Extra Extra : September 2007

Casino licenses granted without adequate background checks

Matt Birkbeck and Christina Gostomski of The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa) report that the Gaming Control Board is giving out casino licenses to owners and suppliers of Pennsylvania's casino industry without checking each person's complete criminal background. Though the original plan was to have the Pennsylvania State Police control the investigations because only law enforcement agencies can gain access to sensitive information, "such as whether an applicant has ties to the mob or is being looked at by the FBI." However, the background checks were instead left to the responsibility of a "new investigative bureau that doesn't ... Read more ...

Investigation leads to recall of deadly crib

An investigation by the Chicago Tribune prompted the Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall popular cribs sold under the Simplicity and Graco brand names from 1997 to 2008. Maurice Possley of the Tribune found numerous complaints about a drop rail that "can detach from the crib's frame, creating a dangerous gap that has led to the deaths of at least three children." After Possley found a victim's family - two years after the baby's death - the commission sent an investigator to examine the faulty crib and issued a recall three days later.

Speculators driving foreclosures in Nevada

Southern Nevada's foreclosure rates are the nations highest, due primarily to investors walking away from their property. "Roughly 85 percent of actual auctions or repossessions of homes from March 1 through Aug. 31 involved properties not occupied by their owners," according to a report by Jeff German, Steve Kanigher and Alex Richards of the Las Vegas Sun. They were able to identify the investor-owned homes from owner-occupied foreclosures using property tax records. The story includes a map of Las Vegas-area properties that have either been auctioned or repossessed since January 2006.

A matter of life and death

Citing arbitrary and unfair practices in Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court disbanded the death penalty nationwide thirty-five years ago. The death penalty was ultimately reinstated with promises of reform but The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says application the application of the death penalty remains "as predictable as a lightning strike." Reporters spent two years investigating the reasons for the inconsistencies.

Billions disappear in Baghdad

An investigation by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele in the October issue of Vanity Fair traces $12 billion in U.S. currency which was sent from the Federal Reserve to Baghdad between April 2003 and June 2004. While some of the money was spent on special projects and ministries, Barlett and Steele report that over $9 billion is missing. "Following a trail that leads from a safe in one of Saddam's palaces to a house near San Diego, to a P.O. box in the Bahamas, the authors discover just how little anyone cared about how the ... Read more ...

Credit card promotions profitable for two Iowa universities

The football injury to die for

Most high-school football players aren't concerned about concussions, nor would they tell their coach if they got one. However, Alan Schwarz of The New York Times, gives some compelling arguments for why they should be a lot more concerned. According Schwarz's investigative report, teenagers who receive a second blow to the head following a first, even benign, injury can very easily slip into a "metabolic chain of events," winding up in a coma or even dying. At least 50 high school football players have been killed or have sustained serious head injuries on the field since 1997.

Fugitives evade Tennessee authorities

Tennessee has let more escaped fugitives slip through its judicial cracks than almost any other state. In fact, convicts on the run have murdered at least nine people during the past 30 years, all due to a system not equipped to handle fugitives who get out of state custody. In a series, bolstered by in-depth multimedia, The Tennessean finishes the investigation that staff began last December. They track the stories of more than 200 men and women who escaped from the state prison system since the 1930s. The articles relate personal stories of victims, explore the failure to bring fugitives ... Read more ...

Series investigates Twin Cities groundwater

In a three-part series that began Sunday, Sept. 16, David Shaffer of the Star Tribune analyzed databases and pollution reports to identify 20 areas of significant groundwater contamination in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan region. Most of them are located in the suburbs, and some pose a serious threat to drinking water supplies. The series looks at the costly and seemingly endless effort it takes to filter the underground pollution and its toll on people and communities.

Chronic Polluters, Tainted Waters

Josh Kovner and Regine Labossiere of The Hartford Courant conducted a two-month investigation into the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection's lax enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act. They found that 17 of 35 companies covered by the Act are dumping toxic chemicals into the state's waterways under permit limits that have expired, some more than 10 years ago. The Courant also found Connecticut takes little action against violators, including companies that dump lead and cyanide at levels up to 200 percent above what is permitted.