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WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Nov. 16, 2017

AP Exclusive: Russia Twitter trolls deflected Trump bad news 

The Associated Press reported disguised Russian agents on Twitter rushed to deflect scandalous news about Donald Trump just before last year's presidential election while straining to refocus criticism on the mainstream media and Hillary Clinton's campaign. An AP analysis of since-deleted accounts shows tweets by Russia-backed accounts such as "America_1st_" and "BatonRougeVoice" on Oct. 7, 2016, actively pivoted away from news of an audio recording in which Trump made crude comments about groping women, and instead touted damaging emails hacked from Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta. AP's analysis illuminates the obvious strategy behind the Russian cyber meddling: swiftly react, distort and distract attention from any negative Trump news.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/ap-exclusive-russia-twitter-trolls-deflected-bad-trump-news/2017/11/09/cab7945c-c560-11e7-9922-4151f5ca6168_story.html?utm_term=.a0c8a8e9e440

Arizona Republic: Foster care boards don’t look like their communities

The Arizona Republic reports that experts have long recognized inequalities in America's child-welfare system: When kids share identical circumstances except for race, black and Native American children enter foster care more often, spend more time in the system and wait longer to be adopted. In an attempt to ensure fair treatment for kids taken from their parents, Arizona lawmakers decades ago mandated that Foster Care Review Boards — which help decide the fates of children in foster care — mirror the races, ethnicities and income levels of the communities they serve. They don't. Though children of color represent about 60 percent of kids in out-of-home care, Foster Care Review Boards are overwhelmingly  overwhelmingly white. State records indicate nearly 90 percent of board members in Maricopa County and 100 percent of board members in six other counties identify as "Anglo American."

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-investigations/2017/11/12/arizonas-foster-care-boards-dont-look-like-their-communities-heres-why-matters/526586001/

Miami Herald: Want to see emergency plan for mom’s nursing home? Good luck

The Miami Herald reports that to protect the elderly and disabled residents of Florida’s 683 nursing homes from the ravages of an Irma-like storm or other disaster, state law requires that administrators submit detailed emergency plans to regulators every year. Will residents have enough food and water to survive a prolonged siege? Where will they go during a mandatory evacuation? How will they get there? Is there a generator to operate air-conditioning systems or respirators? But if viewing the emergency management plan is on your checklist of things to do before moving a loved one into a South Florida nursing home, good luck. What information is available points to a troubling reality: Many of the plans will be of little help the next time a hurricane rumbles through.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article184005576.html

Orlando Sentinel: Election officials say online voter registration a “great tool”

The Orlando Sentinel reports most people do just about everything online today. They pay their bills. They make hotel reservations and file their income tax returns. Now, residents can use their computers to register to vote or change their party affiliation as Florida recently joined 35 other states and the District of Columbia to offer online voter registration. Central Florida elections officials are lauding the online service as a “great tool” that will encourage more people to sign up to vote and improve the accuracy of voter rolls. “The online voter registration process has opened the door to a lot of folks who have not previously registered to vote,” said Michael Ertel, Seminole County Supervisor of Elections. “When I first registered to vote back in the late ’80s, I had to take a forward step. I had to go to the supervisor of elections office. Since that time, elections offices have come to the voters.”

Read more: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/os-online-voter-registration-central-florida-20171109-story.html

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Pison hospital a breeding ground for infection

The Atlanta Journal-Constitutional reports the unsafe and unsanitary conditions at Georgia’s flagship prison medical facility are worse than previously reported and could jeopardize the health of inmates already dealing with cancer and other serious illnesses, newly obtained photos and documents reveal. Photos obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the last two weeks show standing water and filth from leaking ceilings only feet away from the operating room, pads on the floor to soak up leaking rain water and air vents covered with dust and other debris at Augusta State Medical Prison. The AJC has also obtained recent letters and emails in which two inmates diagnosed with cancer described broken and dirty toilets and showers as well as other germ-related issues in the dormitories where they were required to recover after surgery. Both inmates said they found the place so unsanitary that they would resist further treatment if they had to have it there.

Read more: http://www.myajc.com/news/state--regional/conditions-make-georgia-prison-hospital-breeding-ground-for-infection/CJ7PQFmJ2sDFwWXnLpMbRM/

Times-Picayune: How city council spent $155,000 in travel expenses

The Times Picayune reports the prospect of new malls and retail outlets was enticing enough to attract New Orleans City Council staff and two council members themselves to Las Vegas in May 2016. The trip cost taxpayers a combined $14,230 in travel expenses, however, raising questions about what benefit their fact-finding and promotional efforts brought to the city's economy. Records show that wasn't the only retail conference trip to Vegas for Council members Jared Brossett, Nadfine Ramsey and James Gray or their staff. They each went at least once more or sent staffers, spending a combined $36,158 in Las Vegas trips over four years. Those were among dozens of out-of-state trips taken by six out of the council's seven members or their staff using city-issued credit cards in the past five years, according to a NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune analysis of credit card records. In all, council credit cards were charged more than $155,300 for out-of-state trips since 2013, records show.

Read more: http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/11/council_credit_card_spending.html

Baltimore Sun: Gun arrests decline after indictments of gun task force members  

The Baltimore Sun reports the corruption indictments this year against Baltimore’s elite Gun Trace Task Force has produced an unintended — and undesirable — consequence: a major decline in gun arrests in the city. As Baltimore struggles under surging gun violence, gun arrests are down 25 percent from last year. Much of the decline has come from the police department’s operational intelligence division, of which the task force was a part. The division has made 277 fewer gun arrests this year, a 67 percent drop. Police spokesman T.J. Smith said the dissolution of the task force in March has been a factor. The end to “their methodology of work certainly has contributed to a decline in gun arrests,” Smith said, adding that some of the successes claimed by the unit “might not have been lawful arrests.” The task force was assigned  a job that Police Commissioner Kevin Davis described as a key to quelling the city’s historic violence: getting illegal guns out of the hands of trigger-pullers.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/investigations/bs-md-ci-gun-arrests-drop-20171107-story.html

Minnesota Star Tribune: Abused, ignored in senior homes across Minnesota

The Minnesota Star Tribune reports that every year hundreds of residents at senior care centers around the state are assaulted, raped or robbed in crimes that leave lasting trauma and pain for the victims and their families. Yet the vast majority of these crimes are never resolved, and the perpetrators never punished, because state regulators lack the staff and expertise to investigate them. And thousands of complaints are simply ignored. State records examined by the Star Tribune show the scale of the failure. Last year alone, the Minnesota Department of Health received 25,226 allegations of neglect, physical abuse, unexplained serious injuries, and thefts in state-licensed homes for the elderly. Ninety-seven percent were never investigated. That includes 2,025 allegations of physical or emotional abuse by staff, 4,100 reports of altercations between residents and 300 reported drug thefts.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/senior-home-residents-are-abused-and-ignored-across-minnesota/450623913/

Kansas City Star: Kansas: “One of the most secretive, darkest states”

The Kansas City Star reports that Kansas runs one of the most secretive state governments in the nation, and its secrecy permeates nearly every aspect of service. From the governor’s office to state agencies, from police departments to business relationships to health care, on the floors of the House and Senate, a veil has descended over the years and through administrations on both sides of the political aisle, the Star found in a months-long investigation. “My No. 1 question to anybody who opts in favor of nondisclosure is, ‘What are you trying to hide from us?’” said former Rep. John Rubin, a Johnson County Republican, calling Kansas “one of the most secretive, dark states in the country in many of these areas.” The examples, when stitched together, form a quilt of secrecy that envelops much of state government. Many lawmakers who have attempted more openness in government say accountability has withered in Gov. Sam Brownback’s era.

Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article184179651.html

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: How states spend your money on Hollywood

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports that although Florida has sunny skies, beautiful beaches and luxurious locations to shoot movies and TV shows, it lacks one key attraction: lucrative tax credits. As a result, the cameras have shut off, and the stars have moved to other states. Even HBO's Ballers, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, which glamorizes South Beach, left for California after Florida's tax incentives dried up. The situation in Florida has played out in states across the nation, an investigation by the USA TODAY Network found. Some states have increased public spending to bring in shows and films, creating a competition among New York, California, Georgia, Louisiana and other states with big incentives. But other states like Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan have done away with their programs, concluding the tax breaks weren't producing enough of a return on investment.

Read more: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2017/11/09/battle-stars-how-states-use-public-money-lure-hollywood/106775924/

Philadelphia Inquirer: A $1 million clause in gaming bill for a casino

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that in a last-minute maneuver before the state Senate last month passed a sweeping expansion of casino gambling in Pennsylvania, lawmakers added a 28-word amendment, cloaked in legalese tucked halfway into the 939-page bill. Pennsylvania has 12 casinos. But that single sentence could be worth millions of dollars to one: Mount Airy Casino Resort. The bill paved the way for so-called mini-casinos to open around the state, requiring only that they be at least 25 miles from one of the larger, established gambling halls. More important, it guarantees that the Mount Pocono destination remains the closest and most accessible casino for the thousands of New Yorkers who flock each week to the commonwealth to gamble.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/state/mount-airy-casino-gambling-law-exemption-buffer-legislators-20171112.html

Dallas Morning News: Pain creams caused death, cost government millions

The Dallas Morning News reports the Harris County medical examiner ruled that 22-year-old Desiree Ford’s November 2014 death was caused by toxic effects of two drugs in the pain cream she used, which came from a Houston compounding pharmacy called Diamond Pharmacy. The doctor who prescribed it, Michael Kelly, never talked to or examined Ford. But he did take a kickback for writing the script, prosecutors said. Kelly and four others connected to the pharmacy were convicted of fraud in federal court in Houston for the $17 million scheme. Kelly, 71, who surrendered his medical license, died earlier this year before he could be sentenced. Federal prosecutors are bringing similar fraud cases against doctors, pharmacies and marketers from Dallas to Houston to the border. The feds say they bilked taxpayers out of millions of dollars and endangered patients with the dubious creams, some costing as much as $28,000 per container.

