Extra Extra : July 2008

High school students threatened by Army recruiters

Mark Greenblatt of KHOU-TV found that Army recruiters in Houston were threatening potential recruits to keep them from dropping out. Young recruits who pre-enlist under the Delayed Entry Program can "try out the military without a binding commitment," but recruiters threatened jail time if they fail to serve. Three years ago, the same recruiting station had been charged with exercising similarly questionable recruiting tactics which led to a re-examination of all methods and regulations.

U.S. auditor calls for end to funding of Iraqi reconstruction

Peter Spiegel of The Los Angeles Times reported that a U.S. auditor has called for an end to American funding of reconstruction in Iraq. Citing record oil profits and unspent funds from previous budgets, the special inspector general claimed Iraq has the means to fund its reconstruction needs, and American responsibility should be to help them carry out the reconstruction with their own funds.

A look inside the fall of Bear Stearns

Vanity Fair's Bryan Burrough investigated the fall of Bear Stearns. Through internal accounts of the investment bank's demise, some suggest that an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission would point to evidence that Bear was the victim of short-sellers who make bets that a firm’s stock will go down. Burrough's investigation found that many believe the fall of Bear Stearns is "the greatest financial scandal in history."

Unsafe Haven series

Mary Zahn and Ben Poston of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel detailed the rising number of injuries and serious violations at nursing homes in the state of Wisconsin. The reporters reviewed more than 20,000 pages of documents and built their own database of accidents, injuries and deaths spanning the past 3 ½ years. They found that the increase in injuries is occurring during a time of dramatic worker turnover in the nursing home industry and that out-of-state corporations own a disproportionate rate of homes cited over and over for problems. The two-part series includes a searchable database of all homes ... Read more ...

Oil industry donations poured in after McCain's reversal on drilling

An article by Washington Post reporter Matthew Mosk revealed that the oil industry made large contributions to the McCain campaign in June following his policy statement calling for an end to the federal ban on offshore drilling. "Oil and gas industry executives and employees donated $1.1 million to McCain last month — three-quarters of which came after his June 16 speech calling for an end to the ban — compared with $116,000 in March, $283,000 in April and $208,000 in May."

Billions needed to repair deficient bridges in U.S.

Marisol Bello of USA TODAY reported that billions of dollars will be needed to repair deficient bridges throughout the U.S. Twelve percent of the bridges throughout the U.S. currently rate as deficient. "It would cost $9.4 billion a year for 20 years to eliminate all bridge deficiencies in the USA, according to the latest estimate, made in 2005, by the American Society of Civil Engineers." The report includes a roll-over map listing the number of deficient bridges by state.

Chinese officials buy silence from grieving parents

Chinese officials are offering "hush money" to families who lost children in the May 12 earthquake, reports Edward Wong of The New York Times. "Local governments in southwest China’s quake-ravaged Sichuan Province have begun a coordinated campaign to buy the silence of angry parents whose children died during the earthquake, according to interviews with more than a dozen parents from four collapsed schools." More than 240 children died when schools collapsed during the earthquake. Many parents had raised concerns that the high death toll was due to corruption and negligent construction.

DNA test suggests Ohio inmate not linked to rape

Geoff Dutton and Mike Wagner, of The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, report that DNA results recently returned show that Robert McClendon, an Ohio inmate who has served 18 years for rape, is not a match for the semen found on the underwear of the 10-year-old victim. "McClendon's case was highlighted in 'Test of Convictions,' a five-day series in January that exposed flaws in Ohio's prisoner DNA-testing program and identified 30 cases that were prime candidates for testing." McClendon was the first inmate of those identified in the series to complete the DNA testing process.

Mapping the mortgage crisis in Minnesota

Using Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data, Kristi Piehl, Nicole Muehlhausen and Mike Maybay of KSTP evaluated the housing market in Minnesota. They analyzed 16 years of data to see how the mortgage crisis has impacted the state. In some counties, foreclosure rates have increased by over 400 percent over the last three years. Interactive maps of mortgage applications and denials, as well as foreclosures, can be found on the KSTP website. The HMDA data for this story was provided by IRE and NICAR.

Millions in debt for fraud, Oregon businessman still generous to GOP

Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week reported that Craig Berkman, a former Oregon Republican Party chairman, was found in a civil lawsuit to have defrauded some of Portland’s wealthiest investors out of millions of dollars and was ordered to repay $28 million. Despite the lawsuit and ailing personal finances, Berkman continued to give generous political contributions to Sen. John McCain and others. He maxed out his donations to McCain and gave $23,990 to the Republican National Committee on May 29 — three weeks after his fraud trial began, and two weeks before the jury’s verdict.