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Watchdog Reporting

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Aug. 15, 2019

AP: Unmarked buildings, quiet legal help for accused priests

DRYDEN, Mich. (AP) — The visiting priests arrived discreetly, day and night.

Stripped of their collars and cassocks, they went unnoticed in this tiny Midwestern town as they were escorted into a dingy warehouse across from an elementary school playground. Neighbors had no idea some of the dressed-down clergymen dining at local restaurants might have been accused sexual predators.

They had been brought to town by a small, nonprofit group called Opus Bono Sacerdotii. For nearly two decades, the group has operated out of a series of unmarked buildings in rural Michigan, providing money, shelter, transport, legal help and other support to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse across the country.

Again and again, Opus Bono has served as a rapid-response team for the accused.

When a serial pedophile was sent to jail for abusing dozens of minors, Opus Bono was there for him, with regular visits and commissary cash.

When a priest admitted sexually assaulting boys under 14, Opus Bono raised funds for his defense.

When another priest was criminally charged with abusing a teen, Opus Bono later made him a legal adviser.

And while powerful clerics have publicly pledged to hold the church accountable for the crimes of its clergy and help survivors heal, some of them arranged meetings, offered blessings or quietly sent checks to this organization that provided support to alleged abusers, The Associated Press has found.

Though Catholic leaders deny the church has any official relationship with the group, Opus Bono successfully forged networks reaching all the way to the Vatican.

The AP unraveled the continuing story of Opus Bono in dozens of interviews with experts, lawyers, clergy members and former employees, along with hundreds of pages of documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

Read more: https://apnews.com/abe2da0da2f648ad89dde483a92d3f19

The Washington Post: YouTube’s arbitrary standards: Stars keep making money even after breaking the rules

SAN FRANCISCO — YouTube stars attract millions of eyeballs and generate billions of dollars in ad revenue for the media giant, which pledges to run its business without tolerating hateful and otherwise harmful videos.

But some of the workers hired to flag problematic content accuse YouTube of playing favorites, doling out more lenient punishments for top video creators whose work brings in the most money for the company. Eleven current and past moderators, who have worked on the front lines of content decisions, believe that popular creators often get special treatment in the form of looser interpretations of YouTube’s guidelines prohibiting demeaning speech, bullying and other forms of graphic content.

Moderators said that YouTube made exceptions for popular creators including Logan Paul, Steven Crowder and PewDiePie. Google-owned YouTube denies those claims, saying it enforces rYouTube, the world’s largest video platform with nearly 2 billion people logging in monthly, has faced fierce backlash from critics who say it is enabling hateful and inappropriate content to proliferate. With each crisis, YouTube has raced to update its guidelines for which types of content are allowed to benefit from its powerful advertising engine — depriving creators of those dollars if they break too many rules. That also penalizes YouTube, which splits the advertising revenue with its stars.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/08/09/youtubes-arbitrary-standards-stars-keep-making-money-even-after-breaking-rules/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Aug. 8, 2019

The Oregonian: Gov. Kate Brown, who can’t seek re-election in 2022, keeps raising and spending campaign cash anyway

Since taking office in 2015, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has almost continuously been on the campaign trail.

The unusual circumstances of her rise to the state’s highest office — she became governor when John Kitzhaber resigned amid an influence peddling scandal — meant she had to run for election twice in the last four years.

And strikingly, instead of taking a break after winning re-election last year, Brown has continued raising money for her political action committee and spending it on campaign efforts including polls, ads and political advisers. That’s despite the fact she can’t seek re-election in 2022.

She’s logged more than 50 hours this year on what her state staffers describe in her official calendar as “campaign” time or “personal political activity,” with a flurry of such appointments in recent weeks.

Much of the $800,000 Brown’s political action committee had on hand as of Friday was left over from her 2018 gubernatorial race. However, Brown also raised $355,000 in the first seven months of 2019 and reported spending even more: $460,000, according to state campaign finance records. Those figures might not show the full picture, since Oregon allows candidates 30 days to report transactions.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2019/08/gov-kate-brown-who-cant-seek-re-election-in-2022-keeps-raising-and-spending-campaign-cash-anyway.html

Santa Fe New Mexican: Española Walgreens pegged at center of New Mexico’s opioid epidemic

ESPAÑOLA — On the outside, the only Walgreens in this small Northern New Mexico city mirrors the thousands of others scattered across the nation, with the drugstore’s familiar name plastered in red cursive across a hulking beige building.

Located on the corner of Fairview Lane and North Riverside Drive, one of the busiest corners of the city, this typically busy Walgreens — much like its counterparts in every state — offers customers everything from toothpaste and greeting cards to energy drinks and same-day photos.

But this particular store has a dubious distinction.

For a seven-year period, it was one of the most prolific dispensers of opioid medications in New Mexico, an especially troubling fact for a city that has been in the throes of a harrowing, decadeslong battle against drug abuse and addiction that has claimed scores of lives and scarred hundreds, if not thousands, of families.

The Walgreens in Española, a city with a population of about 10,000 people, dispensed the third-highest number of pain pills in the state from 2006 to the end of 2012, according to an analysis by the Washington Post, which examined a never-before-released Drug Enforcement Administration database that “tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States.”

Read more: https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/health_and_science/espa-ola-walgreens-pegged-at-center-of-new-mexico-s/article_2d5ec09b-1186-5cf7-8ef3-003ffadefd85.html

NJ.com: These teachers stole, cheated and choked kids. Why did N.J. take so long to strip their teaching licenses?

When colleagues accused a Point Pleasant teacher of inappropriately kissing two male co-workers during school and grabbing a teacher’s butt, school officials removed her from the classroom.

The school district eventually fired the teacher, Andrea Giuffrida.

Then it asked the state to consider stripping Giuffrida’s teaching credentials, which would keep her from teaching in a New Jersey public school ever again.

But while Giuffrida’s case slowly crawled through a Byzantine series of state hearings, motions and votes in Trenton, she landed a new job teaching in a school district an hour away.

A year passed. Then another. And another.

Finally — six years later — the state Board of Examiners revoked Giuffrida’s teaching license in 2018, saying she “systematically engaged in behavior that violated all norms of acceptable conduct in a workplace environment.”

The length of Giuffrida’s case was extreme, but it’s not an outlier in New Jersey’s review system that allows some teachers to work for years after they have been accused of serious misconduct.

An NJ Advance Media review of more than 100 recent teacher misconduct cases that ended with the involuntary suspension or revocation of licenses found a typical case takes more than a year to move through the teacher credential review system – with many dragging on significantly longer.

Read more: https://www.nj.com/news/2019/08/these-teachers-stole-cheated-and-choked-kids-why-did-nj-take-so-long-to-strip-their-teaching-licenses.html

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: List of clergy accused of child abuse includes 26 never before publicized in STL, church won't give details

ST. LOUIS — At the end of a long gravel driveway, in a remote swath of eastern Franklin County, a community of disgraced Roman Catholic priests sang in a chapel last week during a feast day Mass.

Vincent A. Heier, 68, who lives there, briefly stepped away from officiating. He told the Post-Dispatch that he didn’t want to comment about being on a list of 64 clergy facing sexual abuse and child pornography allegations that the Archdiocese of St. Louis recently made public. He started to walk away.

Told that Ed Fowler, an alleged victim, had accused Heier of abusing him as an altar boy in the 1980s, the priest turned around.

“It’s not true, but I am not going to talk about it,” he said, before disappearing into the chapel.

At the July 26 release of the list, a spokesman for the archdiocese said “very few” of the names were being released for the first time. But according to an analysis by the Post-Dispatch, Heier is among 26 names previously unpublicized in connection with reports of sexual abuse in St. Louis.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/list-of-clergy-accused-of-child-abuse-includes-never-before/article_5651ccc0-8bd8-5030-95b9-6c00260b76e2.html#

Star-Tribune: Minnesota colleges paying search firms in hunt for talent

In the hunt for Minnesota campus leaders, executive search firms have come to wield increasing clout.

The University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State system together have paid more than $10 million in the past five years for outside help in recruiting administrators. St. Cloud State University alone spent more than $850,000 on roughly 20 searches since 2012, sometimes paying separately to select interim and permanent leaders.

Once sought out primarily to recruit top leaders, search firms now routinely help with filling lower-level positions, including community college deans, according to contracts and spending data obtained by the Star Tribune. During the U’s recent presidential search, regents decried the “perverse incentive” created by search fees based on the hire’s starting pay. Yet the firms chosen by the U often do just that: charge fees determined by the recruit’s salary.

Higher education officials say that in a competitive market for talent, the consultants help draw seasoned candidates to key roles, including at rural campuses — leaders who will steward institutions with budgets worth billions.

“We think it’s a wise investment,” said Minnesota State Vice Chancellor Eric Davis. “Search firms help us secure a diverse and deep talent pool.”

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/colleges-paid-10m-to-search-firms/516783671/

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: At $491K, Fulton taxman Arthur Ferdinand makes more than the president

In two decades as Fulton County tax commissioner, Arthur Ferdinand has used Georgia’s antiquated revenue laws to increase the $70,000 salary he earned in 1997 to more than $490,000 in total compensation — with no end in sight.

Ferdinand now makes almost $100,000 more than the President of the United States, and nearly three times the salary of Georgia’s governor.

County tax commissioners in Georgia can legally contract with cities to do their taxes and charge a fee for the service, and at least 48 do, according to a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Georgia News Lab investigation. But no public official has profited more from the fee system than Ferdinand, who has agreements with four cities and contracts pending with two more.

The Fulton tax commissioner earns more in fees from the city of Atlanta alone — $225,000 — than he does from his current county salary of $161,000. And he’s managed to grow his income despite a 2017 state law that abolished controversial fees he once earned from selling tax liens.

Critics say Ferdinand and other tax commissioners who pocket such fees are using their public office for personal gain. Each of Georgia’s neighboring states bar the practice.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt--politics/491k-fulton-taxman-arthur-ferdinand-makes-more-than-the-president/qZ3pSxZEiIAy5PbdVykRVN/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Aug. 1, 2019

The Seattle Times: Longtime King County juvenile detention director given confidential $420,000 settlement as she retires

King County paid its longtime director of juvenile detention a $420,000 confidential settlement to ward off a possible lawsuit — even though the director said she never made such a threat.

Pam Jones, who had worked for the county’s Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention for 39 years, and led the juvenile division for the last 12 years, agreed to retire in March as part of the settlement with the county.

The settlement called on Jones to file a “claim for damages form” with the county, and she would then receive $320,178 for “emotional distress damages” plus an additional $100,000, according to documents obtained by The Seattle Times through a public-records request.

Jones completed the claim for damages form the same day she signed the settlement. In it, she writes: “I believe that I have been treated unfairly in employment at King County concerning the status of my position in violation of public policy.” She offered no further details.

It’s unclear exactly why Jones received the settlement. Alex Fryer, a spokesman for King County Executive Dow Constantine, said he couldn’t speak about the specifics of the case.

“In lieu of a dispute associated with an assigned transfer, Ms. Jones was paid to bridge the gap to retirement,” the county’s Office of Risk Management, which negotiated the settlement, wrote. Jones’ salary was about $170,000 in 2018.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/longtime-king-county-juvenile-detention-director-given-confidential-420000-settlement-as-she-retires/

Anchorage Daily News: For two brothers, two traumas and no justice

ST. MICHAEL — The two brothers sat a few houses apart, each tending to his own anger. Justice is slow in Alaska villages, they have learned. Sometimes it never arrives.

Chuck Lockwood, 69, grew up in this village of 400 along the Norton Sound coast but left as a child for boarding school. His rage is fresh.

Two years ago this month, the body of his 19-year-old granddaughter, Chynelle “Pretty” Lockwood, was found on a local beach. Alaska State Troopers have refused to say how she died, citing an open investigation. It appeared she had been dumped there, said Chuck, who believes it was a homicide. “Brutally murdered. Beaten up.”

Near Chuck’s family home, his younger brother Lawrence Lockwood Jr. watches crime dramas alone in his living room. His rage is long simmering. Lawrence grew up here too, but unlike his brother he didn’t go away for school.

He was among an entire generation of children, now mostly in their 50s and 60s, who survived years of sexual abuse by Jesuit priests and Catholic church personnel shipped to the village of St. Michael. His wife was abused too.

Nine Jesuit priests, volunteers and laypersons who served in St. Michael between 1949 and 1987 were later credibly accused of sexual abuse, the Diocese of Fairbanks has acknowledged. The church has apologized for the abuse.

“What we grew up with can’t be erased,” Lawrence said.

Read more: https://www.adn.com/lawless/2019/07/26/for-two-brothers-two-traumas-and-no-justice/

The San Diego Union-Tribune: San Diego firefighter overtime exceeds $46 million

The city of San Diego spent more than $46 million in firefighter overtime last year, according to recently-released public compensation data, and that total is expected to increase until additional staff are trained and hired in years to come.

Data from the California State Controller’s Office and Transparent California, an open-government group that collects and publishes public salaries, show the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, which includes lifeguard staff, employed roughly 1,500 workers in 2018.

Excluding benefits, their total annual pay averaged about $90,500, but nearly 700 employees received at least $100,000 in total wages, due in part to six-figure overtime payouts.

Transparent California data show 70 city workers received $100,000 or more in overtime alone last year. Sixty-one of them were fire-rescue employees.

Read more: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/story/2019-07-26/san-diego-firefighter-overtime-exceeds-46-million

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • July 25, 2019

Detroit Free Press: Ford knew Focus, Fiesta models had flawed transmission, sold them anyway

Ford Motor Co. knowingly launched two low-priced, fuel-efficient cars with defective transmissions and continued selling the troubled Focus and Fiesta despite thousands of complaints and an avalanche of repairs, a Free Press investigation found.

The cars, many of which randomly lose power on freeways and have unexpectedly bolted into intersections, were put on sale in 2010-11 as the nation emerged from the Great Recession. At least 1.5 million remain on the road and continue to torment their owners — and Ford.

The automaker pushed past company lawyers’ early safety questions and a veteran development engineer’s warning that the cars weren’t roadworthy, internal emails and documents show. Ford then declined, after the depth of the problem was obvious, to make an expensive change in the transmission technology. 

Instead, the company kept trying to find a fix for the faulty transmission for five years while complaints and costs piled up. In the interim, Ford officials prepared talking points for dealers to tell customers that the cars operated normally when, in fact, internal documents are peppered with safety concerns and descriptions of the defects.

The automaker faces thousands of angry customers, including former loyalists who say they will never buy another Ford; hundreds of millions in repair costs, many times without actually fixing the cars; and litigation so serious the company this spring warned investors of the financial threat posed by defects in what Ford called its DPS6 transmission.

Read more: https://www.freep.com/in-depth/money/cars/ford/2019/07/11/ford-focus-fiesta-transmission-defect/1671198001/

Wall Street Journal: PG&E Knew for Years Its Lines Could Spark Wildfires, and Didn’t Fix Them

PG&E Corp. knew for years that hundreds of miles of high-voltage power lines could fail and spark fires, yet it repeatedly failed to perform the necessary upgrades.

Documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal under the Freedom of Information Act and in connection with a regulatory dispute over PG&E’s spending on its electrical grid show that the company has long been aware that parts of its 18,500-mile transmission system have reached the end of their useful lives.

Read more: https://www.wsj.com/articles/pg-e-knew-for-years-its-lines-could-spark-wildfires-and-didnt-fix-them-11562768885

Miami Herald: Deflecting blame, Acosta pointed finger at others. Why they may have some explaining to do

On Oct 23, 2007, as federal prosecutors in South Florida were in the midst of tense negotiations to finalize a plea deal with accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, a senior prosecutor in their office was quietly laying out plans to leave the U.S. attorney’s office after 11 years.

On that date, as emails were flying between Epstein’s lawyers and federal prosecutors, Bruce E. Reinhart, now a federal magistrate, opened a limited liability company in Florida that established what would become his new criminal defense practice.

The stated address, according to Florida state corporate records: 250 South Australian Ave., Suite 1400. It was the same location, and identical suite number, as that of Epstein’s lead attorney, Jack Goldberger.

By the end of the year, Reinhart had resigned his post in the Southern District of Florida. Within days, on Jan. 2, 2008, he was hired to represent several of Epstein’s accused accomplices who would later, like Epstein, receive federal immunity for allegedly Reinhart’s defection was one of many highly unusual turns that the Epstein case took 12 years ago, moves that could merit examination as the multimillionaire’s controversial non-prosecution agreement is dissected in the wake of his arrest last week on sex trafficking charges.

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article232595847.html

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia agency under scrutiny for treatment of Puerto Ricans

Georgia’s zeal for combating illegal immigration has left it vulnerable to accusations that it violates the civil rights of Puerto Ricans who apply for driver’s licenses, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation has found.

Trafficking in fraudulent Puerto Rican birth certificates is a persistent problem, and immigrants in the U.S. illegally have tried to use them to obtain driver’s licenses — and the ability to work and other benefits that come with them. Licensing officials across the country have sought to address the problem. But documents obtained by the newspaper under the state Open Records Act show Georgia has gone to unusual lengths to curtail fraud.

The Georgia Department of Driver Services has subjected certain Puerto Ricans to automatic fraud investigations, confiscating their birth certificates and other documents, the newspaper found. The agency has also quizzed those applicants on Puerto Rican politics, geography and culture — using some questions that even one Puerto Rican expert said he can’t answer.

It’s unclear how many people have been investigated or if anyone has been improperly denied a driver’s license. But Georgia’s methods led two human rights groups to file a federal lawsuit this month, accusing the DDS of illegally discriminating against Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/georgia-agency-under-scrutiny-for-treatment-puerto-ricans/9tpFAgD1ZiZ0gihmVlTDyL/

NJ Advance Media: NJ Transit cancelations have been worse than you even imagined

From one side of the platform, the view of NJ Transit is somewhat rosy.

Gov. Phil Murphy says the agency’s trains are running better since he took office. NJ Transit touts a 31 percent reduction in train cancellations since last year.

But that doesn’t quite add up for their riders.

“I have taken this train for about five years now and over the last two years, the cancelations seem to be worse than ever,” said Nicky Giovine, who rides the North Jersey Coast Line from Middletown.

His experience is reflected in the data, and is at odds with what NJ Transit tells customers.

Since January, NJ Advance Media has tracked and analyzed every alert sent to customers through the agency’s eight automated Twitter feeds. The alerts are identical to those sent out through NJ Transit’s website and app.

The analysis shows NJ Transit has sent alerts about 1,642 cancelled trains from January 1 to July 1, more than twice the rate than during the spring of 2017, when a pair of high-profile derailments wreaked havoc on the system, the prelude to the so-called “Summer of Hell.”

That’s also more than twice as many as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s two commuter railroads — the Long Island Rail Road, the nation’s largest, and Metro North — during the same span.

Read more: https://www.nj.com/data/2019/07/how-wretched-is-your-nj-transit-train-commute-these-numbers-tell-the-sorry-tale.html

The Oregonian: One of Oregon’s biggest stocks of affordable housing -- the mobile home -- is in peril, despite state interventions

In the three decades that Susan Stoltenborg has lived near Eugene, she had to move five times as her rent jumped, her lease ended or poor conditions drove her out.

Each move pushed her farther out from the central city. By 2018, she was ready to invest in stability.

She took out a 20-year loan and bought a double-wide at the Patrician, a well-kept, friendly 55-and-older mobile home park in Springfield where she and her daughter could live with a dog and a cat and a front yard.

Her newfound permanence was short-lived.

The Patrician sits in a growing tech-industrial section of Springfield where the landowner sees an opportunity to make money by closing the park and building a new convention center. The mobile home park’s predicament places it in the middle of a national conversation about how to save one of the most prevalent forms of unsubsidized affordable housing.

Mobile home parks are disappearing at a disquieting pace. The state has tracked more than 73 park closures in the last two decades, amounting to 2,700 homes lost. For comparison, that’s equivalent to the number of homes in the Portland bedroom community of Scappoose.

And in the last two years, another 40 mobile home parks have filed notices of intent to sell -- likely meaning either an eviction or major rent hike for 3,200 households.

It’s been decades, meanwhile, since anyone built a new park.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/business/2019/07/one-of-oregons-biggest-stocks-of-affordable-housing-the-mobile-home-is-in-peril-despite-state-interventions.html

The Tennessean: At least 220,000 Tennessee kids faced loss of health insurance due to lacking paperwork

CHATTANOOGA – When the leukemia was finally gone, Tricia Sewell thought her family’s nightmare was over.

It was October of last year. Sewell’s 5-year-old son, Abel, had just finished three years of chemotherapy, all of which had been covered by Tennessee’s state Medicaid program, known as TennCare. Chemo was successful, but now Abel needed monthly blood tests to check if the cancer ever came back.

At the doctor’s office, something went wrong. The staff discovered Abel’s TennCare had vanished. His mom paid out of pocket for the blood test. Then she realized she'd pay again next month. And the following month. And months and months after that.

“I was livid because I knew the costs,” Sewell said. “In the back of my mind, I always knew what this all costs.”

That was eight months ago, and the family's financial struggle was just beginning. Sewell said state insurance dropped her teenage son, Jacob, who has ADHD, in December. The boys' medical bills now amount to as much as $900 a month, Sewell said. To cover the costs, the family extended its mortgage, adding decades of debt to a modest home that was nearly paid off. Ultimately, the family resorted to skipping a few blood tests – putting Abel’s health at risk – because it can’t afford to pay.

“It has felt horrible,” Sewell said. “But when these bills come in, it makes you feel even worse.”

At least 220,000 Tennesseechildren were cut, or were slated to be cut, from state health insurance in recent years in an unwieldy TennCare system that was dependent on hard-copy forms and postal mail, according to a Tennessean investigation. The majority of these kids likely lost their coverage because of late, incomplete or unreturned eligibility forms.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/investigations/2019/07/14/tenncare-coverkids-medicaid-children-application-insurance-denied/1387769001/

The Dallas Morning News: Tax funds stolen by her husband helped a DeSoto councilwoman. Why didn't authorities fully investigate?

DeSOTO — For more than two years, leaders of this Dallas suburb have guarded a secret: City Council member Candice Quarles benefited from thousands of taxpayer dollars her husband stole as head of the town’s economic development corporation.

DeSoto officials and the Dallas County district attorney’s office did little to investigate the councilwoman’s potential role after her husband told police she knew of at least one fraudulent transaction, according to interviews and a review of police documents by The Dallas Morning News.

Her financial gains surfaced in records tied to husband Jeremiah Quarles’ theft case. He pleaded guilty in April to making more than $9,000 in illegal credit card charges from 2013 to 2016 and received probation.

Half the stolen funds covered personal memberships for the councilwoman: $3,250 tuition for a prestigious Dallas Regional Chamber leadership class in 2016 and $1,200 in lifetime chamber dues, according to records.

The invoices her husband submitted had been altered to remove her name, records show. She told police she knew nothing about the fraud. A DeSoto detective did not challenge the statement or dig deep into her involvement.

In a brief police interview, the officer, K.V. Jones, told her, “This case is sensitive. I’m very aware of your position with the city.”

Read more: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/investigations/2019/07/12/tax-funds-stolen-husband-helped-desoto-councilwoman-didnt-authorities-fully-investigate

The Seattle Times: The head doctor at Monroe prison was fired over alleged negligent care. Now seven inmate deaths are under investigation.

One man died with a festering abdominal wound. Another lay struggling for breath in his final weeks of life as his lungs deteriorated. A third was left untreated for days with a pencil stuck inside his bladder.

They’re among six inmates at Monroe Correctional Complex who suffered due to inadequate medical care — including three who died — according to a Department of Corrections (DOC) investigation that led to the firing of the head doctor at the prison earlier this year. State medical authorities are now investigating those six cases plus an additional four inmate deaths.

Dr. Julia Barnett, the medical director at Monroe, was placed on paid leave in October and fired for misconduct in April after DOC concluded that she’d “failed to advocate for these patients and delayed emergency medical care, which was essential to life and caused significant deteriorations in patients’ medical conditions.”

The care provided or supervised by Barnett was called “shocking” and “negligence” or “bordering on … negligence” by other DOC doctors who reviewed her work, according to more than 2,000 pages of investigative and medical records released to The Seattle Times in response to Public Records Act requests.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/the-head-doctor-at-monroe-state-prison-was-fired-over-alleged-negligent-care-now-seven-deaths-are-under-investigation/

Anchorage Daily News: Dozens of convicted criminals have been hired as cops in rural Alaska. Sometimes, they’re the only applicants.

TEBBINS — When Nimeron Mike applied to be a city police officer here last New Year’s Eve, he didn’t really expect to get the job.

Mike was a registered sex offender and had served six years behind bars in Alaska jails and prisons. He’d been convicted of assault, domestic violence, vehicle theft, groping a woman, hindering prosecution, reckless driving, drunken driving and choking a woman unconscious in an attempted sexual assault. Among other crimes.

“My record, I thought I had no chance of being a cop,” Mike, 43, said on a recent weekday evening, standing at his doorway in this Bering Strait village of 646 people.

He was wrong.

