Extra Extra : November 2008

Charity profits off the victims of Hurricane Katrina

Investigator Keli Rabon of WREG-TV in Memphis uncovers a multi-million dollar charitable project that was supposed to rebuild 100 homes ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi. The American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and local charities partnered to rebuild the homes, but 18 months after the project’s “finish”, Rabon discovers shoddy work, missing money, and families who were left nearly homeless by a project that was supposed to help them. The project might be over, but the project’s leaders aren’t finished — Rabon finds they have started the scam all over again — this time in New Orleans.

Property dispute pits farmer against U.S. government

When organic farmer Brian Grosh was tasered three times in the middle of his cornfield by park rangers with the National Park Service, he called WTTG-TV (Washington, DC) Investigative Reporter Tisha Thompson and Investigative Producer Rick Yarborough to find out why the Federal government continues to trespass on his farm. A simple assault charge became a complex property records investigation, with Thompson and Yarborough searching through more than 150 years of deeds and survey maps to find an answer that dates back before the creation of the United States, when Maryland was still a colony.

Obama found support in Oklahoma's urban precincts

Oklahoma voters gave Republican Sen. John McCain one of his largest margins of victory over Democrat Barack Obama in the presidential election earlier this month. But an analysis of precinct results from across the state by The Oklahoman shows Obama claiming heavily populated urban areas and pockets of support in eastern Oklahoma. McCain outpolled Obama almost everywhere else.

Unapproved prescription drugs covered by Medicaid

An Associated Press analysis of federal drug data shows the U.S. government has spent over $200 million since 2004 on drugs that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In some instances, these unapproved medications have been linked to deaths. While Medicaid is not supposed to cover unapproved drugs, the FDA does not have a comprehensive list of the banned medications. Medicaid can continue to pay for the medication until it is officially taken off the market by the FDA, a protracted process that can take years.

U.S flex-fuel fleet fraught with problems

A 16-year long federal program to build a fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles for the government has been riddled with problems, according to a report by Kimberly Kindy and Dan Keating of The Washington Post.  "Under a mandate from Congress, federal agencies have gradually increased their fleets of alternative-fuel vehicles, a majority of them 'flex-fuel,' capable of running on either gasoline or ethanol-based E85 fuel. But many of the vehicles were sent to locations hundreds of miles from any alternative fueling sites, the analysis shows."  Over 92 percent of these vehicles are still using regular gasoline.  Additionally, many of the newer ... Read more ...

State-run home for disabled hired unlicensed medical directors

Clark Kauffman of the The Des Moines Register reports that a state-run home for profoundly disabled children and adults has employed nine unlicensed psychologists and two successive, unlicensed medical directors. State records show the medical directors — both of whom are gynecologists — were paid a total of $127,424 without either of them ever obtaining the Iowa medical licenses that would have enabled them to care for residents as specified in their job descriptions. Kauffman also reported that after one former doctor at the home was fired for abusing a resident, Iowa officials removed his name from the state's registry ... Read more ...

Safety standards lacking at some Florida day cares

A report by the I-Team at CBS-4 in Miami showed many day-care centers in metropolitan South Florida have operated for years without complying with state safety standards, according to public records.  Stephen Stock of WFOR led an investigation that pored through more than 7,000 paper inspection reports. Members of the IRE/NICAR Database Library staff assisted the Channel 4 I-Team with analysis of the reports, which were entered into a computer database, and the creation of an interactive map and search tool for visitors to the station’s Web site to browse through the results themselves.

Enforcement of vaccination law lax at day cares

Following up on a recent investigation of vaccination enforcement in schools, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that hundreds of local day care centers also routinely violate a state law that prohibits admitting children without required shots. The newspaper also found health officials and child care licensing regulators were confused about what the law actually says and have been declaring centers in compliance even if as many as 10 percent of children are not vaccinated.

The taking of NASA’s secrets

BusinessWeek’s Keith Epstein and Ben Elgin disclose detailed evidence that hackers and foreign operatives have been penetrating NASA computers for years, robbing the nation’s military and scientific institutions — along with the defense industry that serves them — of secret information on satellites, rocket engines, launch systems, and even the Space Shuttle. As part of a yearlong look at high-tech security threats to U.S. weapons systems and government and defense industry computer networks, BusinessWeek interviewed more than 100 current and former government employees, defense industry executives, and people with ties to U.S. military and intelligence agencies.

Victims' fund shrinking due to uncollected court fees

Alexis Wiley of WSYX-Columbus used account records to show Ohio judges are not forcing offenders to pay court costs resulting in a shortage of money for the Attorney General's fund for victims of violent crime. The fund exists to assist victims when unexpected expenses arise, but in the last two years over $640,000 in fees that help fund the program have gone uncollected by Ohio courts.