, Joesph DeAngelo Jr., was arrested at this home in Citrus Heights on suspicion of being the East Area Rapist (aka the Golden State Killer), thought to be responsible for more than 50 rapes and a dozen murders throughout California. Authorities also believe he is responsible for a series of burglaries and Peeping Tom incidents in Tulare County, credited to the Visalia Ransacker.

Read more: https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article215249615.html

San Diego Union-Tribune: County failed repeatedly to stop sexual abuse of foster children, lawsuit alleges

When a 6-year-old boy identified as A.G. in court records told his social worker in January 2006 that his foster father was hurting him, she dismissed his request for a new home.

When staff members at a family recovery center saw A.G. acting out sexually in 2007 and told the county they suspected his foster father was abusing him, the county did not intervene.

When San Diego County sheriff’s deputies in 2008 took A.G. to the county’s emergency shelter for children after an incident involving a neighbor child, A.G. told social workers that he was being sexually abused. He was returned to his foster father, Michael Jarome Hayes, within 18 hours.

Those lapses are alleged in a 2016 lawsuit by A.G. and his twin brother, M.G. They are suing the county and 14 of its social workers for leaving them at Hayes’ mercy despite more than a dozen reports of suspected abuse from an educator, a lawyer, a psychologist and others.

County social workers allegedly ignored some reports completely. They failed to properly investigate others, deciding again and again to the keep the children in Hayes’ home, according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, the abuse only stopped in 2013 — more than seven years after the boy’s first complaint — when San Diego police officers responded to Hayes’ own report that A.G. ran away.

Hayes was later arrested and faced 28 felony charges of sexual molestation and other crimes against A.G., M.G., another foster son the county had placed in Hayes’ care and two of Hayes’ young cousins.

Hayes pleaded guilty to eight of the charges, admitting to specific lewd acts including putting his hands and mouth on three of the boys’ feet for sexual arousal and touching A.G.’s genitals.

A.G. and M.G. are now adults, battling the phantoms of their childhood. What went wrong? Why did no one listen? How did Hayes end up as a foster parent in the first place?

A two-month review of court records and police reports and interviews with foster care experts and people involved in the lawsuit suggested a series of lapses.

Read more: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sd-me-foster-care-20180722-story.html

Miami Herald: How dirty is Miami real estate? Secret home deals dried up when feds started watching

When a company called the Flower of Scotland paid $1.13 million — in cash — for a three-bedroom condo in Sunny Isles Beach last year, it had to do something unusual: tell the federal government who its real owner was.

In years past, the Delaware-based shell company could have put down the money and walked away with a new condo — and a boat slip near Dumfoundling Bay — no questions asked. But that secrecy was stripped away in early 2016 when the U.S. Treasury Department imposed a temporary transparency rule on Miami-Dade County and Manhattan, two of the nation’s most attractive real estate markets to dark money.

The simple disclosure requirement offered the opportunity for an enticing experiment: If regulators asked anonymous cash buyers like the Flower of Scotland to reveal their true owners, what would happen?

Now, a new working paper from economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the University of Miami offers one answer: The anonymous cash buyers stopped buying homes — at least using the method targeted by regulators.

In Miami-Dade, the first-of-its-kind study found a 95 percent drop in how much cash shell companies and other corporate entities spent on homes. The decline began immediately after the rule took effect in March 2016.

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/real-estate-news/article213797269.html

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Shadowy Gwinnett lab goes bankrupt and debt collectors hound patients

A Gwinnett County toxicology lab accused in a kickback scheme to bilk Medicare out of millions of tax dollars is causing headaches for people around the nation as debt collectors try to collect on alleged unpaid lab bills.

For Deborah Smith of Houston, Texas, the calls started this spring from a debt collection agency seeking $1,400 in past due bills for urinalysis tests for her adult son. There was no explanation, no paperwork — just a bill.

“I’m getting a phone call every day now,” she said. “We already paid $125 for each drug screen each time he went to the doctor.”

For Tara Ross, another Texas resident, the bill was $1,000 for a test allegedly done in November 2015. Ross asked the debt collector to show her some documentation explaining the charge. She hasn’t heard back from them, so she called her doctor.

“He was like, ‘Throw it away. Don’t pay it,’” she said.