On the same day Mike filled out the application, the city of Stebbins hired him, handing him a policeman’s cellphone to answer calls for help.

“Am I a cop now?” he remembers thinking. “It’s like, that easy?”

The short answer is yes. With low pay and few people wanting the jobs, it is that easy in some small Alaska communities for a convicted felon, even someone who has admitted to a sex crime or who was recently released from prison, to be hired with public money to work as a city police officer.

It’s also a violation of state public safety regulations, yet it happens all the time.

Read more: https://www.adn.com/lawless/2019/07/18/the-alaska-village-where-every-cop-has-been-convicted-of-domestic-violence/

Modesto Bee: It took deputies 24 hours to find a body in this California jail. Its problems aren’t fixed

Last June, Fabian Cardoza headed to the shower in the dilapidated Merced County Main Jail. The 20-year-old had spent a month there awaiting trial on a robbery charge. Two cellmates boxed him in. One pinned Cardoza to the floor. The other slipped a braided bedsheet around his neck and tightened it.

It was just past noon, but no correctional officers took notice. No one was monitoring the video camera that watched the area and, because the facility was so outdated, officers would have had to stand directly in front of the cell to see anything inside.

The jail was built in 1968, before most of the prisoners were even born. Inmates live behind rusted bars in the aging cellblocks, where eight people share a space the size of a two-bedroom apartment. The sleeping area has stacked beds bolted to the walls, opening into a dayroom that serves as a bathing and communal eating space. On that Sunday afternoon, it was a killing ground.

County officials knew the jail needed to be scrapped, its conditions branded “deplorable” in a scathing 2008 review. The outside reviewers said it was difficult to find the right parts to repair the decades-old sliding cell doors and other fixtures. Gang members mingled in blind spots where staff members were unable to keep track, and design flaws made segregating inmates exceptionally challenging.

Merced County’s corrections consultants agreed. “The Sheriff’s Department has determined that the antiquated Main Jail needs to be shut down, the infrastructure is post-salvageable, and the dysfunction of the jail layout creates problems in creating a manageable and safe environment for the staff and in-custody,” their written assessment states.

Read more: https://www.modbee.com/news/politics-government/article232484237.html

The Sacramento Bee: Why a school in one of Sacramento’s wealthiest neighborhoods is failing rapidly

Bret Harte Elementary School is located in one of Sacramento’s more prosperous neighborhoods, Curtis Park. Homes with gardener-tended lawns and budding hydrangea bushes line the street across from the school. Range Rovers and BMWs sit on some of the driveways.

A neighborhood like this would normally signal that the school is performing well.

But Bret Harte is rapidly failing. Less than 10 percent of its students are meeting the state’s standards, and many of the neighborhood children whose homes surround the school don’t bother to enroll there.

Every morning, scores of students, mostly children of color, walk across a pedestrian bridge from Oak Park on the east side of Highway 99 to attend classes at Bret Harte. Meanwhile, many of the hundreds of school-age children from Curtis Park get into cars and ride to schools outside their own neighborhood.

Read more: https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/sacramento-tipping-point/article231662913.html

The Washington Post: Home elevators have killed and injured kids for decades. Safety regulators won’t order a simple fix.

t was lunchtime when 2 1 /2-year-old Fletcher Hartz opened the door to the elevator at his grandparents’ home in Little Rock.

His mother, Nicole Hartz, stood a few feet away in the kitchen making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She didn’t see him walk into the hallway and pull open the elevator door, which looked like an ordinary closet door. But she heard him cry.

She thought Fletcher, a curious little boy with thick brown hair, was upset because he couldn’t reach a light switch. She went to check on him and found Fletcher trapped behind the door to the elevator, which her in-laws had installed a few years earlier to accommodate their own elderly parents at the two-story home.

Nicole yanked on the door. It was locked, automatically secured by a safety device after being closed. But she could pull it open a crack. She could see Fletcher was caught in the narrow gap behind the outer door and just in front of an accordion door that closed off the elevator car, a no man’s land where the floor ended and the edge of the elevator car began. The space was only a few inches wide, just enough for his tiny body.

She didn’t panic. He wasn’t hurt. It’s going to be okay, she recalled telling him that day in February 2017.

But she didn’t know what many in the elevator industry had known for more than 70 years: that children caught between the doors had been killed and injured before, crushed by moving elevators when their tiny bodies collided with the door frame above or fell into the elevator shaft below — a danger allowed to exist all these years by companies and regulators despite a simple solution, according to interviews with 28 officials, parents and regulators, plus a review of hundreds of documents from courts, companies and government agencies.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/home-elevator-deaths/2019/07/18/27b53434-968e-11e9-830a-21b9b36b64ad_story.html?utm_term=.6a01c19e48a1

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: NCAA tapes show Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner shaded the truth

The NCAA investigator warned of dire consequences if Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner lied about breaking the association’s rules.

“Understand,” Pastner answered.

For the next four hours, however, Pastner repeatedly shaded the truth about a relationship at the heart of allegations that, almost two years later, still endanger the men’s basketball program at Tech.

Throughout an interview with NCAA enforcement officials on Nov. 30, 2017, Pastner dramatically mischaracterized his ties to Ron Bell, an estranged friend, reformed drug addict and former prison inmate from Tucson, Arizona. The NCAA questioned Pastner about Bell’s claims that the coach instructed him to give impermissible benefits to players and to recruit an athlete from another school.

In the interview, Pastner inaccurately described Bell’s access to his players and coaches. He disclosed only a handful of the approximately 2,000 electronic messages in which he and Bell discussed recruiting, coaching strategy and other matters. He understated his knowledge of Bell’s illicit recruiting and failed to mention Bell’s visits to his home.

Pastner not only denied wrongdoing, he depicted Bell as little more than a casual acquaintance, an ordinary fan.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained a recording of Pastner’s confidential interview and compared his statements to text messages, emails, photographs and videos, many of them contained in court documents. This review comes as Tech faces a reckoning for what the NCAA has deemed a “severe breach of conduct” involving Bell and a former assistant men’s basketball coach accused of an unrelated offense. The association is weighing penalties against the school.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/public-affairs/ncaa-tapes-show-georgia-tech-josh-pastner-shaded-the-truth/94miknZIkRyFdxv71BpYjO/

The Boston Globe: Registry fails to alert local police of trouble drivers, flouts law enacted after 2014 traffic tragedy

After a 20-year-old Sharon woman was struck and killed in 2014 by a driver with a suspended license and a history of traffic violations, the state Legislature required the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to alert local police of troubled drivers in their communities.

But in another administrative failing, the Registry is not regularly sending the notifications of suspensions and revocations as required under the law so that local officers can proactively monitor drivers who were stripped of their licenses for safety reasons, a Globe review of Massachusetts police departments has found.

The spotty compliance by the Registry has created confusion among many police departments and prompted critics to say it is another example of how the agency is failing one of its most basic responsibilities: overseeing the safety of the state’s roads.

“It’s appalling that we fought so hard to get this legislation only to have it not enacted as intended,” said Marc Cremer, the father of the 20-year-old victim, Haley Cremer. “We did this to save lives, and potentially prevent families from going through the tragedy that we live with every day.”

The revelations add to the controversies surrounding the Registry, which is reeling after the deaths of seven people in a crash in late June in New Hampshire, allegedly caused by a truck driver from West Springfield who should have been stripped of his Massachusetts commercial driver’s license.

That failure cost Registrar Erin Deveney her job, and the Baker administration has since revealed that the Registry ignored tens of thousands of alerts from other states about traffic violations by Massachusetts drivers, and also failed to send out its own such notices to other states.

Under what is sometimes known as Haley’s law, the Registry is required to “timely notify” police departments when a resident’s license is suspended or revoked for reasons tied to public safety or criminal conduct, including driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, refusing a chemical test, or, for younger drivers, being convicted of a crime in juvenile court.

Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/07/20/registry-fails-alert-local-police-trouble-drivers-flouts-law-enacted-after-traffic-tragedy/2aOtkhVfv3CcLMB00SCn2M/story.html

Newark Star-Ledger: Who takes care of mom and dad in the nursing home? In N.J., the answer can be scary.

His last days were ones of misery.

Robert Gunkel, once an intimidating figure with a grip of steel, was all but bed-bound in the New Jersey nursing home where he spent the final weeks of his life. Weakened after a risky operation to remove a cyst pressing on the right side of his brain, the 87-year-old Korean War veteran could no longer stand.

Those caring for him were supposed to turn him every two and a half hours to prevent dangerous pressure ulcers — what most know as bed sores. But his son, Roger Gunkel, recalled long stretches of time that would go on by before anyone at would check in on him after his father arrived there late last year on Christmas Eve.

“The aides were so scarce,” said Gunkel. “There was probably one aide to every eight to 10 rooms.”

It was his mother who first discovered the open wounds on her husband two weeks later, Stage 2 or 3 ulcers, which only confirmed to them he most likely had been left unattended in bed for long stretches of time. Gunkel said there was a rapid decline in his father’s health. He was in constant pain and his blood pressure started plummeting. Infection and sepsis set in, the son said. His father was rushed to the emergency room, and finally sent home to die. On Feb. 5, he was gone.

Choking back emotion, Gunkel believes his father’s suffering was exacerbated, and perhaps his death hastened at PowerBack Rehabilitation in Moorestown, by a shortage of nurse aides and others he had expected to take care of his dad. “They were very, very understaffed.”

Anyone who has spent any time in a nursing home has a story to tell. About a loved one suffered while waiting for help to go to the bathroom. Or someone who went hungry because there was no one to feed them. A call bell that went unanswered for hours.

And in New Jersey, federal data shows nursing homes are particularly understaffed.

Read more: https://www.nj.com/news/2019/07/who-takes-care-of-mom-and-dad-in-the-nursing-home-in-nj-the-answer-is-sometimes-no-one.html

The Post and Courier: Toxic chemicals from firefighting foams could be found at 11 SC military bases

Nearly every major military installation in South Carolina could be polluted with toxic chemicals from a firefighting foam, which has seeped into the environment and fouled drinking water across the country.

The Post and Courier revealed several studies earlier this month that confirmed four Air Force bases in South Carolina are saturated with the chemicals known as PFOS and PFOA. Among them were Shaw Air Force Base, Joint Base Charleston, the North Auxiliary Airfield and the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.

But that count could expand significantly if the military’s suspicions prove true.

A list provided to Congress shows the Department of Defense believes the chemical-laden foam could be found at seven other current and former military bases throughout the Palmetto State. It’s all part of a growing mountain of liability related to the military’s decades-long use of the firefighting foam.

Read more: https://www.postandcourier.com/news/toxic-chemicals-from-firefighting-foams-could-be-found-at-sc/article_3081560a-a891-11e9-bc2f-e3d9e7745d66.html

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: A drug's most dangerous side effects often aren't discovered until it's on the market

Every night, a slew of TV commercials hammer home the benefits of drugs that treat autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis — and tack on a reminder about the risks they carry.

More than most, Tom Leith knows the possible perils.

Over the last 20 years, he has been on three of the drugs for his rheumatoid arthritis: Enbrel, Orencia and Rituxan.

In that time, he has had at least two serious medical problems: A life-threatening case of viral meningitis in 2017 and, a short time later, a suspected cancerous tumor on his lung. Doctors say both could be related to the drugs, but there is no way to know for sure.

The drugs are known as biologic medicines, or biologics. Made from living organisms, such as animal cells, instead of chemicals, they have flooded the market over the past two decades — bringing with them promise and pitfalls.

By tamping down overactive immune systems, the drugs can lead to substantial improvement, even remission. But in doing so, they leave patients more susceptible to sometimes-deadly infections and other serious side effects.

In many cases, the problems emerged only after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deemed the drugs safe and effective treatments and allowed them on the market.

At least 25 times since 2000, the FDA or drug manufacturers have issued warnings, safety updates or found potential signals of serious risk with the drugs, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis found.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2019/07/18/arthritis-psoriasis-medications-drugs-deemed-safe-get-fda-warning/1747241001/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • July 11, 2019

The Seattle Times: For some Washington students with special needs, diagnosis is too late, help is too little

Something is not right.

When Luckisha Phillips’ son Jayden picked up a pencil in kindergarten, his letters often came out backward and inverted, so illegible that his mother thought something was wrong with his vision.

Handed a set of crayons, Ammerine Dellenbaugh’s bright, chatty son Creede refused to use them to draw or write. Instead, he’d line them up by color, or just scribble.

As 6-year-olds, Stacey Vandell’s twins, Jake and Ryan, couldn’t remember their ABCs, didn’t know why the days were different, and couldn’t grasp the concept of time.

Over and over, these women found themselves saying the same thing to teachers and principals:

Something is not right.

But when it came to putting a label on these challenges — to getting the type of educational testing that could open the door to more appropriate schooling — they felt like they were on their own.

They hired private neuropsychologists, speech and vision experts. They spent thousands of dollars to diagnose learning disabilities they say their schools should have identified much earlier.

Educators have long known that dyslexia and other learning disabilities can have devastating impacts for students if not diagnosed and addressed early. In Washington, nearly 48,000 children in 2018 were identified as having a “specific learning disability,” which includes dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia. It is the most common category of learning disability.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/for-some-washington-students-with-special-needs-diagnosis-comes-too-late/

Nashville Tennessean: A judge who refused to watch an LGBT awareness video now presides over cases in Franklin

A controversial judge who was disciplined in Texas over his refusal to watch a LGBT sensitivity training video has transferred to Franklin, Tenn., where he now hears cases from Tennesseans who believe they were wrongly denied federal disability benefits.

The judge, Gary Suttles, was also the subject of an internal inquiry after a Texas newspaper reported he had made disparaging remarks to a Gulf War veteran seeking disability for service-related health problems.

Veterans groups expressed outrage. The Social Security Administration issued an apology for the judge's comments.

Suttles is one of about 1,500 judges nationwide who hear appeals from people who believe they were wrongly denied disability in a federal safety-net program that provides cash payments for individuals too sick or injured to work.

The judges must weigh the credibility of applicants and medical evidence to decide who qualifies. A job description says judges must ensure "everyone is treated fairly, impartially, and compassionately."

Three Nashville-area attorneys who routinely represent clients in disability hearings said they were concerned about whether their clients, who include veterans and people of all sexual orientations, can get a fair hearing before Suttles. The three attorneys requested anonymity because they could appear before Suttles in the future.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/07/07/former-controversial-texas-judge-now-presides-over-disability-benefit-cases-in-franklin/1618413001/

The Post and Courier: LETHAL LEGACY: Why SC is likely stuck with a stockpile of the nation’s most dangerous nuclear materials

South Carolina could be stuck with a massive stockpile of the nation’s most dangerous nuclear material for decades, despite a federal mandate and years of promises that the state wouldn’t become America’s plutonium dumping ground.

A restricted internal report obtained by the Aiken Standard and The Post and Courier suggests that the state is likely to become a long-term repository for enough plutonium to build the bomb dropped on Nagasaki nearly 2,000 times over.

South Carolina faces this prospect despite a federal law that gives the U.S. Department of Energy just 2½ more years to remove its plutonium from the Savannah River Site, a huge swath of federal land along the Georgia border.

The report, written last November by the Energy Department and a project-management contractor, reveals that the government privately expects South Carolina to safeguard the legacy of America’s nuclear brinksmanship for two more decades, if not longer.

That plutonium is stored in a 65-year-old, Cold War-era building just 25 miles from Aiken and downtown Augusta, which anchor a region of more than 600,000 people. The Energy Department once told South Carolina’s governor it wasn’t intended for long-term plutonium storage. The last time the government assessed it, it was in “poor” condition.

Read more: https://www.postandcourier.com/news/why-sc-is-likely-stuck-with-a-stockpile-of-the/article_3f45b73c-9912-11e9-bd2e-1f076097d07a.html

The Columbus Dispatch: Pharmacy 'deserts' appear in Ohio as stores close amid drug pricing debate

DANVILLE, Ohio — Maintaining access to the kinds of care that keep people out of the emergency room is becoming more difficult in the sparsely populated corners of the Buckeye State. Some say big corporations that work with the Ohio Medicaid program are partly to blame.

Here in the rolling farm country in central Ohio's Knox County, people boast of their deep small-town roots. The traditions of their Amish neighbors run even deeper. But public officials and an independent pharmacist find themselves struggling together to maintain basic health care for people who might find it difficult — if not impossible — to drive 20 minutes or more to find it.

They're hardly alone.

In an era of low reimbursements for drugs they dispense — especially under the Ohio Medicaid program — hundreds of Ohio pharmacies have closed, creating more than a dozen areas with no easy access to medicine and a pharmacist's care. Scores of other places across the state are one closure away from joining them, according to a Dispatch analysis of state pharmacy data.

Some pharmacists fear that the problem will metastasize as more pharmacies shut their doors.

"When Medicaid managed-care reimbursements drive a pharmacy out of business, the problem doesn't end there," Denise Conway, who owns a pharmacy in Mount Vernon and is opening another in Danville, told an Ohio Senate panel in June. "The patients move to another pharmacy where the low payment rates suffocate another pharmacy."

The Dispatch's ongoing series "Side Effects," online at www.dispatch.com/sideeffects, has been reporting on the role that pharmacy benefit managers have played in drug prices, the decline of community pharmacies and in what some state officials say are practices that overcharge taxpayers.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/sideeffects/stingy-pharmacy-reimbursements-leave-ohio-communities-on-the-brink/site/dispatch.com/

Albuquerque Journal: On the border: ‘It was hell’

CIUDAD JUÁREZ – Iris Villeda walked out of the building housing Mexico’s migration agency with her 2-year-old son, a weary look on her face, and second thoughts about seeking a safe haven in the United States.

“They treated us very badly,” she said, referring to U.S. authorities who sent her back to Mexico.

Her son’s bottom was bare, which she said was because she couldn’t get a diaper. U.S. authorities also took away her shoes and the few belongings she had while in custody.

“They threw everything in the trash,” she said, looking forlornly at the pair of rubber flip flops on her feet.

The Trump administration’s efforts to clamp down on migrants seeking asylum and deteriorating conditions on both sides of the border may finally be working. Both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and immigrant advocates point to a sharp decline in the number of migrants arriving at the border in June.

Apprehensions last month fell by at least 25%, down from a high of 144,000 in May, according to CBP. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan credits Mexico in part for the decline.

Read more: https://www.abqjournal.com/1337087/on-the-border-it-was-hell.html

The Kansas City Star: ‘Ultimate pork project’: Kansas’ mega tax breaks don’t deliver as promised

Two race tracks in eastern Kansas are separated by 60 miles along Interstate 70, as well as a veritable chasm in one’s success and the other’s struggle.

The first, the 48,000-seat Kansas Speedway, draws thousands of NASCAR fans and has been key in transforming the western edge of Wyandotte County from windswept fields to a booming retail, entertainment and employment sector.

The other, in Topeka, is the Heartland Motorsports Park, which has performed so far below expectations that the city has to cough up $1 million a year to pay back investors.

Underpinning both projects is taxpayer assistance in the form of sales tax revenue (STAR) bonds, powerful inducements that were originally designed to encourage exceptional attractions that bring in tourists from far away.

The Kansas Speedway demonstrates what is possible with the bonds, while Topeka and other developments in recent years show what the program has become.

“The use has been perverted to gas stations and car lots and mainstream consumer goods,” said Doug Spangler, an Edwardsville Democrat who served in the Kansas House from 1994 to 2002, the period when the bonds were conceived. “It was originally supposed to be utilized only for activity related to a destination resort, so that’s a big difference.”

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article232206457.html

Honolulu Civil Beat: Hawaii Ignores Deadline To Create New Standards For Cops

A state board failed to meet a July 1 deadline to create basic certification standards for law enforcement and police officers in Hawaii, shirking its legislative mandate.

The Law Enforcement Standards Board was created by the Hawaii Legislature in 2018 and given one year to come up with basic training and certification standards, a decertification process and a basic training curriculum for law enforcement. Hawaii was the last state in the U.S. to enact an officer standards board.

The board has met just once since it was created, and it’s not clear yet when it will meet next or when it plans to get its job done. Earlier this year, the board asked lawmakers for more time and more money to complete its task, but that proposal never went anywhere.

The board is administered through the state Attorney General’s Office, and its members include the chiefs of each county police department, as well as directors of state departments with law enforcement or policing powers including taxation, public safety, transportation and land and natural resources.

In response to an inquiry from Civil Beat, Krishna Jayaram, special assistant to the AG, said that the board lacked enough resources and faced challenges to coming up with certification.

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/07/hawaii-ignores-deadline-to-create-new-standards-for-cops/

AP: Epstein story shows investigative journalism is thriving

NEW YORK (AP) — The Miami Herald’s stories on sex trafficking charges against billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein illustrate a counter-intuitive trend: Investigative journalism is thriving as the news media industry struggles.

In announcing new charges against Epstein 11 years after the financier secretly got a sweetheart deal from federal prosecutors in Florida to settle nearly identical allegations, New York prosecutor Geoffrey Berman said Monday that his team was “assisted by excellent investigative journalism.”

“It’s really gratifying,” Aminda Marques Gonzalez, president, publisher and executive editor of the Herald, said Tuesday. “You hope your work will have impact. It’s beyond your expectation to have your work cited as the basis for an arrest.”

While Berman did not cite the Herald by name, it was obvious he was referring to the work of journalist Julie K. Brown, who in a series of stories, including a big investigative piece last November, reported on at least 60 women who said they had been sexually abused by Epstein between 2001 and 2005, when they were minors. Eight agreed to be interviewed.

Read more: https://www.apnews.com/dd975858dfc04737b7d7d9cbb8fd0420

The Graphic: Reupholstering behind bars: Massachusetts prisoners repair auditorium chairs at ARHS, ARMS

On March 21, the Amherst-Pelham Regional School District and Massachusetts Correctional Industries (MassCor) inked a contract that set up prisoners at MCI-Norfolk to reupholster the 1,105 badly worn auditorium seats at Amherst Regional High and Middle Schools, between April and June of this year, to the tune of $101,800.

The auditorium seats needed to be repaired, the district budget was limited, and using prison labor cut costs.

Advocates claim prison work builds valuable skills, prepares inmates for gainful employment after release, decreases recidivism, and generates revenue to cover the high cost of running prisons.

Opponents claim the practice is exploitative because it pays well below minimum wage, provides little in the way of worker rights and protections, and encourages the expansion of prison populations.

Given the complexity of the issue, it’s fair to ask: Should public schools use prison labor? The staff of The Graphic explores this question in our special report.

Read more: http://thegraphic.arps.org/2019/06/reupholstering-behind-bars-massachusetts-prisoners-repair-auditorium-chairs-at-arhs-and-arms/

Clarion Ledger: What happened when this prison couldn't hire enough guards? It put gangs in charge

This story was published in partnership with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system, the Clarion Ledger and the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.Sign up for The Marshall Project's newsletter, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

It was a prison brimming with violence, awash in weapons—and severely short on guards to patrol its cell blocks. But security-camera footage caught the action when Brad Fitch arrived in unit F at Mississippi’s Wilkinson County Correctional Facility on Jan. 31, 2018.

The two sets of sneakers, pacing outside the cell he had occupied for six hours. His race through the dayroom, his white t-shirt soaked in blood. His desperate run for the locked exit, chased by two prisoners. The slash of a handmade knife—a shank—as he stumbled.

The rain of blows that left him curled up on the floor of a shower stall in a pool of his own blood, 10 stab wounds in his back.

His attackers, after performing what investigators later concluded was a gang-ordered hit, walked calmly away. Even when a handful of guards turned up and found Fitch, inmates continued to mill around, heating up snacks in a microwave just yards from where he lay.

Such a nonchalant display of gang power wasn’t unusual at Wilkinson, a 950-bed maximum security prison where there have been at least four gang-related homicides in the last two years.

In fact, the warden relied on gangs to keep the peace.

Like most prisons in Mississippi and a growing number across the country, Wilkinson had trouble finding people willing to take dangerous, low-paying guard jobs — more than a third of the positions were vacant and annual turnover was close to 90 percent.

Read more: https://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/politics/2019/06/26/report-mississippi-prison-guards-gangs/1568333001/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • June 27, 2019

The Arizona Republic: Phoenix police shot at more people than NYPD did in 2018. Will that change?

In 2018, Phoenix police officers fired at more people than law-enforcement officers did in any other city in the United States.

Forty-four times.

New York police officers fired 23 times.

Philadelphia police fired 12 times.

Dallas police fired four times.

Some major U.S. police departments saw a decline in police shootings, but the number of shootings in Phoenix more than doubled from 2017 to 2018. Criminal-justice experts say there's no clear answer for why Phoenix saw such a drastic increase.

Phoenix leaders call 2018 an anomaly and have promised to make changes in training, awareness and approach.

But it's more than a one-year trend.

An investigation by The Arizona Republic shows that Phoenix police shootings for years have surpassed numbers in comparable cities.

The Republic spent 19 months detailing each of Phoenix police’s 201 police shootings over the past eight years.

