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WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • July 27, 2017
Los Angeles Times: USC ignored queries about troubled medical school dean
Four days after The Los Angeles Times published a story about drug use by the then-dean of USC’s medical school, the university announced it was moving to fire Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito and said it was “outraged and disgusted” by his conduct. USC Provost Michael Quick said the university decided to act because it had been shown “extremely troubling” information that same day about Puliafito’s behavior. Quick provided no details. But he said it was “the first time we saw such information firsthand.” “I know many people wanted us to act on allegations and hearsay, but we needed actual facts,” Quick wrote in a letter to the faculty. It remains unclear when top USC officials first learned about the allegations involving Puliafito. But The Times made repeated inquiries over the last 15 months about Puliafito, in some cases describing information reporters had gathered about the dean. USC’s leaders never responded to the inquiries.
Washington Post: In rural Virginia, disabled and disdained
Five days earlier here in Grundy, Virginia, his mother had spent the last of her disability check on bologna, cheese, bread and Pepsi. Two days earlier, he had gone outside and looked at the train tracks that wind between the coal mines and said, “I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this.” One day earlier, the family dog had collapsed from an unnamed illness, and, without money for a veterinarian, he had watched her die on the porch. And now it was Monday morning, and Tyler McGlothlin, 19, had a plan. “About time to go,” said his mother, Sheila McGlothlin, 57, stamping out a cigarette. “I’m ready,” Tyler said, walking across a small, decaying house wedged against a mountain and strewn with dirty dishes, soda cans and ashtrays. They went outside, stepping past bottles of vodka his father had discarded before disappearing into another jail cell, and climbed a dirt path toward a housemate’s car. He knew his plan was not a good one. But what choice did he have? … Tyler would hold a sign on the side of the road and beg for money. … To Tyler, the collapse of the coal industry had left two kinds of people in these mountains. There are those who work. And there are those who don’t: the unemployed, the disabled, the addicted, and the people who, like his family, belonged to all three groups.
Chicago Tribune: High cost of being a gunshot victim
The charges started racking up the moment Annette Johnson arrived at Mount Sinai Hospital with a gunshot wound to her left forearm. Doctors sliced open Johnson's arm and installed a $500 metal plate to shore up her shattered ulna, securing it with numerous bone screws that cost $246 apiece. There were morphine drips to quell pain, tetanus shots to prevent infection, blood screens and anesthesia. Two years earlier in a different part of the city, Leo Leyva arrived at a North Side hospital with a gunshot wound to his back. His last memory before going under anesthesia was a nurse telling him they were going to take good care of him and to count up to 10. As the 18-year-old drifted off, the emergency room team at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center went to work to save his life, starting IV lines and X-raying his chest and abdomen before performing an emergency surgery to remove the bullet and repair the damage. … The bills for their initial treatment were staggering. In his first 35 minutes at the hospital, Leyva had racked up $21,521 in charges, and by the time he was released three weeks later the bill totaled more than $157,000. For Johnson, who spent barely 24 hours at Mount Sinai, the hospital charges approached $27,000. An unprecedented analysis of state data by the Tribune reveals that the initial medical costs for treating Chicago gunshot victims like Johnson and Leyva add up to tens of millions of dollars each year. And those costs are rising. The data — obtained by the Tribune after months of negotiation with public officials — show that Chicago-area hospitals billed more than $447 million to treat some 12,000 documented victims of gun violence in the city between 2009 and mid-2016.
Lexington Herald-Leader: A child accidentally shoots a child every seven weeks
Christopher and Angelica San Martin were watching a basketball game in their Radcliff duplex one Sunday afternoon in 2012. During a commercial, Angelica went upstairs to use the bathroom. The San Martins’ 3-year-old son and 15-month-old daughter followed her to play in the master bedroom. A few minutes later, Angelica heard a loud crack from down the hall. Her son began screaming. “I’m sorry, Mom! I’m sorry, Mom!” Christopher, a soldier at nearby Fort Knox, later told police that he never locked up his gun at home. Sometimes he kept it on an upper shelf in his bedroom closet. That day, he left it in its customary unlocked case on a pile of clothes on his closet floor. It was a Smith & Wesson M&P .40 caliber pistol, a semi-automatic, advertised as what you need “when your life is on the line.” It was loaded with nine bullets. …
In the end, though, no charges were filed. They seldom are after a shooting like Bella’s, which happened over the last five years, on average, at least once every seven weeks somewhere in Kentucky.