Then there is Richard Carter, who lives in Thomasville, Ga. Carter received a “past due” notice from a bill collector for $1,600.

“Supposedly this was drug testing, urine samples,” Carter, 65, said. “I have never had any of that done.”

Smith, Ross, Carter and others who contacted The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wondered why they suddenly were getting calls about alleged “past-due” bills for tests performed by a lab they had never heard of: Confirmatrix Laboratory.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional/shadowy-gwinnett-lab-goes-bankrupt-and-debt-collectors-hound-patients/zTdh0dQpMpIXOlvCn2sJGK/

The Times-Picayune: 'Dangerously close to complete collapse': Engineer's email gives detailed insight into March 2017 S&WB turbine failures

The Sewerage & Water Board's power system came "dangerously close to complete collapse" in March of 2017, months before flooding last Aug. 5 revealed severe problems in the utility's power and drainage facilities, according to an engineer the city hired to assess those facilities. He also assessed that water pressure dropped twice to "dangerously low levels ... without anyone noticing."

After reviewing activity logs from the Sewerage & Water Board's power station, engineer Matt McBride learned all four of the utility's 25-cycle power turbines either failed or were already down during the five-day period from March 7-11, 2017.

He emailed his assessment to a former top city official on Sept. 29, 2017, amid emergency repair efforts by the utility to patch the aged power turbines. Officials say those repairs have brought more power to the power system than has been available since before Hurricane Katrina.

McBride's assessment offers insight into the state of the Sewerage & Water Board's power generation system shortly before two summer deluges flooded the city in July and August.

"The events from March 7th forward are far worse than what has been publicly revealed," McBride emailed.

McBride's emailed assessment was among several records reviewed this month by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune through a public records request.

Read more: https://www.nola.com/expo/news/erry-2018/07/2b07fbfc099388/dangerously-close-to-complete.html

The Boston Globe: Conservative plan, years in the making, is occurring as Trump fills federal bench

WASHINGTON — President Trump is not only poised to put his conservative imprint on the Supreme Court, but he’s restocking vacancies throughout lower US courts at a historic clip, ensuring a judicial legacy that will last decades.

Trump has appointed 44 judges since taking office — including more appellate judges than any president in American history at this point in his tenure. He has another 88 nominees currently pending before the US Senate; and with an aging federal bench, future opportunities will assuredly arise. If Trump is able to fill just the current vacancies alone, he will be responsible for installing more than one-fifth of the sitting judges in the United States.

It is the fruits of decades of labor by conservatives — or, critics might say, the result of calculated partisan attacks on a process that once had at least a hint of bipartisan flavor — that has allowed Republicans to send like-minded appointees to this powerful branch of government.

“From the conservative perspective, it is a great triumph, a great victory,” said Sheldon Goldman, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who studies presidential nominees to the federal courts.

“Trump may talk about great success with North Korea or Russia and the like. We know that’s not credible,” he added. “But when he talks about the judiciary, that’s credible. He has made a great difference. It is an absolute phenomenon, really.”

Trump’s methodical efficiency in remaking the judicial system — not just on the high-profile Supreme Court choices of Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and nominee Brett Kavanaugh — has been one of the largely unnoticed aspects of a presidency marked by chaos in many aspects of foreign and domestic policy. Almost once a week on average, the Senate has been processing a judicial nomination, sending yet another Trump-approved judge to the bench.

Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2018/07/21/isn-just-his-supreme-court-nominees-trump-leaving-lasting-legacy-throughout-judiciary/4ymgfMKHqV4qnHTVMWTxGM/story.html

Star-Tribune: Denied Justice: Sexual assault cases in the Twin Cities and across Minnesota are being investigated poorly or not at all

Brooke Morath barely saw the man who attacked her.

He lunged from the dark early one morning in Minneapolis, blinding her with pepper spray as she scraped snow off her car. Then he tackled her face down onto the frozen ground and raped her.

Bleeding, her eyes burning, Morath staggered to a friend’s house and banged on a window for help, pleading for someone to call 911.

Over the next few hours, the University of Minnesota pre-med student did everything she could to help investigators. She went to the hospital for a sexual assault exam. To preserve possible evidence, she didn’t shower or wash her clothing. When police officers arrived, she answered their questions calmly. An investigator assured Morath that her case was his top priority.

