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Extra Extra : June 2009
A Los Angeles Times analysis of fire inspection reports "show that personnel from the department's Bureau of Fire Prevention and Public Safety have been falling behind in their efforts to flag hazards such as inoperable sprinkler systems, illegally stored hazardous materials and broken or missing fire extinguishers. In some parts of the city, inspectors were surveying fewer than a third of their assigned buildings, according to the records."
A new NPR investigative series, Dollar Politics, opened with an introduction to the lobbyists positioning themselves in the national healthcare reform debate. The Web site for the stories asks NPR's audience to help connect names to lobbyists shown in a panoramic photo from a recent senate committee meeting.
The San Diego Union-Tribune found that "San Diego's payroll ballooned by $41 million last year, fueled by unpublicized payouts, labor settlements and costly benefits." Analysis of spending data "helps put into perspective the $43 million in wage and benefit reductions that will take effect July 1 to address a budget gap. [Mayor Jerry] Sanders portrays the 6 percent reductions as historic and difficult, yet the savings are about the same as last year's growth in payroll." The story is the first in a three-part series that also includes an online payroll database.
In its on-going watchdog series "Clout Goes To College," the Chicago Tribune reveals a "jobs-for-entry scheme" at the University of Illinois' law school. Internal emails "show for the first time efforts to seek favors -- in this case, jobs -- for admissions, the most troubling evidence yet of how Illinois' entrenched system of patronage crept into the state's most prestigious public university."
Renae Merle of The Washington Post reports that a backlog of delinquent mortgages threatens the nation's economic recovery. "It masks the full extent of the foreclosure crisis and threatens to depress prices even further just as some parts of the country are hinting at recovery. For lenders, it could portend even more financial losses tied to the mortgage meltdown." Economists say economic recovery is dependent on the stabilization of the housing market.
An investigation into the Church of Scientology by Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin of The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times alleges "a culture of intimidation and violence" under the church's leader, David Miscavige. The Times interviewed "executives who for decades were key figure in Scientology's powerful inner circle." Church leaders have refuted the claims made my the former members who spoke to The Times.
Companies that received multimillion-dollar deals with CalPERS, California’s giant public pension fund, pumped more than $300,000 into a union campaign fund overseen by Sean Harrigan while the long-time California labor leader was one of the giant pension fund's board members from 2000-2004, The Sacramento Bee’s Andrew McIntosh reported in an examination of the deals.
Executive Privilege, a series by The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), detailed questionable dealings by former North Carolina governor, Mike Easley. "Starting in 2003, Easley took at least 25 flights on private jets, some in apparent violation of campaign laws and ethics rules, documents and interviews show. Some flights were free. The value of others exceeded campaign contribution limits." Easley appointed one of his biggest supporters to an influential position that benefited both men. Since the series ran, there has been an expanded federal probe of the former governor, and resignations have come from the chancellor, provost and chairman of ... Read more ...
"Of the 2.1 billion gallons of water that flowed through city water mains in fiscal year 2007-2008, 26 percent went unbilled - or unaccounted - for," according to an analysis of utility records by The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.). Based on the retail rate of water in Panama City, the lost revenue from the unbilled water could be as much as $1.3 million.
"The air across Iowa is so polluted that the state is perilously close to violating new federal limits aimed at protecting human health. Yet Iowans have no way of knowing what chemicals they are breathing because of a limited - and often inaccurate - system of monitoring pollution statewide, a Des Moines Register investigation found." An interactive map included with the package shows the top emitters of pollutants across the state.