Detroit Free Press: Drugged drivers causing more deaths on the road
The driver of a red pickup appeared to be drunk, according to witnesses who called 911, as he sped erratically through Kalamazoo County in June 2016. Before police could catch up to him, the driver plowed into a group of bicyclists on a rural road, killing five of them in a crash that would make international headlines. Investigators later learned the driver, Thomas Pickett Jr., wasn't drunk. Blood tests show he was high on drugs, including methamphetamine, pain killers and muscle relaxers. Prosecutors charged Pickett with 14 felonies, including second-degree murder and driving under the influence. … Drug users now cause almost as many traffic deaths in Michigan as drunken drivers, a trend police blame on prescription drugs, the opioid epidemic and the easy availability of marijuana, medical and otherwise.
Seattle Times: Needy students lured by sports, then neglected
Sixteen years ago, the federal government passed a law aimed at creating a bit of stability in the lives of homeless students. Kids whose families lacked a consistent address, migrating between shelters and friends’ couches, could sidestep standard residency requirements and remain at one school despite their transient lives. But for a growing number of Seattle athletes, the intent behind the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act has been turned upside down. For these ballplayers, homeless-student status allows them to move from school to school, following celebrity coaches and dreams of sports stardom while excused from rules that bind other athletes — such as maintaining a solid grade-point average. Framed as an important opportunity for kids in need, the law also has been used to exploit their hopes. Because when sports end, many of these students find themselves adrift.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • July 20, 2017
Orange County Register: Baby can wait
The pace of motherhood in California is slowing and its members are aging, a shift demographers expect to continue and contribute to far-reaching and uncertain changes in the decades to come. Last year, the state reached a historic milestone: the lowest birth rate on record – 12.4 births per thousand people. That rate was 12.3 for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties and a Southern California News Group analysis of state projections shows the region’s rate could fall another 24 percent by 2040. California outpaced the nation by another key measure: declining fertility rates in what is considered childbearing age for women by the National Center for Health Statistics, 15 to 44. According to provisional state data, California last year saw 60.5 births per thousand women, compared to an all-time low 62 births per thousand nationwide.
Denver Post: Oil in Colorado’s political machine
The oil and gas industry in the past four years has poured more than $80 million into Colorado to shape public opinion and influence campaigns and ballot initiatives, creating a political force that has had broad implications throughout the state. Environmentalists and industry officials alike call the effort one of the best-financed operations advocating for drilling in any state. Just two months ago, that political muscle came into play when the industry successfully lobbied Republican legislators to kill legislation tightening regulation in the wake of a fatal home explosion in Firestone that investigators have blamed on a severed gas pipeline. Energy interests also have helped elect local city council candidates more favorable to allowing drilling near housing and blunted efforts across the Front Range to restrict drilling rights. Last year, industry forces played a role in keeping the state Senate in Republican hands. … The new approach has been broad, sustained and effective in its reach, according to interviews and a review of industry documents, campaign-finance records and public remarks by an industry consultant who helped develop the strategy.
News Journal: Public in the dark on discretionary funding
Wilmington (Delaware) City Council members quietly dole out hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through a fund that essentially allows them to give money to any nonprofit they want with little transparency or oversight. The nearly $450,000 annual pot of discretionary funds is divvied up among council members, who get $10,000 each they mostly use for scholarships, and the president, who controls the remaining $327,000. That money is all spent on what one expert calls "political lubrication" – handouts to nonprofits, charities, civic associations and other groups of the council member's choosing. Unlike elsewhere in Delaware, the City Council does not limit how much money an organization can receive, does not vote on which organizations get grants and is not obligated to share grant information with council members or the public. In this atmosphere, then-Council President Theo Gregory granted nearly $600,000 over four years to Education Voices Inc. – a nonprofit he founded the month he took office.
