Extra Extra : December 2008

AIG's role in financial crisis explored

 In the latest installment of The Washington Post's look at the ways in which Wall Street innovation outpaced Washington regulation, Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Brady Dennis look at the role played by American International Group (AIG). They find that many of the most compelling aspects of the economic cataclysm can be seen through the story of AIG and its Financial Products unit: the failure of credit-rating firms, the absence of meaningful federal regulation, the mistaken belief that private contracts did not pose systemic risk, the veneration of computer models and quantitative analysis.

Ohio children die despite state oversight

An investigation by Randy Ludlow of The Columbus Dispatch uncovered that more than one-third of the Ohio children who died from abuse and neglect from 2002 to 2007 died on the watch of county children services agencies. The story revealed that caseworkers regularly made fatal mistakes by leaving imperiled children in abusive homes. The package documented some horrifying examples of children who died despite the involvement of children services officials. The story included a statewide survey of all 88 county children services agencies to uncover abuse deaths in which they were involved.

Many NBA players' charities mismanaged

A Salt Lake Tribune analysis of NBA player-run charities found they face a wide range of problems, from meager funding and high administrative costs to a lack of professional staffing and oversight. Tax records indicate these 89 charities together raised at least $31 million between 2005 and 2007, but only about $14 million of that actually reached the needy causes.

Athletes' SAT scores lag at major colleges and universities

An investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that football and men’s basketball players on the nation’s big-time college teams averaged hundreds of points lower on their SATs than their classmates. The investigation involved using state open records acts to request reports that colleges must file with the NCAA disclosing SAT scores of their athletes. More than 50 colleges and universities nationwide were examined.

Officers use deadly deadly force against unarmed suspects

A Los Angeles Times investigation has found that over the last six years, police officers in Inglewood, Calif., have repeatedly resorted to physical or deadly force against suspects who were unarmed or accused of minor offenses. In the span of four months this year, Inglewood officers shot and killed four people, three of them unarmed. The Times' review of court documents, law enforcement records and interviews shows that the problem is not new.

Maryland hospitals sue over unpaid bills while collecting surplus funds

An eight-month investigation by Fred Schulte and James Drew of The Baltimore Sun found that over the past five years some of Maryland's 46 nonprofit hospitals have received millions of surplus dollars from the government even as they sued tens of thousands of patients over unpaid bills. Many of these suits have been filed against patients in the poorest areas of the state.

EPA allows companies to keep chemical information secret

 In the latest installment of their ongoing 18-month investigation, Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency routinely allows companies to keep new information about their chemicals secret, including compounds that have been shown to cause cancer and respiratory problems. The newspaper examined more than 2,000 filings in the EPA's registry of dangerous chemicals for the past three years. In more than half the cases, the EPA agreed to keep the chemical name hidden from public view. In hundreds of other cases, it allowed the company filing the ...

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Mayors' requests laden with pork

CNN's Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost found more than $300 million in questionable projects submitted to Congress by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Boudreau and Zamost examined each item in the 800-page report. The proposals included a water park ride in Miami, a plan to help prostitutes in Dayton, Ohio, and a baseball museum in Durham, N.C. Critics called many of the items in the mayors’ report “pork.” Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, the president of the mayors’ group, told CNN he did not read the entire report and was unfamiliar with the $1.5 million water park ... Read more ...

Losing Louisiana series

A project by The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, La.)  looks at the precarious nature of southern Louisiana as land sinks due to subsidence while the waters of the Gulf are rising.   Over the next 100 years, the region could see a 2- to 6-foot rise in sea level, leaving cities like New Orleans dependent on levees for protection from the waters of the Gulf.  Videos and interactive graphics help depict what is happening to the coastline, and what might be done to save it.

Smoke and Mirrors: The Subversion of the EPA

A four-part series in The Philadelphia Inquirer looks into the Environmental Protection Agency's management under the Bush administration.  Stephen L. Johnson, Bush's appointment for EPA Administrator, has been accused by many in the scientific community for valuing the president's politics over human health and environmental welfare.