Within days, however, she began to have doubts. She discovered that the police crime alert for her rape listed an inaccurate address. And that officers had missed three nearby businesses while canvassing the neighborhood for surveillance video. Eventually, she said, police stopped returning her calls.

That was two years ago.

Today, Morath has lost hope that police will ever find the man who raped her, and she worries that he is still preying on other women.

“It’s a terrifying, humiliating and defeating feeling,” she said. “It shouldn’t be this hard for a victim.”

It often is. Each year in Minnesota, more than 2,000 women report being raped or sexually assaulted. Hundreds of them discover a crushing fact: They stand little chance of getting justice.

A Star Tribune review of more than 1,000 sexual assault cases, filed around the state in a recent two-year period, reveals chronic errors and investigative failings by Minnesota’s largest law enforcement agencies, including those in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/when-rape-is-reported-in-minnesota-and-nothing-happens/487130861/

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: St. Louis Uber driver has put video of hundreds of passengers online. Most have no idea.

ST. LOUIS — On a recent Saturday night, two women in their early 20s called an Uber from Ballpark Village in downtown St. Louis.

Within minutes “Jason” arrived driving a black Chevrolet Silverado. They climbed into the pickup’s back seat, illuminated by purple lights.

The driver, a bearded man in his 30s, was friendly. The women asked where he went to high school. They joked about friends they were going to meet at a bar across town.

But there was something the women didn’t know: Their driver was streaming a live video of them to the internet, and comments from viewers were pouring in.

The blonde is a 7, the brunette a 5, someone with the username “DrunkenEric” commented.

“She doesn’t sit like a lady though,” another viewer added.

“This is creepy,” said another.

The women are among hundreds of St. Louis area Uber passengers who have been streamed online without their knowledge by their driver, Jason Gargac, 32, of Florissant.

Gargac has given about 700 rides in the area since March through Uber, plus more with Lyft. Nearly all have been streamed to his channel on Twitch, a live video website popular with video gamers where Gargac goes by the username “JustSmurf.”

Passengers have included children, drunk college students and unwitting public figures such as a local TV news reporter and Jerry Cantrell, lead guitarist with the band Alice in Chains.

First names, and occasionally full names, are revealed. Homes are shown. Passengers have thrown up, kissed, talked trash about relatives and friends and complained about their bosses in Gargac’s truck.

All the while, an unseen online audience watches, evaluating women’s bodies, judging parents and mocking conversations.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/st-louis-uber-driver-has-put-video-of-hundreds-of/article_9060fd2f-f683-5321-8c67-ebba5559c753.html

Las Vegas Review-Journal: LVCVA boss pursues retirement payout amid criminal investigation

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Rossi Ralenkotter is taking steps to collect a retirement settlement that could cost taxpayers tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, even as Las Vegas police conduct a criminal investigation into the tourism agency’s spending practices.

Ralenkotter is the third-highest-paid public official in the state, with a salary and benefits package valued at $863,000 annually. He does not have an employment contract, and the LVCVA has no legal obligation to pay Ralenkotter a retirement settlement. Based on his tenure, Ralenkotter will begin collecting a state pension of about $400,000 a year upon retirement.

He has hired an attorney to negotiate a retirement payment with the authority’s 14-member board of directors, which includes local elected officials and gaming industry representatives. The board has evaluated Ralenkotter annually and awarded him pay raises and bonuses.

His retirement date has not been set, and he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he is no closer to developing his expectations of a retirement settlement than he was at the board’s June 12 meeting, when he announced plans to retire.

Read more: https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/investigations/lvcva-boss-pursues-retirement-payout-amid-criminal-investigation/

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Mandated school closings appear like forceful action, but have not produced results

School 41 was the latest Rochester school to receive the “death penalty.”

To preserve its hundred years of history, one Saturday in mid-June students filled a time capsule with class pictures, pompoms and favorite memories. “Maria, Maria” played in the background as district employees shoveled dirt over the capsule. It was the last ever end-of-the-year carnival, and kids happily ran between bounce houses.

One could almost avoid thinking that the patch of dirt looked like a small grave.

In September, a new school with a different name and mission will open at the same address, and the majority of these kids will be back for opening day.

Since 2002, the district has closed 26 schools (including School 41) and opened 18, according to state data. Some schools — which had the lifespans of mayflies — were both opened and closed during that time.