Washington Post: Ivanka fashion line’s activities collide with White House principles
On Inauguration Day, President Trump stood in front of the U.S. Capitol and vowed that his “America First” agenda would bring jobs back to the United States. “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs,” he declared, adding: “We will follow two simple rules — buy American and hire American.” Looking on from the front of the stage was Trump’s daughter Ivanka, the celebrity and fashion entrepreneur who would soon join him in the White House. The first daughter’s cause would be improving the lives of working women, a theme she had developed at her clothing line. She also brought a direct link to the global economy the president was railing against — a connection that was playing out at that very moment on the Pacific coast.
As the Trumps stood on stage, a hulking container ship called the OOCL Ho Chi Minh City was pulling into the harbor of Long Beach, Calif., carrying around 500 pounds of foreign-made Ivanka Trump spandex-knit blouses. Another 10 ships hauling Ivanka Trump-branded shoes, cardigans and leather handbags bound for the United States were floating in the north Pacific and Atlantic oceans and off the coasts of Malta, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea and Yemen.
Those global journeys — along with millions of pounds of Ivanka Trump products imported into the United States in more than 2,000 shipments since 2010 — illustrate how her business practices collide with some of the key principles she and her father have championed in the White House.
Miami Herald: Some felons wait decades to regain right to vote
Adam McCracken has a Ph.D., practices psychology in Orlando and is married with two sons.
But for 25 years, the state of Florida said he couldn’t be a full-fledged citizen because of a long-ago drug conviction. McCracken served 10 months in a federal prison and five years on probation for possession with intent to distribute LSD. It was a serious mistake. It happened in 1991. He was 21. The case is so old that a Google search turns up nothing. The state of Florida allows McCracken to practice psychology. But he can’t vote. A law-abiding citizen for 26 years, he wants to bury his past. But the state won’t let him. Florida is one of three states that permanently revokes the civil rights of anyone convicted of a felony, a system that has disenfranchised an estimated 1.5 million people. Even after felons complete their sentences, pay their fines and serve probation, they must wait at least five years to ask the state to restore their rights, and that can take a decade or more. Most people don’t bother. Many who try will die before their cases are heard. McCracken, 47, is one of the lucky ones. He regained his rights at a hearing in June.
Baltimore Sun: More guns seized at US airports
The number of guns seized at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport is climbing sharply, authorities say, mirroring a years-long increase at airports throughout the region and across the country.
Seizures at BWI rose 50 percent in 2016, and are on pace to climb another 33 percent this year. Nationwide, they increased last year by nearly 28 percent. Officials with the federal Transportation Security Administration, which staffs the security screening areas at BWI and other airports, say they don't know why seizures are rising. … The numbers remain small: TSA agents confiscated 24 guns at BWI in 2016. But they have increased four straight years, outpacing the growth in air passengers through the region's busiest airport; they're matched by similar increases at Washington Dulles International Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and airports nationwide; and they're up again this year. Nationwide, TSA agents confiscated 3,391 firearms — an average of more than nine per day — in 2016, more than double the number seized in 2012.
Boston Globe: VA hospital rated four star, but problems mount
This is what the US Department of Veterans Affairs says a four-star hospital looks like:
One operating room has been abandoned since last October because exterminators couldn’t get rid of the flies. Doctors had to cancel surgeries in another OR last month after they discovered what appeared to be rust or blood on two sets of surgical instruments that were supposedly sterile. Thousands of patients, including some with life-threatening conditions, struggle to get any care at all because the program for setting up appointments with outside specialists has broken down. One man still hadn’t gotten an appointment to see an oncologist this spring, more than four weeks after a diagnosis of lung cancer, according to a hospital document obtained by the Globe. And when patients from the Manchester (New Hampshire) Veterans Affairs Medical Center are referred to outside specialists, those physicians are sometimes dismayed by their condition and medical history. A Boston neurosurgeon lamented that several Manchester patients sent to him had suffered needless spinal damage, including paralysis, because the hospital had not provided proper care for a treatable spine condition called cervical myelopathy. … Late last year, the veterans affairs department raised Manchester’s quality rating from three stars to four, putting it in the top third of the entire VA system.