Read more: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2017/11/12/potent-pain-creams-sold-25k-caused-deaths-cost-government-millions

Seattle Times: County that voted for Trump shaken as immigrants disappear

The Seattle Times reports that many in Pacific County thought President Donald Trump would take away “drug dealers, criminals, rapists” with his immigration crackdown, but they were shocked to see who started to go missing. That kind of shock is reverberating throughout the county as Trump’s toughened immigration policy hits home. ICE has arrested at least 28 people in the county this year, according to numbers provided to the Sheriff’s Office. While that’s just a small share of the roughly 3,100 ICE arrests overseen by its regional office in Seattle it represents a pronounced upward trajectory. In a county of small, close-knit communities — Long Beach, population 1,400, is one of the largest — it’s noticed when someone goes missing. The number is magnified by those who have moved, gone into hiding or followed family after a deportation. People have lost neighbors, schools have lost students and businesses have lost employees.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/northwest/fear-regrets-as-pacific-county-residents-go-missing-amid-immigration-crackdown-police-chief-neighbors-kind-of-in-shock-after-immigration-arrests-in-pacific-county-immigration-crack/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Nov. 10, 2017

AP: Russia hackers pursued Putin foes, not just US Democrats 

The Associated Press reported the hackers who disrupted the U.S. presidential election last year had ambitions that stretched across the globe, targeting the emails of Ukrainian officers, Russian opposition figures, U.S. defense contractors and thousands of others of interest to the Kremlin, according to a previously unpublished digital hit list obtained by The Associated Press. The list provides the most detailed forensic evidence yet of the close alignment between the hackers and the Russian government, exposing an operation that went back years and tried to break into the inboxes of 4,700 Gmail users — from the pope's representative in Kiev to the punk band Pussy Riot in Moscow. The targets were spread among 116 countries. The AP findings draw on a database of 19,000 malicious links collected by cybersecurity firm Secureworks, dozens of rogue emails, and interviews with more than 100 hacking targets.

Read more: https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/tech/Russia-Hackers-Putin-Foes-Not-Just-US-454747243.html

Miami Herald: Code of silence breaking on Tallahassee’s sex secrets

The Miami Herald reports that for decades, sex has been a tool and a toy for the politically powerful in the male-dominated world of politics in Florida’s capital. Now it’s a weapon. Allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and infidelity among the state’s legislators flew like shrapnel from a bomb blast in recent weeks, destroying much of the trust left in the Republican-controlled Legislature and replacing it with suspicion and finger pointing. The latest target, Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala, was accused by six unnamed women of inappropriate touching and verbal harassment. Shortly after Politico Florida first reported the allegations, Senate President Joe Negron called them “atrocious and horrendous” and ordered an investigation. Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and candidate for governor, denied the allegations, said he welcomed the probe, and vowed a fight to “clear my name.”

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article182816186.html

Chicago Tribune: Chicago sees surge in car hijackings in all neighborhoods

The Chicago Tribune reports that with gun violence garnering unflattering national attention for Chicago, carjackings have quietly gone off the charts as well. While shootings and homicides are largely concentrated in impoverished pockets of the South and West sides, carjackings are occurring throughout the city, including the downtown area, Chicago police statistics show. Last year Chicago recorded 663 carjackings, nearly double the 339 in 2015 and the most since 2009, according to the department. And the numbers have shot up even further so far this year. Through Oct. 18, the latest date available, carjackings have totaled 661, nearly equal to all of 2016 and a 44 percent spike from the same period a year ago. Carjackings started to spike last year, when homicides and shootings skyrocketed while crimes in virtually every other category rose.

Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-carjackings-rising-chicago-20171031-story.html

Arizona Daily Star: Education department misallocated millions of federal funds

The Arizona Daily Star reports that the Arizona Department of Education misallocated tens of millions of dollars from federal special-education funds that it distributed to schools in the past three years, according to a recent federal audit. The department wrongly distributed more than $35 million in federal Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds — money aimed at paying for special-education teachers and support staff — to schools since 2015. Some schools received too much money and could be forced to repay the funds, while others received too little and will likely see a windfall in the form of repayments over the next few years. The finding comes on the heels of last week’s revelation that the department also misallocated more than $60 million in federal Title I funds designed for low-income schools.

Read more: http://tucson.com/news/local/arizona-schools-may-have-to-repay-millions-in-misallocated-special/article_a593f8d0-16a3-52cf-9cdf-66ecd44fa1e5.html

New York Times: National flood insurance program broke and broken

The New York Times reports the government-run National Flood Insurance Program is, for now, virtually the only source of flood insurance for more than five million households in the United States. This hurricane season, as tens of thousands of Americans seek compensation for storm-inflicted water damage, they face a problem: The flood insurance program is broke and broken. The program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been in the red since Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005. It still has more than a thousand disputed claims left over from Sandy. And in October, it exhausted its $30 billion borrowing capacity and had to get a bailout just to keep paying current claims. Congress must decide by Dec. 8 whether to keep the program going.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/04/business/a-broke-and-broken-flood-insurance-program.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Denver Post: Denver heroin users could get supervised injection site    

The Denver Post reports that in semi-private booths, each with a chair and a mirror, Denver heroin users could shoot up with clean needles, no threat of arrest and under the supervision of staff trained to jump in with a life-saving antidote in case of overdose. It would look more like a medical clinic than a party lounge, with floors and furniture that workers could hose down in the event of vomit or blood spills. Staffers would hand out sterile needles and possibly distilled water, but clients would bring their own drugs to cook and inject. It’s called a supervised injection site, and Denver is on a path to become one of the first U.S. cities to open one — although doing so would require action by the City Council, the state legislature and possibly the federal government. Seattle and San Francisco, ahead of Denver in planning, are attempting to open the first sites in this country, although there are more than 100 around the world.

Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/11/05/denver-heroin-drug-users-supervised-injection-site-proposal/

Washington Post: Chasing a killer known as monkeypox

The Washington Post reports a team of American scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is traveling deep into the Congo rain forest to solve a decades-old mystery about a rare and fatal disease: monkeypox. A cousin to the deadly smallpox virus, the monkeypox virus initially infects people through contact with wild animals and can then spread from person to person. The disease produces fever and a rash that often turns into painful lesions that can feel like cigarette burns. It kills up to 1 in 10 of its victims, similar to pneumonic plague, and is particularly dangerous in children. Monkeypox is on the U.S. government list of pathogens such as anthrax and Ebola with the greatest potential to threaten human health. There is no cure. Over the past year, reports of monkeypox have flared alarmingly across Africa, one of several animal-borne diseases that have raised anxiety around the globe

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/national/health-science/monkeypox/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_monkeypox%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.f1000a340da2

Courier-Journal: Call for resignation of law makers hiding sexual harassment

The Courtier-Journal reports that demands from key Republicans grew for resignations of anyone involved in a secret settlement of sexual harassment claims by GOP House Speaker Jeff Hoover as the newspaper reported more House members are alleged to be parties to the settlement. Gov. Matt Bevin, Kentucky's top Republican officeholder, led the charge at a hastily called press conference at the Capitol. "These alleged actions, which haven’t been denied, are reprehensible, indefensible and unacceptable," Bevin said. "Any elected official or state employee who has settled a sexual harassment claim should resign immediately. The people of Kentucky deserve better." Eight influential Republican House members also released an extraordinary statement demanding immediate resignations of any House member involved in the settlement. The demand came as the Courier Journal reported three other Republican lawmakers and a staff member were involved in the settlement of sexual harassment claims of a woman who works on Hoover's legislative staff.

Read more: http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2017/11/04/jeff-hoover-sexual-harassment-scandal-matt-bevin/832598001/

Baltimore Sun: Retailers facer new threat: Organized crime

The Baltimore Sun reports simple shoplifting is an unavoidable cost of doing business for retailers, but now, industry analysts and law enforcement officials say, a greater threat is emerging: theft and fraud by highly organized criminal rings. The high-stakes enterprises often operate across state lines. They might employ teams of “boosters” — often the homeless or the drug addicted — who go into stores to steal everything from laundry detergent and baby formula to designer clothes and diamonds. They fence stolen goods at pawn shops, kiosks, vans on the street and, increasingly, online auction sites. And they’re becoming more brazen and more dangerous, analysts say, in some cases attacking store employees and even shoppers. Organized theft has surpassed internal theft to become the leading cause of retail loss, said Robert Moraca, vice president of loss prevention for the National Retail Federation. Analysts say the increase has been fueled by the opioid epidemic and by the growing understanding among criminals that theft can be quick, easy and profitable.

Read  more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-bz-organized-retail-crime-20171017-story.html

Dallas Morning News: How officials profited on downtown development

The Dallas Morning News reports how City Council members sat in their usual perches last December as the manager of Cedar Hill, a town southwest of Dallas, ran through the agenda and mentioned one item he called a “biggie.’’ Indeed it was big: a plan to pump millions of future tax dollars into street, water and sewer improvements for Cedar Hill’s sagging downtown. Like many other communities in fast-growing North Texas, the council would create a special tax zone — this one meant to entice an estimated $160 million in new development and boost property values in the center of town. The six council members swiftly approved the measure. But they didn’t tell the public that several town officials — including the mayor — and their families owned at least 25 properties inside the zone, an investigation by The Dallas Morning News found.

Read more: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/cedar-hill/2017/11/05/cedar-hill-officials-positioned-to-profit-on-downtown-development?extpar=dfw-m

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Sham nonprofit snags and flips properties

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports a sham nonprofit group took advantage of lax oversight by city officials to repeatedly purchase tax foreclosed properties for $1,000. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found that Inner City Development Project Inc. —a group that city records show falsely claimed to be certified by the IRS as a nonprofit — then sold several of the properties for quick gains, in one case making $44,000 on a north side house it bought one week earlier. Gathan Anderson, a disgraced ex-real estate broker, was involved in at least six of the sales shortly after the city sold the properties to Inner City Development, deeds show. The city routinely charges nonprofit organizations $1,000 for properties it seized through tax foreclosures with the commitment that the group will fix them up. The Journal Sentinel's discovery of the sales, which are documented in City Hall and courthouse records, has sparked frustration and anger among city officials.

Read more: http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2017/11/03/lax-city-regulations-allow-bogus-nonprofit-snag-city-properties-sham-nonprofit-group-took-advantage/800908001/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Nov. 2, 2017

Arizona Republic: Arizona's KidsCare account is running on fumes.

The Arizona Republic reports Gov. Doug Ducey was not shy in making clear his position on repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. But he's been quiet on another federally funded health-care program: the Children's Health Insurance Program, known in Arizona as KidsCare. It provides health coverage to kids whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to buy insurance on their own. Unlike "Obamacare," as the ACA is known, CHIP has lost its funding because Congress failed to reauthorize the legislation that pays for the program by the Sept. 30 deadline. Arizona's KidsCare account is running on fumes. Boosted by an extra $22 million in leftover federal money, the program is still on track to run out of money by late November. That would force the state to kick more than 23,000 kids off the program.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-health/2017/10/27/wallet-empty-kidscare-ducey-quietly-pushes-funding-childrens-health/796773001/

Sun Sentinel: Florida lets dangerous doctors keep practicing

The Sun Sentinel reports it has been more than nine years since Florida health regulators concluded that Dr. Barry Jack Kaplan botched a woman’s breast implants and shouldn’t practice cosmetic surgery. In the time since, he’s been accused of injuring two other women, one so seriously she had to have her nipples removed.