The result of all this disruption and upheaval?

Eight percent of elementary school students passed the 2017 reading and math tests and the city's graduation rate remains the worst in the state.

In 2002, the Federal No Child Left Behind Act ushered in an era of penalties — including closure — for failing schools. New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says that in the past, Rochester has failed to execute plans designed to ensure the success of schools that replace failing ones. The state has put an external monitor over the planned reopening of School 41 in the fall, hoping to change a pattern of chaos and failure.

Read more: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/local/communities/time-to-educate/conversation/2018/07/21/how-many-schools-has-rcsd-closed-since-2001-rochester-city-school-district/776428002/

The News & Observer: Textbook calls cancer a ‘disease of choice’ -- and it’s required reading for UNC students

A textbook for a required fitness class at UNC-Chapel Hill calls cancer a disease of choice, describes a theory that Holocaust victims failed to tap into their inner strength and maintains that “many if not most women” who are obsessed with weight have become habitual dieters.

The online textbook, “21st Century Wellness,” also includes standard information about fitness, nutrition and health. It is read by students in a one-credit hour course called Lifetime Fitness, required of all undergraduates at UNC. Each year, nearly 5,000 undergraduates take the class, which is aimed at teaching students about healthy lifestyles while incorporating a physical activity such as tennis, soccer or running.

Skye Golann, who graduated from UNC in May, took the class in the fall of 2017. He made an A, and said he enjoyed the physical activity twice a week as part of the class.

But he said the online course reading materials were “beyond bad.” He said he would sometimes read his girlfriend passages of “the craziest thing I found in the book that week.”

Golann said the book gives short shrift to genetic or societal factors that affect people’s health — for example, a lack of access to health care and good nutrition for many lower-income people. “There’s an extreme emphasis on personal responsibility that pretty much explicitly blames people in poor health,” he said, “which I thought was very problematic.”

Calling cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular problems diseases of choice goes too far, Golann said.

“Who doesn’t know someone who is a survivor or someone who died of cancer?” Golann added. “I remember thinking about, reading it — we have a huge cancer hospital less than a mile away.”

Read more: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article214777375.html

The Inquirer: PPA lobbyist paid $3,000 a month. For what?

For 17 years, Fareed Ahmed collected $3,000 a month from the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

The longtime political consultant with an unusual past was the authority’s lobbyist.

What exactly he did in that role is unclear.

Ahmed, 73, is not registered as a lobbyist with the city, state, or federal government, and the parking agency offered few details about what he might have done for the $639,000 he was paid.

Marty O’Rourke, spokesman for the parking agency, said Ahmed was first contracted in February 2000 to “provide government and community relations as well as attend community and PPA meetings.” Asked for examples of meetings he attended, events he organized or what his lobbying produced, O’Rourke did not provide any.

Ahmed’s monthly invoices are only a little more illuminating. In some instances, he listed meetings with elected officials, but rarely stated what issues were discussed. He often reported making telephone calls without identifying to whom or why. Other invoices are just plain sloppy, with repeated misspellings of the names of public officials. He once noted a meeting with “Representative Jim Representative.”

For years, in billing his payments, Ahmed reported meeting only with Vincent Fenerty, then the parking authority’s executive director.

Ahmed’s contract survived a purge in 2008 when the parking authority, a longtime patronage haven, terminated three political consulting deals and halved the monthly fee it paid its top Harrisburg lobbyist.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/fareed-ahmed-philadelphia-parking-authority-consultant-lobbyist-20180720.html

The Inquirer: Will a Philly woman lose her home because of Family Court delays?

It seemed almost too good to be true: Mary Beth Novak found a job in Montgomery County as a police officer and a home she could afford in Royersford, in a good school district, just in time for her daughter to start fifth grade. No more scrambling to arrange transportation from her Northeast Philadelphia home to Catholic school in Bucks County — a commute that went from difficult last year to impossible now that Novak works out of town.

Now this dream, which seemed tantalizingly close, is vanishing like a mirage. Novak is bracing to back out of the house purchase, and lose close to $8,000 — her deposit and related costs. And she still isn’t sure where her daughter will be going to school next month, or how she’ll get her there.