New York Times: In clash over health bill, fear of ‘junk insurance’
Julie Arkison remembers what it was like to buy health insurance before the Affordable Care Act created standards for coverage. The policy she had was from the same insurer that covers her now, but it did not pay for doctor visits, except for a yearly checkup and gynecological exam.
“I couldn’t even go to my regular doctor when was I sick,” said Ms. Arkison, 53, a self-employed horseback-riding teacher in Saline, Mich. The plan did not cover her exams before and after hip surgery, her physical therapy after her operation, the crutches she needed while she recovered, or any of her medications. She estimates that she spent $20,000 on medical care in the seven years before she could buy a plan through the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.
As Senate Republican leaders struggle to secure enough votes to repeal and replace the health law, the centerpiece of their effort to win conservative support is a provision that would allow insurers to sell such bare-bones plans again. The new version of the bill incorporates an idea from Senator Ted Cruz of Texas that would permit insurers to market all types of plans as long as they offer ones that comply with Affordable Care Act standards. The measure would also allow companies to take into account people’s health status in determining whether to insure them and at what price. State insurance regulators say the proposal harks back to the days when insurance companies, even household names like Aetna and Blue Cross, sold policies so skimpy they could hardly be called coverage at all. Derided as “junk insurance,” the plans had very low premiums but often came with five-figure deductibles. Many failed to pay for medical care that is now deemed essential.
Sacramento Bee: Startling surge in homeless people
Shawn Porter woke up in William Land Park on a recent day and smoked a Marlboro Red for breakfast not far from the zoo where he worked selling popcorn as a kid. A few miles away, behind a south Sacramento dumpster, Steve Devlin used the morning light to search for a set of dice his displeased lady-friend chucked into the bushes at his street camp close to the mobile home park where his parents once lived. Deja Sturdevan’s day began by pushing past prickly branches guarding her sleeping quarters in shrubbery near a heavily trafficked boulevard in Antelope, blocks from a house she said she lived in for 14 years with her ex-husband before divorce and drugs put her in the weeds. “This is my neighborhood,” said Sturdevan, blond hair in a ponytail and nails painted with glittery polish. “I’m comfortable here.” This trio are among the 3,665 people living without permanent shelter in Sacramento County, according to a new count by Sacramento Steps Forward, the agency that coordinates local efforts to aid the homeless.
Homelessness rose by a startling 30 percent from 2,822 people the last time the transient population was counted in 2015, it said. It is the highest number of people living without permanent housing Sacramento has ever recorded.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • July 13, 2017
Los Angeles Times: Air filters don’t protect residences near traffic
Despite growing warnings about the health problems tied to traffic pollution, Los Angeles officials continue to approve a surge in residential development along freeways. And the crux of their effort to protect people’s lungs is a requirement that developers install air filters. But even the highest-quality filters capture only some of the dangerous ingredients of car and truck exhaust, and to be effective, experts say, they must be frequently replaced and the building’s ventilation system must run virtually full time with all doors and windows closed. The city inspects new projects’ air-filtration systems, but the head of the Department of Building and Safety concedes that his office has no procedures for documenting whether the proper filters were installed and does not conduct follow-up inspections to ensure that they’re being maintained and replaced.
Miami Herald: Trump earns thousands from club membership payments
Even as he serves as president, Donald Trump earns a tidy sum — tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars — every time a new member joins one of his tony clubs. Whether it’s the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., where the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Championship starts soon; the club outside the nation’s capital, where the president often spends time over the weekend; the historic Mar-a-Lago Club, where he hosted the president of China and the prime minister of Japan; or one of his other exclusive addresses, each collects a hefty initiation fee from new members — up to $450,000 per person, with annual dues on top of that. Trump has benefited greatly from these initiation fees for years.