Florida officials finally decided a year ago to revoke Kaplan’s license – but have yet to follow through. Today, the website for Kaplan’s two cosmetic surgery centers in Central Florida highlights his medical license and boasts that he is a “leading breast augmentation doctor.” When it comes to taking action against doctors, the state of Florida takes its time – and that puts people at risk, a South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation found. Florida regularly allows doctors to continue to see, treat, and operate on people for years after accusing them of endangering patients.

Read more: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-florida-doctor-discipline-20171018-story.html

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Some campus cops have checkered records

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports many colleges and universities have a quality deficit when it comes to the officers they are hiring to protect students and police their campuses. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found 13 percent of the 1,413 officers working on 63 college campuses across Georgia have been fired or forced out of a previous job. That compares with about 6 percent of officers working at local county or municipal police agencies statewide, according to data obtained in March 2017 from the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST). The AJC analysis comes as police agencies across the country, including schools and colleges, face heightened scrutiny from a public armed with cell phone cameras and demands for better accountability. This month, another cell phone video surfaced that raised fresh questions about the fatal police shooting of a mentally ill Georgia Tech student in September.

Read more: http://www.myajc.com/news/crime--law/more-than-one-campus-cops-georgia-have-checkered-records/39a9cii7tBho5WQVkyFrEO/

Chicago Tribune: Same lake, different water rates

The Chicago Tribune reports Lake Michigan water rates have been surging throughout the Chicago region in recent years, squeezing low-income residents and leaving them with little, if any, recourse. In this tangled network that delivers water to the vast majority of the region’s residents, the Tribune found an upside-down world, one where people in the poorest communities pay more for a basic life necessity than those in the wealthiest. The financial pain falls disproportionately on majority-African-American communities, where residents’ median water bill is 20 percent higher for the same amount of water than residents pay in predominantly white communities, the Tribune’s examination revealed. Consider Ford Heights, a cash-strapped, predominantly African-American suburb south of Chicago. People there pay nearly six times more for the same amount of water than residents of Highland Park, a wealthy, predominantly white town on the North Shore.

Read more: http://graphics.chicagotribune.com/news/lake-michigan-drinking-water-rates/index.html

Des Moines Register: At Iowa DHC, staffing is down while caseloads go up

The Des Moines Register reports the number of front-line child abuse staffers at Iowa’s Department of Human Services has declined in the past 15 years, caseloads have risen and state funding has failed to keep pace with inflation. With state resources unlikely to improve in the wake of continued budget shortfalls, questions are being raised about whether the agency tasked with attending to Iowa's neediest children can keep pace with increased demands for vigilance following the deaths of two teenage girls. The department reported an increase in calls to its child abuse hotline following the deaths of two Iowa teenagers, Sabrina Ray and Natalie Finn. Despite involvement from state workers, both girls were found dead in their homes — the result of apparent abuse and neglect, allegedly at the hands of their adoptive families.

Read more: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2017/10/27/iowa-dhs-staffing-has-dropped-while-caseloads-have-risen/570078001/

Arizona Daily Star: Who controls the water? Arizona agencies slug it out

The Arizona Daily Star reports that for three years, federal, state and local water officials have hunted for a solution to declining water levels at Lake Mead, a key drinking-water source for Tucson, Phoenix and their suburbs. But in the past few months, a bitter power struggle between Arizona’s two top water agencies has ground that effort to a halt. The turf war pits the Arizona Department of Water Resources, which manages water issues statewide, against the agency operating the Central Arizona Project, the 336-mile-long canal that brings Colorado River water to Tucson and Phoenix. The agencies are jockeying over a series of issues, many pointing to who controls the state’s most precious resource — and the population growth and jobs it can support. But the conflict also cuts to the heart of how Colorado River water, the lifeblood of the West, will be managed.

Read more: http://tucson.com/news/local/who-controls-the-water-arizona-agencies-slug-it-out/article_f2d01499-48d9-58e3-a35e-9ea8c6b630cd.html

Baltimore Sun: Plan to demolish Baltimore’s vacant houses lagging

The Baltimore Sun recalls that Gov. Larry Hogan stood on a blighted street in West Baltimore in January 2016 with a demolition crew ready to get to work. He had heard residents’ calls for action on the vacant row houses that pockmark the city, he said. Now he was pledging $75 million to tear thousands of them down. He would put the Maryland Stadium Authority in charge of the work. The authority, experienced in contracting, sought a firm to oversee the demolition of 4,000 units over four years. Eighteen months later, the stadium authority had spent just $5 million on the effort, the state says. Only 131 houses had been demolished. Baltimore has more than 16,000 vacant houses, the city says. With plans to tear down more buildings mired in the city’s system for approving properties for demolition, the state is turning money over to community organizations to jump-start redevelopment projects instead.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/

Boston Globe: Bounce houses are fun but may not be as safe as you think

The Boston Globe reports that inflatable attractions like bounce houses, obstacle courses, and slides, which have increased in popularity in recent decades, may seem less ominous than roller coasters that flip riders upside down or carnival rides that send thrill-seekers whirling through the open air. But they can be just as dangerous, and in many states they are far less regulated. The estimated number of injuries on the attractions soared from 5,311 in 2003 to 17,377 in 2013, according to a Consumer Product Safety Commission report analyzing US hospital records. A Stateline analysis found that the trend continues, with an estimated 20,700 injuries last year. Only half of US states — including New Hampshire and Massachusetts — have regulations governing permits, inspections, and insurance. But even where rules are in place, a Stateline investigation found major shortcomings.

Read more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/10/28/safety-fears-mount-bounce-house-injuries-rise/qhG1ADsWgel9fPYAud7zAI/story.html

Austin American-Statesman: Nonprofit’s ties to city hall “not improper”

The Austin American-Statesman reports that when Frank Rodriguez took a full-time job working for Austin Mayor Steve Adler in April 2015, he resigned his post atop the nonprofit he co-founded, the Latino HealthCare Forum. But four months into his new government post, Rodriguez emailed his former colleagues at the forum, which still employed his wife, with a tip: Keep an eye out for a possible contract linked to the city’s massive development and zoning code rewrite, known as CodeNext. The message was one among dozens of emails Rodriguez traded with his former colleagues at the forum since joining Adler’s staff. Rodriguez, who denied any improper ties between his work as the mayor’s aide and the nonprofit’s projects, is stepping down Friday because of health issues, a spokesman for the mayor said.

Read more: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/local-govt--politics/mayor-aide-denies-improper-ties-between-nonprofit-city-hall/vw2G74KzN9KNy8CPagKk9I/

Houston Chronicle: Charities waiting for millions pledged for Harvey relief

The Houston Chronical reports that after Hurricane Harvey made landfall Aug. 25, major corporations such as Exxon Mobil Corp., Home Depot Inc. and Kellogg Co. announced big financial pledges to help the people of Texas and Louisiana feed their families and rebuild their homes. Two months later, at least $76 million in pledges from companies, foundations and individuals still has not been delivered to the designated charities, a Houston Chronicle review found. The Chronicle canvassed 18 charities that were among the major recipients of corporate pledges. Of those, nine - including United Way Worldwide and Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund - disclosed the amounts promised to them versus what they have actually received.

Read more: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Millions-in-pledged-Harvey-relief-donations-still-12311398.php

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Jumps in cost, violence at youth prison

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports costs and reports of violence have both skyrocketed at the state’s troubled youth prison, raising questions about whether the institution has entered a financial tailspin. Counties already are pulling inmates out of Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, threatening its funding and its future. The 34 percent cost increase — $98 more per inmate per day — and a rash of incidents may cause local officials to send even fewer teenage offenders to the Northwoods prison, which remains under a nearly three-year FBI investigation and a separate federal court order. "It's like rubbing salt in the wound a little," says Kerry Milkie, manager of the Racine County Youth and Family Division. "So we continue to look at alternatives." So does Milwaukee County, which has already cut its transfers to Lincoln Hills by nearly half over the past 20 months and wants to keep up that trend.

Read more: http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2017/10/27/jump-costs-violence-raises-questions-future-wisconsins-lincoln-hills-youth-prison/798175001/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Oct. 26, 2017

Arizona Republic: Slapdash bidding process revealed

The Arizona Republic reports that crews, which were given 30 days to do the work, now have about a week left to finish building eight border wall prototypes. As of Friday, Sept. 20, workers had completed six. Despite logistical challenges – given six crews hurriedly working in close quarters – U.S. Customs and Border Protection said construction has gone off without a hitch. But behind that scene was the unusually confusing and haphazard process that hundreds of bidders faced as they tried to submit proposals in March and April to build these prototypes. The USA TODAY Network obtained nearly 200 pages of emails sent to and from a CBP email address that was set up in March for companies to ask questions about the bidding process. They chronicle continuous confusion over the most basic details of the process – deadlines, page counts, how to submit bids, where to submit bids and so on.

Read more: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/10/22/behind-efforts-build-prototypes-trumps-border-wall-emails-show-confusing-and-haphazard-process/787080001/

Los Angeles Times: New monuments to Confederacy being mounted in Texas 

The Los Angeles Times reports that Annette Pernell, a council member in Orange, Texas, was aghast when she heard about plans to construct a Confederate memorial that would be visible from the interstate and loom over Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. But there was nothing she or anybody else could do about it. The land was private. And so the Confederate Memorial of the Wind slowly went up on a grassy half-acre. A total of 13 concrete columns — one for each Confederate state — rise from a circular concrete pedestal. Eventually it will be surrounded by as many as 40 poles topped with Civil War battle flags. “It’s as if we’ve gone backwards,” said Pernell, who is 54 and black. “I didn’t think, at this age, I would see what I’m seeing now. A Confederate memorial is a slap in the face of all Americans, not just African Americans.”

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-new-confederate-memorials-20171020-story.html?int=lat_digitaladshouse_bx-modal_acquisition-subscriber_ngux_display-ad-interstitial_bx-bonus-story_______

Orlando Sentinel: Schools without rules

The Orlando Sentinel reports that private schools in Florida will collect nearly $1 billion in state-backed scholarships this year through a system so weakly regulated that some schools hire teachers without college degrees, hold classes in aging strip malls and falsify fire-safety and health records. The limited oversight of Florida’s scholarship programs allowed a principal under investigation for molesting a student at his Brevard County school to open another school under a new name and still receive the money, an Orlando Sentinel investigation found. Another Central Florida school received millions of dollars in scholarships, sometimes called school vouchers, for nearly a decade even though it repeatedly violated program rules, including hiring staff with criminal convictions.

Read more: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-florida-school-voucher-investigation-1018-htmlstory.html

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Unsanitary conditions at prison long ignored

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that at Augusta State Medical Prison, unsafe and unsanitary conditions have persisted for weeks, months or years, putting inmates, doctors and others at risk. Even plaintive calls for help have been ignored. Documents and photos obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show that the Grovetown facility, the flagship of Georgia’s correctional healthcare system, is a place where state officials have allowed hazards to slide. Trash, mold, dirty floors and counters, leaking ceilings and congested corridors are just some of the issues detailed in the documents, including emails and an environmental survey, that have flagged top officials to the problems. The garbage in the hallway outside the operating room, a situation rife with the potential for infection, wasn’t resolved as of last week even though the facility’s medical director earlier this month wrote an email to her superiors expressing frustration.

Read more: http://www.myajc.com/news/state--regional/documents-unsanitary-conditions-long-ignored-prison-hospital/EyABXkbYrxC2JPBPsmHlnM/

Indianapolis Star: The liquor store grip on cold beer

The Indianapolis Star reports that when Indiana lawmakers swiftly closed a loophole this spring that had enabled Ricker’s convenience stores to sell cold beer, it was easy to see the hands of the liquor store industry at work. A liquor store owner raised some of the earliest objections to the Ricker’s maneuver. Liquor store lobbyists were in on key meetings with lawmakers to address it. And the final bill ultimately went through a committee chaired by a senator who is the top recipient of liquor industry campaign money. The episode was just the latest win for a liquor store industry that’s fought tenaciously for years to preserve its virtual monopoly on cold beer — and that’s deftly thwarted the expansion of Sunday alcohol sales.

Read more: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2017/10/20/liquor-store-death-grip-cold-beer-result-ofpotent-brew-money-down-home-familiarity-strong-arm-tactic/587152001/

Newark Star Ledger: N.J. offered $7 billion to Amazon. Is it worth it?

The Newark Star Ledger reports New Jersey has put a deal worth up to $7 billion in tax credits on the table to lure Amazon to the Garden State. If the company picks New Jersey as the site to develop its new HQ2 headquarters, the deal would become the second-largest economic development package ever offered to a company in the U.S., an NJ Advance Media study found. The offer is New Jersey's latest attempt to entice a corporation to the state by handing out massive tax breaks. New Jersey has handed out a total of $8.9 billion in subsidies since 1996, most of them awarded since 2010 and ending up in Camden, according to data released by Good Jobs First, a national policy resource center in Washington. It is difficult to know whether the investments, including those in Camden have paid off because a lot of the information needed to make that determination, such as the number of jobs created per subsidy awarded, is not always accessible, said Kasia Tarczynska, a research analyst with the center.

Read more: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2017/10/holdnew_jerseys_7b_deal_offered_to_amazon_is_it_wo.html

New York Times: Why has the EPA shifted on toxic chemicals? 

The New York Times reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled for years to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water. The chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, has been linked to kidney cancer, birth defects, immune system disorders and other serious health problems. So scientists and administrators in the E.P.A.’s Office of Water were alarmed in late May when a top Trump administration appointee insisted upon the rewriting of a rule to make it harder to track the health consequences of the chemical, and therefore regulate it. The revision was among more than a dozen demanded by the appointee, Nancy B. Beck, after she joined the E.P.A.’s toxic chemical unit in May as a top deputy. For the previous five years, she had been an executive at the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s main trade association.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/21/us/trump-epa-chemicals-regulations.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fus&action=click&contentCollection=us®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

Cleveland Plain Dealer:  Lead poisoning progress report: Toxic neglect

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that two years ago its “Toxic Neglect” series revealed the scale of Cleveland's ongoing lead poisoning crisis: About 10,000 children had been poisoned over the most recent five years, there was a backlog of about 3,000 incomplete and uninvestigated city lead poisoning cases stretching back to 2003 and only one third of children who should be screened for the toxin were tested. In the immediate aftermath of the series, three of the city's four top health department officials were fired or resigned. Temporary staff was hired to investigate the backlog, and the state threatened to revoke Cleveland's authority to respond to lead poisoning cases and tightened its watch over other cities and counties as well. Two years later, the city has devoted more money and staff to investigating cases, there are new efforts aimed at boosting screening, and a fledgling program designed to prevent poisoning by identifying hazardous homes has just begun.

Read more: http://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2017/10/cleveland_lead_poisoning_2_yea.html#incart_river_home#incart_target2box_default_#incart_target2box_targeted_

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Oct. 19, 2017

AP: Pro-Trump states most affected by his health care decision

The Associated Press reported President Donald Trump's decision to end a provision of the Affordable Care Act that was benefiting roughly 6 million Americans helps fulfill a campaign promise, but it also risks harming some of the very people who helped him win the presidency. Nearly 70 percent of those benefiting from the so-called cost-sharing subsidies live in states Trump won last November, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. The number underscores the political risk for Trump and his party, which could end up owning the blame for increased costs and chaos in the insurance marketplace. The subsidies are paid to insurers by the federal government to help lower consumers' deductibles and co-pays.

Read more: http://www.modbee.com/news/article178887781.html

Arizona Republic: Phoenix Public Housing Project could lose in HUD cuts

The Arizona Republic reports how for 32 years the Edison-Eastlake neighborhood has crumbled along with so many of America's public housing projects. Federal money meant to maintain the country’s 1.2 million public housing units was never enough, and a backlog built up. The National Housing Preservation Database now counts more than 84,000 units in need of immediate investment. The three Edison-Eastlake projects were stuck in America’s old approach to public housing. It is an approach that everybody from Yvonne Bridges to U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson want to leave in the past. The city of Phoenix planned to rebuild Edison-Eastlake the new way. It wanted a community where people could thrive, and to pay for it the city eyed a $30 million grant from HUD’s popular Choice Neighborhoods grant program. Then the federal government outlined next year’s budget. Its proposals shrank HUD to help pay for drastic increases in defense spending.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix-best-reads/2017/09/28/phoenix-public-housing-projects-threatened-hud-cuts/683632001/

Santa Fe New Mexican: Ankle monitors: Pretrial supervision or punishment?

The Santa Fe News Mexican reports how James Coriz was charged with intimidating a witness during a trial but said he hadn’t threatened anyone and refused to take a plea deal. About five months later, a jury found him not guilty. But by then, Coriz says, he had paid more than $1,000 to Santa Fe County for being on an ankle monitor while awaiting his trial and had spent 21 days in jail after program officials said he’d violated the electronic monitoring agreement that governed the conditions of his release. Had he been found guilty and sentenced to time in jail, Coriz would have been given time-served credit for every day he spent on electronic monitoring, plus the 21 days he spent in jail. But after being exonerated, he got no consideration for the time and money he spent on the court-ordered ankle bracelet — not even an apology, never mind a refund. The issues surrounding electronic monitoring — legal, financial and constitutional — are deep and complex.

Read more: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/pretrial-supervision-or-punishment/article_bf60ac9f-0cf3-56f4-a04f-41695587569d.html

Los Angeles Times: Santa Rosa suburb was exempt from fire regulations

The Los Angeles Times reports that when fire swept down the mountain, Coffey Park, a suburb of Santa Rosa, proved defenseless in its path. In a matter of hours, the neighborhood was almost totally consumed, leaving hundreds of houses burned to the ground and residents in disbelief. Surprising as it was to residents, the destruction of Coffey Park wasn’t a mystery to fire scientists. They view it as a rare, but predictable, event that has exposed flaws in the way fire risk is measured and mitigated in California. Because it was outside the officially mapped “very severe” hazard zone, more than five miles to the east, Coffey Park was exempt from regulations designed to make buildings fire resistant in high-risk areas.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-coffey-park-explainer-20171011-story.html

San Diego Union-Tribune: Slow progress against sex trafficking in San Diego

The San Diego Union-Tribune report that as the director of programs for Generate Hope, an emergency shelter for victims of sex trafficking, part of Susan Munsey’s mission is telling people just how bad the problem is in San Diego. When she gets to the number of likely victims in the county — an average of 5,000 children and adults — “there is almost always an audible gasp,” she said. The number stunned even people like her, the most seasoned prosecutors and service providers, when they first heard it. The statistics that were revealed in October 2015 as part of a study to quantify the human-trafficking problem in San Diego served as a major wake-up call. A lot of victims were clearly slipping through a lot of cracks. Two years later, has anything changed? Yes and no.

Read more: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/sd-me-sex-trafficking-20171013-story.html#nt=oft12aH-2gp2

Washington Post: The drug industry’s triumph over the DEA

The Washington Post reports that in April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets. By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight. A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/investigations/dea-drug-industry-congress/?utm_term=.1ec459e7479c&hpid=hp_hp-banner-main_deanarrative-hed%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

Miami Herald: Fight Club: Investigating Florida’s juvenile justice system

The Miami Herald reports Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice calls its philosophy “tough love.” But a Miami Herald I-Team analysis of 10 years of seldom-seen records reveals an emphasis on the “tough.” Documents, interviews and surveillance videos show a disturbing pattern of beatings doled out or ordered by underpaid officers, hundreds of them prison system rejects. Youthful enforcers are rewarded with sweet pastries from the employee vending machines, a phenomenon known as “honey-bunning.” The Herald found fights staged for entertainment, wagering and to exert control, sex between staff and youthful detainees and a culture of see-nothing/say-nothing denial. Herald journalists also examined 12 questionable deaths of detained youths since 2000. In the end, untold numbers of already troubled youths have been further traumatized.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/florida-prisons/article176773291.html

Honolulu Star Advertiser: “Aging in place” facilities trigger debate

The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports that over the past two years, dozens of unlicensed residential facilities offering elder care have opened in neighborhoods around Hawaii, embracing a new model that its proponents herald as safe, effective and the wave of the future. But critics contend the homes flout state law and circumvent oversight designed to protect vulnerable seniors. The debate over these businesses, called “aging in place” facilities, is expected to be taken to lawmakers in the upcoming state legislative session and likely will trigger broader discussions about the state’s ability — some say inability — to effectively oversee an industry that needs to grow substantially to care for Hawaii’s mushrooming elder population.

Read more: http://www.staradvertiser.com/2017/10/15/hawaii-news/aging-in-place-facilities-trigger-debate/?HSA=e3914d11ae6a8e98fd742f3a01332a7115076312

Indianapolis Star: Analysis of liquor stores shows surprising underage sales

The Indianapolis Star reports liquor stores sell to minors at a higher rate than other retailers, undermining a core argument used to justify the liquor store industry's virtual monopoly on cold beer sales. An IndyStar analysis of data from excise police compliance checks found liquor stores improperly sold to minors at twice the rate of convenience stores and three times the rate of pharmacies and big-box retailers.

That contradicts liquor store claims that their stores — with prominent signs warning customers must be 21 or older to enter — are best equipped to keep booze from underage buyers. The finding also flies in the face of what key lawmakers have been led to believe for years — and have left unchallenged.

Read more: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2017/10/10/liquor-store-grip-cold-beer-could-slip-if-record-protecting-minors-taken-inew-data-taken-into-accoun/587121001/

Minnesota Star-Tribune: Millions spent on patients who don’t need help 

The Minnesota Star-Tribune reports that Minnesota taxpayers have shelled out more than $92 million over the past six years to house patients who no longer require mental health treatment at a state hospital but have nowhere else to go. The cost per patient, according to Department of Human Services records, now tops $1,300 a day – enough to rent an apartment in a Minneapolis for a month. The rising toll is largely hidden but a stark sign of gaps in the state’s mental health safety net, particularly for Minnesotans accused of a crime but deemed mentally unfit to face the charges. Courts now send those patients primarily to a state hospital in Anoka. But once doctors there say the treatment is complete, there is often no place for them to transition back to society.     

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-spends-90-million-on-mental-health-costs-for-patients-who-don-t-need-the-treatment/450926783/

Kansas City Star: Gun owners are making it easy to steal guns

The Kansas City Star reports there has been an unprecedented and alarming rash of gun thefts citywide in Kansas City since 2016, according to electronic police records it has obtained. The number of annual firearms thefts rose from 496 to 588 between 2008 and 2015, but it exploded in 2016. Thieves stole 804 a year ago — a 37 percent increase. And they are on pace to steal some 830 firearms in 2017. Too many gun owners are only making it easy for criminals to propel Kansas City’s harrowing gun violence. Too many are stowing their guns carelessly in cars, not securing them in locked boxes, and failing to record serial numbers to help law enforcement if they are stolen.

Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article178702531.html

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Farmers divide over dicamba

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that cupped and crinkled soybean leaves were a common sight across millions of acres of the nation’s farmland this year. The distinctive symptoms point to exposure to dicamba, a decades-old chemical the agriculture industry is now turning to in the fight against increasingly stubborn “superweeds” — a controversial shift that has borne different results for different farmers and left the agriculture community divided. The damage has been widespread across the Farm Belt, causing conflicts between neighbors, recriminations and lawsuits, culminating with the Environmental Protection Agency announcing that increased regulatory oversight will be required for dicamba applications in 2018. Sparking the controversy was a shift to new technology spearheaded by Monsanto, the seeds and traits giant that, for years, has counted the herbicide, Roundup, as its signature product.

Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/farmers-divide-over-dicamba/article_fa3ba16e-10ef-5220-b1a0-71a84bcd7668.html#tncms-source=home-top-story-1

New York Times: Wary of hackers, states upgrade voting systems

The New York Times reports state election officials, worried about the integrity of their voting systems, are pressing to make them more secure ahead of next year’s midterm elections. Reacting in large part to Russian efforts to hack the presidential election last year, a growing number of states are upgrading electoral databases and voting machines, and even adding cybersecurity experts to their election teams. The efforts — from both Democrats and Republicans — amount to the largest overhaul of the nation’s voting infrastructure since the contested presidential election in 2000 spelled an end to punch-card ballots and voting machines with mechanical levers. One aim is to prepare for the 2018 and 2020 elections by upgrading and securing electoral databases and voting machines that were cutting-edge before Facebook and Twitter even existed.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/14/us/voting-russians-hacking-states-.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • Oct. 12, 2017

AP: Is NRA move to regulate “bump stocks” real or a ruse?

The Associated Press reported that when the National Rifle Association urged the government to revisit whether "bump stocks" should be restricted, it immediately raised eyebrows. Why would the nation's leading gun-rights organization, not known for compromise, be willing to bend even just a bit when it wields perhaps more influence than ever? Some gun-industry experts say the NRA's move is little more than a ruse to stall any momentum for wider gun control until outrage over the Las Vegas attack subsides. It also carries little risk. For one, it's rare for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to reverse course without a change in the law. For another, "bump stocks" are not big moneymakers for the gun industry. And by seeking an administrative change, rather than a new law, the NRA allows its supporters in Congress to avoid going on the record with a vote.

Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/nra-move-regulate-bump-stocks-real-ruse-50334558

Los Angeles Times: Trump’s pro-gun stance is new. Will Las Vegas change that?

The Los Angeles Times reports the pro-gun community had reason to be suspicious of Donald Trump. He wrote in favor of an assault weapons ban and a “slightly longer” waiting period before gun purchases in a 2000 book, and accused Republicans of walking “the NRA line.” And even as he rebranded himself a “2nd Amendment maven” in 2013, he sounded conflicted, suggesting he favored expanded background checks. No one on either side of the gun debate seems to know exactly when or why Trump shifted. But they agree that the mogul from Manhattan has become one of the most forceful pro-gun presidents in decades. Now, after the worst mass shooting in American history, Trump faces a gut-check moment on guns.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/sns-bc-us--las-vegas-shooting-nra-20171006-story.html

New York Times: The “Resistance,” raising Big Money, Upends Liberal Politics

The New York Times reports that it started as a scrappy grass-roots protest movement against President Trump, but now the so-called resistance is attracting six- and seven-figure checks from major liberal donors, posing an insurgent challenge to some of the left’s most venerable institutions — and the Democratic Party itself. The jockeying between groups, donors and operatives for cash and turf is occurring mostly behind the scenes. But it has grown acrimonious at times, with upstarts complaining they are being boxed out by a liberal establishment that they say enables the sort of Democratic timidity that paved the way for the Trump presidency. If the newcomers prevail, they could pull the party further to the left, leading it to embrace policy positions like those advocated by Mr. Sanders, including single-payer health care and free tuition at public colleges.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/07/us/politics/democrats-resistance-fundraising.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

San Francisco Chronicle: Prosecution of police sex scandal sees little success

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that in the year since Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley filed criminal charges against six East Bay law enforcement officers for what she called their “morally reprehensible” actions in Oakland’s sexual misconduct scandal, the most severe punishment handed down has been a $390 fine and three years of court probation. Half of the cases have been dismissed or their charges dropped due to insufficient evidence. Two cases were plea bargained, and one awaits trial. Critics who wanted to see greater consequences wonder whether the district attorney’s office mishandled the scandal. Some say the prosecution was frivolous.

Read more: http://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Prosecution-of-Oakland-police-sex-exploitation-12259732.php

Denver Post: Water drying up as farmers keep irrigating desert

The Denver Post reports that Colorado farmers who defied nature’s limits and nourished a pastoral paradise by irrigating drought-prone prairie are pushing ahead in the face of worsening environmental fallout: Overpumping of groundwater has drained the High Plains Aquifer to the point that streams are drying up at the rate of 6 miles a year. The drawdown has become so severe that highly resilient fish are disappearing, evidence of ecological collapse. A Denver Post analysis of federal data shows the aquifer shrank twice as fast over the past six years compared with the previous 60. While the drying out of America’s agricultural bread basket ($35 billion in crops a year) ultimately may pinch people in cities, it is hitting rural areas hardest.

Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/10/08/colorado-eastern-plains-groundwater-running-dry/

Washington Post: Fired/rehired: Three shootings in three years

The Washington Post reports how most police officers will never fire their weapons while on duty, but Cyrus Mann, a nine-year member of the Philadelphia Police Department, shot three people in just over three years. The shooting in an alley, on Aug. 9, 2012, would prove fatal and prompt the police commissioner to try to fire Mann. Like many police chiefs across the nation, he would fail. A Washington Post investigation found that hundreds of police officers who were fired for misconduct, including allegations of sexual assault and drug trafficking, have been reinstated. Since 2006, at least 451 of 1,800 officers fired from 37 of the nation’s largest departments have won their jobs back through appeals provided for in union contracts.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/investigations/fired-rehired-three-shootings-in-three-years/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_mannrevised-711pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.05a77f627c5d

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Bribery, corruption scandal looms over mayor’s race

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports a guilty plea in federal court and an FBI raid on a long-time city vendor are reshaping the Atlanta mayor’s race by throwing a white-hot spotlight back on the City Hall bribery investigation, just one month before voters choose Kasim Reed’s successor. Most of the major candidates have weaponized the scandal in their stump speeches and at forums since the federal probe netted a guilty plea from the city’s top purchasing official two weeks ago. Tough talk on ethics and procurement reform have joined pledges about affordable housing and transportation, issues that were driving the campaign’s early days. The mayor himself has been forced to defend his record and issue regular statements about how he’s cooperating with the probe.

Read more: http://www.myajc.com/news/local-govt--politics/bribery-corruption-scandal-looms-over-atlanta-mayor-race/IEM9S4tg00iWGJg8QL3ZIK/

Des Moines Register: Companies write off millions. Taxpayers reap little benefit

The Des Moines Register reports that a Polk County middle manager signed a nondescript sheet of paper last year attesting to heating and cooling work the Waldinger Corp. performed in 2012 on the county-owned Iowa Events Center. That paper wiped $1.1 million off the Des Moines-based mechanical contractor’s federal income tax liability. What did taxpayers get in return? Nothing they hadn't already paid for. The Events Center example is hardly unique. The Des Moines Register examined 70 Iowa projects in which the tax break was sought and documented 37 cases where governments gained little or nothing for authorizing the deduction on taxpayer-funded construction. That's just a tiny sample of more than 10,000 cases nationally in all 50 states — including at least 300 in Iowa — in which government officials have handed out tax breaks to private companies through an obscure giveaway known as the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction.

Read more: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2017/10/06/tax-deduction-nothing-private-companifederal-energy-efficiency-break-often-yields-no-taxpayer-benefi/456708001/

Courier-Journal: University of Louisville Athletic director highest paid in US

The Courier-Journal reports that suspended University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich was the highest paid in the land. Over the past seven years, through a byzantine array of longevity and performance bonuses, base pay raises and tax subsidies, Jurich collected total compensation of $19,279,710, an average of $2.76 million per year.

Last year, his taxable income – enriched by the vesting of a $1.8 million annuity plus $1.6 million from the university to pay his taxes on it – totaled $5.3 million. Although the annuity was earned over several years and will be paid out in $200,000 installments, his listed income last year was more than the university budgeted for its departments of biology ($3.3 million), English ($4 million), history ($2.4 million) or mathematics ($3.5 million).

Read more: http://www.courier-journal.com/story/sports/college/louisville/2017/10/05/university-louisville-tom-jurich-high-pay-unusual-perks/728901001/

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: University investigates but lawsuit expected

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports that trustees at the University of Rochester have hired Debevoise & Plimpton, one of the nation's priciest law firms, to investigate claims of sexual harassment and retaliation on campus. There is plenty of documentation to sort through, and that is where such investigations begin, experts say. But the review also faces obstacles — lacking cooperation from accusers, and needing to maneuver around myriad confidentiality and legal concerns. Meanwhile, a lawsuit appears imminent. The scope of the inquiry is broad, encompassing the whole of events that surround embattled professor Florian Jaeger and UR's Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) department. Jaeger allegedly had sex and used illegal drugs with students, made inappropriate and humiliating comments to and about female students and faculty, pressured them to meet with him alone, and conditioned access with being part of his social circle.

Read more: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2017/10/07/ur-investigation-running-night-and-day-but-lawsuit-expected-thanksgiving/733173001/

Seattle Times: City Light has paid $7.8 million to company of off-duty cops

The Seattle Times reports a retired Seattle police officer’s private company has exclusively billed Seattle City Light more than $7.8 million over the past five years to provide off-duty police officers for traffic control or security work, according to billing data obtained by the newspaper. The company, Seattle’s Finest Security & Traffic Control, has been chosen by utility crew chiefs for every job, even though another company, Seattle Security, also provides off-duty officers, the records show. Details of the lucrative relationship between Seattle’s Finest and City Light come at a time the FBI is investigating allegations of price-fixing and intimidation in the hiring of off-duty officers directing traffic at parking garages and construction sites. The allegations, made by a new startup company, Blucadia, and echoed by some downtown business owners, have renewed longstanding concerns about a murky off-duty employment arrangement controlled by few companies with little oversight.

Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/seattle-city-light-has-paid-7-8m-to-off-duty-cops-in-unusual-relationship/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • OCT. 5, 2017

Toledo Blade: City leaders admit $9 Million in fund can be spent

The Toledo Blade reports that six weeks before Toledo’s mayoral election, city officials revealed there is $9 million in the fund that is used to pay for street repair — although the city’s top lawyer initially said $4 million of that amount was earmarked for debt. A day later, officials made an about-face and said all the money could be spent. City Law Director Adam Loukx said Sept. 29 he would investigate if the $4 million, which was informally set aside for a debt payment, could be spent on the kind of neighborhood capital improvements many councilmen have been clamoring to see all year. Hours later — following a series of questions about the money by The Blade —  Loukx and Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson admitted it could be used for other purposes.

Read more: http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2017/09/29/Toledo-might-have-another-4-million-for-capital-projects(copy).html

Arizona Republic: Feds say border security toughest ever. Is wall still needed?

The Arizona Republic reports crews set to work on a strip of land on the outskirts of San Diego  last week on eight possible versions of President Donald Trump's border wall. U.S. Customs and Border Protection marked the occasion with a news release and a short video showing a backhoe and loader digging foundations for the wall prototypes that will be built there over the next 30 days. But that image of a porous border came into question earlier this month when, with no fanfare, the Department of Homeland Security released a 20-page report that concluded "available data indicate that the southwest land border is more difficult to illegally cross today than ever before."

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2017/10/01/feds-say-border-security-toughest-ever-so-wall-still-needed/683818001/

Washington Post: The New reality of old age in America

The Washington Post reports people are living longer, more expensive lives, often without much of a safety net. As a result, record numbers of Americans older than 65 are working — now nearly 1 in 5. That proportion has risen steadily over the past decade, and at a far faster rate than any other age group. Today, 9 million senior citizens work, compared with 4 million in 2000. While some work by choice rather than need, millions of others are entering their golden years with alarmingly fragile finances. Fundamental changes in the U.S. retirement system have shifted responsibility for saving from the employer to the worker, exacerbating the nation’s rich-poor divide. Two recent recessions devastated personal savings. And at a time when 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, Social Security benefits have lost about a third of their purchasing power since 2000.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/national/seniors-financial-insecurity/?utm_term=.a41f81037a3a

Miami Herald: Florida braces for Puerto Ricans fleeing hurricane Maria

The Miami Herald reports that following the disaster caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico — which triggered floods and mudslides and left the island of 3.5 million people without electricity or potable water — thousands of Puerto Ricans are expected to leave their homes on the island to come to the United States. That exodus will have a significant impact in Florida, one of the main destinations of Puerto Rican migration, which has increased every year over the past decade because of the economic recession on the island. The tentacles of the crisis created by the storm are already being felt in South Florida. Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently announced that the Sunshine State will assist the displaced. The 

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article176377791.html

Chicago Tribune: State allows educators to bypass some exams for licensing

The Chicago Tribune reports Illinois lawmakers and officials have in recent years eliminated some key requirements would-be teachers needed to get licensed, allowing applicants to bypass some coursework and exams before heading straight to the classroom, a Tribune analysis has found. The Illinois State Board of Education says the changes will streamline the licensing process and do not sacrifice the state's high standards. And some administrators say it will be easier to fill some jobs in areas short on teachers, particularly downstate. But advocates for tough licensing standards say eliminating coursework and testing requirements, among other changes, may not ensure educators have the credentials necessary to teach in the classroom or work in staff positions in public schools.

Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-teacher-certification-illinois-met-20170924-story.html

Baltimore Sun: New fundraising rules unleashing big cash in elections

The Baltimore Sun reports Maryland candidates have begun to hustle for dollars ahead of next year’s election, freed from a key obstacle that once hindered their ability to raise cash. The 2018 election cycle, which includes races for governor, attorney general, General Assembly and several county executives, is the first full cycle since a Supreme Court ruling lifted the cap on the total amount donors may contribute to candidates. That 2014 ruling and a 2010 high court ruling on political action committees, analysts say, could unleash campaign spending up and down the ballot unlike anything Maryland has seen. With the election still more than a year away, dozens of local donors already have contributed more money to candidates than was allowed in previous cycles, The Baltimore Sun has found. The limit for the 2014 cycle was $10,000.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/investigations/bs-md-money-in-campaigns-20170929-story.html

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Convicted, but still policing

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports there are hundreds of sworn officers in Minnesota who were convicted of criminal offenses in the past two decades yet kept their state law enforcement licenses, according to public records examined by the newspapers. Dozens of them are still on the job with a badge, a gun and the public’s trust that they will uphold the law. The cases reveal a state licensing system that is failing repeatedly to hold officers accountable for reckless, sometimes violent, conduct. In Minnesota, doctors and lawyers can lose their professional licenses for conduct that is unethical or unprofessional — even if they never break a law. Yet law enforcement officers can stay on the job for years even when a judge or jury finds them guilty of criminal behavior.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-police-officers-convicted-of-serious-crimes-still-on-the-job/437687453/

Columbus Dispatch: Net worth of Ohio’s congressional delegation booming

The Columbus Dispatch reports that members of Ohio’s congressional delegation have watched their net worth grow by an average of nearly 78 percent during their respective times in Congress, with some members becoming millionaires and some seeing their net worth more than double. While only 5 percent of Ohioans can claim to be millionaires, nearly 56 percent of the state’s congressional delegation can, with more than $1 million in assets, according to a Dispatch analysis. Overall, the state’s congressional delegation claimed collective assets of between $62 million and $182 million, reflecting what congressional watchdogs indicate is an increasing trend: Congress, which is supposed to be a microcosm of America, is increasingly a microcosm of the wealthiest part of the country.

Read more: http://www.dispatch.com/news/20171001/5-of-ohioans-are-millionaires-compared-with-56-of-congress

Oregonian: Oregon says day cares can’t afford to test water for lead

The Oregonian reports a state panel has decided Oregon won't require day cares to test drinking water for high levels of lead, ending a year-long review spurred by the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan. The action stands in stark contrast to Washington's approach. State officials there said all licensed day cares must test water for the dangerous neurotoxin before December because fixing lead-tainted plumbing is "critical for the safety of children." But members of Oregon's Early Learning Council decided testing would be too expensive for childcare providers, who collectively are licensed to watch more than 100,000 children statewide. Adding to their costs would cause some providers to close, limiting access to childcare, council members said. Testing was estimated to cost each day care $63.20 to $94.80.

Read more: http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2017/09/oregon_says_day_cares_cant_aff.html#incart_target2box_default_#incart_target2box_targeted_

Houston Chronicle: Harvey unveiled shortcomings of Houston Fire Department

The Houston Chronicle reports the Houston Fire Department's limitations quickly became clear as Harvey's floodwaters rose. Just one high-water rescue vehicle. Decades-old evacuation boats. Sparse training for swift-water rescues. And limited staffing after an 11th-hour decision not to call in major reinforcements to face the catastrophic storm. The department had been warned. Lethal flooding two years ago exposed shortcomings and prompted sweeping recommendations to improve future responses. And yet, when firefighters rushed fearlessly into Harvey's currents in late August, they were again hobbled by a lack of resources, old equipment and a shortage of manpower ready to go when the storm hit, according to a Chronicle review of internal reports and emails, and dozens of interviews with firefighters and other officials.

Read more: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Harvey-laid-bare-lack-of-resources-training-at-12243556.php?utm_campaign=btfpm

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Redistricting case may redraw election maps.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Wisconsin’s redistricting case isn’t just about Wisconsin. If the group of Democrats suing the Badger State is successful before the U.S. Supreme Court, all states will have to follow new rules on gerrymandering when they draw congressional and legislative maps after the 2020 census. And in the short term, several states could face lawsuits over the election maps they have been using since 2011. The nation’s high court will hear arguments in the case Tuesday and decide it by summer. A panel of federal judges last year ruled 2-1 that the maps were drawn so favorably for Republicans that they violated the constitutional rights of Democratic voters.

Read more: http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2017/09/29/wisconsin-redistricting-case-u-s-supreme-courtcould-rewrite-rules-how-states-draw-their-election-map/701253001/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • SEPT. 28, 2017

Tennessean: What do taxpayers get for business subsidies?

The Tennessean reports state and local governments award Tennessee companies millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies every month to create long-lasting jobs. More than $2.5 billion in incentives are given to businesses in the state each year, according to one estimate. An investigation by the largest four media organizations in Tennessee — The Tennessean, The Commercial Appeal, Knoxville News Sentinel and (Chattanooga) Times Free Press — found statewide that many officials and agencies do not track or disclose the number of jobs created by subsidy deals. Are they good investments? The data proved elusive. Some agencies didn’t track the information. Others reported contradictory data. The lack of consistent, accurate records makes it difficult for the public to evaluate whether Tennesseans are getting what they paid for.

Read more: http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/investigations/2017/09/17/tennessee-business-subsidies-1-winner-1-loser-1-unknown/510815001/

Arizona Daily Star: Workers confront Arizona over safety penalty reductions

The Arizona Daily Star reports scores of frustrated union workers gathered in downtown Phoenix to confront members of the governor-appointed Industrial Commission of Arizona, whose unusual practices are under scrutiny from federal health and safety officials. The controversial practices include reducing employers’ penalties for safety violations, often without clear justification. About 160 members of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters accused the ICA — which oversees the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or ADOSH — of being too soft on companies that violate health and safety rules, at the expense of vulnerable employees. They also criticized the commission for failing to aggressively pursue allegations of wage theft and fraud they say is rampant in Arizona’s construction industry.

