Extra Extra : August 2009

Accidental deaths remain a problem for the medical industry

Hearst Newspapers reveals widespread failure ten years after a federal report implored the medical industry to cut in half the annual death toll from medical errors and hospital-caused infections, estimated at 200,000. Among the failures: the federal government doesn’t even tally the nation’s leading category of accidental deaths. Some states tried but most failed. Hospital discharge data, court records, medical disciplinary documents and hundreds of interviews reveal chaos and continued tragedy. Lead reporters Cathleen Crowley and Eric Nalder, editors Phil Bronstein, David McCumber and Bob Port were joined by 30 others from Hearst Newspapers, Hearst Television and ... Read more ...

Automaker blames drivers for spontaneous airbag deployments

Through analysis of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Deborah Sherman of KUSA-Denver found air bags in newer-model Hondas have deployed 96 times without warning since 2004. The automaker denies the incidents and blames the deployments on drivers. As a result, the drivers or their insurance companies are responsible for the cost of repairing the vehicles.

Army ends practice of profiling journalists covering war efforts

Stars and Stripes (Washington, D.C.) reporter Kevin Baron reports that less than a week after the paper first revealed that the Pentagon was routinely profiling journalists, the Army decided to cancel the program.  "The U.S. military is canceling its contract with a controversial private firm that was producing background profiles of journalists seeking to cover the war that graded their past work as 'positive,' 'negative' or 'neutral.'"

Details revealed about deaths at Memorial Medical Center after Katrina

An investigation by Sheri Fink of ProPublica reveals "what really happened to some of the patients who died at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina." Among her findings, Fink reports that more patients than had been previously reported were given lethal injections, and some of those patients were near death when they were euthanized. She also looks at who was involved in the decisions made at the hospital, and why those choices were made.

Chemical industry fought ban of bisphenol A

Reporters Meg Kissinger and Susanne Rust of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reviewed thousands of pages of public records, from IRS documents to financial disclosure filings, to get inside the chemical industry's push to fight a ban on bisphenol A, a chemical used in hard, clear plastics, including baby bottles. Their analysis showed the industry has turned to many of the same tactics — and people — used by Big Tobacco to fight government regulation. The two reporters also found Statistical Assessment Service (STATS), a group purporting to be an independent media watchdog, has ties to the industry and groups that fight ... Read more ...

Thousands of petroleum leaks go uncleaned in Florida

Matt Dixon of The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.) reports that budget cuts and strict state regulations have prevented the clean-up of thousands of underground petroleum leaks throughout Florida. Analysis of discharge data maintained by the Florida Department of Environment Protection shows more than 17,000 uncleaned leaks dating back to the mid-1980s.

Common weed killer taints water supplies

As part of its ongoing series on water pollution in America, The New York Times looks at the impact of atrazine, a popular weed killer, on our water supply . Recent research indicates that exposure to low concentrations of atrazine may be linked to low birth weights, birth defects and menstrual problems. The Times investigation found "that in some towns, atrazine concentrations in drinking water have spiked, sometimes for longer than a month. But the reports produced by local water systems for residents often fail to reflect those higher concentrations."

Former governor failed to report gift of $50,000 golf club dues

Andy Curliss of The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) reported that former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley got at least $50,000 in free golf dues from an expensive club near Raleigh and did not report the gift on the required disclosure forms. The News & Observer's continued coverage of Gov. Easley has led to federal and state investigations the former governor.

Retreat pay a costly perk in UNC system

Dan Kane and Eric Ferreri of The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) took a look at a little known perk for University of North Carolina administrators known as "retreat rights" that paid them as much as a full year's leave at their administrative salaries while they prepared for courses.  In several cases, the administrators left the the University or retired without returning to the classroom, yet they kept the retreat pay. "Over the past five years, taxpayers have paid about $8 million to 117 administrators who either returned to the faculty or left the university. In 24 cases, the ... Read more ...