New York Times: Trump son met with Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer amid campaign
President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it. The meeting was also attended by his campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times. The Times initially reported the existence of the meeting, but in subsequent interviews, the advisers and others revealed the motivation behind it. The meeting was at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican nomination.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/09/us/politics/trump-russia-kushner-manafort.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news
Miami Herald: President dreamed of Trump towers across ex-Soviet empire
Weeks before his inauguration, Donald Trump was allied with a company in the former Soviet republic of Georgia that planned to build a 47-story luxury tower in the Black Sea resort of Batumi. The tower, nixed in early January, was to bear Trump’s name – in exchange for which he would receive royalties, as he does from similar arrangements around the world. But the company, Silk Road Group, had business ties and relationships that could have been problematic for a sitting U.S. president. Over the years it had oil trading and transport deals with companies in both Russia and Iran, countries currently facing varying degrees of U.S. and European financial sanctions. It was also a strategic fuel supplier to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, and had partnered with a Kazakh bank whose former leader is accused of stealing billions and laundering some of it through luxury real estate in the United States, including Trump-branded condos. None of this is revealed in Trump’s financial disclosure statements. And since he hasn’t released his tax returns, these sorts of relationships are not apparent. The Trump Organization’s push into Georgia and the broader region called Eurasia offers a made-to-order example of how little is publicly known about its foreign commitments, both past and present, and the sometimes conflicted activities of overseas associates. A McClatchy investigation reveals that Trump ventured more aggressively into the former Soviet empire from 2005 to 2015 than has previously been known, even seeking to have his name atop a massive shimmering glass tower in Astana, the post-Soviet capital of Kazakhstan. And Trump sought a trademark in Iran, a country he has sought to isolate as president, that would reserve use of his name among other things for real estate and hotels.
Idaho Statesman: Saving the salmon of the Northwest
The salmon of the Northwest are the stuff of legends. Pioneers talked of rivers so thick that they were tempted to cross on the backs of the fish. When Meriwether Lewis led his band of explorers through the Northwest in 1805, he marveled in his journal of “almost inconceivable” numbers of salmon. At one time, 8 million to 16 million Columbia and Snake river salmon rode spring flows from tributaries such as the cold, clear Salmon and Clearwater rivers to the ocean, living one to three years before making the daunting upstream trip to their native waters to spawn and die. By 1995, that number had plunged to fewer than 1 million, and 13 species of Northwest salmon were placed on the Endangered Species List. Over the past quarter-century, research, tenacious advocates and $16 billion in federal investment have helped keep Northwest salmon from tipping over the brink into extinction. With bad ocean conditions this year, salmon returns are depressed again and fishing seasons are shortened.
Courier-Journal: Drug epidemic’s smallest victims
Face down on the floor, wedged between a bed and the wall, a 4-month-old Bell County boy died after falling off the mattress where he had been sleeping with an adult using opioids. In Mason County, a 6-week-old girl was found blue and not breathing in bed with her uncomprehending mother who, when told the infant was dead, protested, "No way!" The baby had suffered at birth from drug withdrawal; after her death, the mother tested positive for marijuana, opioids and methamphetamine. And in Kenton County, a mother awoke next to her dead 6-month-old after a night of drinking and using drugs with no recollection of how she and the baby wound up sleeping on the couch together. These deaths are among a growing group of Kentucky's smallest and largely unnoticed casualties of the state's substance abuse epidemic.
Detroit Free Press: How problem cops stay on the street
The police officer pulled over the 2011 Cadillac on a cold, darkened street. And then everything went wrong. The cop stepped out, and with the aid of his partner, muscled the driver out of his car, riding the man’s back to the pavement. Pinning the man down, the officer hooked his powerful left arm around his throat, then began pummeling him in the head with a gloved right fist. Once. Three times. Sixteen punches in all, in 10 seconds. The beating in January 2015 of motorist Floyd Dent in Inkster came at the hands of William Melendez, an officer known widely as “Robocop.” The bloody encounter was avoidable. Robocop, an officer with a checkered history, never should have been on the streets that night. A Detroit Free Press investigation found he’s a prime example of how lax oversight of police officers in Michigan puts citizens at risk by allowing cops to slip from community to community despite alarming conduct, criminal histories and lawsuits that cost taxpayers millions.