The problem is that even though she has primary custody and support from a counselor who Novak and her ex had agreed to defer to in case of disputes, her daughter’s father has opposed the move that would take her an hour’s drive away. And, though Philadelphia Family Court is required under state law to provide an expedited hearing to resolve relocation disputes, her court date is not until next March.

“I had no idea all this stuff could happen,” Novak said. “I don’t know what to do.”

Novak is one of thousands of parents affected by a backlog in the court’s Domestic Relations section that attorneys call “unconscionable,” “tragic,” and “unbearable,” given that in some cases parents are being denied access to their children, or are losing jobs and homes while they wait for the court to weigh in.

“It’s extremely frustrating for the parents, but also really tragic for the children,” said Susan Pearlstein, co-supervisor of the Family Law Unit at Philadelphia Legal Assistance. “Things become so contentious and stressful when you have to deal with this lack of access and waiting to go though the court. The impact on children can’t be overstated.”

Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/family-court-philly-custody-delays-backlog-20180718.html

Austin American-Statesman: Hundreds of Texas foster care children denied Medicaid services

A private company that the state has tasked with providing Medicaid coverage to Texas foster children has repeatedly denied requests for critical care, many for children with disabilities.

Between June 7 and July 13, Superior HealthPlan denied medical services to foster children 394 times, according to data the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services provided to the American-Statesman. The agency, which oversees the state’s child welfare programs, started tracking the denials of service last month, in an effort to determine how the denials are affecting foster kids. Foster parents have reported denials from managed care organizations for years.

Company officials dispute the state’s figures and say Superior approves necessary medical care; foster care parents and advocates say the requests for service were for medically necessary treatment.

The issue is receiving renewed scrutiny from lawmakers and state officials.

Read more: https://www.statesman.com/news/hundreds-texas-foster-care-children-denied-medicaid-services/xjTQc9hTMWADrl66pGC50N/

The Journal News: Westchester County sexual harassment cases: Claims of stalking, vulgar talk

A male Westchester County correction officer claimed in a sexual harassment lawsuit that a superior officer approached him from behind while he sat, massaged his shoulders then made a vulgar reference to sodomy.

A female social services caseworker said in an internal complaint that she was stalked by a public works employee who at one point drove the wrong way down a one-way street to speak with her.

The county Human Rights Commission found in an investigation that a different caseworker faced hostility from a supervisor, who delayed processing her paperwork and overtime sheets because she’d rebuffed his flirtations and accused him of sexual harassment.

Once, she said, she was so upset that she vomited in his office.

The Journal News/lohud obtained more than five years of harassment and discrimination complaints investigated internally or received by the county as part of a look inside the workplace culture in Westchester's various departments. Also received in a separate request were records about legal cases and state complaints handled by the county law department over 10 years.

The documents offer unique insight into how Westchester handles these accusations and conducts its internal investigations.

Read more: https://www.lohud.com/story/news/investigations/2018/07/19/westchester-county-sexual-harassment/785222002/

AP: Pence family’s failed gas stations cost taxpayers $20M+

Vice President Mike Pence turns nostalgic when he talks about growing up in small-town Columbus, Indiana, where his father helped build a Midwestern empire of more than 200 gas stations that provided an upbringing on the "front row of the American dream."

The collapse of Kiel Bros. Oil Co. in 2004 was widely publicized. Less known is that the state of Indiana — and, to a smaller extent, Kentucky and Illinois — are still on the hook for millions of dollars to clean up more than 85 contaminated sites across the three states, including underground tanks that leaked toxic chemicals into soil, streams and wells.

Indiana alone has spent at least $21 million on the cleanup thus far, or an average of about $500,000 per site, according to an analysis of records by The Associated Press. And the work is nowhere near complete.

Read more: https://www.thestate.com/news/business/article214827990.html

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Two men charged with stealing more than $8 million in rare books from Carnegie Library

A former Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh archivist and a respected Oakland antiquarian bookseller “cannibalized” rare books from the institution by cutting out pages and stole more than $8 million worth of precious items over a 20-year period, according to the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.

It ranks as one of the largest library thefts in history.

Greg Priore, 61, of Oakland, who worked as the sole archivist and manager of the library’s rare book room since 1992, is charged with theft, receiving stolen property, conspiracy, retail theft, library theft, criminal mischief and forgery.

John Schulman, 54, of Squirrel Hill, who owns Caliban Book Shop, is charged with theft, receiving stolen property, dealing in proceeds of illegal activity, conspiracy, retail theft, theft by deception, forgery and deceptive business practices.