Nearly all the people involved in a police shooting in Phoenix were armed with a weapon; some likely had a history of mental illness or were experiencing some type of crisis. Black and Native American people were disproportionately shot when compared with their population numbers in the city.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/in-depth/news/local/arizona-investigations/2019/06/20/phoenix-police-shootings-outpace-other-major-us-cities/3651151002/

The San Diego Union-Tribune: Dehesa School District profited by cultivating charter schools

The duty to watchdog multiple charter schools involved in a recent alleged charter school scam lay on the shoulders of Dehesa School District, a tiny district that consists of a single elementary school with 138 students in the hills of east San Diego County.

In May 11 people were indicted in connection with a statewide charter school scheme that prosecutors said funneled $50 million into the pockets of two executives of A3 Education. Three of the A3 charter schools were authorized and overseen by Dehesa.

In a statement, the district defended its authorization of its several charter schools.

“The Dehesa School District approved the charter schools believing we were making educational options available to students who could benefit from instruction in non-traditional settings,” the district said in a statement. “We recognize that several charter school reforms have been initiated at the state level, and our District is committed to ensuring legal compliance with all applicable laws and regulations concerning charter schools.”

Neither Dehesa Superintendent Nancy Hauer, who has been placed on paid leave and was one of the 11 people indicted, nor board members responded to requests for comment.

How could such alleged charter school fraud be allowed to happen? Some have argued that California’s charter school laws are too lax in what they require of charter authorizers. Others say that argument gives charter authorizers like Dehesa too much benefit of the doubt.

Read more: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/education/story/2019-06-22/dehesa-school-district-profited-by-cultivating-charter-schools

Miami Herald: Why Airbnb is making it harder for Miami locals to find a place to rent

For landlords in Miami, the secret to profits rests with renting to visitors, not locals.

That was the message of a recent seminar touting the profitability of Airbnb for property investors debating whether to rent their houses and condos to long-term tenants or overnight guests.

“You will get more money for your rental if you have it on Airbnb,” said real estate data guru Francisco Mago, founder of BNBVestor. “Regular rentals are overrated.” Launched in 2017, BNBVestor offers seminars and a monthly subscription to a database of home-sharing trends based on data scraped from AirBnb and long-term rental sites like Zillow.

This day, the audience of 20 gathered in Doral included property managers, real estate investors and even a stand-up comedian. Each coughed up the $99 seminar fee as a way into the Airbnb business.

Data provided by Airbnb indicates the number of entire homes listed on the site for Miami-Dade has jumped 33 percent since 2017, up to around 13,500 today. In the current market, Miami landlords and property managers can make an average of around 40 percent more renting entire homes or apartments to tourists on Airbnb than renting to locals on annual leases, according to BNBVestor. In areas like South Miami and North Miami Airbnb yields up to 62 percent and 51 percent, respectively, more per month with rates around $140 a night.

The problem for locals: More houses, apartments and condos available on home-sharing platforms translates into fewer options for those who live here full time. As Miami-Dade faces a crisis in housing affordability with a 130,000-unit deficit, as many as 13,500 existing units in good condition sit unavailable to the people who need them.

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/tourism-cruises/article231476068.html

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Politics and conflicts mire EMS service in Georgia

A crew of Paulding County emergency workers was racing the clock just before daybreak one August day to save Jason Brady’s life.

As he gasped for air, medics and first responders urged the autistic Dallas man to slow his breathing. Then, they tried to devise a way to get him down a stairwell to the ambulance.But, after more than 20 minutes of effort, the 39-year-old stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest. The crews started CPR then spent another 14 minutes at the scene working to revive him. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.That set his sister on a four-year quest to find out if the crews could have saved her brother. “The way he died, I could never let it go,” Jennifer Doxakis said.Ultimately, the Georgia Department of Public Health asked the medical director of the ambulance company to investigate. That internal investigation found that the paramedic in charge violated company policies and protocols. Too much time was spent at the scene, and documentation on what went wrong was poor, it found. But the state held no one accountable.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional/politics-and-conflicts-mire-ems-service-georgia/rnJ8I9pgT2YtUQeikg4AkP/

The Topeka Capital-Journal: Kansas regulators struggle with record-high 22K abandoned oil, gas wells

EUDORA — Judith Wells brought her car to a slow crawl on a gravel road in Douglas County.

She wasn’t marveling at the beauty of nature or the toil of modern farmers. Nor was she drawn to the sprinkling of lovely rural homesteads.

She was intent on consuming details of crude pooling at the base of a pump jack within shouting distance of Little Wakarusa Creek. Nearby, within the same field, a second jack was surrendering enough thick black oil to scar another slice of ground.

It is the kind of discovery fueling Wells’ mission to convince the oil and gas industry to adhere to state laws, regulations and rules when extracting or depositing energy-related materials in Kansas. It is a quest that put her in conflict with the Kansas Corporation Commission, which is responsible for oversight of the energy sector.

Years ago, she bought property in Douglas County without being informed it had unplugged wells on the land. She emerged as a thorn in the side of eastern Kansas operators by injecting herself into the debate about how to deal with operators who abandon wells.

“This is a big ball of worms,” Wells said. “I’m not against oil. I’m against dirty oil.”

The number of deserted oil and gas wells in Kansas blossomed during the past five years to 22,000. The KCC’s annual reports revealed a fund created in 1996 to finance plugging of wells to be inadequate if the objective was to keep pace with demand for plugging.

As of 2018, the state had capped 10,100 wells. Year-to-year plugging peaked at 750 wells in 2002 and stood at 520 in 2009, but slumped to less than 300 from 2015 to 2018. In 2017, the number of forsaken wells in the state’s inventory surged by 3,000.

Read more: https://www.cjonline.com/news/20190622/kansas-regulators-struggle-with-record-high-22k-abandoned-oil-gas-wells

Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram: CMP misled the public, mismanaged rollout of new billing system

Michael Harvey of Winthrop researches upcoming Maine Public Utilities Commission hearings related to the bungled rollout of Central Maine Power's new billing system. The fiasco led to inaccurate or skyrocketing bills for more than 100,000 customers. Harvey, 39, has received monthly bills as high as $1,400 to power his 1,100-square-foot home.

Last October nearly 1,000 utility industry professionals from 100 companies descended on the Grand Hyatt hotel in San Antonio, Texas, for a three-day software conference.

Donna McNally, a veteran information technology director for Central Maine Power Co., was there to tout her company’s new customer billing system. In a presentation, she told the audience how CMP’s new software, launched exactly one year earlier, increased billing accuracy and “enhanced customer experience.”

What she didn’t tell them was that 2,000 miles away, back home in Maine, more than 100,000 customers had been receiving inaccurate and, for many, outrageously expensive power bills. Or that many residential and commercial electric customers never received any bills at all — until they were caught off guard and alarmed by shutoff notices. Or that CMP was now the target of multiple state investigations, plus a ratepayer lawsuit alleging corporate fraud over how the company mismanaged the bungled billing system.

The Texas presentation was neither the first time, nor would it be the last, that CMP management misrepresented the customer service disaster that shattered the reputation of Maine’s largest utility. In late March of this year, CMP’s chief executive told the Maine Public Utilities Commission that the billing problems were largely solved. But even now, customers continue to complain to the agency about unexplained high bills and their ongoing frustration with trying to get answers from CMP.

A Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram investigation has found that officials at Central Maine Power and its parent company cut corners, skirted best industry practices and failed to adequately test a new error-prone billing system launched in the fall of 2017.

The meltdown of the new $56 million billing system, paradoxically named SmartCare, reveals a pattern of corporate mismanagement and unfulfilled customer promises spanning much of this decade.

Read more: https://www.pressherald.com/2019/06/23/cmp-misled-the-public-mismanaged-rollout-of-new-billing-system/

The News & Observer: Wells Fargo mistakes cost people their homes. It was just the start of their problems

bout nine years ago, a Burlington woman begged Wells Fargo to keep working with her to lower her mortgage payments. She had just lost her job, and the single mom was struggling to pay for the house she shared with her three kids.

Ultimately, the bank said no.

Her problems continued to mount. Choking back tears, Zsa Zsa Monique Conyers remembers she briefly thought about suicide, that her children would be better off without her. But she recalled thinking at the time, “I look at them in their face and be like, ‘I can’t do Conyers eventually lost her home, as did hundreds of others who made similar requests to Wells Fargo. But it turns out Wells Fargo made a critical mistake when it rejected all of those requests for modifications of their mortgages.

Last year, Wells apologized and admitted it wrongly denied or failed to offer about 870 mortgage modifications between 2010 and April 2018. In approximately 545 cases, customers like Conyers lost their homes to foreclosure.

Conyers is among the people who are now speaking out publicly about what happened to them and how their lives were upended in the aftermath of Wells Fargo’s mistakes.

Read more: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article231006013.html

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Rape of 95-year-old with dementia raises questions about Ohio’s assisted-living regulations for staffing, training

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The 95-year-old dementia patient lay asleep in her room at Close to Home assisted living in Middletown, unaware of the danger at her door.

Minutes after 5 a.m., Gary Earls snuck in, grabbed the woman, pinned down her frail hands and sexually molested her, according to records and interviews.

She wailed in pain.

One of two aides caring for the center’s 32 residents that day heard the cries and ran to the woman’s room. She found Earls, a resident who suffered from a cognitive disorder, on top of the woman.

Afterward, Earls, 72, returned to his room across the hall, seemingly unaffected by what he had done.

The woman appeared to have no idea of what took place, telling an aide simply: “That man came to visit. He is real nice."

She died a month later, her family attributing her death to the attack.

The case underscores one of the most contentious issues in the care industry in Ohio: The number of assisted-living centers has increased 181 percent in the state since 1995, with much of that growth fueled by those with serious memory issues. A national study by researchers at University of North Carolina suggests seven of 10 residents in assisted living have some degree of cognitive impairment.

But regulations designed to keep residents safe remain vague and outdated, according to a Plain Dealer analysis of hundreds of pages of regulations, safety reports and interviews with researchers.

Read more: https://www.cleveland.com/news/2019/06/rape-of-95-year-old-with-dementia-raises-questions-about-ohios-assisted-living-regulations-for-staffing-training.html

The Columbus Dispatch: Dispatch analysis: State's attempt to curb drug middlemen mostly futile

A Dispatch analysis of prescription drug prices for the poor and disabled since the state's latest stab at reform turns up one simple fact: No matter what laws or regulations are changed, as long as pharmacy benefit managers control Ohio Medicaid's $3 billion drug-pricing mechanism, it will be difficult to make sure that both Ohio taxpayers and pharmacies are getting a good deal.

The analysis of more than 400,000 prescriptions from about three dozen pharmacies across the state in the first quarters of 2018 and 2019 produced four major conclusions:

• Ohio's largest Medicaid pharmacy benefit manager, CVS Caremark, increased its rates for specialty drugs at the beginning of this year, even though the cost of many of them was dropping nationally. Along with raising the price for Ohio taxpayers, CVS benefits from the inflated cost because its PBM directs many of these prescriptions to CVS specialty-drug pharmacies. The price increases took effect as Ohio eliminated the old "spread pricing" system in which pharmacy benefit managers, a middlemen in the drug supply chain, walked away with as much as $200 million a year in profit.

• The state's new "pass through" system has generated better results for Ohio pharmacists. The amounts they are receiving from PBMs above the pharmacies' costs to buy Medicaid drugs more than tripled after the sweeping changes this year. The bad news: That $6.25 margin per prescription still falls well short of the standard $9.48 deemed by pharmacies as their break-even point.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/sideeffects/dispatch-analysis-states-attempt-to-curb-drug-middlemen-mostly-futile/site/dispatch.com/

Chattanooga Times Free Press: Friction between Erlanger doctors and CEO comes to a head

Top physicians who oversee the quality and safety of medical care at Erlanger Health System say they've lost confidence in the hospital's executive leadership, according to a document obtained by the Times Free Press.

A copy of a letter sent from Erlanger's Medical Executive Committee to its Board of Trustees Chairman Mike Griffin dated May 9, 2019, says the group met that week and voted unanimously "no confidence in the structure of the current Executive Leadership to ensure quality and safety of patient care."

Several members of that committee who wish to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs said the vote of no confidence was directed at the executives who oversee service lines that affect efficiency and patient care quality. The people responsible for those areas of the hospital are CEO Kevin Spiegel, Chief Operating Officer Rob Brooks and Tanner Goodrich, Erlanger's vice president of operations.

Concerns about chronic operational issues, such as inefficiency, understaffing, poor morale and policies that cause overcrowding in the emergency department and operating rooms, were spelled out in the Medical Executive Committee's letter.

"Patient safety issues have been raised with management since 2015," the physicians wrote.

"Despite over 3 years of complaints and concerns by patients and physicians, hospital management has been ineffective in addressing these issues. There exists a lack of accountability in senior management who are either unable or unwilling to effect necessary changes to insure patient safety," the letter states.

Specifically, patient overcrowding at the main campus emergency department "has resulted in prolonged boarding of patients and difficulty in appropriate staffing, which has unfortunately contributed to adverse patient outcomes," it states.

The letter is signed on behalf of the Medical Executive Committee by its officers: Dr. James P. Bolton, chief of staff; Dr. Christopher E. Young, vice chief; Dr. Christopher V. Poole, secretary; Dr. James "Jay" Sizemore, immediate past chief.

Read more: https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2019/jun/23/frictibetween-erlanger-doctors-and-ceo-comes/497308/

The Seattle Times: The inside story of MCAS: How Boeing’s 737 MAX system gained power and lost safeguards

Early in the development of the 737 MAX, engineers gathered at Boeing’s transonic wind tunnel in Seattle to test the jet’s aerodynamics using a scale model with a wingspan comparable to that of an eagle.

The testing in 2012, with air flow approaching the speed of sound, allowed engineers to analyze how the airplane’s aerodynamics would handle a range of extreme maneuvers. When the data came back, according to an engineer involved in the testing, it was clear there was an issue to address.

Engineers observed a tendency for the plane’s nose to pitch upward during a specific extreme maneuver. After other efforts to fix the problem failed, the solution they arrived at was a piece of software — the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) — that would move a powerful control surface at the tail to push the airplane’s nose down.

This is the story, including previously unreported details, of how Boeing developed MCAS, which played a critical role in two airliners nose-diving out of the sky, killing 346 people in Ethiopia and off the coast of Indonesia.

Extensive interviews with people involved with the program, and a review of proprietary documents, show how Boeing originally designed MCAS as a simple solution with a narrow scope, then altered it late in the plane’s development to expand its power and purpose. Still, a safety-analysis led by Boeing concluded there would be little risk in the event of an MCAS failure — in part because of an FAA-approved assumption that pilots would respond to an unexpected activation in a mere three seconds.

The revised design allowed MCAS to trigger on the inputs of a single sensor, instead of two factors considered in the original plan. Boeing engineers considered that lack of redundancy acceptable, according to proprietary information reviewed by The Seattle Times, because they calculated the probability of a “hazardous” MCAS malfunction to be virtually inconceivable.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/the-inside-story-of-mcas-how-boeings-737-max-system-gained-power-and-lost-safeguards/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • June 20, 2019

Austin American-Statesman: East Austin residents pay more for auto insurance

Plenty of variables go into determining individual rates for car insurance, but in Austin they’ve coalesced into a simple rule of thumb — if you live east of Interstate 35, you’re probably paying more than similar drivers in much of the rest of the city.

The highest prices for car insurance in Austin are charged to people living on some parts of the University of Texas campus, which is west of the interstate, a byproduct of the large number of young drivers in the area.

But aside from that 78712 campus ZIP code, the 10 ZIP codes in the Austin area with the highest auto insurance rates all encompass neighborhoods east of Interstate 35 — a region that historically has been home to greater percentages of African American and Hispanic residents than the city overall and, for the most part, continues to reflect that demographic trend.

A typical driver living in one of those ZIP codes pays about 9% more on average — or an extra $160 annually — to insure an automobile than do residents of the 10 local ZIP codes with the lowest rates, all of which are west of the interstate and mainly in regions of North and South Austin, such as Wells Branch, Avery Ranch and Circle C.

The figures are based on an analysis of car insurance rates compiled by the Zebra, an Austin-based company that operates an auto insurance comparison website. The company examined more than 61 million rates nationwide for its 2019 State of the Auto Insurance Report and shared some of the data with GateHouse Media, the owner of the American-Statesman.

Read more: https://www.statesman.com/news/20190614/east-austin-residents-pay-more-for-auto-insurance

USA Today: Seniors were sold a risk-free retirement with reverse mortgages. Now they face foreclosure.

In a stealth aftershock of the Great Recession, nearly 100,000 loans that allowed senior citizens to tap into their home equity have failed, blindsiding elderly borrowers and their families and dragging down property values in their neighborhoods.

In many cases, the worst toll has fallen on those ill-equipped to shoulder it: urban African Americans, many of whom worked for most of their lives, then found themselves struggling in retirement.

Alarming reports from federal investigators five years ago led the Department of Housing and Urban Development to initiate a series of changes to protect seniors. USA TODAY’s review of government foreclosure data found a generation of families fell through the cracks and continue to suffer from reverse mortgage loans written a decade ago.

These elderly homeowners were wooed into borrowing money through the special program by attractive sales pitches or a dire need for cash – or both. When they missed a paperwork deadline or fell behind on taxes or insurance, lenders moved swiftly to foreclose on the home. Those foreclosures wiped out hard-earned generational wealth built in the decades since the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Read more: https://www.news-press.com/in-depth/news/investigations/2019/06/11/seniors-face-foreclosure-retirement-after-failed-reverse-mortgage/1329043001/

AP Investigation: Many US jails fail to stop inmate suicides

The last time Tanna Jo Fillmore talked with her mother, she was in a Utah jail, angry, pleading and desperate. She'd called every day that past week, begging for help.

I need my medicine, she demanded.

I have to get out of here! she screamed.

Fillmore was in the Duchesne County Jail on a charge of violating probation in a drug case; she had reportedly failed to report a change of address. At 25, she'd struggled with mental illness for years, but Xanax and hyperactivity medication had stabilized her. Now, she told her mother, the jail's nurse was denying her those pills - and she couldn't take it any longer.

That November day, she phoned her mother, Melany Zoumadakis, three times over an hour. In their final conversation, Fillmore's voice was raw with rage. She blamed her mom, a nurse herself, for not doing more. She threatened to kill herself, warning that if she did: "'You're going to be the worst mother in the world.'" Then she hung up.

Read more: https://www.apnews.com/5a61d556a0a14251bafbeff1c26d5f15

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • June 6, 2019

Arkansas Democrat-Chronicle: Contract work lifts state Crime Laboratory aide firm, newspaper investigation finds

The second-in-command at the state Crime Laboratory co-owns a Little Rock company that is profiting from blossoming business with the taxpayer-funded agency, an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette investigation shows.

PinPoint Testing LLC, co-founded in 2013 by assistant lab director Cindy Moran, has benefited from outsourced lab work since 2017, providing toxicology services and equipment known as “ToxBox” kits.

Direct and indirect business has exceeded $150,000, will soon more than double and could grow to millions by 2024, records obtained under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act show.

The arrangement shows how a state employee can privately gain from public work under her purview without breaking the law. High-ranking state officials have blessed the dealings because they said Moran has disclosed the conflict of interest and recused herself from the purchasing process.

But the Democrat-Gazette’s investigation uncovered details that raise questions about Moran’s independence from PinPoint’s work. Moran received an email with unpublished bid specifications, and she signed paperwork allowing the lab to receive federal grant money to pay the company, for instance.

Read more: https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/jun/02/contract-work-lifts-state-lab-aide-firm-city/

Los Angeles Times: Poor neighborhood endures worst LAX noise but is left out of home soundproofing program

Inglewood spent millions of dollars in public funds to soundproof middle-class areas of the city while bypassing one of the poorest neighborhoods where the roar from the Los Angeles International Airport flight path is loudest, according to a Times data analysis.

Over the last several decades, the Federal Aviation Administration and Los Angeles World Airports have given the city nearly $400 million to purchase and demolish hundreds of homes around the flight path and soundproof thousands of others.

A Times review of local and federal records shows Inglewood spent the money for soundproofing disproportionately in middle-class — and primarily single-family — neighborhoods on the east side of the city, farthest from the airport. Most of the eligible homes there received soundproofing.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-inglewood-lax-airport-noise-20190523-story.html

The Denver Post: Amid complex web of Denver-area school security, Douglas County has fewest police officers by student population

The Douglas County School District — which includes STEM School Highlands Ranch, site of last month’s deadly shooting — has fewer police officers on its middle school and high school campuses as compared to student population than any other district in the Denver metro area, according to analysis by The Denver Post.

In the wake of the STEM School shooting, which left one student dead and eight others injured, The Post collected data on security practices from 14 school districts in the metro area.

It isn’t clear whether an on-campus police officer or additional security would have made a difference at STEM School, but the tragedy highlighted how school security in the Denver area depends on an intricate patchwork of agreements between law enforcement agencies and school districts, which often help cover the costs of officers’ salaries.

Districts often use a varied mix of their own security staff and school resource officers, or SROs, who work for local law enforcement agencies but are assigned to provide security and other services to a school.

The Douglas County district has 2,980 middle school and high school students per school resource officer. With 2,425 students per officer, Denver Public Schools has the second-worst ratio.

Both of the districts’ number of officers per student improve significantly when security staff members who are not law enforcement are included. But neither district — nor many metro-area districts of similar size — meet the best practice that school security experts recommended for several years of one officer for every 1,000 students, The Post analysis found.

Read more: https://www.denverpost.com/2019/06/02/denver-school-security-stem-shooting-colorado/

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Ambulance delays continue to put south Fulton lives at risk

Just before Mother’s Day, Apfollo Harvey Sr. watched his mother struggle to breathe while waiting 40 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. He could not feel her pulse as the 73-year-old diabetic lay still.

“I was so scared,” he said. “I thought the worst.”Harvey’s long wait for an ambulance is not unusual in situations where the lives of south Fulton County residents can be at risk. By two different measures, ambulance service is falling short, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found.

From Sept. 1, 2018 to Jan. 10, there were more than 830 occurrences in which no ambulance was available in the 200 square-mile territory, according to county data. That’s what EMS officials call “level zero.” Sometimes, ambulances became available in only seconds or minutes. Other times, no matter how serious the injuries, a transport wasn’t available for up to an hour.

With so many level zero instances, average response times were also affected. With emergency calls, it’s considered vital to arrive within nine minutes to save the most vulnerable patients. But south Fulton residents can’t count on ambulances arriving that fast, county officials say. Average response times in some cities of south Fulton this spring were as long as 20 minutes, according to dispatch records.

In either situation, callers all too often were told that help was on the way when none seemed to arrive.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/local/ambulance-delays-continue-put-south-fulton-lives-risk/TbSA3qQVgpkpL9IWoK1ixJ/

The Baltimore Sun: Frank Kelly helped create UMMS, and his insurance business grew alongside it. Now such ties are under scrutiny

Since its inception more than three decades ago, the University of Maryland Medical System has been molded by former state Sen. Francis “Frank” Kelly Jr.

Hard-charging and sometimes brusque, Kelly used his seat in the state legislature in the mid-1980s to help create UMMS and build its world-renowned R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He joined the system’s board of directors in 1986 and never left, despite rules mandating turnover. And as something of an elder statesman there, he took a central role in the system’s more recent growth strategy, helping it acquire regional hospitals such as St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson.

Those efforts have long bolstered Kelly’s reputation as a civic-minded businessman. But in the past few months, they’ve also drawn scrutiny after revelations that Kelly and nine others on UMMS’ 30-member board had contracts with the medical system they oversaw. UMMS has acknowledged that some of those contracts were not competitively bid, though it has not said whether Kelly’s were.

Investigators from federal and state law enforcement agencies and government auditors are digging into the culture of the UMMS board and whether it became self-serving.

The system’s contracts with board members are “concerning,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Baltimore County Democrat and good friend of Kelly’s whose treatment at Shock Trauma years ago helped inspire Kelly’s involvement with the medical system. “There are many unanswered questions.”

According to the limited information available in state records, Kelly’s contracts were among the largest of any of the board members — and worth millions to Kelly & Associates Insurance Group, the insurance company Kelly started with his wife, Janet, in the basement of their Timonium home in 1976. The company now has nearly 500 employees and is largely run by Kelly’s four sons, three of whom hold their own board positions within the UMMS network.

Read more: https://www.baltimoresun.com/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-kelly-profile-20190329-story.html

Minneapolis Star Tribune: $600M a year, yet achievement gap persists

Minnesota has spent more than $5 billion in the last decade to boost the academic performance of low-achieving students, but the state has little ability to assess how the money is being used — or whether it’s making a difference.

By one measure, it’s not. Stark differences in average reading and math scores for low-income students and their wealthier peers, and for whites and students of color, have remained stagnant or worsened during the past 10 years.

What Minnesota calls “basic skills” aid is by far the largest single stream of funding aimed at closing the state’s achievement gap. Minnesota sends more than $600 million each year to school districts around the state, double what it was spending 15 years ago. The money comes with strings attached: School districts must spend it on any of a dozen strategies to help low-achieving students catch up with their peers. State law also requires districts to prepare annual reports that show how they spent the money and assess whether it helped to boost achievement levels.