Kansas City Star: African-Americans aren’t sharing in housing recovery
Michelle Coleman has never owned a home. Ideally, she’d like a small house with a yard for gardening and room for her children and grandchildren to visit. She lives in a four-plex in Kansas City for $600 a month, and hers is the only one that doesn’t have a working air conditioner — a big problem in July. She doesn’t want to spend her own money to fix the air conditioner, and of course her landlord still expects her to pay her rent even though it has not been fixed. “I’m just tired of renting,” Coleman said. “Any extra I get, I want to put into a home, not lining someone else’s pockets.” She’s one of a growing number of African-Americans in Kansas City — and the nation — who don’t own a home. Across the U.S., homeownership rates appear to be stabilizing as people rebound from the 2007 recession that left millions unemployed and home values underwater, according to a report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. But the report found African-Americans aren’t sharing in the recovery, even as whites, Asian-Americans and Latinos slowly see gains in home-buying. The center said the disparity between whites and blacks is at its highest in 70-plus years of data. …
Homeownership rates among African-Americans in the Kansas City metro area slipped from an estimated 45.7 percent to an estimated 37.7 percent from 2005 to 2015, according to American Community Survey data analyzed by The Associated Press.
Denver Post: Colorado has massive shortage of construction workers
In a large warehouse that smells of freshly cut wood in north Denver, 20 adults — including a refugee family from Somalia, a math teacher and a laid-off retail worker — gather in the unfinished frame of a house to take notes on the Pythagorean theorem. They are hoping that the equation, along with other basic measuring principles, will help them find work at the end of an eight-week construction course. “When the market crashed in 2008, a lot of people were forced to do something else. Now that the industry is booming, there’s really not that quality craftsmanship anymore,” said Tim Reyna, who enrolled in the class at the Colorado Homebuilding Academy after he lost his retail job. “I definitely think there’s a ton of opportunity.”
As far as the construction industry is concerned, Reyna and his classmates can’t hit the job market quickly enough. Industry officials in Colorado say the shortage of skilled laborers is at a crisis level. … Construction leaders say the problem was caused by a perfect storm: record low unemployment, an aging workforce, the narrative that everyone has to go to college, massive layoffs of construction workers during the recession who never returned, a lack of affordable housing and a huge demand for construction work across Colorado.
Washington Post: No let up in pace of police killings
Police nationwide shot and killed 492 people in the first six months of this year, a number nearly identical to the count for the same period in each of the prior two years. Fatal shootings by police in 2017 have so closely tracked last year’s numbers that on June 16, the tally was the same. Although the number of unarmed people killed by police dropped slightly, the overall pace for 2017 through Friday was on track to approach 1,000 killed for a third year in a row. The Washington Post began tracking all fatal shootings by on-duty police in 2015 in the aftermath of the 2014 killing in Ferguson, Mo., of Michael Brown, who was unarmed and had an altercation with the officer who shot him. The ongoing Post project has documented twice as many shootings by police in 2015 and 2016 as ever recorded in a single year by the FBI’s tracking of such shootings, a pattern that is emerging again in 2017.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/number-of-fatal-shootings-by-police-is-nearly-identical-to-last-year/2017/07/01/98726cc6-5b5f-11e7-9fc6-c7ef4bc58d13_story.html?utm_term=.15dc49a815c8
Star-Ledger: Deadly drug’s dirty secret
The most powerful opioid ever mass-marketed was designed to ease cancer patients into death.
It's ideal for that: the drug is fast acting, powerful enough to tame pain that other opioids can't and comes in a variety of easy delivery methods -- from patches to lollipops. But a dose the size of a grain of sand can kill you. Meet fentanyl. It's heroin on steroids. It’s killing people in droves. And, in New Jersey, you can get it after having your tonsils removed. In fact, doctors who treat children's colds and adult's sore knees are prescribing it with alarming frequency, far more than oncologists easing end-of-life cancer pain. The surge is stoked by companies that shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to doctors, wining and dining them in hopes of convincing them that their particular brand of fentanyl is the solution to all their patients' pain problems. Evidently, it's working. An NJ Advance Media analysis has found that eight medical specialties in New Jersey have filed more Medicare claims for fentanyl than those by oncologists. Family practitioners, for example, filed at least five times as many claims for fentanyl from 2013 to 2015 than did cancer doctors.
WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • June 29, 2017
AP: Wall Street Journal fires correspondent over ethics conflict
The Wall Street Journal fired its highly regarded chief foreign affairs correspondent after evidence emerged of his involvement in prospective commercial deals — including one involving arms sales to foreign governments — with an international businessman who was one of his key sources. The reporter, Jay Solomon, was offered a 10 percent stake in a fledgling company, Denx LLC, by Farhad Azima, an Iranian-born aviation magnate who has ferried weapons for the CIA. It was not clear whether Solomon ever received money or formally accepted a stake in the company. "We are dismayed by the actions and poor judgment of Jay Solomon," Wall Street Journal spokesman Steve Severinghaus wrote in a statement to The Associated Press. "While our own investigation continues, we have concluded that Mr. Solomon violated his ethical obligations as a reporter, as well as our standards." Azima was the subject of an AP investigative article. During the course of its investigation, the AP obtained emails and text messages between Azima and Solomon, as well as an operating agreement for Denx dated March 2015, which listed an apparent stake for Solomon.
AP: Analysis indicates partisan gerrymandering has benefited GOP
The 2016 presidential contest was awash with charges that the fix was in: Republican Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that the election was rigged against him, while Democrats have accused the Russians of stacking the odds in Trump's favor. Less attention was paid to manipulation that occurred not during the presidential race, but before it — in the drawing of lines for hundreds of U.S. and state legislative seats. The result, according to an Associated Press analysis: Republicans had a real advantage. The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage. … The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts.
Washington Post: Obama’s secret struggle to retaliate for Russian election meddling
Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides. Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race. But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump. At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent. Hackers with ties to Russian intelligence services had been rummaging through Democratic Party computer networks, as well as some Republican systems, for more than a year. In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks. … It took time for other parts of the intelligence community to endorse the CIA’s view. Only in the administration’s final weeks in office did it tell the public, in a declassified report, what officials had learned from Brennan in August — that Putin was working to elect Trump.
Los Angeles Times: California has too much solar power
On 14 days during March, Arizona utilities got a gift from California: free solar power. Well, actually better than free. California produced so much solar power on those days that it paid Arizona to take excess electricity its residents weren’t using to avoid overloading its own power lines. It happened on eight days in January and nine in February as well. All told, those transactions helped save Arizona electricity customers millions of dollars this year, though grid operators declined to say exactly how much. And California also has paid other states to take power. … Why doesn’t California, a champion of renewable energy, use all the solar power it can generate? The answer, in part, is that the state has achieved dramatic success in increasing renewable energy production in recent years. But it also reflects sharp conflicts among major energy players in the state over the best way to weave these new electricity sources into a system still dominated by fossil-fuel-generated power.
Arizona Republic: Schools have tough time finding qualified teachers
On a Saturday in late April, Principal Theresa Nickolich gave her best recruiting pitch to every person who walked in the door. Come teach at Clarendon Elementary School in the Osborn School District, she told the candidates at the job fair. You'll be part of a system that will support you. You'll feel like family in a professional environment built up over years of strong leadership. You will be an anchor of stability for children in need, many of them poor. You will have a rewarding career. You will change lives. But across from Nickolich stood both her biggest recruiting challenge and an emblem of one of the biggest crises facing public education in Arizona. Almost no qualified applicants walked in. … If Nickolich couldn't fill her spots with qualified teachers, she would have to turn to teaching interns. Maybe somebody with an emergency teaching credential, maybe somebody who didn't yet have a teaching certificate. In a dire situation the state could even let her employ a temporary teacher without a college degree.
The recruiting challenge Nickolich faced that day in April isn't unique to Osborn, or even to her region. It's a crisis that school administrators recognize statewide.
Orange County Register: Millennials moving in with parents in large numbers
Xitlali Tapia and Ivan Perez got engaged in January and set a wedding date for Nov. 25.
After that, they’ll move in with a pair of unexpected roommates – her parents. Perez, 26, never dreamed of living with his in-laws. But he and his fiancee, also 26, plan to return to school later this year, meaning they’ll study more and work less. For them, he says, sharing the Tapia’s Anaheim home and saving for a more solid launch slightly later in life isn’t about desperation or lack of ambition – it’s financial common sense. “We can use that money we would spend on rent to save up, to try to get ahead,” Perez said. … For people ages 18 to 34, living with one or both parents is now the most common living arrangement – 32 percent do so – beating out living alone, with roommates, or setting up house with a spouse or partner according to a clutch of new reports on how different generations live. It’s a statistic that Pew Research Center says hasn’t applied to young Americans for at least 130 years.