“According to Pall Mall Art Advisors, the staggering scope of these library thefts — resulting in the loss of value of the CLP collection of approximately $8,066,300 — ranks it among the world’s largest losses to date,” a criminal complaint written by DA’s detectives Frances Laquatra and Perann Tansmore said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2018/07/20/Two-men-charged-with-stealing-8-million-rare-books-Carnegie-Library-Greg-Priore-John-Schulman/stories/201807190205

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • July 19, 2018

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.

Read more: https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/anchorage/2018/07/14/longer-911-hold-times-paperwork-backlogs-officer-delays-when-anchorage-hires-more-cops-but-not-more-support-staff/

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.

Read more: https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/education/2018/07/13/poverty-and-proficiency-how-mps-biggest-obstacle-may-lie-outside-school-system/772421002/

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.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-education/2018/07/11/american-leadership-academy-charter-school-founder-glenn-way-nets-millions/664210002/

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.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-adv-skin-and-contents-20180715-story.html

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 ...

Read more: https://www.denverpost.com/2018/07/12/suppressed-colorado-court-cases-hidden-public-view/

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.

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article213647764.html

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.

Read more: https://www.myajc.com/news/special-reports/concerns-but-consequences-after-suicides-mental-health-system/QgJ841JvlP15YHGoQd0h7O/

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.

Read more: http://www.staradvertiser.com/2018/07/15/hawaii-news/kawananakoa-records-secret-despite-supreme-court-directive/?HSA=b83c81a5bd203ede2af02394113454386a153f4f

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.

Read more: https://www.indystar.com/story/life/2018/07/13/black-vultures-terrorize-indiana-farmers-state-rep-seeks-legal-aid/711687002/

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.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/sports/high-school/2018/07/12/greg-stephen-case-lies-nude-videos-boys-larry-nassar-problem-grassroots-basketball-iowa-barnstormers/774125002/

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.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-ci-hogan-business-20180708-story.html

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.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-rowhouse-collapse-20180515-htmlstory.html

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.

Read more: https://www.reviewjournal.com/crime/homicides/radio-troubles-hampered-las-vegas-police-on-oct-1-rj-investigation-finds/

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.

Read more: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/2018/07/13/how-segregated-new-jerseys-schools-and-what-can-done/702719002/

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.

Consider:

► 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.

Read more: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2018/07/14/rochester-city-office-public-integrity-opi-statistics-drop-fraud-investigations-lovely-warren-weir/678750002/

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."

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2018/07/13/hell-evict-you-minute-milwaukee-landlord-amasses-empire/698406002/

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.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/faith-religion/2018/07/13/Grand-jury-report-could-name-90-offender-s-in-Pittsburgh-diocese-alone/stories/201807130197

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.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2018/07/12/pittsburgh-zoo-wild-dogs-mauling-death-2-year-old-maddox-derkosh-2012-lawsuit-federal-investigation/stories/201807120167

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.

Read more: https://missoulian.com/news/local/report-excoriates-missoula-county-judge-for-absences-employee-turnover-micromanagement/article_7ee3874e-f0bd-51dd-8e0d-f227d550fe90.html

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • July 12, 2018

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.

Read more: http://www.providencejournal.com/news/20180707/decade-of-data-reveals-ris-recovery
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.

Read more: https://qctimes.com/news/local/big-story-more-of-a-fair-fight-against-flooding-today/article_379fc357-967d-5ae0-9fac-15b49f853f40.html

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.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2018/07/06/scott-walker-plans-move-regulation-mega-farms-state-agriculture-department/761821002/

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.

Read more: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/article/Flood-Games-How-victims-local-officials-and-an-13031069.php

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.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/sideeffects/home/site/dispatch.com

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.

Read more: https://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2018/07/want_a_lucrative_ohio_debt_col_1.html

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.

Read more: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2018/07/06/finger-lakes-landfills-booming-monroe-ontario-and-seneca-counties-residents-angry/754940002/

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.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/07/health/nursing-homes-staffing-medicare.html

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.

Read more: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/business/racino-applicants-hope-to-get-tucumcari-s-economy-back-on/article_3ca9c91f-972f-558e-9caa-0825c410e743.html

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 swe