But a Star Tribune review of data from all of Minnesota’s more than 500 school districts shows major inconsistencies in how they track their spending of basic skills money. None of the school reports included the required documentation showing how the state aid affected student achievement. That makes it virtually impossible for lawmakers, educators or parents to know which of the permitted uses of the money — such as extending the school day, expanding reading, math and English-language programs, or hiring additional teachers and specialists — is proving most effective.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/despite-targeted-funding-struggling-students-still-experience-an-achievement-gap/510160142/

North Jersey Record: NJ tax break winners gave millions to political group linked to George Norcross

New Jersey companies that were given tax breaks, along with top executives and attorneys linked to those companies, provided $1.7 million to a powerful super PAC tied to one of the state's most influential political power brokers.

Nearly all of that — $1.6 million — came in the form of loans from people linked to Camden projects, and much of it came during a key election year, according to a USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey review of filings from the Internal Revenue Service, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics.

The 527 political organization, called General Majority PAC, is one of the first groups of its kind to spend heavily in states to elect Democrats to office. South Jersey Democratic power broker George E. Norcross III raises money for the group and has significant relationships with its backers and the candidates it supports.

These contributions make up a fraction of the close to $30 million General Majority has taken in since its founding in 2013. But during the competitive 2017 elections, when the governor and all 120 legislative seats were on the ballot, the contributions and loans from officials and companies that were awarded state tax breaks consisted of about 20 percent of all the funds the group received that year, according to ELEC data.

Read more: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/watchdog/2019/05/30/george-norcross-general-majority-pac-nj-tax-breaks/1208414001/

The News & Observer: A report on child deaths prompts an investigation into NC Children’s Hospital surgeries

The state has launched an investigation into practices at North Carolina Children’s Hospital following a New York Times report on the deaths of children after heart surgery, including some surgeries considered low-risk.

The New York Times investigation found high death rates for children who had heart surgery at the UNC-run hospital in Chapel Hill. The Times obtained secret audio recordings of cardiologists worried about the care children were receiving. In one recording, a cardiologist said he wouldn’t send his children for surgery there. Another doctor, the chief of cardiology, said in the recording they were in “crisis.”

The state Division of Health Services Regulation, which is part of the NC Department of Health and Human Services and investigates medical facilities, went to the hospital Thursday, the day the Times report was published.

Read more: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article231028078.html

The Columbus Dispatch: Transparency promised on Ohio Medicaid drug prices falls far short

“Transparency” was the key word for two waves of reforms to Ohio’s pharmacy benefit managers that took effect in July 2018 and January 2019.

But nearly a year later, it has become apparent that the moves touted to expose the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars flowing to the middlemen in the Medicaid drug supply chain actually have done the opposite: Ohioans will go more than a year without knowing how much PBMs are making from the taxpayer-funded system.

“This doesn’t give us a full transparent look at what’s going on,” said state Rep. Mark Romanchuk, a member of the legislature’s Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee.

The Mansfield Republican lamented the disappearance of information that sparked sweeping changes in Ohio and elsewhere on prescription drug pricing following the March 2018 launch of The Dispatch’s ongoing “Side Effects” investigative series, available online at Dispatch.com/sideeffects.

Read more: http://gatehousenews.com/sideeffects/transparency-promised-on-ohio-medicaid-drug-prices-falls-far-short/site/dispatch.com/

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Biologic medications for arthritis and psoriasis have flooded the market — and been linked to 34,000 deaths

With her kidneys and liver failing and a 106-degree temperature that had smoldered for days, Helen Tschannen was being kept alive on a ventilator.

Doctors were not certain what was happening, but the family knew this: Tschannen, 77, did not want to be kept alive by machines. After 21 days in an Illinois hospital, they gathered at her bedside and wrestled with whether they were doing the right thing.

A nurse unhooked the equipment. Tschannen took one breath on her own and died.

It was Oct. 19, 2004.

In the weeks after Tschannen’s death, her family learned she had been suffering from a common fungal infection known as histoplasmosis. For most people, it produces no symptoms or only mild ones.

But Tschannen, it turns out, was at special risk of a bad infection, not because of her age or because she lived in a region where the fungus lurks, but because of a drug she had started taking a few months earlier to tame her rheumatoid arthritis.

The drug, Remicade, had been approved for her condition in 1999. It was at the forefront of a class of drugs known as biological medicines, or biologics, that treat autoimmune diseases of the skin, joints and gastrointestinal system. Unlike drugs made chemically, biologics are cultured in the laboratory from animal cells and are given by injection or IV.

In the past 20 years, the drugs — which can cost some $40,000 a year — have flooded the market. Ads for several, including Humira and Cosentyx, are fixtures on television, promising improved gastrointestinal symptoms or clearer skin with “sexy elbows.”

Preliminary numbers for 2018 show that group of biologics was on pace to top 6 million prescriptions last year, a nearly 50% increase from 2013, according to data from IQVIA, a pharmaceutical market research firm.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2019/05/30/arthritis-psoriasis-drugs-darker-aspect-34-000-reports-deaths/1206103001/

The Washington Post: Cocoa’s child laborers

The world’s chocolate companies have missed deadlines to uproot child labor from their cocoa supply chains in 2005, 2008 and 2010. Next year, they face another target date and, industry officials indicate, they probably will miss that, too.

As a result, the odds are substantial that a chocolate bar bought in the United States is the product of child labor.

About two-thirds of the world’s cocoa supply comes from West Africa where, according to a 2015 U.S. Labor Department report, more than 2 million children were engaged in dangerous labor in cocoa-growing regions.

When asked this spring, representatives of some of the biggest and best-known brands — Hershey, Mars and Nestlé — could not guarantee that any of their chocolates were produced without child labor.

“I’m not going to make those claims,” an executive at one of the large chocolate companies said.

One reason is that nearly 20 years after pledging to eradicate child labor, chocolate companies still cannot identify the farms where all their cocoa comes from, let alone whether child labor was used in producing it. Mars, maker of M&M’s and Milky Way, can trace only 24 percent of its cocoa back to farms; Hershey, the maker of Kisses and Reese’s, less than half; Nestlé can trace 49 percent of its global cocoa supply to farms.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/business/hershey-nestle-mars-chocolate-child-labor-west-africa/

Honolulu Civil Beat: Federal Fisheries Council Has A Long History Of Secrecy

In 2006, more than 100 Native Hawaiians concerned with traditional and customary fishing practices gathered at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.

The conference — called a puwalu — was designed to give Native Hawaiians a stronger voice in fishery policy in nearshore areas managed by the state.

But it was the federal fisheries manager — the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council — and its longtime executive director Kitty Simonds that organized and paid for Native Hawaiian participation in the puwalu.

The gathering and several others like it over the next year ultimately resulted in the creation of the Aha Moku Advisory Committee, put in place by the Legislature in 2007. The group, whose members are appointed by the governor, advises the state Board of Land and Natural Resources from the perspective of Native Hawaiian knowledge, built over generations, to balance land and ocean resources and sustain healthy communities.

More recently, Wespac has been behind the formation of a new statewide group, this one called the Association of Aha Moku Councils.

But when Suzanne Case, the head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, tried to find out why Wespac was mucking around in what is clearly state policy, she got stonewalled by Simonds.

And Case is even on the council. She is the state government representative and is a voting member.

Yet multiple letters to Simonds over the past two years have turned up little beyond generalities when it comes to what Wespac is doing to organize residents — and Native Hawaiians in particular — to weigh in on state fisheries management and land use policies.

How much money has Wespac spent on this particular effort? Case asked. Where has the money come from, who is it going to and what’s it being used for?

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/06/federal-fishery-council-has-a-long-history-of-secrecy/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • May 30, 2019

Montgomery Advertiser: 4 days in chains, 3 bowel movements in a bucket: Alabama inmate 'dehumanized' by contraband search

An Alabama inmate says he was "dehumanized" by an alleged contraband search in which he was shackled in a cell for four days and ordered to defecate three times in a bucket before he could leave.

Previously incarcerated at three other Alabama prisons, Chris Caldwell assumed his transfer to Limestone prison in March would be nothing out of the ordinary. He passed through a metal detector. He was sniffed by a K-9 dog. He was stripped naked and made to “squat and cough.” But Caldwell said the search didn’t end there.

First came the leg irons and the belly chain, ensuring Caldwell couldn’t lift his hands above his waist. Then, a guard used packaging tape to seal his shirt sleeves and pant cuffs to his skin before escorting him to a dry cell with no toilet or running water.

“I tell them I have to use the bathroom. They bring in a little toilet seat like they use at a nursing home. I use the bathroom into the bag, the biohazard bag (inside a bucket). Then I tell them to take the cuffs off and they say, ‘No, you have to stay like that. You have to use the bathroom three times.’ I said I can’t use the bathroom two more times today. They said, ‘However long it takes.’”

For four days, Caldwell remained chained and taped in the same state-issued uniform, enduring a controversial contraband search Limestone guards reportedly call “bucket detail.”

Limbs bound, Caldwell slept on a standard rack bed, chains pressing into his hips. He said he wasn’t given a blanket until he kicked the door and complained to an officer.

Guards brought Caldwell standard meals, but unable to lift his hands to his face, he was forced to hunch over and “eat like a dog.”

Read more: https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/2019/05/23/bucket-detail-4-days-chains-3-bowel-movements-alabama-inmate-dehumanized-contraband-search-limestone/3771764002/

Arkansas Democrat-Chronicle: Lobbyists spent $710,000 to woo state legislators

A lobbyist for the Arkansas Ophthalmological Society spent more than $111,000 in the group's unsuccessful quest to defeat a new law that will allow optometrists to perform a broader range of eye surgeries.

Laura Hawkins' reported expenses on behalf of the society are the largest total reported by any lobbyist from Jan. 1 to April 30, according to this newspaper's review of records Hawkins' spending total of $111,662.20 in that four-month period far exceeded that of lobbyists who spent the second- and third-highest amounts.

Gilmore Strategy Group, headed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson's former Deputy Chief of Staff Jon Gilmore, reported the second-largest total of expenses at $33,630.15. Stanley Hill of the Arkansas Farm Bureau was next with expense totals of $32,833.99, according to their Lobbyists' total expenses were about $710,000 in this year's 88-day regular legislative session -- up from about $695,000 in the 86-day regular session in 2017 and about $650,000 in the 82-day regular session in 2015.

Totals from recent years are much lower than they were in 2009, when lobbyist expenses totaled about $1.3 million. Two tobacco company lobbyists spent more than $330,000 that year in an unsuccessful campaign to kill then-Gov. Mike Beebe's plan to increase tobacco taxes.

To produce this article, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reviewed more than 1,400 monthly reports filed during the first four months of this year. This year's regular session started Jan. 14 and officially adjourned April 24.

Read more: https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/may/26/lobbyists-spent-710-000-to-woo-state-le/?news-arkansas

Los Angeles Times: At ‘Freedom House,’ a pattern of neglect

Los Angeles lawyer Peter Schey has long been a trailblazing courtroom defender of immigrant youth.

He helped argue the Supreme Court case that ensured the right of children without legal status to attend public schools. He also helped secure the Flores settlement — a landmark 1997 agreement to safeguard migrant children held by the government, which gave his legal foundation the right to inspect those shelters.

Schey opened Casa Libre, or Freedom House, in late 2002 in a historic mansion near MacArthur Park, saying it would care for “the most vulnerable” children.

But Casa Libre has been cited by state officials 143 times for failing to meet standards for state-licensed group homes, and 89 of those were for issues that posed “an immediate risk to the health, safety or personal rights of residents,” a Times investigation found.

Interviews with more than two dozen former employees and residents and a review of hundreds of documents — including 15 years’ worth of state inspection reports — show a pattern of neglect that has persisted despite efforts by workers and residents to inform Schey and the board of directors about problems at the home.

Children have been locked out of the home for hours because there was no staff on-site, forcing some to take shelter outside in a broken-down van. And at times, there has not been enough food, former residents said.

There was violence between the residents and break-ins, according to former residents and workers. The basement frequently flooded. And the roof often leaked, according to former workers and state inspections. Bed bugs infested residents’ mattresses, cockroaches swarmed the kitchen, and some of the boys used drugs in the home, former residents and workers said.

Asked by The Times about conditions at the home, Schey directed the staff of his legal foundation to conduct an investigation.

A report based on that investigation blames one “disgruntled former program director” for some problems at Casa Libre but also accuses him of making false claims about the program.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-immigrant-children-group-home-casa-libre-peter-schey/#nt=oft-Double%20Chain~Flex%20Feature~~lopez-630am~~1~yes-art~curated~curatedpage

The Modesto Bee: Multiple violations by Caltrans led up to homeless woman’s death, CHP report says

Caltrans employees violated multiple policies leading up to the death of a woman who was crushed by the bucket of a front loader while sleeping at a Modesto homeless encampment last summer, according to a report by the California Highway Patrol.

The 324-page report obtained by The Bee says the employees failed to post 72-hour notices to vacate the encampment along Highway 99 south of Kansas Avenue, and that the driver of the front loader went to the site alone and began working without waiting for the CHP to first clear the site of occupants.

Brady Walker drove the front loader into a drainage ditch at 5:40 a.m., 30 minutes before sunrise on Aug. 1, after two homeless men told him no one was in there. He dropped the machine’s bucket on what he thought was just a pile of trash and debris and crushed the upper body of 32-year-old Shannon Bigley, killing her. As he was dragging the debris backward, he saw Bigley’s legs.

Walker was put on leave several months after the accident. After four months on leave, he returned to work in February following the completion of the CHP report. It’s unclear why he was put on leave more than two months after the accident. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more: https://www.modbee.com/news/local/article230674279.html

The Denver Post: Suncor’s hydrogen-cyanide emissions exceeded permit last year; Colorado now weighing refinery’s request to increase limit

When Suncor Energy’s oil refinery north of Denver — which emits more than 800,000 tons of air pollution a year — broke a 12.8-ton limit for one invisible toxic gas last summer, the event went practically unnoticed.

Neither Suncor nor state health officials alerted nearby residents or county emergency managers about the July test that estimated hydrogen-cyanide emissions at a level of 14.1 tons a year.

Ten months after Suncor reported that violation, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment has not penalized the company, though officials in recent weeks said they’re still considering enforcement.

Now state officials are weighing a request from Suncor — Colorado’s only refinery and one of the state’s largest polluters — to raise its hydrogen-cyanide permit limit upward to 19.9 tons a year, giving the fossil fuels refinery a greater buffer.

The state health department and the Environmental Protection Agency say Suncor’s current permitted level of hydrogen-cyanide emissions is safe, though no direct measuring or exposure studies have been done.

The pollution from Suncor’s Commerce City refinery exemplifies the incremental environmental degradation along Colorado’s Front Range that increasingly rankles residents. For decades, people in the largely Latino lower-income north Denver neighborhoods of Globeville and Elyria-Swansea have suffered disproportionately from asthma, cancer and heart-lung ailments — possibly related to air pollution.

And critics, including U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, contend the Colorado health department’s handling of hydrogen cyanide shows a regulatory approach focused on individual pollutants that, when no federal regulations apply, lets companies dictate how much they should be permitted to pollute.

Adams County Commissioner Steve O’Dorisio, who learned about the elevated hydrogen-cyanide level from The Denver Post, said the state’s handling of this gas reveals problems that must be fixed.

Read more: https://www.denverpost.com/2019/05/26/suncor-refinery-emissions-colorado/

The Washington Post: Can you skip 47 days of English class and still graduate from high school?

As graduation approached last year, the list of often-absent students at Albert Einstein High School in suburban Maryland was long. More than 175 seniors repeatedly missed classes, many in courses required for their diplomas.

Most students at the Montgomery County school graduated anyway.

They crossed the stage because of a phenomenon that goes widely unnoticed in Maryland’s largest school system: Students can pass classes they often miss. Some have forgone weeks of classroom learning and yet earned credit in their courses and graduated, according to internal documents obtained by The Washington Post and a video of commencement.

Records from Einstein High provide telling details about what students miss: One senior skipped algebra 36 times last spring. Another racked up 47 unexcused absences in English. Still another was gone for more than half a semester of chemistry.

Roughly 40 percent of Einstein’s Class of 2018 missed large chunks of instruction last school year, not showing up for some classes 10 to more than 50 times in a semester, documents show.

The extent of the absenteeism at Einstein raises questions among some educators about the integrity of grades and diplomas in a school system regarded as among the nation’s best. The issue arises as diploma scandals have roiled school systems in the District of Columbia and nearby Prince George’s County, Md., where investigations have been conducted But the absenteeism also touches on broader questions nationally about the value of attendance and the push to award diplomas. Rising graduation rates have been touted across the country as badges of school success.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/can-you-skip-47-days-of-english-class-and-still-graduate-from-high-school/2019/05/25/be3318ca-1b84-11e9-88fe-f9f77a3bcb6c_story.html?utm_term=.9e48661ad4df

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia’s new way to report sexual harassment tallies a complaint a day

The women at his Georgia State Patrol post knew 46-year-old trooper Chris Niehus “had a past,” so in January when he sent a series of strange Facebook messages at odd hours to a female dispatcher less than half his age, her alarm bells started ringing.

Unnerved, the dispatcher voiced her concerns to a supervisor. Departmental policy requires supervisors to immediately report this kind of behavior. But that’s not what happened. Instead, the young woman’s supervisor told her “to keep the situation quiet,” so Niehus wouldn’t get into trouble. Then, the supervisor walked outside and called Niehus to warn him to stop messaging the dispatcher.“I came back inside and told (the dispatcher) she was OK. I advised her to unfriend him and this would be over. I told her I handled it,” the supervisor wrote in a statement. “It was over, misunderstood and not necessary to continue telling people, because it can really get people in trouble.”Cases like this are why the state is centralizing sexual harassment complaints from employees in the inspector general’s office. The reforms came after an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found more than 200 sexual harassment complaints across 18 departments and agencies over five years.It’s been less than two months since new procedures were put into place, and Inspector General Deborah Wallace’s office already has received 52 new complaints, not including the one from the dispatcher. At this rate, Wallace’s office will review more than 200 cases this year alone.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/georgia-new-way-report-sexual-harassment-tallies-complaint-day/rOKgjmoBV4A0KZT8JSeSJK/

The Baltimore Sun: On Maryland's Eastern Shore, local hospital is downsized — and residents are outraged at UMMS

The pain was intense as Kirk Wade hurried to the Shore Medical Center here, where staff told him he might need emergency surgery for a possible intestinal tear.

But there was a problem: The rural hospital had gone through so much downsizing since joining the University of Maryland Medical System there was no surgeon available that day last summer. The closest hospital with a surgeon was more than an hour away in Easton.

And there was another problem: The hospital’s ambulance service wouldn't be available to take him there for hours.

“I could have ended up dead,” said Wade, 74, a retired tax lawyer. “If you live in Chestertown and have a medical emergency that requires surgery, you’re in a crap shoot.”

Wade’s story has a happy ending — he was treated successfully at 3:30 a.m. in Easton, nine hours after his wife rushed him to the Chestertown hospital. Wade was hospitalized for five days on an antibiotic drip, and recovered enough to avoid surgery. But he argues his medical scare underscores the extent to which hospital bosses in Baltimore have let this rural facility atrophy over the past decade, putting residents at risk.

Now, he and other residents of this Eastern Shore town have been incensed to learn that UMMS board members who oversaw the cutbacks at their hospital were themselves winning big-ticket contracts from the medical system.

“They're clearly downgrading services for the northern Eastern Shore, and they're paying themselves millions of dollars,” Wade says. “It’s clearly outrageous.”

The Baltimore Sun reported in March that nine members of the University of Maryland Medical System’s board of directors have business deals with the hospital network that are worth hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars each. The system’s acting CEO met Thursday with the governor and House speaker to give an update on promised reforms.

Read more: https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-umms-eastern-shore-20190423-story.html

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Ex-DMV director took job at firm hired to revamp agency’s computers

Former Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Director Troy Dillard retired from his state job and, four months later, took an executive position at computer company Tech Mahindra just as his former agency hired the tech consultant to modernize the DMV computer system, a Review-Journal investigation found.

Dillard headed the $75 million push to modernize the agency’s nearly 20-year-old computer system that, if successful, would have allowed drivers to do many of the departments functions, like take license photos and register titles, from a home computer.

The modernization was a significant failure, costing motorists as much as $26 million in unusable technology, consulting and payroll, auditors and state officials said. DMV officials fired Tech Mahindra last year.

The contract sparked a critical audit and scathing assessment by another DMV contractor hired to determine what went wrong and where the agency needs to go from here. And Dillard’s move to the contractor raises questions about his relationship to the problematic modernization.

“On the face of it, you definitely raise your eyebrows when you’re talking about a contract this size,” said Assemblyman Chris Edwards, R-Las Vegas, after the Review-Journal told him about Dillard taking the Tech Mahindra job. “What were his duties and did they keep him at arm’s length for the contract? If not, it looks like a big problem.”

Read more: https://www.reviewjournal.com/investigations/ex-dmv-director-took-job-at-firm-hired-to-revamp-agencys-computers-1670645/

Santa Fe New Mexican: Health complaints lead Chaco-area residents to question price of oil

COUNSELOR — About halfway through a recent Sunday service at Living Spring Baptist Church, the sermon took an unusual turn. The Rev. Tom Guerito’s exhortations to trust in God and resist sin, delivered mostly in Diné, gave way to a more earthly concern: oil and gas.

“People say, ‘I smell it,’ ” Guerito told the 20 or so parishioners who have lived since 2012 among an expanding constellation of oil and gas wells.

But an air monitor installed nearby found nothing out of the ordinary, he said. “There’s nothing in the air. People scare each other. God will take care of us.”

Over the past seven years, hundreds of wells have risen amid the small houses and hogans scattered across this remote piñon- and juniper-flecked stretch of high desert a few miles northeast of Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

And reports of health ailments have risen with them.

A 2017 citizen science report chronicled local complaints of nausea, burning eyes, respiratory problems, recurring headaches — all of which, studies have shown, can be caused by chemicals released during the extraction, processing and transport of oil and gas.

Read more: https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/health_and_science/health-complaints-lead-chaco-area-residents-to-question-price-of/article_98e1d829-7ee3-5a46-9c08-6db672fa5d58.html

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • May 23, 2019

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: ‘Struggling to tread water’: Dairy farmers are caught in an economic system with no winning formula

MONROE - One by one, Emily and Brandi Harris removed the leather collars from their Jersey dairy cows as the final round of milking on their farm wound down.

They spoke little as the cows quietly munched on organic hay, a milking-time ritual at Wylymar Farms for the better part of a decade. Brandi lingered with the cows, giving her "babies” some extra attention. A barn cat, Arnold, took it all in from his perch above the milking stanchions.

Emily reached for a cigarette, something she’d sworn off — but not too far off.

"It's been so stressful for the last year," she said.

Outside the century-old barn, the wind picked up and rain started to come down, a fitting backdrop for the end of yet another Wisconsin dairy operation.

As if on cue, a pickup truck with New York license plates pulled into the farmstead, hauling a livestock trailer. The driver came to a stop, then backed down a muddy hill to the barn.

Ed Flood, a cattle buyer for 45 years, was there to pick up the cows.

A worldwide surplus of milk has driven down the price farmers receive to the point where many have lost money for months, or even several years, at a time.

Nearly 3,000 U.S. dairy farms folded in 2018, about a 6.5% decline, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures.

Emily Harris takes a final look at most of her herd as the truck leaves to carry the herd to new farms. Emily and her wife, Brandi Harris, sold their cows and gave up dairy farming.

Wisconsin lost nearly 700 last year — almost two a day — as even dairy farmers used to enduring hard times called it quits in a downturn now headed into its fifth year.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/in-depth/news/special-reports/dairy-crisis/2019/05/16/wisconsin-dairy-farms-closing-milk-prices-drop-economics-get-tough/3508060002/

Austin American-Statesman: Overwhelming workload leaves Austin detectives 10 hours to solve sex crimes, analysis shows

“Brenda Smith” — her pseudonym in court documents — talks with surprising calmness as she recounts the night a man sexually assaulted her.

It began when the working mother of a teenage daughter paired up with a friend for a rare night out in July 2015. They drank at a few Sixth Street hot spots, and by 11 o’clock, she was tired and admittedly drunk. Her friends arranged a ride home through Lyft, then got her to the waiting four-door car at Fifth and Trinity streets.

Brenda passed out in the backseat on the 15-minute ride home. Still woozy, she woke up briefly to find the driver’s head on her chest. The next morning, she realized he had done far more.

Brenda called the police, and in the next gut-wrenching hours, gave statements to officers at her house before they drove her to a hospital for a forensic exam. But her sense that the investigation was on the fast track quickly gave way to disappointment as sex crime detectives were slow to follow up.

“She rescheduled the first time, and then she reached out to me to reschedule it again, and I just remember feeling, ‘I’m just not sure they understand the emotions I’m feeling and what I’m going through,’ because I was just ready to tell the story and get the process started,” Brenda says.

It’s a familiar story.

