Extra Extra : May 2008

Execution of unarmed Iraqi draws attention to military pressures

Finding the Fallen

A series by The Boston Globe explores the efforts of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), a program launched by the Pentagon in 2003 to aid in the recovery of MIAs from foreign wars. During WWII, over 2,000 Americans were lost over Papua New Guinea. The Globe details the work being done there to bring these soldiers home. Borrowing techniques from archeology and forensic criminology, crews from JPAC clear and excavate dense jungle in search of the tiniest shred of material evidence and human bones.

Obscure public agency lines pockets of private businesses

Brian Joseph of the Orange County Register investigated the California Statewide Communities Development Authority, a public agency founded to finance "projects of public value." The agency "issued about $4.2 billion in tax free bonds in 2007, ranking behind only the states of California, Ohio and New York." Analysis of financial documents showed that much of that money has gone to benefit private businesses.

Aged and worn tires compromise school bus safety

An investigative report by Josh Bernstein of KNXV-Phoenix revealed that tires on school buses serving six area districts had major damage — chunks of rubber missing, splitting treads — yet the buses were still in use. Despite claims that tires are changed twice per school year, some buses had tires that were over eight years old. Arizona's minimum safety requirements for school buses do not address the age of tires.

Chains' claims of healthy menu items not always accurate

Eight stations of the Scripps Television Stations Group pooled their efforts to investigate the nutritional value of low-calorie and low-fat menu items at several national restaurant chains. Food purchased from restaurants such as Applebee's and Macaroni Grill was tested at a lab for actual calorie and fat content. "Out of the 23 items tested from various chains, 18 of the items were higher in fat and 16 higher in calories." Al Tompkins, of Poynter, interviewed Lana Durban Scott, director of news strategy at Scripps, to find out how they put this project together.

PAC spends millions on fundraising, little on candidates

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Cameron McWhirter and Megan Clarke report that former Congressman Bob Barr's political action committee has raised $4.3 million since 2003 to promote conservative candidates and causes, primarily at the national level. But the PAC gave only $125,200 — about three cents of every dollar raised — to federal candidates and other campaign committees. The fund spent more than $710,000 on administrative costs, including salary for Barr's son Derek, and $3.3 million to raise more money. Barr did not answer questions about claims in his latest fund-raising letter that do not ... Read more ...

District's textbook procurement procedures plagued with problems

An investigation by David Andreatta, of the Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), examined the textbook procurement procedure of the Rochester School District and found a wide range of problems and waste. Issues range from nearly 20,000 book going undistributed eight months into the school year to $1.4 million in secondary school books being lost by both schools and students. Another approximately 70,000 textbooks were discarded despite still being useful for classroom instruction.

Diversity fund lacks oversight

KSTP-Minneapolis investigated Minnesota's School District Integration Revenue, a fund intended to enhance diversity in schools across the state. "Experts say that money has been budgeted with no clear purpose." A line-by-line evaluation of one district's budget revealed questionable spending, such as charges for food and candy amounting to over $24,000 per month.

Education alternatives for disruptive students raise questions

An investigation by Jim Parsons of WTAE-Pittsburgh "exposed a system that allows disruptive students to get the same diploma as other children, even though they only have to put in half the number of hours." Many of the schools attended by these troubled students are run by private nonprofits that do not require certification for their teachers.

Students investigate the suicide of a mentally-ill inmate

A three-month investigation by journalism students at Humboldt State University looked into the suicide of James Lee Peters, a mentally-ill Native American inmate at Humboldt County Jail. With few people willing to talk, the students relied on public records obtained through the California Public Records Act to piece together what happened to Lee, and how the system failed him.