Extra Extra : October 2009

Child workers found laboring on U.S. blueberry farm

Children as young as 5-years-old were found working in the fields of the Adkin Blue Ribbon Packing Company — one of the biggest blueberry growers in the country — this summer, according to a report by Avni Patel, Angela M. Hill, Asa Eslocker and Brian Ross of ABCNews.com. Upon learning of the ABC News investigation, Walmart severed its ties with the blueberry grower "pending the outcome of an investigation by our ethical sourcing team." Randy Adkin, the owner of the company, has also been cited by the Department of Labor for violations of federal child labor laws.

Clean energy stimulus funds ending up overseas

The latest report from the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University shows that the majority of clean-energy grants paid out from stimulus funds have gone to overseas companies. "Of the $1.05 billion in clean-energy grants handed out by the government since Sept. 1, 84 percent – a total of $849 million – has gone to foreign wind companies. Spanish utility company, Iberdrola S.A., alone has collected $545 million through its American subsidiary."

Cost of U.S. Army aviation accidents on the rise

A report by Michael Fabey shows that aviation accidents have been much costlier in 2009 according to an Aerospace Daily analysis of Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center data.  "The average cost per accident or incident for this calendar year was about $220,178 as of July 28, the last date for which data were provided, compared to about $176,638 for all of 2008, the analysis shows."

Democratic donors rewarded with White House access

"During his first nine months in office, President Obama has quietly rewarded scores of top Democratic donors with VIP access to the White House, private briefings with administration advisers and invitations to important speeches and town-hall meetings," reports Mathew Mosk of The Washington Times.  Additionally, according to internal Democratic National Committee documents, access to top White House officials has been promised for generous pledges for the 2010 midterm elections.

The Rise and Fall of Denny Hecker series

A special report by the Pioneer-Press (St. Paul, Minn.) explores the dealings of failed businessman Denny Hecker. Hecker's business empire collapsed over the last year, and he filed for bankruptcy. Hecker is $767 million in debt. Many claim he "used his businesses as a personal piggy bank, siphoning money from his dealerships and rental-car companies to fund his other ventures and maintain his lavish lifestyle. State and federal investigators are looking into charges of money laundering, conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and bankruptcy fraud."

Nonprofit a source of ready money for city officials

A Baltimore Sun investigation reveals that a little-known private nonprofit group formed to primarily benefit city programs for the underprivileged is a source of money-on-demand for city government officials with almost no oversight. City employees wield broad discretion over how money is spent from the Baltimore City Foundation and the foundation asks few questions. The newspaper found that some of the money goes to projects having little or nothing to do with the group's tax-exempt purposes. According to legal and nonprofit experts, this is a potential violation of Internal Revenue Service rules.

Activist tackles Miami's housing woes

Paul Reyes, with support from the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, reports on housing issues in Miami, Fla. where over 70,000 are on a waiting list for public housing.  Additionally, Miami ranks fourth in foreclosure rates in American cities.  Reyes followed community activist Max Rameau, founder of the organization Take Back the Land, as he attempts to get families back into homes they've been evicted from, while trying to place others looking for housing in home held by banks.

Rulings by California's worker safety appeals board questioned

A Los Angeles Times investigation found that the Cal-OSHA Appeals Board "has repeatedly reduced or dismissed penalties levied by Cal-OSHA over the last few years, even in situations in which workers have died or been seriously injured." Inspectors and labor advocates are critical of the board claiming that repeatedly appealing penalties undermines Cal-OSHA's ability to prevent future accidents.

Historical records used to identify forgotten lead smelter

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is opening an investigation of possible lead contamination in an Atlanta neighborhood after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution unearthed old documents showing that a lead smelter spewed lead dust over the area for decades. Old smelting industry directories, property records and mothballed regulatory files were used to identify the old Evans Metal Co. smelter. The lead dust likely built up in the soil of surrounding properties and would remain near the surface despite the passage of decades, experts said. Soil contamination can pose a serious health threat, particularly to young children who put dirty hands and ... Read more ...