Given their caseloads and a constant stream of new reports, Austin police sex crime detectives and supervisors say they are so overworked and time-strapped that they too often bounce from investigation to investigation, victim to victim, hoping for a speedy resolution in one case before jumping to the next.

The number of cases, measured against the number of detectives assigned to the unit, reveals a stark reality: According to an American-Statesman analysis, 13 investigators had an average of 10 hours to solve any of the 1,800 cases that crossed their desks last year.

The analysis — which factored in the number of cases per person, hours per day and time spent on leave — puts a number to a long-running sentiment for detectives and others, and the calculation sheds light on a little-scrutinized factor in dealing with sex crimes.

Read more: https://www.statesman.com/news/20190517/overwhelming-workload-leaves-austin-detectives-10-hours-to-solve-sex-crimes-analysis-shows

The Tennessean: Tennessee's rural hospitals are dying off. Who's next?

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — At times, Courtney Conner feels like she is raising two tiny daredevils. If her back is turned, her 2-year-old daughter scales the cabinets like a rock climber, or her 3-year-old bounces on the bed like a gymnast and dismounts onto the hardwood floors.

Most days are a constant juggle of two toddlers who seem determined to go to the emergency room, so Conner finds comfort living in Greeneville, a small town with two longstanding hospitals. It’s hard to imagine, but if the Greeneville hospitals were to vanish, Conner would likely move away from the only home she’s ever known.

“With my kids being daredevils, I need to be close to a hospital at all times,” Conner said during a family walk down Main Street in April. “I would not want to live an entire hour away from a hospital when I know, most likely, I’m going to need it.”

The closure of a local hospital is a very real possibility for the people of Greeneville, a hardscrabble Appalachian community of 15,000 about an hour east of Knoxville. The facilities here, Laughlin Memorial Hospital and Takoma Regional Hospital, have been half-empty and losing money at least four years in a row. New owners recently fused Laughlin and Takoma in a desperate effort to become profitable, and officials admit that both hospitals were likely to close in a few years without intervention.

Many Greeneville residents, accustomed to a town with two hospitals, don’t realize how close they came to having zero.

“We largely looked very successful from the outside,” said Dr. Mark Patterson, a longtime Laughlin doctor. “The lawns were cut. The sprinklers were on. The lights were lit. But when you got inside, we had a wing closed. And we were debating … closing a second wing.

“It was going to be a fire sale in five years.”

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2019/05/16/tennessee-rural-hospitals-closing-medicaid-expansion-ballad-health/3245179002/

The New York Times: ‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers

The phone call that ruined Mohammed Hoque’s life came in April 2014 as he began another long day driving a New York City taxi, a job he had held since emigrating from Bangladesh nine years earlier.

The call came from a prominent businessman who was selling a medallion, the coveted city permit that allows a driver to own a yellow cab instead of working for someone else. If Mr. Hoque gave him $50,000 that day, he promised to arrange a loan for the purchase.

After years chafing under bosses he hated, Mr. Hoque thought his dreams of wealth and independence were coming true. He emptied his bank account, borrowed from friends and hurried to the man’s office in Astoria, Queens. Mr. Hoque handed over a check and received a stack of papers. He signed his name and left, eager to tell his wife.

Mr. Hoque made about $30,000 that year. He had no idea, he said later, that he had just signed a contract that required him to pay $1.7 million.

Over the past year, a spate of suicides by taxi drivers in New York City has highlighted in brutal terms the overwhelming debt and financial plight of medallion owners. All along, officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

But a New York Times investigation found much of the devastation can be traced to a handful of powerful industry leaders who steadily and artificially drove up the price of taxi medallions, creating a bubble that eventually burst. Over more than a decade, they channeled thousands of drivers into reckless loans and extracted hundreds of millions of dollars before the market collapsed.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/nyregion/nyc-taxis-medallions-suicides.html

North Jersey Record: The story behind the little-known failed project in New Jersey that got Trump fired

In May 2008, Donald Trump, the self-professed "miracle worker," lost his magic.

And his cool.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine had just lost his patience with Trump's pledge to rescue a struggling, grandiose plan to convert abandoned garbage dumps into luxury housing and a golf course. Trump promised a majestic makeover — the toxic, woebegone wetlands along the New Jersey Turnpike would give way to glittering high rises and emerald green fairways.

But after seven months of wrangling, Corzine called it quits. He dispatched two envoys to Trump's gilded office tower in Manhattan to bluntly tell him that the deal was dead.

Trump, who was joined by his adult children and company officials, was blindsided. He was expecting a negotiation, not a termination. In fact, the meeting started off with a touch of Trumpian razzle-dazzle, as he took a phone call from the legendary former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre while the two men from New Jersey cooled their heels.

Trump put Torre on speaker phone and began to heap lavish praise on his two visitors, Gary Rose, Corzine's economic development czar, and Robert J. Gilson, director of the state Division of Law.

But it did little to deter them from the mission at hand. Moments after Rose delicately broke the news, Trump unleashed a torrent of expletives in front of his stunned guests, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting. Details of the encounter were also later outlined in a memo that Gilson wrote and circulated among administration officials.

As Trump reached a boil, he slammed a pencil on his desk, and it bounced up and plunked his daughter, Ivanka, in the forehead. One of the sources said Ivanka ran from the room, visibly upset.

Trump, who summarily dismissed contestants on his wildly popular reality television show "The Apprentice" with the fateful phrase "You're fired," was now getting a taste of his own dog-eat-dog ethos. New Jersey fired Trump.

Read more: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/2019/05/16/trumps-failed-nj-project-had-all-michael-cohen-fake-news-threats/3156245002/

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Nevada’s high suicide rate a mystery

It’s called the “suicide belt” — a swath of Western states that extends from the Southwest to the Pacific Northwest, then leaps over western Canada to Alaska. If you look only at the lower portion, Nevada sits about where the buckle would be.

Researchers have been aware for decades that residents of certain Western states are at greater risk of dying by their own hand — up to twice the national average in 2017.

“These rates have been elevated, and they’ve been there for a long time,” said Sam Harper, an associate professor in epidemiology at McGill University in Montreal, who coined the term suicide belt in a 2008 presentation. His research suggests the phenomenon might date to at least the 1890s, the oldest suicide-related data he could track down.

For many years Nevada had the dark distinction of having the highest rate of all before it began to fall in the rankings in 2000. In 2017, the most recent year for which national suicide data is available, it was tied for 10th with Colorado.

But that’s not because the Silver State is getting an upper hand on the problem; the rest of the nation has been catching up.

The nationwide suicide rate has been steadily rising, climbing from 10.7 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 14 per 100,000 in 2017, federal data show.

The number of those who kill themselves each year in Nevada has climbed as the population has grown. But the suicide rate has remained almost flat, dipping 1 percent since 1999 to stand at 20.3 deaths per 100,000 residents — still well above the national average.

Read more: https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/nevadas-stubborn-suicide-problem-persists-as-other-states-catch-up-1665728/

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: St. Louis halfway house for federal prisoners turns into cash cow for family that runs it

ST. LOUIS — The oldest halfway house in America was founded on a simple premise, to “provide assistance to the downtrodden and other victims of misfortune ….”

These days, the Dismas House of St. Louis is run like a family business, and a lucrative one at that.

Founded as a nonprofit in 1959 by a colorful Jesuit priest and a lawyer for the mob, Dismas House serves as the last stop for some federal prisoners before they go on probation and reenter society. Long considered a religious ministry, the organization currently has no apparent connection to either the Missouri Jesuit Province or the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Since 2006, the board has been controlled by John Flatley and his sister, Vivienne Bess, and the two siblings have turned the nonprofit’s contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons into their personal piggy bank.

Former parks director used Dismas House to fund charity events

Between 2011 and 2016, according to federal tax records, Flatley and Bess have been paid more than $4.9 million in salary.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been paid to Flatley’s son, Patrick, and another board member, Randy Howard. Howard is the current executive director of the halfway house. He says the Bureau of Prisons contract is the organization’s primary source of revenue.

The salaries, which fluctuate from year to year, are a massive outlay of cash for an otherwise small nonprofit that relies on one federal contract for its existence.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/columns/tony-messenger/st-louis-halfway-house-for-federal-prisoners-turns-into-cash/article_9cbabc3e-a1de-589e-81ab-439a1ae7565b.html

Des Moines Register: Police credibility: Confusion about 'liars list' may be depriving suspects of fair trials

CARROLL, Ia. — Natasha Daniel says a police officer in this town — whom prosecutors agree should have been on a so-called "liars list" —  threw her life into chaos.

Repeated traffic stops by officer Jacob Smith led to convictions for drunken driving and other offenses, leaving Daniel unable to drive for months and owing thousands of dollars in court or attorney fees.

But Daniel wasn't informed of the officer's credibility problems as a witness, including accusations of improper conduct with teenage girls. That deprived her of critical information for her defense, she contended. A judge late last year agreed an injustice had occurred and voided her convictions.

"He ruined my life for three years," Daniel said of the officer. "How many other people’s lives did he ruin?"

At least five other law enforcement officers — including a former state senator — continued to work in Iowa in the past five years despite having credibility problems in their professional past that required disclosure to defendants, a Des Moines Register investigation found. Experts contend the number is likely higher because of widespread confusion about how and when such matters must be disclosed.

The lack of standard guidelines for disclosure raises the specter that defendants in Iowa and across the nation are being denied their constitutional right to a fair trial.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2019/05/15/iowa-police-credibility-liars-depriving-suspects-of-fair-trials-investigation-corruption-report/2864105002/

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Hawaii leaders have done little to fix overcrowding issues at jails

For inmates at the Maui Community Correctional Center, it’s not unusual to be crammed four to a cell, leaving two to sleep on the floor while trying to keep their head away from the toilet. Guards at the Wailuku jail say many of the inmates spend about 19 hours a day like that, locked in 92-square-foot cells with little room to move around.

That was the situation for nearly all of the occupants of modules A and B when a riot broke out at MCCC March 11, when inmates started a fire, smashed furniture and fire sprinklers and destroyed toilets and sinks during an uprising that took three hours to contain.

Officials at the Department of Public Safety, which oversees Hawaii’s prison and jail system, and inmates alike have said severe overcrowding, along with broken telephones and sporadic mail delivery, provoked the riot. Last week, Gov. David Ige signed a bill appropriating $5.1 million to repair damage from the riot, while the Legislature allocated an additional $8 million for longer-term security fixes and upgrades at the Maui jail.

Still, overcrowding at MCCC has persisted for years, and there seems to be little urgency among political leaders to deal with what some corrections officers have described to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser as a crisis situation.

The facility was built in 1978 to hold just 209 inmates. As the inmate population grew, it was reconfigured to make room for 301 beds. In recent months, the headcount has reached as high as 500 inmates, according to Department of Public Safety figures. When the riot broke out in March, there were 410 inmates at the jail.

Read more: https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/05/19/hawaii-news/hawaii-leaders-have-done-little-to-fix-issues-with-jail-facilities-on-maui/?HSA=c0307d535037a4d52825e8e2f13090d3e73573f0

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Two diabetics in prison died from alleged neglect; the doctor was promoted

The two inmates died three years apart at Hays State Prison from the same easily treatable condition, diabetic ketoacidosis. Neither had been diagnosed with diabetes, raising the specter that signs of the disease had been overlooked.

But if those who make medical decisions in the Georgia state prison system had concerns about the doctor who oversaw the care of Tyrence Mobley and Esteban Mosqueda-Romero, they didn’t act on them.Less than two years later, that physician, Dr. Monica Hill, got a new job, and it was one with even more responsibility: She was made medical director at the state’s largest facility for women.Hill’s ascension to the job at Lee Arrendale State Prison, a position she still holds, represents for some another glimpse at how the prison system has failed to make meaningful reforms of healthcare services, even when providers have allegedly mismanaged life-or-death situations.» RELATED | For some in Georgia prisons, diabetes has meant a death sentence

Dr. Yvon Nazaire, fired in 2015, was highly regarded by his supervisors until The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published stories about the deaths of female inmates in his care. The state later paid millions to settle lawsuits alleging negligence in his care of inmates. Dr. Chiquita Fye was also held in esteem until nurses and others working for her went public with claims she sometimes withheld critical care because of her disdain for prisoners. She resigned after the state agreed to pay $550,000 to a diabetic inmate whose leg had to be amputated allegedly because of her neglect.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/crime--law/two-diabetics-prison-died-from-neglect-the-doctor-was-promoted/op10cYOrx4uWDV6Hz8u0IN/

Miami Herald: Did hotels inflate the price of panic buttons to try to delay a law protecting workers?

In a bid to get Miami Beach to delay the deadline for installing panic buttons, a lobbyist for South Beach Group Hotels told commissioners last week that the technology would set the company back $250,000 to $500,000 per hotel. The company owns 16 hotels, according to its website.

“It’s not just the hardware that we’re giving the employee to carry around, but it is the impact that it has on the overall building and the overall structure,” said lobbyist Monika Entin.

But quotes from Miami-based panic button vendors show that the cost of the systems meant to protect hotel workers from sexual assault and harassment is actually much lower than the hotel company claimed. The estimates raise questions about the industry’s request to extend the Aug. 1, 2019, deadline mandated by ordinance. Local vendors said they have been in talks with hotels since the law was passed in July 2018.

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/tourism-cruises/article230424504.html

The Washington Post: A dangerous delay: The University of Maryland waited 18 days to inform students of a virus on campus. That decision left vulnerable students like Olivia Paregol in the dark.

It had been six days since Olivia Shea Paregol walked out of the University of Maryland health center without an answer for why she felt so awful.

Now, the 18-year-old freshman was curled up in the fetal position on the floor of her dorm room at Elkton Hall in College Park, her brown hair resting on the shaggy white rug. She warned her friends, Sarah Hauk and Riley Whelan, to stay away from a plastic bag where she had just vomited.

The teenagers hoisted Olivia up and shuffled to the elevator. Once inside, Olivia leaned against the wall and slid to the floor.

“Don’t sit down,” Riley said. “Come on, it’s just a short ride. You can do this.”

“I literally can’t,” said Olivia, the words slicing her sore throat like knives. “I have to lay down.”

Olivia had been sick most of her first semester living in an overcrowded dorm that was infested with mold. But her symptoms now were far worse than a cough and congestion.

Her skin was pale, and dark circles cupped her eyes. The lymph nodes in her neck had swollen so much they felt like golf balls. The freshman — who turned late-night trips to the dining hall into stargazing adventures, belted out Miley Cyrus songs on demand and easily flipped strangers into friends — was sprawled across the elevator floor.

Sarah and Riley linked arms with Olivia and made their way through the dorm lobby into the cool night of Nov. 8. They watched as Olivia trudged to a parking lot where her dad was waiting in his car. She didn’t turn back to wave goodbye.

As Olivia battled her mysterious illness, the University of Maryland was rocked by turmoil. Widespread mold that fall had forced the temporary evacuation of nearly 600 students in Elkton Hall after outraged parents besieged officials at the state’s flagship university.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/national/wp/2019/05/16/feature/university-of-maryland-mold-adenovirus/?utm_term=.f3147c267806

Los Angeles Times: L.A. County juvenile halls are so chaotic, officers are afraid to come to work

The detention officer’s email described “chaos” inside one of Los Angeles County’s juvenile halls.

Her words were desperate, describing unruly, violent youth and fed up detention officers — enough to prompt a surprise visit by Joe Gardner, president of the county’s volunteer advisory panel, the Probation Commission.

Inside the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, he found shattered windows, smashed walls and tiles ripped from the ceilings. Phones in common areas were busted and debris lay scattered on the floors. Gang graffiti had been scrawled on the walls. The staff were overwhelmed.

“I was stunned,” Gardner said of the facility, where about 200 youths are housed behind a sturdy, red-brick wall topped with circular barbed wire. “Some of the damage appears to have taken time to do. It appeared there really wasn’t the oversight that there needed to be.”

The “chaos” in Sylmar is far from an anomaly. Officers have long argued that their workplaces are becoming more violent — and data backs that up. But internal reports and photographs obtained by The Times show just how dangerous and dysfunctional Los Angeles County’s youth detention operation has become.

The L.A. County Probation Department is facing a series of serious problems, including bursts of violence among detainees, plummeting officer morale and the organizational headaches from closing several detention facilities. Six officers also were recently charged with child abuse and assault over the unreasonable use of pepper spray on several teenagers, putting even more political pressure on the department to stop using it by the end of the year.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/local/countygovernment/la-me-juvenile-halls-chaos-pepper-spray-detention-probation-20190519-story.html

The Arizona Republic: How deadly was Dolphinaris? By today's standards, deadliest in America

Bottlenose dolphins at Dolphinaris Arizona died at one of the highest rates ever recorded at a U.S. facility exhibiting the marine mammals, according to an analysis of federal agency data.

The Scottsdale-area attraction came under intense public scrutiny after four of its eight dolphins died during the two years it was in operation. The facility no longer houses animals.

Dolphinaris' death rate was more than four times the combined rate of all U.S. facilities and more than double the deadliest still-operating dolphin facility in the nation, according to an Arizona Republic analysis of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration's National Inventory of Marine Mammals.

Facilities are required to submit information to NOAA when there's a change in a dolphin's status, such as when a facility takes ownership of a dolphin, a dolphin is moved to a new facility, or when a dolphin dies.

Two of the Dolphinaris Arizona animals died of infections. The cause of death for the others hasn't been determined, according to the NOAA data. A company investigation into the deaths has so far been inconclusive.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-investigations/2019/05/15/dolphinaris-had-one-of-the-highest-bottlenose-dolphin-death-rates-ever-recorded-in-u-s-analysis-sh/3564659002/

Anchorage Daily News: Lawless: One in three Alaska villages have no local police

KIANA — Village Police Officer Annie Reed heard her VHF radio crackle to life in the spring of 2018 with the familiar voice of an elder. I need help at my house, the woman said.

Reed, who doesn’t wear a uniform because everyone in this Arctic Circle village of 421 can spot her ambling gait and bell of salt-and-pepper hair at a distance, steered her four-wheeler across town. There had been a home invasion, she learned. One of the local sex offenders, who outnumber Reed 7-to-1, had pried open a window and crawled inside, she said. The man then tore the clothes from the elder’s daughter, who had been sleeping, gripped her throat and raped her, according to the charges filed against him in state court.

Reed, a 49-year-old grandmother, was the only cop in the village. She carried no gun and, after five years on the job, had received a total of three weeks of law enforcement training. She had no backup. Even when the fitful weather allows, the Alaska State Troopers are a half-hour flight away.

It’s moments like these when Reed thinks about quitting. If she does, Kiana could become the latest Alaska village asked to survive with no local police protection of any kind.

An investigation by the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica has found one in three communities in Alaska have no local law enforcement. No state troopers to stop an active shooter, no village police officers to break up family fights, not even untrained city or tribal cops to patrol the streets. Almost all of the communities are primarily Alaska Native.

Read more: https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/lawless/2019/05/16/lawless-one-in-three-alaska-villages-have-no-local-police/

Daily Press: Black Virginians are far more likely to be charged with disorderly conduct

It’s what you’re charged with when police can’t find anything else — and black Virginians are far more likely to be arrested for disorderly conduct than are whites.

Over half of the more than 2,550 disorderly conduct charges brought last year were filed against blacks, a Daily Press review of district court records from across the state found.

That’s more than 2½ times the proportion of Virginia’s population that is black.

In contrast, three-quarters of charges for a similar bad behavior crime — public drunkenness — are filed against whites. That’s in line with the nearly 70% of the state’s population that is white.

And while about one of five people charged with disorderly conduct spend time in jail — more than half of whom never end up being convicted — only three out of 100 of those charged with drunkenness do.

The court data show wide variance between cities in how often people are accused of disorderly conduct. In Norfolk, 112 of every 100,000 residents faces the charge in a year, while the rate is 22 per 100,000 in Virginia Beach. In each city, the percentage of those charged who are black far outpaces the city’s black population: 73% vs 42% in Norfolk and 49% vs. 19% in Virginia Beach.

Read more: https://www.dailypress.com/news/politics/dp-nws-disorderly-conduct-20190501-story.html

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • May 16, 2019

Arizona Daily Star: Rep. Raul Grijalva to investigate whistleblower's claims about Vigneto project

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva says he’ll investigate a longtime federal official’s allegations that he was pressured politically to reverse a key decision on a 28,000-home Benson subdivision to smooth the way for its permitting.

Steve Spangle said he was pressured in 2017, when he was a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official, to reverse his earlier biological decision that broad study was needed of the proposed Villages at Vigneto development’s impacts on endangered species and the San Pedro River. Spangle, now retired, made the claims in an Arizona Daily Star interview published April 28.

As chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Grijalva, a Tucson Democrat, has the power to call witnesses in an investigation.

Meanwhile, an attorney for Vigneto’s developer, El Dorado Holdings Inc., confirmed Friday that the company’s CEO called then-Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in 2017 to raise concerns after Spangle made his initial decision. Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for oil and mining interests, including the Rosemont Mine near Tucson, now heads Interior, by appointment of President Trump this year.

Read more: https://tucson.com/news/local/rep-raul-grijalva-to-investigate-whistleblower-s-claims-about-vigneto/article_d7d1d879-23bb-5fd9-a9c2-e0f6aa6e9fb6.html

San Francisco Chronicle: Street of dreams: When the ‘Twitter tax break’ took effect eight years ago, it was intended to draw tech companies to rundown Mid-Market Street and lead to a neighborhood revitalization. Did it succeed?

On a Monday morning in March, Huckleberry Bicycles co-owner Brian Smith arrived at his Market Street store to find medics removing a body from Stevenson Street, the alley behind his business.

Usually, unconscious people found in the alley are suffering from heroin or fentanyl overdoses — sometimes fatal, often not. But the emergency medical technicians told Smith this one was a suicide — the guy had jumped from a roof while being chased by police.Five minutes later, before the first customer had walked through the door, an incoherent, screaming woman started smashing bottles on the sidewalk out front. A few yards away, EMTs tended to a cyclist who had just been hit by a car. None of these episodes were unusual in Smith’s Mid-Market neighborhood, but it wasn’t how he’d hoped to start his week.

“It was a Monday morning, and I just thought: ‘I’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got to get my employees out of here. This is not right, not normal.’”

Smith and his partners hadn’t always been so down on Mid-Market — quite the opposite. They opened Huckleberry between Sixth and Seventh streets in June 2011, just after the Board of Supervisors approved a measure commonly called the “Twitter tax break.”

Read more: https://projects.sfchronicle.com/2019/mid-market/

The San Diego Union-Tribune: Meet East Village Green, San Diego’s most expensive downtown park

East Village, an infant neighborhood in search of an identity distinct from its new high-rises and high homeless population, is fast approaching a make-it or break-it moment.

If all goes as planned, the city will this summer solicit bids to build the long-promised East Village Green, with construction expected to take around two years. This $46 million city park — it’s an astronomical price tag that doesn’t include an additional $31 million in land costs or funds for future phases — could stitch together the once all-industrial area that now includes patches of residential towers, bars and eateries into a bona fide community.

Alternatively, East Village Green could follow in the footsteps of Horton Plaza Park. That city investment, expanded in 2016 for $18 million, is sometimes confused for a permanent homeless encampment.

A similar outcome for East Village Green would level a major blow to urban planners, city leaders and developers who have counted on this park to make over the area into a quintessential live-work-play utopia. There is, for instance, downtown’s fledgling 35-block I.D.E.A. District (innovation, design, education and the arts), which is in dire need of green space. And East Village Green has always been a central component of the hyped-up zone, invented by developers Pete Garcia and David Malmuth in 2011. Its future won’t be as pretty — or as tall — if the transformed city blocks wilt into something off-putting.

Read more: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/growth-development/story/2019-05-09/meet-east-village-green-the-citys-most-expensive-downtown-park

The Denver Post: Denver area sees more school shootings by population than nation’s largest metro areas, analysis shows

During a 6 a.m. news conference the day after Colorado’s latest school shooting, District Attorney George Brauchler made a point of declaring the tragedies that have rocked the area in recent years don’t define the “kind, compassionate, caring people” who live here.

“If you had suggested to anyone behind me or in this room that, within 20 years in 20 miles, we would have dealt with Columbine, the Aurora theater, Arapahoe High School, the shooting of Zack Parrish and four other deputies, we’d have thought you mad,” he said. “And yet here we are again.”

Tuesday’s shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, which ended with one student dead, eight others injured and two of their classmates in custody, prompted Coloradans to once again question whether these types of mass shootings are more prevalent here than elsewhere.

School shootings and mass shootings — where more than four people were hurt or killed, not counting the shooter — are both still quite rare in the United States, and the vast majority of people will never directly experience one.

Yet both have, in fact, occurred in higher numbers in the Denver metro area, compared to population, over the past 20 years than in most large American metropolitan areas.

The Census-designated Denver metropolitan statistical area has had more school shootings, per million people, than any of the country’s 24 other largest metro areas since 1999, according to an analysis of multiple shooting databases by The Denver Post.