Chicago Tribune: Bacteria-filled water flushed into river
The thunderstorms that swept across the city on a sultry July evening last year weren't unusual for a typical Chicago summer. But rain still quickly saturated the city's aging sewers, draining off streets, parking lots and rooftops into an underground labyrinth that also carries sewage from households and factories. Within minutes, the noxious blend of liquid waste began flushing out of more than three dozen overflow pipes that empty into the Chicago River, the long-abused waterway Mayor Rahm Emanuel promotes as a showcase for urban revitalization. During the next 29 hours, more than 2.6 billion gallons of bacteria-laden sewage and runoff poured into the river, enough to cover the Loop in murky water 8 feet deep. By now, treating the river as a dumping ground for Chicago's waste was supposed to be a rare mishap. Instead, a new Tribune analysis found, sewage and runoff flowed into the waterway about once every six days last year, and even more frequently during the May-to-October recreation season.
Indianapolis Star: Predatory home sales snag poor families
Home ownership seemed out of reach to Ashley Glenn. That is, until a friend told her about an Indianapolis company run by Christians who help people that don't qualify for traditional mortgages. She reached out to Chart Properties LLC in October, and the next day she forked over about $5,000 and moved into a newly remodeled home on the Far Eastside. It was a dream come true, she said, at a time when her growing family was in a bind. But in May, a real estate agent showed up and planted a For Sale sign in the front yard of the home that Glenn thought she had purchased from Chart. The unexpected event turned Glenn's life upside down and placed her among a growing number of buyers and sellers disillusioned by their dealings with the Indianapolis real estate business. An IndyStar investigation found Chart has more than 100 contracts for the purchase and sale of homes from which it stands to make millions of dollars flipping properties it doesn't actually own. … In contract sales, unlike purchases made with cash or a traditional mortgage, the buyer makes monthly payments but the property remains in the name of the owner until the contract is paid in full. That means Chart does not typically own the homes it sells, but rather has a contract that allows it to sell the home on behalf of the owner.
Des Moines Register: Thousands get away with domestic abuse
In June 2013, Ryder Lee Sisco was arrested in Davenport after he was accused of choking his live-in girlfriend and slamming her against a wall so hard she cut her head. But the domestic abuse charges against him were dropped when the woman refused to cooperate with prosecutors. Two years later, Sisco was arrested again, this time for attacking a different woman he was living with in Jackson County. He wrapped a T-shirt around her neck as he sexually assaulted her, court documents say. This time, Sisco was sent to prison. Alarmed by the number of serious and repeated cases of domestic abuse, Iowa lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year that will mete out stiffer penalties to repeat offenders starting July 1. But the new law may be handcuffed by an Iowa justice system that has a mediocre track record of successfully prosecuting abusers, a Des Moines Register investigation shows. Over the past seven years, more than 58,700 domestic abuse charges were filed in Iowa. But more than 23,600 of those charges — or 40 percent — were dismissed, a Register review of Iowa Justice Data Warehouse statistics shows.
Providence Journal: State lawmaker understated funds
Rep. Anastasia P. Williams has understated the amount of money in her campaign fund by a combined $260,000 since 2012, according to a review of filings made with the Board of Elections. The Providence, Rhode Island, Democrat filed amendments on all but 10 of her 32 campaign filings since April 30 2012. Changes to the “beginning cash balance” on those documents totaled $268,703.70 over that period. One change to her third quarterly report in 2013 upped the beginning cash balance by $19,456.68. And in the fourth quarter of that year she amended to increase the balance by $17,200. Earlier this week the Rhode Island Board of Elections asked the attorney general’s office to investigate possible campaign finance violations by the longtime legislator. Williams has declined to comment. … Of the 22 amendments The Providence Journal examined, 16 were filed on June 15, 2015 — in some cases more than three years after the original campaign finance documents were submitted. The remaining amendments were filed on Feb. 17 this year — three of which showing increases for the same exact amount: $3,519.90. Her latest filing indicates her campaign fund had a $10,779.90 balance at the end of the first quarter this year.