Extra Extra : November 2006

Military introduces new mental-health guidelines for troops

Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman of The Hartford Courant reported that the U.S. military has issued sweeping new mental-health guidelines that expand screening for troops being sent to war and set limits on when service members with psychiatric problems can be kept in combat. The changes are aimed at meeting a congressional mandate prompted by a May series in The Courant, titled "Mentally Unfit, Forced to Fight," that exposed gaps in the military's mental health care system. The Courant reported that mentally troubled troops were being sent to Iraq and kept there, in some cases with fatal consequences ... Read more ...

Fort Worth Diocese concealed abuse

After a 19-month legal battle by The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the newspapers obtained more than 700 pages from the personnel files of seven priests that the diocese had fought to keep secret. The records show that Fort Worth Catholic Diocese leaders systematically helped predator priests stay in ministry for two decades by concealing information from parishioners, police and the public.

Methadone series leads to FDA warning

Six months after the Charleston Gazette ran a series about methadone overdose deaths nationwide, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a public health advisory and strenghtened the warnings on the package insert for methadone this week. The Gazette series revealed that the FDA-approved recommended dosage on methadone's old package insert was wrong and potentially deadly.

Investigation leads to child pornography arrests

Two men who ran dozens of child modeling websites were charged with child pornography following an WTVJ/NBC 6 investigation called "Selling Innocence." After a five-month investigation, Investigative producer Scott Zamost and reporter Deborah Sherman revealed in November 2001 how a South Florida company was putting children online in provocative poses with their parents' permission. The investigation exposed the online world of what authorities called "child erotica," which they said was controversial but legal. However, authorities in Alabama later launched their own investigation and determined the images in the websites were illegal "lascivious poses." A federal grand jury in Birmingham ... Read more ...

Hurricane shutter fraud on the rise

Sarah Okeson of Florida Today reports that hurricane storm shutter fraud is on the rise in Florida. Records from the Better Business Bureau of Central Florida show that at least six companies offering storm shutters have unsatisfactory records, and at least one faces criminal charges. Complaints range from shoddy workmanship to theft of deposits. A listing of these companies is included in a sidebar.

Investigation sparks nation-wide Volvo recall

An investigation by Denver's KMGH-TV in September of 2005 that exposed a dangerous problem with Volvo vehicles has now prompted a nation-wide recall. Through internal documents, 7News Investigative Reporter Tony Kovaleski, Producer Tom Burke and Photojournalist Jason Foster discovered that Volvo knew many of their electronic throttle modules were failing at an alarming rate, long before the cars ever hit the showroom floor. The report detailed several examples of the cars failing, placing unknowing drivers in dangerous and unexpected situations. The malfunction can cause the car to surge, hesitate and take control of the vehicle away from the driver ... Read more ...

Holes in Dallas school district's screening process

A Dallas Morning News investigation of the Dallas Independent School District's method of making criminal background checks on potential employees has found a system that still has holes and, at times, ignores district and state rules. The News' investigation found at least 80 current employees who have been convicted of felonies or received deferred adjudication probation on a felony charge in Dallas or surrounding counties.

Air Force rushed air defense system

In a follow-up to an earlier story, Aerospace Daily & Defense Report's Michael Fabey writes that the Air Force rushed the deployment of its airspace defense system by bypassing typical Pentagon standards. Information received by The Daily indicates that "the Air Force accepted the BCS-F [Battle Control System-Fixed] even though it did not meet the Air Force-established IOC (initial operational capability) criteria as a standalone command-and-control (C2) system for the continental United States (CONUS) because it had a pressing need." As of October 2006, the program was nearly 2 years behind schedule and $65 million over budget.

"Precious Cargo" revisited

Following the recent school bus fatalities in Alabama, Phil Williams and the investigative team at WTVF-Nashville updated their extensive investigation into bus safety and the issue of seat belts on buses. Their findings remain timely a year after the first stories aired. The online package includes recent updates, extensive background documents and a 30-minute documentary.

"Media Tracker" database relaunched

The Center for Public Integrity has relaunched its "Media Tracker" database in an updated and expanded form. The improved features of the online database "detail the scope of the political influence of top communications, entertainment and electronic companies" by including information on political contribuntions and lobbying expenditures. Click here to see their press release.