Read more: https://www.denverpost.com/2019/05/12/denver-colorado-school-shootings/

Stamford Advocate: CT opioid death data shows ‘it’s an everywhere problem’

NEW HAVEN — The nationwide opioid epidemic has hit hard in Connecticut, where accidental overdoses increased almost 40 percent from 2015 to 2018.

Fentanyl, 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin, has become the drug of choice for those addicted to opioids, outstripping heroin and other drugs. In 2018, 760 of the 1,017 opioid-related deaths involved one or more forms of fentanyl. In 2015, only 189 of 729 deaths were fentanyl-related.

Hearst Connecticut Media reviewed the detailed data about the 3,701 opioid-related deaths over four years, from the chief state medical examiner’s office. They paint a picture, in numbers, of a tragedy that is exploding by the year.

The individual cases were analyzed according to the city or town where the deceased lived, not where they died. What they reveal destroys the stereotypes that the opioid scourge is an urban problem or one that primarily afflicts the African-American community.

Read more: https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Numbers-of-CT-opioid-deaths-show-it-s-an-13836173.php

The Washington Post: ‘Who’s going to take care of these people?’

The hospital had already transferred out most of its patients and lost half its staff when the CEO called a meeting to take inventory of what was left. Employees crammed into Tina Steele’s office at Fairfax Community Hospital, where the air conditioning was no longer working and the computer software had just been shut off for nonpayment.

“I want to start with good news,” Steele said, and she told them a food bank would make deliveries to the hospital and Dollar General would donate office supplies.

“So how desperate are we?” one employee asked. “How much money do we have in the bank?”

“Somewhere around $12,000,” Steele said.

“And how long will that last us?”

“Under normal circumstances?” Steele asked. She looked down at a chart on her desk and ran calculations in her head. “Probably a few hours,” she said. “Maybe a day at most.”

The staff had been fending off closure hour by hour for the past several months, ever since debt for the 15-bed hospital surpassed $1 million and its outside ownership group entered into bankruptcy, beginning a crisis in Fairfax that is becoming familiar across much of rural America. More than 100 of the country’s remote hospitals have gone broke and then closed in the past decade, turning some of the most impoverished parts of the United States into what experts now call “health-hazard zones,” and Fairfax was on the verge of becoming the latest. The emergency room was down to its final four tanks of oxygen. The nursing staff was out of basic supplies such as snakebite antivenin and strep tests. Hospital employees had not received paychecks for the past 11 weeks and counting.

The only reason the hospital had been able to stay open at all was that about 30 employees continued showing up to work without pay, increasing their hours to fill empty shifts and essentially donating time to the hospital, understanding what was at stake. Some of them had been born or had given birth at Fairfax Community. Several others had been stabilized and treated in the emergency room after heart attacks or accidents. There was no other hospital within 30 miles of two-lane roads and prairie in sprawling Osage County, which meant Fairfax Community was the only lifeline in a part of the country that increasingly needed rescuing.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/national/wp/2019/05/11/feature/whos-going-to-take-care-of-these-people/?utm_term=.675c28c2502b

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Pressure mounts on medical boards to root out sexual predator doctors

Whatever may have happened between Dr. James L. Heaton and a female patient, the Georgia medical board buried it.

There were allegations that the prominent North Georgia doctor may have traded addictive drugs for sex. The Georgia Composite Medical Board, the state agency responsible for protecting the public from dangerous physicians, apparently looked into Heaton’s conduct, though it never publicly disciplined him.

Yet recently, a federal investigation has accused him of sex with at least four women while he was writing them prescriptions, including one patient who got hooked on Xanax, according to a court document filed in U.S. district court here. Details came to light only because Heaton faces hundreds of criminal charges in a massive opioid prescribing case.

Heaton is among thousands of doctors across the country who have been accused of sexually exploiting their patients, national investigations by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution have found. Because of a system of self-regulation that grants extraordinary deference to physicians, even those found to have repeatedly abused their position of trust are more likely to be sent to therapy than to lose their license. Like roughly half of the doctors the AJC identified, Heaton still has an active license.

Finally, though, signs are emerging that a culture that fosters secrecy and forgives doctors could be shifting. In late April, when medical boards throughout the nation met for an annual conference, their featured session in a prime-time slot on day one was called “Sexual Boundary Violations: What State Medical Boards Need to Know.” Such a public conversation on the issue was unprecedented for the group.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/national/pressure-mounts-medical-boards-root-out-sexual-predator-doctors/VzqHVlCNZzLNLCrzJlslSK/

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Chinatown grapples with surge in homeless

Morning, noon and night in Chinatown they yell at the sky, mutter obscenities, and sleep in doorways where they sometimes reek of urine — or worse.

To frustrated, angry and scared business owners and residents, homeless people are not only ever-present but they are the source of on-going frustrations and concerns in Chinatown.

City Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, whose district includes Chinatown, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in an email that “Business owners, residents and area legislators agree that conditions are much worse than they were last year. I receive daily complaints and reports of illegal activity, with photos.”

Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a Hawaii island emergency room physician, won election in November and moved his young family to the edge of Chinatown in December.

Green now calls Chinatown “ground zero” for both homeless activity and for programs that carry the hope of making a difference for both Chinatown and other parts of the state struggling with similar homeless-related issues.

On a walk throughout Chinatown recently wearing hospital scrubs, jeans, black running shoes and a medical bag over his shoulder, he encountered the range of people who co-exist there — from residents to homeless people and tourists alike.

“The problem continues to surge and they (merchants, residents and others) don’t see results quickly enough,” Green said. “I don’t think we need to pull our punches. There’s a wave coming.”

Read more: https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/05/12/hawaii-news/chinatown-grapples-with-the-surge-in-homeless/

Courier-Journal: Kentuckians were promised internet. What they got: $1.5B information highway to nowhere

The internet arrived in some parts of Eastern Kentucky’s Jackson and Owsley counties on the back of a mule named Old Bub.

Nine years ago, Old Bub trudged between the rugged counties' most remote utility poles, hauling the high-capacity fiber-optic cable intended to help bring Appalachian residents into the information age.

Today, Old Bub symbolizes something else — a poor state plodding along the information highway. Despite spending hundreds of millions of state and federal dollars, Kentucky still lags behind other states in providing high-speed internet access to its residents.

The state's signature effort to catch up — an ambitious statewide broadband project known as KentuckyWired that was launched with bipartisan support five years ago — is well behind schedule and more than $100 million over budget, a joint investigation by the Courier Journal and ProPublica reveals.

So far, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has offered no solution to the boondoggle he inherited.

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/investigations/2019/05/08/kentucky-wired-internet-project/3238594002/

NOLA.com: Louisiana officials ask little before letting private schools get millions in public vouchers

Since 2007, Carlie Care Kids has run a child care out of a couple of nondescript converted townhouses in Terrytown. Now it’s gearing up for a big switch: this fall it will become an elementary school for up to 39 kindergarteners and first graders.

It will be done with the help of taxpayers. The school even advertises itself to parents as “free kindergarten.” Yet, like they do for dozens other private schools in Louisiana, state education officials asked Carlie Care to do very little to become eligible to take students paying with public vouchers.

Its owners basically had to fill a 16-page document with straightforward questions, many satisfied with yes/no answers. By contrast, when Arise Academy in New Orleans recently applied to become a charter school, it had to prepare a 174-page packet with questions about financial soundness, curriculum and teacher’s qualifications that demanded encyclopedic answers.

The discrepancy is by design. While public schools must meet rigorous standards and charters must face serious state scrutiny before being approved, the dozens of private schools in the Louisiana Scholarship Program faced barely a review from education officials in order to get public money, according to an investigation by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, WVUE Fox 8 News, WWNO and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

read more: https://www.nola.com/education/2019/05/louisiana-officials-ask-little-before-letting-private-schools-get-millions-in-public-vouchers.html

Baltimore Sun: Baltimore nonprofit tied to ex-Mayor Pugh claimed notable board members who deny they ever held such positions

The job-training nonprofit connected to a federal investigation of former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has reported to Maryland regulators that three prominent city residents — a state senator, a former Colts running back and a well-known attorney — have served on its board of directors, which Pugh chaired for a decade.

But all three have told The Baltimore Sun they are not — and never have been — board members for the Maryland Center for Adult Training.

“I have never been a board member,” said Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, a Baltimore Democrat.

“I had nothing to do with them at all,” said Lydell Mitchell, a Colts running back from 1972 to 1978.

“I’m very surprised,” said attorney Robert Dashiell, whose name was misspelled on MCAT’s state reports. “That shows you how close we were.”

The nonprofit, known as MCAT, reported the names to the Maryland Higher Education Commission as “current members of the Board of Directors” who “govern” the group, according to two reports covering 2015-2017. The commission has regulated the tax-exempt organization as a professional career school that has spent private and government grants to train “disadvantaged persons transitioning from unemployment” as certified nursing assistants.

Read more: https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/investigations/bs-md-mcat-board-20190430-story.html

The Boston Globe: Ivy League coaching endowments raise ethics questions

It’s right there on the Yale University website: For a cool $2 million, donors can endow a coaching position, essentially supporting the coach’s salary forever. The endowments for the top jobs in baseball, volleyball, gymnastics — they are all for sale.

Perks for donors include a plaque in the sports office, and the chance to name the endowment after one’s family, or to honor someone else, including the current coach. “The possibilities are endless,” touts Yale’s athletic department site.

There may be other benefits, too.

A Globe review found that in at least a half-dozen cases at Yale, families endowed coaching positions or programs shortly before their children went on to attend the highly competitive Ivy League school.

In some instances, the children also would play on teams led by the very coach whose position or athletic program the parents had endowed, a review of publicly available records found.

Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/05/11/ivy-league-policy-endowing-coaches-salaries-raises-conflict-interest-questions/Ii6rDeVMfRjx2IqH8sIvOJ/story.html

The Kansas City Star: Veterans group leader: Is KC VA’s yearlong silence on Missouri vet’s death a coverup?

Dale Farhner, a 66-year-old military veteran, was injured during an altercation with Kansas City VA Medical Center police on his way in for medical care May 10, 2018.

He was hospitalized and, two days later, he died of a brain hemorrhage.

One year later, the VA is still declining to release information about that incident in the parking lot — to The Star, to Congress and even to Farhner’s family.

Three of Farhner’s children filed a wrongful death lawsuit May 2 that may, eventually, But Randall Barnett, the president of Vietnam Veterans of America’s Kansas City branch, said the public deserves answers now. Barnett said it seems like the VA is trying to stall until “it all blows over.”

“If they weren’t at fault or didn’t feel through their investigation they were somewhat at fault, why would they cover everything up?” Barnett asked. “Or try to cover everything up?”

VA spokesman Vernon Stewart said Farhner’s death is still under investigation by the Jackson County Medical Examiner and referred questions to that office.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/business/health-care/article230127824.html

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • May 9, 2019

The Seattle Times: Engineers say Boeing pushed to limit safety testing in race to certify planes, including 737 MAX

In 2016, as Boeing raced to get the 737 MAX certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a senior company engineer whose job was to act on behalf of the FAA balked at Boeing management demands for less stringent testing of the fire-suppression system around the jet’s new LEAP engines.

That June he convened a meeting of all the certification engineers in his unit, who collectively agreed with his assessment. Management initially rejected their position, and only after another senior engineer from outside the MAX program intervened did managers finally agree to beef up the testing to a level the engineer could accept, according to two people familiar with the matter.

But his insistence on a higher level of safety scrutiny cost Boeing time and money.

Less than a month after his peers had backed him, Boeing abruptly removed him from the program even before conducting the testing he’d advocated.

The episode underscores what The Seattle Times found after a review of documents and interviews with more than a dozen current and former Boeing engineers who have been involved in airplane certification in recent years, including on the 737 MAX: Many engineers, employed by Boeing while officially designated to be the FAA’s eyes and ears, faced heavy pressure from Boeing managers to limit safety analysis and testing so the company could meet its schedule and keep down costs.

That pressure increased when the FAA stopped dealing directly with those designated employees — called “Authorized Representatives” or ARs — and let Boeing managers determine what was presented to the regulatory agency.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/engineers-say-boeing-pushed-to-limit-safety-testing-in-race-to-certify-planes-including-737-max/

Houston Chronicle: The Track: Open-air sex trade permeates daily life on Houston’s outskirts

A dozen miles from downtown Houston, cars inch down an industrial side street and drivers idle by a cluster of young women bathed in streetlight, brokering primal transactions.

A middle-aged woman in stilettos and a tight-fitting shirt stretched down to her thighs crosses a feeder road on a weekday morning, flicking her tongue suggestively at commuters stopped at the light.

A few blocks away, tenants tell the building manager they've seen strangers having sex outside their doorways, in their complex's laundry room and inside Range Rovers in the gated parking lot.

A kindergartner and first grader wonder aloud on their walk to school about the ladies standing around with their privates showing.

"They're selling their body to feed their kids," their mother says.

These scenes might raise eyebrows in sprawling suburbs and well-heeled city districts, but they are ordinary and unremarkable to shopkeepers and apartment dwellers in this urban patch on the southwest outskirts of the city. It's known to prostitutes, cops and johns as the Bissonnet Track.

The neighborhood has earned an international reputation in recent decades for the street trafficking that permeates everyday life. Arrests have made barely a dent in the criminal activity.

Now, local officials have taken the radical step of asking a judge to declare several blocks off-limits to more than 80 people accused of engaging in prostitution — labeling them nuisances to the community and threatening fines if they return.

Read more: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Houston-prostitution-human-trafficking-Bissonnet-13780542.php

The Tennessean: DCS investigated 186 child deaths last year; most children were known to the agency

A 4-month old died from blunt force trauma, allegedly at the hands of his father.

An infant girl drowned in a bathtub. Her intoxicated mother was asleep in the tub beside her.

A 7-year-old boy died after a high-speed chase in a car driven by his father. The father, brandishing a gun, was pursuing a vehicle that had cut him off before the fatal crash.

They are among the 115 Tennessee children who died last year in families that had come to the attention of the Department of Children's Services. In some instances, DCS was actively investigating a family when a child died. In others, children died after DCS had concluded its involvement with the family and closed the case.

Ten of the children were in DCS custody at the time of their deaths.

Three DCS caseworkers were terminated — or resigned in lieu of being fired — because of their conduct prior to a child's death. DCS did not provide information about these cDCS is obligated under state and federal law and a 2012 court order to publicly disclose case files regarding child deaths.

But it may be years before the public can view many of those records. The department posts redacted case files online after its review is complete. It wasn't until April 1 of this year that DCS completed its 2016 investigations.

The USA TODAY Network - Tennessee reviewed the 37 child deaths in 2018 for which DCS has publicly released information. The records are redacted to protect names and locations.

Read more: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/05/05/tennessee-chrildrens-services-death-investigations-2018/3055436002/

NJ.com: George Norcross’ influence: How companies and allies of the Democratic powerbroker got $1.1 billion in tax breaks

CAMDEN, N.J. — On a blustery day here in early March, a waterfront amphitheater in one of America’s poorest cities became the unlikely venue for a rare public performance by New Jersey’s top political boss.

George E. Norcross III, a silver-haired insurance broker who is widely regarded as the most powerful unelected official in New Jersey, showed up at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden to tout the “rebirth” of his long-suffering hometown and praise the state tax break program that made it possible.

"It looks to me like the state got a pretty good deal,'' said Norcross, standing before projected photos of children cavorting in what appears to be an idyllic Camden, only blocks away from streets lined with dilapidated buildings.

In an interview a few weeks later, Norcross called himself “one of the loudest cheerleaders” for the embattled tax break program. “I’m certainly very proud to be part of it,” he said.

Norcross and his associates have reaped substantial benefits from the tax breaks. Of the $1.6 billion in tax breaks for companies that agreed to make a capital investment in Camden, at least $1.1 billion went to Norcross’ own insurance brokerage, his business partnerships and charitable affiliations, and clients of the law and lobbying firms of his brother Philip, an investigation by WNYC and ProPublica found.

Read more: https://www.nj.com/politics/2019/05/george-norcross-influence-how-companies-and-allies-of-the-democratic-powerbroker-got-11-billion-in-tax-breaks.html

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Years of abuse, neglect to unchecked at Amargosa Valley Boarding School

Thousands of records examined by the Las Vegas Review-Journal show a yearslong history of abuse and neglect allegations at Northwest Academy, a private boarding school for at-risk youth.

Yet divisions within the Department of Health and Human Services, which licensed the Amargosa Valley school as a child-care institution and were responsible for investigating the abuse claims, found many of them to be unsubstantiated.

Even when problems with the school were validated, documents show that little if any action was taken to hold the school accountable.

Allegations also often fell by the wayside without clear communication between other state agencies that could have had a hand in shutting down the school, records show.

Unaware of the complaints, the Department of Education continued to renew Northwest Academy’s license as a private school.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that the agencies officially began exchanging information for follow-up. By then, Northwest Academy had been shut down following the arrests of the school’s owners, Marcel Chappuis, 72, and his wife, Patricia, 66, on suspicion of allowing child abuse or neglect.

Most of the charges center around contaminated water at the academy, Nevada’s only private boarding school, when it closed in February.

Read more: https://www.reviewjournal.com/crime/abuse-allegations-went-unchecked-for-years-at-nye-county-school/

Rockford Register-Star: Winnebago County administrator alleged Sheriff Gary Caruana harassed her

ROCKFORD — A Rockford lawyer hired by Winnebago County to investigate County Administrator Carla Paschal’s claim that Sheriff Gary Caruana had harassed her determined last year that the allegation was unfounded.

This is the third workplace probe involving Paschal since she joined Chairman Frank Haney’s administration in late 2016.

Winnebago County hired Sam Castree of Staff Management Inc. to investigate Paschal’s claim, and the Register Star obtained a 42-page report of Castree’s findings, which is dated Jan. 10, 2018.

“You were misinformed,” Paschal wrote in an email to the Register Star on Thursday, after she was asked to comment on the matter. “I did not file a complaint against the sheriff. I have nothing further to share.”

However, the opening paragraph of Castree’s report is plain:

“On October 12 (2017), Kimberly Ponder, Human Resources Director for Winnebago County, Illinois, met with Samuel J. Castree, Jr., Senior Vice President & General Counsel for Staff Management, Inc.” The company “was asked to investigate allegations of possible harassment brought by then Winnebago County Chief Financial Officer (now County Administrator) Carla Paschal against Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana.”

Read more: https://www.rrstar.com/news/20190504/winnebago-county-administrator-alleged-sheriff-gary-caruana-harassed-her

Chicago Tribune: Domestic violence victims face risk of being attacked again following Cook County reforms, a Tribune investigation found

Cook County judges have sharply lowered bonds for people accused of violent domestic attacks and prosecutors are dropping more of these cases, placing victims at risk as potentially dangerous suspects are released from custody, a Tribune investigation has found.

The changes follow efforts by top county officials to reduce jail overcrowding and address long-standing racial inequities in bonds that can keep defendants in custody simply because they cannot pay. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle implemented the new measures with the support of State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Chief Judge Timothy Evans.

Advocates for battered women applaud the intent of those reforms but say prosecutors and judges are now releasing suspects without fully considering the safety of domestic battery survivors.

“Reform is being pursued at the expense of the victims. They have been left out of the conversation,” said Amanda Pyron, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Two women died trying to protect themselves from their abusive exes. Their families wonder why the system didn't protect them.

Police, prosecutors and lawmakers have long recognized that the repetitive nature of domestic violence leaves victims at particular risk from alleged attackers who are released from custody. The Tribune’s examination of recent cases underscores the high stakes in these cases as harassment and violence exact a human toll.

Read more: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-met-domestic-violence-bonds-20190219-story.html

The Sacramento Bee: Toxic water in California prisons: Sickening inmates and costing taxpayers millions

An inmate’s death in Stockton from Legionnaires’ disease marks the third time in four years the rare form of pneumonia has struck California’s state prisons – and has laid bare a history of contamination and other problems plaguing water supplies in the corrections system.

Incidents of tainted water have spawned inmate lawsuits, expensive repairs, hefty bills for bottled water and fines, putting a multimillion-dollar burden on the taxpayer-funded corrections system, according to documents and court records reviewed by McClatchy.

Now the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which oversees a network of 76 prisons, youth lockups and inmate firefighter camps, is dealing with a death. The fatality in early March at the California Health Care Facility, a prison hospital in Stockton, follows a Legionnaires’ case earlier this year at a prison hospital in Vacaville – which went unpublicized until now – and a major outbreak that sickened 16 inmates and employees at San Quentin in 2015.

“The state should have, after San Quentin, come up with a plan to make sure this didn’t happen again,” said Tim Keane, a national consultant on Legionnaires’ from Pennsylvania.

The Stockton Legionnaires’ outbreak remains a significant problem almost two months later. The water-borne Legionnaires’ bacteria sickened a second inmate at the same prison and spread to two neighboring youth correctional lockups. Officials have been forced to bring in truckloads of bottled water and impose tight restrictions that extended even to toilet flushing.

Read more: https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article229294374.html

The Modesto Bee: Arizona police report alleges continued sexual misconduct by former Modesto pastor

A Modesto youth pastor accused of sexual abuse in his church here decades ago continued to prey on young women after moving to Arizona, a Scottsdale police report issued this week alleges.

The 100-page report compiled by Scottsdale Police Detective Tara Ford contains interviews with more than a dozen victims and witnesses who described sexually predatory behavior, including full-body massages, by Les Hughey during his time as a high school youth pastor at Scottsdale Bible Church in the mid to late 1980s.

The report was submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney several weeks ago for consideration of charges against Hughey, said Scottsdale Police Sgt. Ben Hoster. The county attorney’s office did not return calls for comment about what charges Hughey could face.

The investigation began last April after The Bee broke the story about Hughey’s alleged sexual misconduct during the time that he worked as a youth pastor at a popular church in Modesto.

Scottsdale police conferred with Modesto police on the investigation, but no reports were filed here.

Read more: https://www.modbee.com/news/local/crime/article230008519.html

Arizona Republic: Child-welfare cases are private. Does that protect the kids, or the state officials?

When news broke that a Maricopa woman had been accused of starving, pepper-spraying, and otherwise abusing seven adopted children, questions immediately turned to what the Department of Child Safety knew and when the agency knew it.

The case of Machelle Hobson and her foster-children-turned-adopted children drew an unusual amount of attention because some of the alleged abuse was related to the children's performances for a popular YouTube channel. 

But aside from confirming what police had already reported in the case — that child-welfare workers had removed the kids from the home — DCS said it could not comment due to confidentiality laws.

DCS frequently cites those laws and the financial penalty the state could suffer through loss of federal funds: when it requests courts to close proceedings, warns news media against showing the faces of foster children, and refuses to disclose seemingly routine details.

Six days after DCS' "no comment," DCS Director Greg McKay appeared to reverse course and issue a public statement that cast blame for the situation onto other agencies, as well as the general public.

In enumerating who had eyes on the children during the time of the alleged abuse, McKay revealed: "The adoptive home was certified and a judge finalized an adoption just weeks before this discovery." He added that two police agencies were involved with the situation.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/in-depth/news/local/arizona-investigations/2019/05/03/child-welfare-dcs-cases-private-does-protect-kids-or-state-officials/3491563002/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • April 11, 2019

Arizona Republic: You elected them to write new laws. They’re letting corporations do it instead.

Each year, state lawmakers across the U.S. introduce thousands of bills dreamed up and written by corporations, industry groups and think tanks.

Disguised as the work of lawmakers, these so-called “model” bills get copied in one state Capitol after another, quietly advancing the agenda of the people who write them.

A two-year investigation by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity reveals for the first time the extent to which special interests have infiltrated state legislatures using model legislation.

USA TODAY and the Republic found at least 10,000 bills almost entirely copied from model legislation were introduced nationwide in the past eight years, and more than 2,100 of those bills were signed into law.

The investigation examined nearly 1 million bills in all 50 states and Congress using a computer algorithm developed to detect similarities in language. That search – powered by the equivalent of 150 computers that ran nonstop for months – compared known model legislation with bills introduced by lawmakers.

The phenomenon of copycat legislation is far larger. In a separate analysis, the Center for Public Integrity identified tens of thousands of bills with identical phrases, then traced the origins of that language in dozens of those bills across the country.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/in-depth/news/local/arizona-investigations/2019/04/04/abortion-gun-laws-stand-your-ground-model-bills-conservatives-liberal-corporate-influence-lobbyists/3361759002/

The Los Angeles Times: How border patrol have spun out of control, with deadly consequences

On a rainy November afternoon last year, eight men held tight to a gray tarp, their bodies pressed against one another as they lay feet to head in the bed of a pickup truck. Most knew one another from Acatic, a Mexican town in the state of Jalisco, where the country’s most vicious cartel has caused the morgue to overflow.

Rainwater pooled on the tarp, running in rivulets down the sides and soaking the men underneath. The closeness provided only some warmth, as the men lay shivering, feeling every bump of the rocky scrubland as they crossed into the United States.

