Extra Extra : June 2006

Officials responsible for overseeing NASA expressed concerns regarding launch of Discovery

Michael Cabbage of the Orlando Sentinel studied e-mails sent from NASA's Office of the Inspector General to an agency administrator and the chairman of an advisory panel that monitors NASA safety and found that "key officials responsible for overseeing NASA expressed serious concerns about launching space shuttle Discovery without additional work to prevent foam insulation from breaking off the ship's fuel tank."

Enquirer wins records, shows health department let lead paint violations slide

Sharon Coolidge of The Cincinnati Enquirer won a two-year battle with the Cinncinnati Health Department to obtain records of properties cited for lead contamination violations.
Coolidge analyzed the city health records and found that "Cincinnati's Health Department is failng to force property owners to fix their buildings, leaving hundreds of children at risk for lead poisoning." The investigation revealed 300 open cases in which children had been poisoned. City officials pledged that property owners who refuse health department orders to clean up poisonous lead hazards will find themselves in court.

The original open records dispute went all the way ... Read more ...

City Hall list reveals 'All-Stars' of insider clout

Steve Warmbir, Art Golab, Natasha Korecki and Mark J. Konkol of the Chicago Sun-Times did a computer-assisted analysis of 5,743 requests for city jobs, promotions or transfers made to the mayor's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs from 1989 to 1997 and found that "Tim Degnan, the mayor's friend and political adviser, is the biggest slugger, batting .825. More than eight out of every 10 times he made a request, Degnan got his person that city job, promotion or transfer." The reporters looked at the success rate of the top 15 people and groups submitting requests after the secret ... Read more ...

Mistaken identity questions raised in 1989 Texas execution

Maurice Possley and Steve Mills of the Chicago Tribune reviewed thousands of pages of court records and found that Texas may have executed an innocent man in 1989. "" There is no definitive DNA or crime-scene evidence to clear De Luna, but reporters uncovered serious flaws in the investigation that were never presented to the jury.

Workplace safety in Canada

The CBC's investigative unit obtained data from workplace safety insurance boards across Canada to track top national trends in the workplace of today. "Canada's record for reducing workplace fatalities over the previous 20 years was the worst. The project looks at health-care workers, mines, fatalities by province, and more. Audio reports are included in the package. The CBC says the project, the first of its kind, "is the result of three years of research. Journalists with CBC's Investigative Unit navigated freedom of information laws and negotiated for data from workplace safety insurance boards across Canada."

Murders cost Tenn. more than $110 million annually

Melvin Claxton of The Tennessean has a three-part series on the price of murder in Tennessee, finding that "homicides cost state and local governments more than $110 million each year. The bill for Nashville alone, which has accounted for 17 percent of the state's homicides over the past two decades, exceeds $18.7 million annually." The paper's analysis of police and judicial costs puts the average murder case at $626,648.

Psychologist embellishes credentials, personal past

Ruth Teichroeb of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer studied university job records and found that Terry Tafoya, known across North America as a pre-eminent American Indian psychologist and a sought-after speaker for continuing education at schools such as Harvard University, "has scripted his own life, embellishing his academic credentials and past." The tribe he claims to be a member of says he is not enrolled with them. A speakers' bureau that books his appearances "recommends Tafoya as an expert on mental health and substance abuse issues — apparently unaware that Tafoya was charged in January with drunken driving after he smashed into two ... Read more ...

People move closer to National Parks

Frank Bass of The Associated Press analyzed Census data to show that "more than 1.3 million people since 1990 have moved into counties surrounding six of the best-loved parks: Gettysburg, Everglades, Glacier, Yellowstone, Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains. The average number of people per square mile in those counties has grown by one-third. The four urban counties around the Florida Everglades show the most dramatic gains. But even in the remote areas of Glacier, the number of people per square mile has risen from eight in 1990 to 11 in 2005."

Schools pay for new boss' travel

Bill Dedman and Michael Brindley of The (Nashua, N.H.) Telegraph studied Nashua's city credit card records and found that "school Superintendent Julia Earl has spent public money to travel out of state at least seven times in her first nine months on the job, including five trips to her home state of Texas." The total cost was more than $8,000. The Telegraph also found that the superintendent owes $147,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, $8,000 to the county for back property taxes, and $2,400 to her homeowners association.

Companies find new way to win contracts

Michael Forsythe and Jonathan D. Salant of Bloomberg analyzed Federal Election Commission records and found that a growing number of companies had found "a new business model: locate facilities in lawmakers' districts and shower them with campaign cash. " The companies were taking advantage of lawmakers' increasing penchant for "earmarking,'' which was at the center of the scandal involving a California Republican serving a prison sentence after admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes to help secure defense-company contracts.