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Extra Extra : April 2009
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants states to assess their own inspection programs, even after Georgia’s failed to prevent a salmonella outbreak traced to a Blakely peanut plant, exposing broad gaps in the nation’s food safety system," according to an article by Alan Judd of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Food safety experts question the efficacy of this plan without thorough auditing and monitoring of the state-level programs by the FDA.
Abigail Goldman of the Las Vegas Sun explored the prevalence of direct-mail contests and sweepstakes that make big claims but use small type to disclose the odds of winning. According to the article, “These halfhearted disclosures make the contests perfectly legal and perfectly manipulative, at least according to consumer advocates, who argue that the schemes fool the elderly, uneducated and naive into thinking they’ve struck it rich.” The article shares the story of Linda, an 81-year-old woman who has 2 cents in savings after paying dozens of contest entry fees and bounced-check charges.
The Washington Post's Cheryl Thompson investigated one of the most controversial police shootings Washington, D.C., has had in decades. A chain of police missteps and oversights invite questions about the killing of 14-year-old DeOnté Rawlings. Thompson ultimately found a more ambiguous picture than the police, who cleared the two off-duty officers of any wrongdoing.
A Center for Public Integrity investigation found that for years lenders have pressured appraisers to inflate home values to obtain higher mortgages. The article by Joe Eaton states, “In addition, the Center has obtained copies of lenders’ ‘blacklists’ containing the names of thousands of appraisers; some appraisers say lenders used those lists to exclude those who refused to inflate home values."
"Civilian workers who suffered devastating injuries while supporting the U.S. war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan have come home to a grinding battle for basic medical care, artificial limbs, psychological counseling and other services," according to a joint investigation by ABC News, the Los Angeles Times and ProPublica. The report says serious claims are routinely denied by the the taxpayer-funded policies held by civilian contractors while companies like American International Group (AIG) have turned hundreds of millions of dollars in profit on these policies.
The Detroit Free Press looked into the on-going problem of streetlight outages in the city. "The Free Press spent three nights in March driving more than 200 miles of city streets examining the state of some of Detroit's 88,000 lights, at least 9,000 of which are out." Response to reports of outages are met with months-long delays or no response at all. "An aging system, combined with too few maintenance workers, has pushed the situation in the city to the brink. Detroit has four 2-person crews to make basic fixes to the city's 88,000 lights."
Additional arrests are pending in the murder of Chauncey Bailey according to reports from the San Francisco Chronicle and The Chauncey Bailey Project. As part of a plea agreement, Devaughndre Broussard is expected to testify before a grand jury next week that he was ordered to kill Bailey by former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV.
The Michigan Department of Education’s annual report shows charter schools perform better than other districts, but the department might be changing the method it uses to gauge charter school performance. An article written by Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki and Kristi Tanner states, “… a Free Press analysis shows that almost three out of five charter schools score worse on the MEAP [Michigan Educational Assessment Program] than the average score of schools within the district where the charter school operates.”
Steve Myers of Poynter interviewed Sarah Cohen, database editor for The Washington Post's investigative team, on her use of data visualization as part of exploratory reporting. Cohen spoke on the topic at the 2009 CAR Conference in Indianapolis. Download the tipsheet from her presentation here (pdf).
A three-month investigation by voiceofsandiego.org examined a real estate scheme involving three condo projects. According to the article written by Kelly Bennett and Will Carless, “The buyers were straw buyers, individuals who agreed to rent out their identities and good credit scores to a Bay Area man named Jim McConville, whose team obtained mortgages in their names but didn't follow through on their promise to make the payments.”