As many modern police agencies move away from high-speed chases, placing tight restrictions on when their officers can pursue suspects, the Border Patrol allows its agents wide latitude to use them to catch people trying to enter the country illegally, a practice that often ends in gruesome injuries and, sometimes, death, a ProPublica and Los Angeles Times investigation has found.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-ln-border-patrol-immigrant-chases-crashes/

The Denver Post: Colorado lets oil and gas companies pollute for 90 days without federally required permits that limit emissions

Colorado public health officials have let oil and gas companies begin drilling and fracking for fossil fuels at nearly 200 industrial sites across the state without first obtaining federally required permits that limit how much toxic pollution they can spew into the air.

Air pollution control officials at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment allow the industry to emit hundreds of tons of volatile organic chemicals, cancer-causing benzene and other pollutants using an exemption tucked into the state’s voluminous rules for the industry — rules that former Gov. John Hickenlooper, state leaders and industry officials long have hailed as the toughest in the nation.

They rely on this 27-year-old state exemption to give oil and gas companies 90 days to pollute, then assess what they need from Colorado regulators before applying for the air permits that set limits on emissions from industrial sites.

“It is a loophole that allows pollution at some of the times when the pollution is the most extreme,” said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, who chairs a congressional panel that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency.

Read more: https://www.denverpost.com/2019/04/07/colorado-oil-gas-air-pollution/

Des Moines Register: Severely disabled Iowans are dying at a state-run institution.

GLENWOOD, Ia. — Employees at the state institution here have repeatedly warned officials that medical care for 200 of Iowa’s most disabled residents has eroded to a deadly point.

Fourteen Glenwood Resource Center residents have died since last June — more than twice the usual rate — according to public records, obituaries and interviews with former and current staff members.

Critics, including several former managers, say some of the deaths were unavoidable. But they believe others could have been prevented by more careful monitoring and aggressive treatment of the facility’s fragile patients.

“It’s not normal to have this many deaths. This is too many to be a coincidence,” said Kathy King, a former administrator who retired last spring after 43 years at the state-run institution.

The western Iowa institution cares for adults with severe intellectual disabilities, such as from brain injuries, birth defects or seizures. Many of its residents can’t speak, walk or feed themselves.

Several leading members of the facility’s medical staff have quit or been pushed out since a new superintendent took over in September 2017. Public records show the losses include the unexplained firing of one of its three longtime physicians last year and the angry resignation of another.

The Iowa Department of Human Services, which runs the institution, denied that the rise in patient deaths was due to insufficient care.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/health/2019/04/07/disabled-iowa-residential-dying-state-run-glenwood-ia-institution-care-investigation-adults/3096577002/

The New York Times: A Mysterious Infection, Spanning the Globe in a Climate of Secrecy

Last May, an elderly man was admitted to the Brooklyn branch of Mount Sinai Hospital for abdominal surgery. A blood test revealed that he was infected with a newly discovered germ as deadly as it was mysterious. Doctors swiftly isolated him in the intensive care unit.

The germ, a fungus called Candida auris, preys on people with weakened immune systems, and it is quietly spreading across the globe. Over the last five years, it has hit a neonatal unit in Venezuela, swept through a hospital in Spain, forced a prestigious British medical center to shut down its intensive care unit, and taken root in India, Pakistan and South Africa.

Recently C. auris reached New York, New Jersey and Illinois, leading the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to add it to a list of germs deemed “urgent threats.”

The man at Mount Sinai died after 90 days in the hospital, but C. auris did not. Tests showed it was everywhere in his room, so invasive that the hospital needed special cleaning equipment and had to rip out some of the ceiling and floor tiles to eradicate it.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/06/health/drug-resistant-candida-auris.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

CNN Business: How the Baltimore Sun brought City Hall scandal to light

Brian Stelter says The Baltimore Sun's reporting about Mayor Catherine Pugh is an example of first-rate local journalism. David Zurawik, the Sun's media critic, recounts the City Hall scandal from the inside.

See more: https://www.cnn.com/videos/business/2019/04/07/how-the-baltimore-sun-brought-city-hall-scandal-to-light.cnn/video/playlists/reliable-sources-highlights/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • April 4, 2019

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Files show flaws at firms vying to run youth jails

Three executives of an Indiana company set to take over Arkansas' youth prisons have histories of mismanaging juvenile lockups, records show.

Youth Opportunity Investments was awarded the $15.8 million yearlong contract on March 21, after the state procurement office disqualified the previous winner, Rite of Passage, a Nevada company, for problems it had running youth detention sites in other places.

Colorado recently terminated its contract with Rite of Passage because the "health, safety, or welfare of persons receiving services may be in jeopardy," according to 2018 state records.

In a protest letter dated March 12, Youth Opportunity challenged Arkansas' initial decision to award Rite of Passage the contract, citing Colorado's termination of the company's contracts.

Arkansas' request for proposal to run the sites required that the provider have a clean contract history, meaning no terminations because of "nonperformance" in the past five years.

Youth Opportunity also alleged in the letter that Rite of Passage exposed children to unsafe conditions and abusive guards.

Edward Armstrong, procurement office director, sided with Youth Opportunity, and said Rite of Passage shouldn't have won the bid because Colorado had canceled its contracts with the company.

But Rite of Passage associates insist that the company remains in good standing in Colorado. Those Colorado contracts weren't terminated for "nonperformance," but for licensure actions, said Little Rock attorney Debby Thetford Nye.

"Colorado has not issued charges against Rite of Passage," Nye wrote in a letter sent to Armstrong on Wednesday.

Read more: https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/mar/31/files-show-flaws-at-firms-vying-to-run-/?news-arkansas

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Housing authority finalists examined; 2 people on short list to head Little Rock agency have firings in pasts, records show

Of the three finalists for the Little Rock housing authority's top position, one was fired by the city in 2018 and another has been terminated from at least two housing authorities.

R.M. Jackson, Kimberly Adams and Nadine Jarmon seek to fill a position left open when former Director Rodney Forte resigned from the Metropolitan Housing Alliance in November.

The alliance is a federally funded, locally controlled group that provides rental assistance to Little Rock residents with low incomes. The new executive director will lead the agency as it transitions its public housing to Section 8 through the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration program.

The program allows public agencies to partner with private companies to revitalize aging housing stock. The new director will be hired by the five-member board of commissioners.

Chairman Leta Anthony said she interviewed candidates via webcam before making recommendations to the other commissioners based on score sheets. They selected the top three finalists in executive session earlier this month.

Each candidate will go in to meet the staff and interview with board members in the coming weeks, Anthony said earlier this month at a board of commissioners meeting for the housing authority.

Anthony did not return calls seeking comment on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's findings about the finalists.

Read more: https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/mar/31/housing-authority-finalists-examined-20/?news

Los Angeles Times: How a couple worked charter school regulations to make millions

The warning signs appeared soon after Denise Kawamoto accepted a job at Today’s Fresh Start Charter School in South Los Angeles.

Though she was fresh out of college, she was pretty sure it wasn’t normal for the school to churn so quickly through teachers or to mount surveillance cameras in each classroom. Old computers were lying around, but the campus had no internet access. Pay was low and supplies scarce — she wasn’t given books for her students.

She struggled to reconcile the school’s conditions with what little she knew about its wealthy founders, Clark and Jeanette Parker of Beverly Hills.

When Kawamoto saw their late-model Mercedes-Benz outside the school, she would think: “Look at your school, then look at what you drive.”

“That didn’t sit well with us teachers,” she said.

The Parkers have cast themselves as selfless philanthropists, telling the California Board of Education that they have “devoted all of our lives to the education of other people’s children, committed many millions of our own dollars directly to that particular purpose, with no gain directly to us.”

But the couple have, in fact, made millions from their charter schools. Financial records show the Parkers’ schools have paid more than $800,000 annually to rent buildings the couple own. The charters have contracted out services to the Parkers’ nonprofits and companies and paid Clark Parker generous consulting fees, all with taxpayer money, a Times investigation found.

Presented with The Times’ findings, the Parkers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

How the Parkers have stayed in business, surviving years of allegations of financial and academic wrongdoing, illustrates glaring flaws in the way California oversees its growing number of charter schools.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-edu-charter-schools-20190327-htmlstory.html

San Francisco Chronicle: Former SFPUC president subject of financial conflict investigation involving $1.25 million

The former president of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission improperly voted to award two contracts worth a combined $1.25 million that benefited labor organizations with which he was affiliated, a city investigation has found.

Vince Courtney Jr. resigned from the commission in February, ostensibly to pursue his work as a political fundraiser for Progress San Francisco, a prominent independent expenditure committee that donates to business-friendly causes and candidates.

But it’s his role as a paid political captain for Laborers’ Local 261, a construction trades union, that created a conflict of interest with his job as a commissioner, according to documents reviewed by The Chronicle and interviews with three people familiar with the city attorney’s investigation.

The episode involves the transfer of a large amount of public money to programs controlled by local and regional labor organizations with political ties. The contracts have since been canceled.

In both instances, Courtney voted on contracts as a commissioner that sent money to Local 261 or affiliate labor organizations, which could violate state and local conflict-of-interest laws. It is unclear whether he could face any consequences.

Documents obtained by The Chronicle show that the city attorney’s Public Integrity Unit was conducting an “investigation of possible violations of law including, but not limited to,” three separate state and local government conduct codes.

While the city attorney’s office does not comment on investigations, people familiar with the investigation confirmed that it focused on Courtney.

Read more: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Former-SFPUC-president-subject-of-financial-13729353.php

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Inconclusive: The case against a homeless man accused of executing a woman and two teenagers

Camile Hamilton paused to study the bearded man’s photo.

South Florida detectives had traveled to her home in Jamaica that summer of 2010, hoping to solve a murder. She was the only survivor of a 2009 Miramar home invasion that took the lives of her teenage daughter, her friend, and her friend’s teenage son.

Hamilton looked at the photo and shook her head. “No,” she said.

Then the lead detective did something extraordinary: He showed Hamilton 14 more photos, all of the same man, taken over 10 years of his life.

Now Hamilton recognized him as the killer.

The detective’s maneuver defied proper police tactics and helped lead to the arrest of Kevin Pratt, a homeless man with no connection to the women and teenagers shot in the attack.

The two critical pieces of evidence against Pratt, Hamilton’s memory and DNA found at the scene, had serious flaws. But Miramar detectives and Broward prosecutors pushed forward on the case despite credible doubts about Pratt’s guilt, a South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation of more than 13,000 pages of documents, 80 hours of testimony and dozens of interviews found.

Read more: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-ne-kevin-pratt-20190329-story.html

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Locked & loaded: Inside a Georgia school district with armed teachers

DUBLIN, Ga. - The bright yellow signs posted outside school buildings in Laurens County carry an ominous message, designed to protect students.

“Warning. Staff members are ARMED and TRAINED. Any attempt to harm children will be met by Deadly Force.”The rural county, located 135 miles southeast of Atlanta, finds itself on the vanguard of a new school safety model in Georgia. The state adopted a law in 2014 that allowed local school districts to arm teachers and staff. Last fall, Laurens County became the first school district in Georgia to issue guns to teachers.

As the school calendar enters its final stretch, Laurens officials called the program’s first year a success as they granted The Atlanta Journal-Constitution exclusive access to staff and others who carried it out.

Many parents, students and educators in this Middle Georgia county said they approve of having armed teachers who they see as an extra layer of protection, but some parents and school safety experts have reservations about whether placing more guns in schools actually makes them safer.

And while the issue of whether to arm teachers is controversial, Laurens’ officials say they are confident their model for school safety can work elsewhere and that other Georgia districts have already inquired about the program that allows teachers to carry firearms within certain school safety zones and at school functions.

Read more: https://www.ajc.com/news/locked-loaded-inside-georgia-school-district-with-armed-teachers/Gz9OTHYo3cNDfuSgrDJqiM/

Courier Journal: Churchill Downs is one of the deadliest racetracks in America

Of the 25 racetracks that share their casualty counts with the public, only one was more deadly last year than Churchill Downs.

And despite its recent rash of gloomy headlines, it wasn’t Santa Anita.

Only Illinois’ Hawthorne Race Course lost horses at a faster pace than Churchill Downs did in 2018, according to the Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database.

Over the past three years, only the boutique meet conducted at California’s Sonoma County Fair exceeded Churchill’s race-related mortality rate.

Unlike its Kentucky colleagues at Keeneland and Turfway Park, Churchill Downs does not publicly disclose its racing fatalities, but a spokesman for the track confirmed figures obtained through a public records request of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Those records show the home of the Kentucky Derby has lost 43 thoroughbreds to racing injuries since 2016, a 2.42 per 1,000-start average that was 50 percent higher than the national average during the same three-year span.

Last year, with 16 fatalities in 5,856 starts, Churchill’s death rate was higher still: 2.73 per 1,000.

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/sports/horses/horse-racing/2019/03/27/churchill-downs-horse-fatalities/3284846002/

The Kansas City Star: Pothole ruin your car? Cities, states can help pay for repairs but good luck with that

Stuart Hall is still livid over the Kansas City pothole that ate his car — blew two tires, bent one rim — and left him with a $410 bill, towing not included.

“I’m still pissed,” he said.

That was over a pothole not from today, with thousands of them in the wake of a harsh winter still pockmarking roads from Liberty to Olathe, turning the Kansas City area’s streetscape lunar. It’s from six years back, when a crater-like pothole opened at Brookside Boulevard and 50th Street, rattling the bones of his then wife, Christina, along with the undercarriage of their Mazda 6.

Equally rattling is what happened when Hall tried to get the city to pay him back for the damage: Nothing.

Even after a formal appeal, he received not a dime. Not a penny. But applicable to every pothole-pounded driver thinking of holding their city accountable, he did receive a valuable lesson:

“This year and every year since,” said Hall, 48, and now of Grain Valley, “I feel 100 percent certain that if we hit a pothole and we’re damaged, we are on our own. ... I would love to know how often they (a city) would pay out a claim.”

Answer: Hardly ever.

Read more: https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article228506149.html

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Until the wheels fall off: St. Ann is proud of its rep for police chases, but there are costs.

In the last two years, there has been about one St. Ann police chase a week, and a related crash about once every two weeks, according to police records obtained by the Post-Dispatch.

The department serves a population of about 14,000 residents and employs 54 officers, but it had more chases last year than the St. Louis County police’s 950 officers and nearly as many as the 1,200 officers with the St. Louis Police Department.

Officers with those larger departments, along with most in the region, pursue fleeing suspects for the most serious felonies, but it’s been St. Ann policy for years to chase drivers for minor offenses like expired plates and speeding.

St. Ann Police Chief Aaron Jimenez sees the pursuits as a point of pride, arguing chases send a message to lawbreakers: Stay out of St. Ann.

“Make no mistake, St. Ann will chase you until the wheels fall off,” he said in a recent interview with the Post-Dispatch. “I’ve said it over and over, and I stand by that.”

But St. Ann’s pursuit practices come at a steep cost.

Since 2009, two people have died and least 42 have been injured in St. Ann pursuit crashes, according to an analysis of reporting in the Post-Dispatch and other media. Those injured include 11 drivers fleeing police and eight passengers in the fleeing vehicles, but also 17 innocent bystanders and six St. Ann police officers.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/until-the-wheels-fall-off-st-ann-is-proud-of/article_73638ba9-3bee-50bc-93c6-230fd574e309.html#

The Record: How a federal program was exploited to pay for privately owned charter school buildings

Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid was steered to New Jersey’s largest charter school management companies over the last decade, helping them to create a network of school buildings that are privately owned.

In other parts of the country, the same aid programs provided interest-free loans to both traditional public schools and charters to construct and renovate buildings. But a much different model emerged in New Jersey as Gov. Chris Christie’s administration gave the state’s entire share of the federal aid — bonds worth more than a half-billion dollars — to charters and other non-traditional public schools.

More than three-quarters of that money was awarded to the state’s two largest charter school operators, KIPP New Jersey and Uncommon Schools, which used it in ways that strayed far from the intent of the aid programs.

The companies fashioned complex financial structures that allow them to exploit the bonds by tapping into the aid as a steady stream of income over decades, using methods that in Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators

The result is a string of school buildings that were built with taxpayer money but remain in private hands. The companies that own them were created to purchase real estate and renovate buildings for charter schools, but they are kept legally separate from the charter schools that send millions of dollars their way each year in rent.

Charter schools rent these buildings indefinitely. Leases do not contemplate a time when rent payments would end or when the buildings would be turned over to the public charter schools, even after the debt is paid.

The deals involve related companies that are created to lend money to one another — an arrangement that is not uncommon in the world of private finance. But in this case the arrangements steer tax dollars — federal aid that subsidizes the projects by covering the interest on the loans — to private groups that don’t have to share details with the public or the state about how they use the cash. Charter school operators have said they resort to unusual, complex financing arrangements because the state doesn’t provide funding for their facilities, and because they are barred from using public money other than federal dollars for construction.

Read more: https://www.northjersey.com/in-depth/news/watchdog/2019/03/27/federal-program-used-pay-privately-owned-charter-school-buildings/2956629002/

Chattanooga Times Free Press: COST OF THE CROSSFIRE: Why we researched the cost of gun violence

It’s after midnight, and 9-year-old Timone Maurice Hooper smiles for a photograph outside the former Hitch Village public housing project in Savannah, Georgia.

He sits barefoot on a curb between Calvin Farr, 7, and Brandon Miller, 11. The boys are wearing gym shorts or boxers, while Miller also dons an oversized, white T-shirt pulled down around his knees. A strand of yellow crime tape hanging above their heads reveals this is no place for children.

It’s the scene of a homicide investigation captured by photojournalist Bob Morris after a shooting nearly 19 years ago.

Meg Heap, district attorney for Chatham County, where Savannah is located, told the Times Free Press the photo has since become a symbol of the deep-rooted and cyclical nature of violence in Georgia’s oldest city.

Now all in their mid-to-late 20s, the three boys are young men and no longer just bystanders to serious crime. Today, Hooper sits in federal prison accused of killing a man in 2017. Miller was indicted in a separate homicide in 2015. The youngest of the boys, Farr, was charged in May 2017 with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, court records show.

When Heap’s office indicted Hooper on murder charges in the death of 23-year-old Lawrence Bryan IV, public information officer Kristin Fulford searched Hooper’s name on Google. That’s when she found the old image. The headline read: “The Bloodiest Night in Savannah.”

A year later, in August 2018, Heap sat at the conference table in her downtown office at the Chatham County Courthouse and across from Times Free Press reporters, recalling the photo and a revelation she had at the time.

“It’s 1 in the morning, a body is being carted off, you live in a project — this is something he has seen all his life,” she said. “We are doing everything we can, but this has been a problem in Savannah for a very, very long time.”

Columnist Tom Barton wrote about the photo in the Savannah Morning News on July 22, 2017, after Heap shared the image during a crime forum hosted by the Downtown Business Association. Barton dubbed Hooper and his friends the “Lost Boys of Savannah” — young men who were unable to escape the life of violence and crime into which they were born.

A grant from the Solutions Journalism Network allowed two Times Free Press reporters and a photographer to travel to Savannah, Philadelphia and Cincinnati to learn about ways other cities grapple with gun violence. They met with leaders, activists, victims, bereaved family members, doctors, prosecutors, social workers, former gang members, researchers, police officers and others who have been affected by the violence or are actively working to stop it.

Read more: https://projects.timesfreepress.com/2019/03/gun-violence/index.html

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bid document, contracts reveal massive scale of 2020 DNC in Milwaukee

From hiring a fleet of 500 buses for transporting delegates to throwing parties at some of the region's most celebrated venues, Milwaukee is in for a massive 2020 Democratic National Convention, according to the newly-released bid document and contracts.

"We have what it takes to make the DNC shine," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said in a June 2018 letter that accompanied the city's bid to the Democratic National Committee.

Milwaukee was awarded the July 13-16, 2020, convention earlier this month.

The sheer size and scope of the convention are outlined in the city's original 92-page bid to secure the event, along with two publicly-available contracts between the event's organizers and the City of Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Center District.

Two contracts have not been released: The master agreement between the DNC and the host Good Land Committee and a separate contract with the event's organizers and the Fiserv Forum, which will be the convention's main venue.

While the bid document is nearly a year old, and has been supplanted by formal contracts, The bid put a positive sheen on Milwaukee as it tried to sell the city to Democrats. Letters of support came from politicians, labor leaders and business representatives, including the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, BMO Financial Group, Johnson Controls and MillerCoors.

Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2019/03/29/dnc-2020-milwaukee-bid-contracts-reveal-massive-scope-convention/3204205002/

Indianapolis Star: Investors say ex-‘Fox & Friends’ host turned them into unwitting slumlords

INDIANAPOLIS — Clayton Morris, the affable former co-host of TV's Fox & Friends, portrays himself on his popular podcasts and YouTube videos as a real estate investment expert who is in the business of helping others achieve financial freedom.

His company, Morris Invest, has been involved in hundreds of property transactions in Indianapolis.

But in his wake is a trail of disgruntled investors, tenants living in deplorable conditions and dilapidated Indianapolis homes that could plague the city for years.

While Morris lives in a $1.45 million luxury home in New Jersey, some investors who thought they were buying turn-key rentals are saddled with boarded up hovels, empty lots, stacks of health and nuisance violations from the city and lost savings.

Morris is the target of at least five lawsuits filed by out-of-state investors who claim he defrauded them in transactions involving dozens of properties. The lawsuits are pending in Marion Superior Court and federal court in Indianapolis. Many others have complained to attorney general offices in Indiana and New Jersey, and on consumer and real estate investment websites.

The mostly novice investors say Morris sold them rental properties with a promise to rehab and rent them. All they had to do was sit back and wait for their monthly rent checks.

But for many buyers, the purchases turned into nightmares. Some say their houses were never rehabbed or rented. Others say they received rental checks for several months only to learn later that the house was vacant or uninhabitable. Many discovered the problems after receiving violation notices from city code enforcement or the county health department.

Read more: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2019/03/26/fox-and-friends-clayton-morris-investment-real-estate-scheme/3275317002/

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

The Seattle Times: Debt collectors that ‘sue, sue, sue’ can squeeze Washington state consumers for more cash

Danielle Fenical was surprised when the court summons arrived. A collection company called SB&C was suing her for a $249 medical bill from two years earlier that her insurance hadn’t paid.

Fenical said the company had tried to reach her once before, months earlier. But when she returned its call, the woman who answered could find no record of her. Fenical said she left her cellphone number anyway, but never heard back. Now, after reviewing the summons and realizing the debt was legitimate, the single mother mailed the company a batch of postdated checks.

“At this point, I sent the payments that I could afford,” Fenical told the judge at a 2016 hearing at Skagit County District Court. “So, if they are willing to work with me, I’m willing to work with them.”

The company told the judge the checks had come too late, and the judge ruled in its favor, tacking on $500 in attorneys fees. The judgment allowed SB&C to garnish wages from her nursing home job, adding more fees and interest along the way. Over the next nine months, the company collected some $1,260 from her paychecks, more than four times her original bill.

Fenical’s case isn’t unusual in a state that has a punishing suite of debt laws unlike anywhere else in the country. Companies that win judgments can collect attorneys fees and interest at 12 percent — the highest flat rate in the country. The firms can then garnish the debtor’s wages while piling on additional fees every 60 days.

Taken together, even small debts can swell into large ones, an enticement industry insiders say can make it more attractive for these firms to seek court judgments rather than work out payment plans with people in financial distress. It is such a lucrative option that some of the state’s busiest collection firms have placed quotas on their agents to initiate lawsuits, according to interviews with current and former employees at those companies.

The companies operate in such mass quantities, The Seattle Times found, that some individual collection attorneys have been handling more than 5,000 new cases each year, potentially racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyers’ fees for cases that are often processed in minutes and rarely go to trial.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/with-a-chance-to-sue-sue-sue-debt-collectors-squeeze-washington-consumers-for-more-cash/

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: In Milwaukee, fewer than half of all homicides end in a suspect convicted of a crime.

Shannon Allen could barely breathe as the casket holding her 27-year-old son descended into the ground at Graceland Cemetery.

She stood on frost-tipped grass and peered into the hole.

Her son, DeAndre Allen, had come into the world after she cramped, pushed and labored for nine hours and 13 minutes.

He left it in the seconds it took for three bullets to explode from the barrel of a gun and pierce his skull.

As his body descended, lower and lower, Shannon wanted to jump down into the ground with him. Cover the casket with her body. Let the dirt envelop her, too.

Instead, she reached up to her hair and yanked out a fistful of braids.

She dropped the strands into the darkness.

DeAndre was killed more than two years ago, on the day after Christmas.

He and 232 other victims in the city over the past five years fall into an especially painful category for their families: those whose killers have not been held accountable in court.

Read more: https://projects.jsonline.com/news/2019/3/21/milwaukee-murders-many-unsolved-fewer-than-half-end-with-convictions.html

The Oregonian: Uncertain conclusions: Hart children came to Oregon child welfare system’s attention at a time of widespread indecision

No one answered the door at the West Linn home where six children lived, so the case worker there to investigate reports of child abuse left behind a note and her business card.

Mother Sarah Hart called within hours.

