Extra Extra : July 2005

Medicare often pays hospitals to practice bad medicine

Gilbert M. Gaul of The Washington Post reports in a three-part series that Medicare policies often pay hospitals to practice medicine poorly. "In a four-year period, 106 heart patients at Palm Beach Gardens developed infections after surgery, according to lawsuits and government records." In part-two of the series, the Post looks at the nonprofit that oversees the evaluation of hospitals. The nonprofit charges hospitals "thousands of dollars for coaching on how to pass its reviews." The last part in the series details how some are finding it very difficult to access records because of privatized groups under contract by Medicare.

Housing bond falls short on promises

John Hill of The Sacramento Bee found that a $2.1 billion bond California voters approved to provide affordable housing hasn't delivered. "With the pot more than half gone, a Bee investigation has found that what taxpayers are getting falls far short of those promises - a reality that takes on added importance as California officials face the prospect of finding a fresh source of revenue," Hill wrote. The bond program's claims of success rest on a series of claims that don't withstand scrutiny and officials are claiming more affordable housing has been created than was actually built.

Allegations pile up in Denver church scandal

Eric Gorski of The Denver Post uses church documents and interviews to investigate claims that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver was told "at least three times of child sex-abuse allegations against one of its priests but continued to allow him to serve and moved him from parish to parish for years." The paper has received seven additional stories of abuse, following the one allegation detailed on Tuesday.

Mormon population numbers falling

Matt Canham of The Salt Lake Tribune used records obtained through a public records request to investigate Mormon population numbers in Utah. The investigation found that "the Mormon share of Utah's population is expected to hit its lowest level since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started keeping membership numbers." According to the 2004 count, Utah is now 62.4 percent Mormon with every county showing a decrease.

Prescription drug overdoses top illegal drug deaths

Nancy Amons of WSMV-Nashville analyzed state autopsy records to investigate accidental prescription drug overdoses in Tennessee. "In 2004, 300 people statewide died of accidental overdoses of prescription drugs, 70 people more than the year before." Prescription drugs kill far more people than methamphetamine or other illegal drugs.

Nice neighborhood ruined by state program

Dunstan McNichol at The (Newark) Star-Ledger writes about how a state program to build new schools and real-estate speculators have taken a once stable neighborhood and turned it into a haven for squatters and drug dealers. Frustrated residents said they were offered too little for their houses and now they can't get a similar house nearby. Real estate speculators swooped in, bought up some houses and sold them to the state at high profits. And now, the program that was supposed to build a high school on the block is running out of money and it's uncertain if ... Read more ...

Thousands of city employees tied to mayor's re-election

Nearly four out of every 10 city employees in Chicago registered voters for groups that advocated for Mayor Richard Daley's re-election, a Chicago Tribune investigation found. The Tribune compared city payroll data with the rosters of political groups that register voters in the city. "The analysis suggests extensive connections between city jobs and the mayor's political operation, a finding consistent with federal prosecutors' allegations that Daley administration officials rewarded campaign supporters with jobs and promotions," according to the Tribune. Under a 1983 federal court decree, all but about 1,000 of the city's 38,000 jobs are ... Read more ...

Homicides on the rise in Milwaukee

John Diedrich and Bob Purvis at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel detail a sharp rise in the number of murders in Milwaukee this year, finding that "through Friday, 72 people have been killed this year, compared to 49 at that time last year. In response, police last week beefed up patrols in the hottest parts of Milwaukee and community agencies increased their presence, trying to address social and economic issues underlying the violence."

Calif. donors use 527 groups to bypass regulations

Ronald Campbell of The Orange County Register analyzed California campaign finance data to find that the top 100 donors gave more than $150 million to candidates and political committees in 2003 and 2004. Donors also helped put California in the stem-cell business. "Some 26 wealthy couples and individuals contributed more than half the campaign money for Proposition 73, the state's $3 billion bet on the biotechnology frontier." Individual donors got around campaign finance legislation by writing their checks to so-called 527 groups, which operate outside normal campaign-finance rules.