Read more: http://tucson.com/news/local/union-workers-confront-arizona-industrial-commission-over-penalty-reductions/article_67c61559-3ede-5617-94d4-43b3b6a65003.html

Santa Fe New Mexican: State’s proposed standards on teaching science divisive

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that if New Mexico’s proposed new standards for teaching science go into effect during the 2018-19 school year, there will be no mention of Earth’s age. Gone from the new standards, too, are the basic concepts of evolution and humans’ impact on climate change. Some 10 days after the state Public Education Department published the new standards on its website, scientists, educators and even faith leaders from around the state and nation are scratching their heads over some of the components, contending that religion and politics are seeping into the science classroom, and the results could be devastating for students.

Read more: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/inexact-science-state-s-proposed-standards-divide-leaders-educators/article_2384c8cb-0362-5b40-8ab0-114558843fd5.html

San Diego Union-Tribune: Critics say response to hepatitis crisis was lackluster

The San Diego Union Tribune reports three people were dead by the time San Diego County public health officials organized street teams to offer vaccinations against hepatitis A. It was early May and 80 cases had been confirmed since November, with 66 patients hospitalized. Epidemiologists had first identified the rash of hepatitis A two months earlier. Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer, put off declaring a local emergency until September, when 14 deaths were recorded and the patient rolls of mostly homeless people and illegal-drug users surpassed 350. Last week, at a joint news conference, officials from both agencies pushed the death toll to 16 and said nearly 450 cases were confirmed. The stepped-up attention that the outbreak has received in recent weeks is welcome news to activists and medical experts, but many see the crisis as the inevitable result of San Diego officials’ longstanding failure to deal with problems besetting the homeless community and working-poor families.

Read more: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sd-me-hepatitis-how-20170923-story.html

Sun Sentinel: Children with disabilities allegedly abused at group home

The Sun Sentinel reports a state-funded group home that is supposed to help South Florida children with disabilities has racked up a history of complaints including child abuse and neglect, police and state records show. The Tate Center Inc. is a nonprofit that runs group homes north of Palm Beach County as well as a destination for children with developmental disabilities and aggressive behavior. Its history is detailed in hundreds of pages of records the Sun Sentinel obtained from police, court cases and the Department of Children and Families. The Department of Children and Families, which investigated the abuse allegations, declined to comment on specifics about the cases, citing confidentiality laws.

Read more: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-reg-tate-center-investigation-20170817-story.html

Miami Herald: Billions spent preparing for storm. Why did lights go out?

The Miami Herald reports that when Hurricane Irma side-swiped South Florida, almost every home fell into darkness and tropical heat. Tens of thousands of customers suffered a week or more without power. Overall, nearly 4.5 million of Florida Power & Light’s 4.9 million customers had their power fail, including 92 percent of accounts in Miami-Dade County and 85 percent in Broward County. The widespread outages happened despite FPL spending nearly $3 billion over the past decade to “harden” its electrical grid against the next monster storm. The investor-owned utility — which by law makes a guaranteed profit for shareholders between 9.6 and 11.6 percent — says it responded quickly to restore outages and that its storm-hardening efforts are working. “There is no such thing as a hurricane-proof system,” added Robbins, explaining that no transmission systems failed and far fewer utility poles went down than in previous storms.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article174521756.html

Honolulu Star Advertiser: Morale a major problem at police department

The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports that when Honolulu Police Department officer Denny Santiago went public earlier this month with allegations of widespread corruption within the department, it was only the latest public relations blow to Oahu’s 2,000-strong police force. For the past two years, a cloud has settled over HPD as developments in a federal grand jury probe have regularly hit the news. Leadership also has been in flux since Chief Louis Kealoha, one target of the investigation, announced his retirement in January amid the widening probe. Efforts to replace him have plodded along since then, adding to an air of uncertainty. And as a handful of officers have been named in civil lawsuits or criminal complaints, a debate has ensued at the Honolulu Police Commission on who is entitled to publicly funded legal counsel.

Read more: http://www.staradvertiser.com/2017/09/24/hawaii-news/morale-a-major-problem-at-embattled-police-department-some-say/?HSA=58926bde30273c0cf48fe02b549fc71a31390b5c

Chicago Tribune: Red lights approved for already safe intersections

The Chicago Tribune reports how Oakbrook Terrace wanted to put red light cameras at a busy but relatively safe intersection. The Illinois Department of Transportation must approve cameras on state routes in the suburbs, and it said no: Cameras are for boosting safety, and the intersection's "low crash rates" did not support a need for cameras. In just a few months, that no would turn into a yes. It was a yes that, records show, came after the intervention of a powerful state senator who received campaign cash from the red light camera firm that stood to make millions of dollars from those Oakbrook Terrace cameras. The senator's involvement prompted dozens of emails between IDOT officials — with large passages of that correspondence kept secret to this day by IDOT. What happened at Illinois Highway 83 and 22nd Street highlights the inconsistent and at times contradictory way IDOT has approved the controversial cameras at nearly 200 intersections across the suburbs.

Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/redlight/ct-idot-red-light-cameras-met-20170921-story.html

Indianapolis Star: Toxic coal pits are leaking into Indiana’s water

The Indianapolis Star reports the coal plants that dot Indiana's landscape generate much more than electricity. They also produce toxic ash that is filled with contaminants such as arsenic, chromium and boron that leach into nearby groundwater and waterways. That ash is stored in massive pits, almost all of which are unlined and thus provide no barrier between the toxic waste and whatever else it may come into contact with. Indiana has a lot of these pits -- roughly 85 of them, more than any other state – containing more than 60 million cubic yards of the polluting powder. It's a serious problem and state regulators are for the first time trying to set policy that could have widespread repercussions not only for the owners of Indiana's nearly 20 active and retired coal plants and for the environment, but also for the quality of life for people who live nearby.

Read more: http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2017/09/24/ipl-duke-coal-ash-contaminants-polluting-indiana-waterways/597873001/

Times-Picayune: Study finds dispersant used in BP oil spill sickened workers

The Time Picayune reports the chemicals that were used to break up oil from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon blowout have long been suspected of sickening workers who responded to the disaster. Now a federal health agency is backing some of their assertions. The National Institutes of Health this month published a study saying workers exposed to oil dispersants suffered a range of symptoms, including cough, shortness of breath and eye and lung irritation. The authors make for the most prominent group of scientists to examine the human health effects of dispersants. For 87 days after the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded off the Louisiana coast, the Macondo well spewed oil largely unchecked into the Gulf of Mexico. At 172 million gallons lost, it was the world's largest oil disaster.

Read more: http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2017/09/dispersant_used_in_bp_spill_ma.html

New York Times: At Florida nursing home, calls for help made no difference

The New York Times reports eight residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills nursing home, where air-conditioning had failed after Hurricane Irma chewed up power lines across Florida, were dead by the end of the day, Sept. 13, and three who were among the 140 evacuated have died since. The Hollywood police have opened a criminal investigation, while the state has all but shut down the residence. That same day, about 160 other nursing homes across Florida had no electricity, and most of those, like Hollywood Hills, had no generator capable of powering air-conditioning. But of all those places, the only one where a power loss is known to have caused multiple deaths was the home that advertised being “directly across the street from Hollywood’s Memorial Regional Hospital — so patients receive the finest health care day and night.”

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/23/us/nursing-home-deaths.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Columbus Dispatch: Poor, black kids do worse on standardized school tests

The Columbus Dispatch reports that even as Ohio students have improved their performance on state tests, bad news regarding a poverty-related achievement gap is splattered across the latest state report cards. The number of economically disadvantaged students who scored proficient in third-grade reading was 31 percentage points below that of other students on the most-recent report cards. Economically disadvantaged is defined as those in households making 185 percent of the federal poverty level or less, or $37,297 for a family of three. As in the past, Ohio’s latest report-card results show that districts with higher concentrations of poverty also struggle the most on state testing and other metrics. However, people shouldn’t conclude that the data show that low-income students can’t learn, said Howard Fleeter, analyst for the policy institute. “That’s not what we’re showing. What we’re showing is they’re not learning,” he said.

Read more: http://www.dispatch.com/news/20170924/why-do-poor-black-kids-continue-to-do-worse-on-ohios-standardized-tests

Philadelphia Inquirer: Lawyers, doctors and pharmacies “an unholy alliance”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Pond Lehocky is the biggest player in town for workers’ compensation cases, targeting employees who get hurt on the job with TV ads and billboards that seem to loom on every stretch of Philadelphia’s highways. Pond Lehocky’s top lawyers have also been doing more to get more for themselves, according to an Inquirer and Daily News investigation. Three partners at the firm and its chief financial officer are majority owners of a mail-order pharmacy in the Philadelphia suburbs that has teamed up with a secretive network of doctors that prescribes unproven and exorbitantly priced pain creams to injured workers — some creams costing more than $4,000 per tube. Pond Lehocky sends clients to preferred doctors and asks them to send those new patients to the law firm’s pharmacy, Workers First. The pharmacy then charges employers or their insurance companies for the workers’ pain medicine, sometimes at sky-high prices, records show.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/business/workers-comp-insurance-pennsylvania-pond-lehocky-referrals-20170922.html

Seattle Times: Washington’s child-welfare system accused of “critical errors”

The Seattle Times reports there are deep and persistent problems in Washington’s child-welfare system, whose 2,400 staffers serve around 100,000 children — 7 percent of the state’s juvenile population. A series of troubling events leading up to the death of Gary Blanton, who died in the care of an aunt struggling with six kids in a “chaotic home,” also shows what the new Department of Children, Youth and Families is up against. Red flags have gone ignored amid crushing caseloads, lack of adequate supervision and a shortage of homes to place children. Over the past decade, Department of Social and Health Services has paid $141 million for personal-injury claims to children. Such claims, including for starvation and rape, never seem to end.