The next case worker assigned to investigate the family, nearly five years later in Washington, also left a business card at the unanswered door of their home. But she received no response. When the family of eight piled into their GMC Yukon and fled rural Woodland, the case worker’s business card was still tucked inside their front door.

One year has passed since Sarah Hart’s wife, Jennifer Hart, drove the SUV off a California coastal cliff with her family inside. Police discovered most of their bodies in and around their vehicle. Authorities believe the mother intentionally drove over the edge and into the sea.

Workers in Oregon’s child welfare system were the last to interview the two mothers and their six adopted children. All eight denied any abuse. But two adult friends insisted, based on first-hand observations, that the children were extremely isolated, severely punished and denied food.

Case workers concluded the investigation with a finding of “unable to determine,” meaning they found evidence of abuse or neglect but not enough to substantiate the claims.

Few other states acknowledge they allow this finding, according to a federal survey. But when concerned adults questioned the safety of Markis, Hannah, Devonte, Jeremiah, Abigail and Sierra Hart, Oregon’s child welfare agency was closing one in every five investigations as inconclusive.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2019/03/uncertain-conclusions-hart-children-came-to-oregon-child-welfare-systems-attention-at-a-time-of-widespread-indecision.html

The New York Times: Boeing Was ‘Go, Go, Go’ to Beat Airbus With the 737 Max

Boeing faced an unthinkable defection in the spring of 2011. American Airlines, an exclusive Boeing customer for more than a decade, was ready to place an order for hundreds of new, fuel-efficient jets from the world’s other major aircraft manufacturer, Airbus.

The chief executive of American called Boeing’s leader, W. James McNerney Jr., to say a deal was close. If Boeing wanted the business, it would need to move aggressively, the airline executive, Gerard Arpey, told Mr. McNerney.

To win over American, Boeing ditched the idea of developing a new passenger plane, which would take a decade. Instead, it decided to update its workhorse 737, promising the plane would be done in six years.

The 737 Max was born roughly three months later.

The competitive pressure to build the jet — which permeated the entire design and development — now threatens the reputation and profits of Boeing, after two deadly crashes of the 737 Max in less than five months. Prosecutors and regulators are investigating whether the effort to design, produce and certify the Max was rushed, leading Boeing to miss crucial safety risks and to underplay the need for pilot training.

While investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the crash in Ethiopia this month and one in Indonesia in October, they are focused on a newly installed piece of software designed to avoid stalls. The software was meant to compensate for bigger, more fuel-efficient engines and ensure the plane flew the same way as an earlier version.

Months behind Airbus, Boeing had to play catch-up. The pace of the work on the 737 Max was frenetic, according to current and former employees who spoke with The New York Times. Some spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/23/business/boeing-737-max-crash.html

The Record: $1 billion in taxpayer money has purchased schools — and scandal

New Jersey's Schools Development Authority and its chief executive officer, Lizette Delgado-Polanco, may not be well known to most state residents.

But state taxpayers are funding the group, charged with building new schools in some of New Jersey's poorest areas, with at least $1 billion a year. And as a result, the state's debt load of $46 billion could grow as the authority seeks approval to issue new debt to fund its operations.

But questions about the management decisions of Delgado-Polanco, a veteran union leader who is also the vice chairwoman of the Democratic State Committee, have put the authority in the crosshairs of the Legislature and the authority's own board.

The board's audit of hiring and a push to abolish the authority came on the heels of a NorthJersey.com and USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey report detailing a restructuring led by Delgado-Polanco.

Read more: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/2019/03/20/nj-schools-development-authority-debt-costs-1-billion-year/3148727002/

North Jersey Record: Why are black, hispanic students suspended more often? NJ's racial gap is one of the worst

An honors student who had a bad night of sleep dozed off in class one day at Columbia High School in Maplewood. The teacher’s response: Give him a drug test.

The student was ordered to the nurse’s office, given the test, and suspended while the results were pending, according to a lawsuit filed one year ago. The test turned up no sign of illegal substances.

The student described the experience, witnessed by his peers, as humiliating. His family claims it was discrimination – a result of profiling African-American students – and they say their son isn’t the only one harmed by alleged bias in the school district. They have joined families and activists in the anti-discrimination lawsuit.

Across the nation, black and Hispanic students are more likely to be removed from classrooms for what teachers deem poor conduct. But New Jersey has among the widest racial gaps in the United States, suspending these students at far greater rates than white peers, federal data shows.

Advocates say such punishments can have a lasting negative impact on a student’s life and are linked to lower academic achievement and higher dropout rates. The pattern of discrimination makes it harder for some students to get ahead, even in a state like New Jersey that has a reputation for being progressive.

Read more: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/education/2019/03/22/nj-has-one-nations-worst-racial-gaps-school-suspensions/3140484002/

The Boston Globe: You can’t own more than three pot shops, but these companies are testing the limit — and bragging about it

Robert Leidy, scion of a wealthy Palm Beach family, struck a serious pose that night before officials in the small town of Athol.

In a dark suit and tie, he fixed his gaze on a careful script. There was no mention of the deep-pocketed investors backing him or the fishing yacht his company, Sea Hunter Therapeutics, was named after. Leidy talked about his lofty mission: to help a nonprofit business grow marijuana in an old tool mill there, and sell the product at its stores to people suffering from illness.

“Our passion is to enhance the quality of life for so many living in pain,” Leidy said.

But in his focus on the healing qualities of marijuana, Leidy offered little about the company’s actual, larger ambition. Despite the high-minded speech that October night in 2017, Sea Hunter had largely taken over operations of the nonprofit, Herbology Group, as part of a much broader strategy to capitalize on the state’s new recreational pot market and become a dominant player in Massachusetts and beyond.

In a state where no firm is legally permitted to own — or control — more than three stores that sell recreational pot, Sea Hunter is poised to test that limit. It has boasted to investors that it operates or has significant power over a dozen or more marijuana retail licenses. But you won’t see the name “Sea Hunter” on the shops; instead, they will carry names like Herbology, Verdant, and Ermont.

Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/special-reports/2019/03/21/seahunter/okkkbXkh38kTkH9HDiiFXL/story.html?p1=HP_special

The Times-Picayune: Louisiana's 170-year-old mental hospital is 'quickly deteriorating' with more than 600 patients inside

Louisiana’s first state-run psychiatric hospital, which opened more than 170 years ago, is “deplorable, antiquated and quickly deteriorating,” even as more than 600 people are still held there.

That’s the assessment by the Louisiana Department of Health in a request for $348 million over five years to build a 750-bed replacement for the hospital in East Feliciana Parish. Tucked away in the town of Jackson, the Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System is one of only two state-run mental health hospitals left in Louisiana after years of closures and budget cuts.

Nearly all its patients arrive through the criminal justice system, after being deemed incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity. That leaves virtually no beds for people who are not charged with crimes and need long-term treatment. That shortage has become more acute in recent years, as courts have ordered more inmates transferred from jails to the mental hospital, growing the number of patients held in Jackson from 555 in 2014 to more than 640 last year.

Read more: https://expo.nola.com/news/g66l-2019/03/7dd5d24ffd2381/louisianas-170yearold-mental-hospital-is-quickly-deteriorating-with-more-than-600-patients-inside.html

Des Moines Register: Iowa is a hot spot for trafficking in the illicit massage industry, but prosecutions are rare

The men who frequented the two Dubuque massage parlors told stories almost identical to those of other johns across the country.

Flower Garden Massage and 485 TuiNa Studio advertised, like others, on sites like Craigslist, Backpage and Rubmaps. For $60 and a tip that often ranged from $20 to $40, those who frequented the parlors got a massage that finished with a “happy ending.” No questions asked.

What happened inside the parlors is now commonplace across Iowa, according to multiple city and law enforcement officials.

What happened to their owner, John R. Hart, and his wife, Meirong Li, after they were arrested was not.

Hart, 67, and Li, 55, face a trial May 7 in district court in what is believed to be the only felony human trafficking and pimping case prosecuted in Iowa related to the illicit massage industry.

Though cities across the state have taken steps to pass ordinances and legislators have moved to enhance penalties to curtail the spread of illicit massage, the businesses are flourishing, undeterred by law enforcement, a Watchdog investigation found.

Low-level arrests thus far across the state typically have targeted the women forced or manipulated into the trade, most often Chinese foreign nationals with few, if any language skills, police reports show.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2019/03/20/human-trafficking-iowa-massage-parlor-pimp-sex-crime-craigslist-prostitution-robert-kraft-patriots/3082329002/

San Francisco Chronicle: VANISHING VIOLENCE: Empty Cells, Rising Costs

Inside the central command room at Nevada County’s juvenile hall, a guard scans a bank of video surveillance screens showing live views of the three cell blocks and other areas throughout the facility.

His job, along with two other guards, a supervisor, a teacher and a cook, is to keep the youths held there safe and secure.

All five of them.

The 25,845-square-foot facility in the Sierra foothills was built to hold 60 youths. When it opened in 2002, county officials expected they would need the space. But it’s never been close to capacity.

Five young inmates is average. The guard spends much of his day watching empty rooms.

The scene is similar in juvenile lockups across California, a Chronicle analysis of county and state data found. With youth crime at historic lows, authorities increasingly choosing not to detain adolescents for minor offenses and a push by the state for less punitive forms of justice, juvenile hall populations have plummeted.

On an average day, roughly 4,100 youths are held in county-run halls and camps throughout the state — about a third of the number locked up in 1999. The decline has left about 8,800 beds empty. With so few children in custody, the costs to keep them there have skyrocketed.

Often with more employees to pay than wards to watch, Nevada County spent, on average, $1,461 a day last year to hold each child. That’s more than $530,000 annually, or the equivalent of seven years of tuition, room and board at a top private university.

Read more: https://projects.sfchronicle.com/2019/vanishing-violence/part-2/

Arizona Republic: Rascal Flatts restaurants failed nationwide. Did a Mafia soldier pull the strings?

Frank Capri's voice vibrates menace. His words tumble out of the phone Brooklyn-tough, a low, clipped mix of obscenity and intimidation. 

"Call (that) f--ker tomorrow and go, 'You know something, you lied straight to my face, you son of a bitch, and I’m so f--king pissed off I’m going to pull out of the whole f--king job. Get another f--king contractor to go there and deal with your f--king baby f--king bulls--t. ... You trying to do that to me? F--k you. You go get another f--king contractor.'"

This is Capri doing business. In this case, business means getting as much money as he can out of an unfinished Rascal Flatts restaurant in Cleveland before the project collapses.

Capri is not publicly connected to the restaurant. He works behind the scenes from his Arizona home, directing contractors who serve as his fronts on developments across the country. 

Another call. This time, Capri brushes off a state investigation into possible contract violations at a Rascal Flatts project in Gainesville, Florida.

"Here's exactly what happened out there. You weren't licensed in Florida, so Paul went out and got me a contractor. … The deal was the same deal I worked with you. Twelve grand. I used his license. And we work under his license. That was it, OK? That guy went and screwed us over. So what's the investigation? There's nothing there. It's all talk. It's all talk. And it's all hype. 'Ooh, ooh, there must be something going on. There must be something going on.' There's nothing going on. Stupid s--t."

More calls, more demands, more cajoling.  All recorded by one of Capri's contractors in 2018. Much of the talk is about money, with Capri focused on squeezing developers for payments — mobilization fees, or "draws," as Capri calls them. Upfront cash meant to pay for construction of restaurants bearing the name of the country band Rascal Flatts.

Projects were planned in Hollywood, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Des Moines, Boise, Orlando, St. Louis and a dozen other cities. Only one restaurant opened. It closed about a year later. The others never were completed.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/in-depth/news/local/arizona-investigations/2019/03/13/mafia-frank-capri-behind-rascal-flatts-toby-keith-restaurant-failures/2337607002/

The Miami Herald: How did this middle school teacher stay so long while girls said he was molesting them?

Middle school physical education teacher Wendell Nibbs sat down with a detective looking into allegations that he had asked a 14-year-old student when she would let him see her genitals.

He spoke like a man who had been here before — and he had, many times.

“I can see why the district is looking into this allegation,” said Nibbs, who was an imposing presence at Brownsville Middle School at 6 feet 4 inches and about 250 pounds. “I have a few other allegations attached as well. I guess when there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

That account comes from Miami-Dade Public Schools Police Detective Bernise Charley’s investigative report from 2015. It was the fifth allegation of sexual misconduct involving a student Nibbs had faced in 11 years. Four more students would come forward after that. The Department of Children and Families was contacted three times.

But as that detective would later write — repeatedly — “nothing came of the allegations.”

That changed when Miami-Dade Schools Police arrested Nibbs on Nov. 30, 2017. Nibbs, 53, is set to stand trial in June on charges that he sexually assaulted two students inside the private office in his classroom. On Wednesday, Nibbs was arrested again on two more charges of raping students. One girl said she believes he may be the father of her child. Three former students are suing Miami-Dade Schools, and their lawyers say they plan to bring two more lawsuits on behalf of the two girls who recently came forward.

That’s four criminal sexual assault cases and allegations of sexual misconduct made by nine female students from Brownsville Middle School in the 15 years since Nibbs became a teacher.

The Miami Herald reviewed more than 400 pages of documents obtained from Miami-Dade Schools and the State Attorney’s Office in public records requests. Their contents raise questions about how two powerful institutions — the United Teachers of Dade and Miami-Dade County Public Schools — dealt with 12 years of allegations against the veteran educator.

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article226466655.html

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

Honolulu Civil Beat: How An Accused Drug Dealer Became Key To The Biggest Corruption Case In Honolulu History

Tiffany Masunaga was more than eight months pregnant on Aug. 13, 2015, when Honolulu police officers armed with assault rifles burst through her front door as part of a 6 a.m. drug raid.

They moved quickly through the home, seizing all manner of narcotics — cocaine, marijuana and several prescription medications, including hydrocodone, alprazolam and 114 transdermal patches of the high-powered opioid fentanyl.

Masunaga was arrested along with Alan Ahn, a Honolulu police officer who was with her at the time.

They were indicted and charged with a series of felonies that threatened to put them away for years.

But now — nearly four years later — the case is a linchpin in a growing federal investigation into public corruption and abuse of power in Hawaii law enforcement.

So far, Honolulu’s former police chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine Kealoha, who used to work as a city prosecutor, have been indicted for attempting to frame a family member with the help of several officers who were part of a special police force.

At least five officers have been charged with criminal activity — two of whom have already pleaded guilty — as federal investigators continue to peel away layers of alleged wrongdoing.

Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, who has taken a paid leave of absence, is now a target of the U.S. Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation, as is Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s top civil lawyer, Donna Leong, who helped craft a $250,000 payout for Louis Kealoha.

Masunaga’s case highlights just some of the latest allegations in what has become the largest public corruption scandal in Aloha State history.

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/03/how-an-accused-drug-dealer-became-key-to-the-biggest-corruption-case-in-honolulu-history/

The State: Thousands exposed to dangerous drinking water across South Carolina

JENKINSVILLE, SC  — Germs that can cause nausea, diarrhea and headaches showed up in Jenkinsville’s drinking water one afternoon seven years ago, exposing potentially thousands of customers to the sickening consequences of sipping polluted water.

But for nearly four days, Jenkinsville-area residents didn’t know about the contamination because nobody told them. The water system’s manager says he was out of town and his staff didn’t send out warnings to boil the water, a nearly foolproof way of killing the dangerous E coli bacteria.

The utility’s failure to tell the public wasn’t the only time the Jenkinsville Water Co. has had troubles — nor are the system’s problems unique.

Poorly staffed and lightly regulated, small S.C. utilities regularly make decisions — and mistakes — that imperil the drinking water used by tens of thousands of the state’s most vulnerable and forgotten residents.

Disease-carrying bacteria, cancer-causing chemicals, toxic nitrates and brain-damaging metals have shown up in small water systems from the foothills to the coast, according to government records reviewed by The State during the past year.

Read more here: https://www.thestate.com/news/special-reports/article224595555.html

FOX45: Judge Rules City Schools 'knowingly and willfully' Violated Law

BALTIMORE (WBFF)-- A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge has ruled Baltimore City Schools “knowingly and willfully” violated the law, ending a 15-month public records lawsuit over the results of internal grade changing investigations.

“It's a victory for teachers, parents, taxpayers, but most of all, students. I hope that this is the first step towards some accountability over there on North Avenue,” says Scott Marder, of Thomas & Libowitz, the attorney who represented Project Baltimore in this lawsuit.

In December 2017, FOX45 sued Baltimore City Public Schools on behalf of parents and taxpayers who say children are being pushed through the system without the education they need. But City Schools has refused to release important documents about how some students are graduating. Now, a judge is making them.

Read more: https://foxbaltimore.com/news/project-baltimore/fox45-prevails-judge-rules-city-schools-knowingly-and-willfully-violated-law-03-11-2019

The Seattle Times: Flawed analysis, failed oversight: How Boeing and FAA certified the suspect 737 MAX flight control system

As Boeing hustled in 2015 to catch up to Airbus and certify its new 737 MAX, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) managers pushed the agency’s safety engineers to delegate safety assessments to Boeing itself, and to speedily approve the resulting analysis.

But the original safety analysis that Boeing delivered to the FAA for a new flight control system on the MAX — a report used to certify the plane as safe to fly — had several crucial flaws.

That flight control system, called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), is now under scrutiny after two crashes of the jet in less than five months resulted in Wednesday’s FAA order to ground the plane.

Current and former engineers directly involved with the evaluations or familiar with the document shared details of Boeing’s “System Safety Analysis” of MCAS, which The Seattle Times confirmed.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/failed-certification-faa-missed-safety-issues-in-the-737-max-system-implicated-in-the-lion-air-crash/

The Oregonian: Oregon sends hundreds of foster kids to former jails, institutions, not families

ROSEBURG — A move to improve the care of foster children relegated to living in hotels has resulted in 25 percent more children removed from their families being housed in institutions such as former juvenile jails, The Oregonian/OregonLive has found.

The children being sent to cinderblock facilities are often the most traumatized and difficult to care for. Most are teens but the state is looking at expanding institutional programs for children as young as six.

A year ago, Oregon child welfare leaders signed a court settlement promising to stop housing vulnerable foster children in hotels, state offices and juvenile detention centers instead of with families.

State caseworkers had increasingly relied on those makeshift methods as Oregon faced a shortage of foster homes, particularly ones equipped to care for children grappling with trauma, mental health challenges or developmental disabilities.

One year after the settlement, child welfare officials say they’ve complied and begun phasing out their use of hotel rooms as temporary homes for children in the state’s care. On any given day in December, three foster children were spending the night in hotels, compared to 15 in February 2018.

But over the same time period, the state has placed dramatically more children and teens in institutional settings including repurposed juvenile jails. Since July 2018, the state has had around 400 foster children assigned to live in such settings, according to state figures. In September 2016, when two foster children and their advocates sued the state over its use of hotels, the number was close to 300.

Read more: https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2019/03/oregon-sends-hundreds-of-foster-kids-to-former-jails-institutions-not-families.html

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: After most deadly crash in a decade, limo rules still haphazard as prom season nears

ALBANY - Last year's deadly limo crash in upstate New York may be a watershed moment for the industry as it continues to face scrutiny over the safety of its vehicles.

New York has vowed to pass a new round of regulations in the hopes of preventing another tragedy.

And the crash, which killed 20 people, has raised new questions over whether consumers should rely on regulators to ensure the limos they ride in are being properly inspected — particularly as the season nears for proms, wedding and wine tours.

A review by the USA TODAY Network New York found a scattershot system of oversight across the country. States often develop their own rules with limited enforcement over limos that are cut and "stretched" aftermarket and lack the same safety features as passenger vehicles.

“When it comes to stretch limousine construction and oversight, there is an element of Frankenstein involved,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, a nonprofit in Illinois, and a former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The cause of the October crash that killed 17 passengers, its driver and two pedestrians outside a popular country store in Schoharie, a small town outside of Albany, remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

It was the most deadly transportation crash in the U.S. in nearly a decade.

Read more: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2019/03/14/fatal-crash-limousines-what-know-before-riding-limo/3027812002/

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Weak, vague campaign finance law easily exploited

The sudden downfall of Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson has shined a powerful spotlight on weaknesses in the state’s campaign finance law and the growing number of officeholders who have exploited it.

Atkinson, a Democrat from North Las Vegas, resigned from office March 5 and then pleaded guilty Monday to wire fraud for misusing $250,000 in campaign money in a scheme that went on for years. He used contributions to pay off credit cards, pump money into a nightclub and lease a Jaguar.

And it took federal authorities, not state investigators, to take him down.

“Being elected to public office should not be a business opportunity,” said Las Vegas attorney Paul Padda, a former federal prosecutor who handled election cases. “Given the recent prosecutions like this one, I think it should certainly cause greater reflection by state legislators in how the campaign law is written and what additional safeguards need to be implemented to ensure the integrity of the system.”

Read more: https://www.reviewjournal.com/investigations/rj-investigation-weak-vague-campaign-finance-law-easily-exploited-1619763/

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Who investigates after police shootings in St. Louis?

ST. LOUIS • If a St. Louis police officer shoots someone today, what will happen next is almost anybody’s guess.

Policies and procedures regarding police shootings have varied in almost every case — especially since the formation of a unit more than four years ago that was supposed to make things more transparent and independent.

But one theme has been consistent: Uncertainty about who is investigating pits police against prosecutors and often leaves the public in the dark.

Charges against three police officers so far this year who were involved in shootings have returned the inconsistencies to the forefront.

Read more: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/who-investigates-after-police-shootings-in-st-louis/article_abf1e7af-7e1b-52c4-b5f2-21f65ad6eeb1.html

The Times-Picayune: A Louisiana 16-year-old with disabilities ran out of options, so we locked him away

It’s difficult to pinpoint the most impactful time Louisiana failed to care about Cadarius Johnson.

Was it when, as a boy growing up with a developmental disability in Claiborne Parish, he was left at home, hungry, and once was even mauled by a family dog?

Was it when, at 15, he was found by police, drunk, with his own mother? Was it one of the times he was left alone, even after his mom was arrested for improper supervision?

Or was it when, because some people in the state court system thought it might be best for his long-term care, he was charged as a 16-year-old with attempted first-degree murder of a police officer?

In Cadarius’ heartbreaking story, told by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune’s Katherine Sayre, an embarrassing image emerges of just what, exactly, can go wrong when a state mental health system has been so stripped of what’s needed to provide basic care for adults and juveniles — and who’s most likely to be hurt by it.

Read more: https://www.nola.com/opinions/2019/03/a-louisiana-16-year-old-with-disabilities-ran-out-of-options-so-we-locked-him-away.html

Des Moines Register: Iowa bars felons from voting, but those convicted in other states often escape notice, investigation finds

Ernest Willis, 25, is living in Iowa City and working to get a felony conviction in Illinois from three years ago expunged from his record. 

The charge of "mob action" stemmed from a fight and prompted a sentence of two years of probation.

If Willis had continued to live in Illinois, his voting rights would have been automatically restored after completing his sentence, and he'd be able to vote right now.

But he can't vote in Iowa, the state that in less than a year will kick off voting for the presidency with its first-in-the-nation caucuses. Iowa and Kentucky are the only states that permanently ban people convicted of felonies from voting unless their rights are restored by the governor or president.

Willis' name appears in a felon voting database, compiled by the Iowa secretary of state's office, that all 99 counties use to determine voter eligibility.

But whether someone who committed a felony out of state gets included in Iowa's felon database appears little more than happenstance, a Des Moines Register investigation found.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2019/03/14/iowa-felons-moving-to-iowa-barred-voting-caucus-state-law-restitution-kim-reynolds-aclu-lulac/3079470002/

The Post and Courier: SC sheriffs fly first class, bully employees and line their pockets with taxpayer money

South Carolina sheriffs have embezzled, bribed and dipped into public funds for expensive chauffeurs. They’ve driven drunk and bullied other public officials. They’ve been accused of leveraging their power to sexually assault their female employees.

While many South Carolina sheriffs have strong records of serving the public, others served themselves and their cronies, a five-month Post and Courier investigation found.

In the past decade, no fewer than 11 of South Carolina’s 46 counties have seen their sheriffs accused of breaking laws — nearly one in four.

Like the sheriff in Orangeburg who funneled public funds into bogus credit union accounts to buy a $72,000 motor home. The missing money was discovered only after the sheriff died.

And the sheriff in Chesterfield County who embezzled money, gave weapons to inmates — even let a prisoner host a dinner at the sheriff’s home. A judge sentenced the sheriff to two years.

Now, The Post and Courier investigation has uncovered more cases of questionable spending and behavior. The newspaper requested spending records from all of the state’s counties under the Freedom of Information Act. Reporters sifted through more than 5,000 pages of bank statements, receipts, lawsuits, campaign filings and IRS records. They interviewed former and current deputies and criminal justice experts.

Read more: https://www.postandcourier.com/news/sc-sheriffs-fly-first-class-bully-employees-and-line-their/article_bed9eb48-2983-11e9-9a4c-9f34f02f8378.html?fbclid=IwAR2LkX2rq6hg98y6FWQ-UuIYfgbquY97sgPs6xxYvy-cHKfxF9PqzBF1fFs

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: