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IRE members work to boost transparency, cooperation in Kenya

Land Quest is an experiment in cross-border investigative journalism by two European, two Kenyan and one American journalist that seeks to redefine both the focus and the audience of development reporting.

The data reveals Kenya as the battlefield between two competing financial interests: the flow of aid money from Europe to Kenya, and multinational profits from Kenya to Europe. Aid money flows into Kenya to help strengthen institutions and private companies, from agro-industrialists to oil barons.

The project, funded by a grant from the European Journalism Centre, is designed to raise awareness about the need for developed and developing countries ...

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Federal loopholes, local challenges complicate response plans for rural oil disasters

The federal government does not require U.S. railroads to have comprehensive plans for a worst-case oil disasters, according to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting.

That means no one knows if the railways that carried 4.2 million barrels of crude oil through the state last year are prepared for a catastrophe.

A handful of factors – including a declining number of volunteer firefighter/first-responders and a lack of information – complicate planning efforts in rural states like Maine.

Read the story here.


Reporting on hazardous materials?

Get data from NICAR's recently updated hazardous materials database.

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A star player accused, and a flawed rape investigation

Yet another university community has been accused of denying justice to a female sexual assault victim in order to protect a star male athlete. The New York Times today chronicled the shortcomings of an investigation by Tallahassee police into a reported sexual assault in which Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston was the alleged assailant.

Police failed to conduct a proper investigation when the incident was reported, the Times found. Even after the accuser identified her attacker to the police, Winston was never interviewed and DNA evidence was not collected. By the time prosecutors began to investigate 11 months later ...

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TurboTax Maker Linked to Campaign Against Free Tax Filing

ProPublica recently reported that lobbyists for Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, reached out to community leaders and officials persuading them that pre-filled tax returns would essentially hurt low-income Americans. 

What community leaders and officials failed to realize was that the pre-filled tax returns, already endorsed by President Obama and President Reagan, would use information that the government already receives from national banks and employers. The pre-filled tax returns would be voluntary services that taxpayers could use and adjust, making it easier and cheaper for many Americans to file their taxes. 

Iowa state senator’s National Guard service not the only reason she missed votes

United States Senate candidate and state senator Joni Ernst has cited her National Guard duty to rebuff criticism for missing more than half of the votes in the Iowa Senate this year.

In a WHO-TV interview posted on April 7, the Red Oak Republican acknowledged that National Guard service wasn’t the only reason she’s missed votes, but she said that only “a few of those votes were due to other activities.”

However, a review by The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA) shows very little overlap between Iowa Senate votes and her National Guard service.

Read the story here.

Extra Extra Monday: Texas explosion victims, sexual abuse at ICE centers, financial problems at the San Diego Opera

New Bay Bridge shows signs of rust in critical areas | The Sacramento Bee

Some of the most vulnerable and integral cable sections and rods on the new $6.5 billion Bay Bridge are rusting. A Sacramento Bee investigation found corroded cable strands and anchor rods inside supposedly sealed chambers that protect attachments for the main suspension span cable to the bridge deck girders. Experts said if corrosion worsens, it could lead to catastrophic damage well ahead of the planned 150-year service life of the bridge.

California's medical prison beset by waste and mismanagement | Los Angeles Times

California's $840-million ...

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Audit shows Miss. rural water association plagued by financial problems

An audit of the North Lee County Water Association in Mississippi turned up widespread financial management problems, including violations of several state and federal laws, the Daily Journal (Tupelo, MS) reports.

The audit, which is likely “the most rigorous examination ever” of the nonprofit cooperative's financial records, comes on the heels of a $1.2 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Administration.

While copies of the audit are required to be available for public inspection, the water association did not comply with state law.

The association has been plagued with problems, according to the ...

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Felons, fugitives bought guns amid backlog

More than 300 people banned from owning guns were able to buy them last year because the state police were overwhelmed with background check requests, police said Wednesday.

People with histories of mental illness or convictions for violent misdemeanors, felons and fugitives were able to obtain and keep guns for three months or longer before state police reviewed the sales, according to records released by request to The Baltimore Sun.

Documents show Iowa offered hush money to ex-employee

The Iowa Department of Administrative Services explicitly offered $6,500 to a former state employee last year in exchange for her secrecy, according to documents obtained by the Des Moines Register.

The documents include a March 6, 2013, e-mail in which Department of Administrative Services attorney Ryan Lamb writes to an attorney representing former employee Carol Frank: "I am agreeable to changes you propose and offer $6,500 for additional term," referring to a stipulation that the settlement be kept confidential.

Read the story here.

Escape dilemma at Avalon

A Tulsa World investigation found that officials at Avalon Correction Center marked serious offenses such as escape attempts and substance-related offenses as minor misconducts, instead of X-level offenses. Avalon is a halfway house, which are among the lowest-security facilities for Department of Corrections inmates, where some inmates who committed nonviolence crimes finish the end of their sentences. They live in dorms intead of barred rooms and can leave daily to work in the community. When inmates commit X-level offenses, they're sent back to higher-security prisoners, but by marking their offenses as minor misconducts, halfway houses don't lose money ...

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