Read more: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/everyone-failed-him-boys-aunt-accused-of-murder-dshs-accused-of-critical-errors/

WATCHDOG REPORTING: SUMMARY OF IMPACT JOURNALISM FROM PAST WEEK • SEPT. 21, 2017

AP: Water project's cost falls to more Californians 

The Associated Press reported that water districts and households across California could be compelled to help pay for Gov. Jerry Brown's plans to build two giant tunnels to ferry water to cities and farms mainly in central and Southern California, under newly revealed plans to shore up funding for the struggling $16 billion project. The tougher state funding demands pivot from longstanding state and federal assurances that only local water districts that seek to take part in the mega-project would have to pay for the twin tunnels, the most ambitious re-engineering of California's complex north-to-south water system in more than a half-century. The Associated Press obtained new documents from the state's largest agricultural water agency and confirmed the expanded funding demands in phone and email interviews with state and local water officials.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/newswires/news/business/apnewsbreak-water-project-cost-falls-californians-article-1.3503881

Bay Area News Group: Police visited Oakland warehouse months before fire 

The Bay Area News Group reported that a body camera video shows a police officer ordering the shutdown of a suspected illegal rave at an Oakland, California, warehouse nearly two years before a fire killed 36 partygoers in the ramshackle building. The video of the arts collective known as the "Ghost Ship" was obtained and made public by the Bay Area News Group on Thursday, Sept. 15. "I will be talking to the city, and we'll be dealing with this place," the officer says on the video. Late Thursday, the Police Department released a police report that the officer wrote, and said that it had been forwarded to the vice unit then to the department's Alcohol Beverage Action Team. But, the department said, such infractions at the time were views as low-priority.

Read more: http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/09/14/exclusive-body-cam-footage-shows-cop-promising-to-report-illegal-party-at-ghost-ship-in-2015/

Arizona Republic: Homeowner associations lead surge in Phoenix foreclosures

The Arizona Republic reports homeowners associations, the enforcers of neighborhood paint colors, holiday decorations and trash bins, are leading the latest surge in Phoenix-area foreclosures. HOAs are foreclosing on a record number of homeowners for as little as $1,200 in missed maintenance payments, according to an Arizona Republic investigation. And homeowners who thought only their mortgage lender could seize property are losing their houses at sheriff’s auctions, sometimes for just $100 more than they owe. “It’s become a huge issue,” Arizona Real Estate Commissioner Judy Lowe said. “Most homeowners don’t understand the foreclosure process and don’t know their HOA can foreclose.”

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-investigations/2017/09/14/phoenix-area-homeowners-associations-foreclosing-record-number-homeowners/595816001/

Santa Fe New Mexican: Reform laws aimed at campaign donations full of loopholes

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that reform measures in 2006 and 2007 barred contractors from plying politicians with campaign donations or other gifts while vying for government business. And the changes required contractors to report donations they make to public officials. But a decade later, those laws are full of loopholes. A recent review by the State Auditor’s Office found 2 in 5 government contracts did not include the paperwork contractors are required to submit reporting their donations to public officials. For about a decade, the standard forms even included inaccurate language. And The New Mexican has obtained documents showing how corporations, along with political action committees, can skirt the rules altogether. State Auditor Tim Keller described enforcement and compliance of the laws as so poor, the statutes themselves are almost meaningless.

Read more: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/reform-laws-spurred-by-treasurer-scandals-full-of-loopholes/article_fa177390-370d-5737-9c98-cc5d6f4a0688.html

Modesto Bee: Councilman says he led big Modesto projects, but others differ

The Modesto Bee reports that as Councilman Tony Madrigal campaigns for a second term in the November election, he is claiming credit for two big wins for downtown: the opening of a hugely popular ice rink and the effort to bring UC Merced to Modesto. Here’s how Madrigal spelled out his accomplishments in a campaign questionnaire he filled out for The Bee: “Led effort to bring a UC Merced presence to downtown Modesto” and “Led the effort to bring an ice-skating rink to downtown.” But when asked by The Bee, others involved in these efforts say while Madrgial has been part of the effort in one project and advocated for both, the projects involved the work of many people.

Read more: http://www.modbee.com/news/local/article173331461.html

San Francisco Chronicle: Violations cited at Sacramento foster care campus

The San Francisco Chronicle reports a Sacramento agency running one of the few remaining foster care shelters in California has violated health and safety laws and the personal rights of children more than 120 times in recent years — a number matched only by state-licensed facilities that have been shut down or placed on probation. State citations since 2012 at the Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento describe poorly trained staff, mishandled medications and filthy dorms. This year, an employee was terminated for an “inappropriate relationship” with an underage client and for smoking marijuana with runaway foster youth. On Sept. 8, a state inspector was unable to remain in a bedroom because the stench of urine overwhelmed her.

Read more: http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Numerous-violations-cited-at-Sacramento-foster-12203449.php

Washington Post: Almost two dozen children shot in U.S. every day

The Washington Post reports that, on average, 23 children were shot each day in the United States in 2015, according to a Post review of the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s at least one bullet striking a growing body every 63 minutes. In total, an estimated 8,400 children were hit, and more died — 1,458 — than in any year since at least 2010. That death toll exceeds the entire number of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan this decade. Many incidents, though, never become public because they happen in small towns or the injuries aren’t deemed newsworthy or the triggers are pulled by teens committing suicide.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/local/2017/09/15/road-rage-a-bullet-to-the-head-and-the-frantic-effort-to-save-a-4-year-old/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.f95339da85e0

Miami Herald: Nursing home emergency plan ignored of air conditioning

The Miami Herald reports that when the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, Florida, submitted its 43-page emergency management plan to county administrators in July, it included details on how the home would maintain clean linen, distribute canned food and ensure residents had access to hand sanitizers. It made no mention of how residents would be kept cool if the home’s power was lost. That was a tragic oversight: Health regulators now say eight residents of the rehabilitation center succumbed to cardiac and respiratory failure after a portable air cooling system malfunctioned. The home’s failure to foresee the catastrophic consequences of an air-conditioning meltdown — and Broward County’s failure to insist that the home do so — point to a serious statewide problem.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article173729181.html

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Atlanta’s top companies benefit from tax breaks

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports metro Atlanta’s defining landmarks and marquee companies, from the upscale Avalon development in Alpharetta to Bank of America Plaza in Midtown, from Town Brookhaven to Coca-Cola, are among the biggest beneficiaries of tax breaks doled out by local governments in 2016. Together, in the name of economic development, governments in Atlanta’s four core counties — Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cobb — ceded tens of millions in taxes last year, an amount that now can be tallied for the first time because of more rigorous national auditing requirements. Among the businesses receiving public financial aid are Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, State Farm, SunTrust and more than a dozen other Fortune 500 companies.

Read more: http://www.myajc.com/news/local-govt--politics/new-disclosures-show-atlanta-companies-that-profit-from-tax-breaks/yucUJNyGk1ldpKt9wsGeZJ/

Des Moines Register: Iowa rape victims wait months for evidence testing

The Des Moines Register reports frustrated Iowa rape victims are waiting months — or sometimes even more than a year — for Iowa's overwhelmed crime lab to process DNA evidence that is crucial to their cases, allowing their suspected attackers to avoid arrest. Iowa, already trying to resolve a backlog of more than 4,000 untested rape evidence kits dating back to the 1990s, finds its state crime lab buried by new requests for evidence testing. At the same time, the lab is wrestling with a stagnant budget and potential cuts that prevent it from filling vacant positions or adding new ones. At the end of August, the state crime lab had 405 DNA sexual assault case assignments waiting to be processed, lab information provided to The Des Moines Register shows.

Read more: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2017/09/14/rape-kit-testing-backlog-crime-lab-iowa/609585001/

Boston Globe: VA hospitals flooded with complaints about care

The Boston Globe reports that Veterans Affairs employees filed nearly 2,000 complaints last year with the Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency that investigates employee concerns — more than the next four most-complained-about departments combined. VA employee complaints doubled from 2013 to 2016 and now account for at least one-third of the agency’s caseload even though they represent only about 18 percent of federal workers. “To put it in perspective,” wrote Carolyn Lerner, the special counsel, in her 2018 budget request for an extra $2.4 million to handle all the complaints, “OSC anticipates receiving more cases in [fiscal] 2017 from VA alone than the total number of cases we received from all agencies just over a decade ago.”

Read more: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/09/16/staff-veterans-hospitals-lead-federal-government-criticizing-their-employer-far/gHc8SYqcVze3tk2Xn8YAeI/story.html

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Student exodus puts pressure on Minnesota schools

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Minnesota students have had the right to attend school in other districts since 1990, but the number of elementary and high school students exercising that option is surging. Last year, about 132,000 Minnesota students enrolled in schools outside their home district, four times the number making that choice in 2000, a Star Tribune analysis shows. School choice options — open enrollment and charter schools — have proved especially popular with nonwhite or minority students, according to the Star Tribune’s analysis of the racial breakdown of students who opt out of their home district. Because state education funding follows the pupil, the student exodus from their home district to other cities and charter schools is magnifying budget pressures in districts that lose more students than they gain. It’s also transforming the racial diversity of schools across the Twin Cities.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/students-in-flight-part-1-st-paul-enrollment-declines-force-hard-budget-choices-exodus-puts-pressure-minnesota-schools/443065933/#1

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Special ed crisis for preschoolers

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports hundreds of young children in Monroe County, and more across New York  state, are facing delays in receiving speech services, physical therapy and occupational therapy, the early medical and educational interventions to which they're entitled. This puts them at a developmental disadvantage, greatly increasing the chances they'll need more, costlier help later in life. In the 2016-17 school year alone, nearly 400 3- and 4-year-olds in Monroe County were not evaluated for developmental delays within 60 days of their referral as required by law, according to local school district records. That is more than a quarter of all children who were referred and that number is almost certainly underreported. Those who are evaluated often struggle to get the services they're prescribed.

Read more: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/investigations/2017/09/14/watchdog-crisis-special-ed-services-preschoolers-leaves-families-scrambling/620257001/

Oregonian: Nepotism runs rampant in the Oregon legislature

The Oregonian reports that one out of every four elected state legislators in Oregon has employed a family member at taxpayer expense this year. Records show the price tag for hiring spouses, children or in-laws is more than $519,000 so far, according to state salary data. Oregon is one of the few states in the U.S. that allows lawmakers to hire family members. The Legislature passed a bill a decade ago granting lawmakers an exception to state anti-nepotism laws. Legislators defend the practice, noting that it has been something of a time-honored tradition to hire family members. Oregon's citizen legislators are paid about $23,000. Hiring a family member can help make it possible to put their jobs on hold during sessions. Lawmakers, who've been doing it for decades, say it benefits lawmakers and constituents alike.

Read more: http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/09/nepotism_runs_rampant_in_the_o.html

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Industrial barrel investigation goes national

The Milwaukee journal reports Federal regulators have expanded their investigation of industrial barrel refurbishing plants nationwide, examining operations and safety at 13 facilities in nine states. The multi-agency investigation initially focused on three such facilities in the Milwaukee area, where a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation uncovered a host of problems endangering workers and residents. The action comes following a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation in February that revealed environmental problems and dangerous working conditions at the three Milwaukee-area plants, as well as facilities in Arkansas, Indiana and Tennessee.

Read more: http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2017/09/15/industrial-barrel-plants-hit-more-violations/655918001

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