Extra Extra : November 2009

Funding problems found in charter school construction program

Tony Kennedy of the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reports that some of the state's charter schools have found a loophole in the Minnesota law that forbids charter schools from owning property. Millions of dollars in public money have gone to build schools even though the properties remain in the hands of private nonprofit corporations. According to the article, in the past decade, 18 charter schools have been built with $178 million in junk bonds.

Shut out of Social Security

Mike Chalmers of The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., found a pattern of "denial and delay" among administrative law judges who have the power to grant or deny Social Security benefits to disabled workers in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The News Journal "analyzed four years of decisions by ALJ in every state, more than 1.7 million records that show a huge disparity in how disability cases are decided by hearing office and region." The Social Security Administration refused to release information on complaints filed against the judges.

Federal subsidies paid to dead farmers

Stephen Stock of WFOR reported that as many as 1,399 Florida farmers who have been dead at least three years nonetheless received $55,051,857 in aid. "Working with help from the Environmental Working Group's database experts, the CBS4 I-Team matched Federal Farm Bill recipients with people, birth dates, addresses and social security numbers found on the Social Security Administration's death index." A searchable database accompanies the story.

Soldier's suicide illustrates problems in military psychiatric care

Tapping into hundreds of pages of medical records, Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel told the story of Iraq vet James Weigl, who committed suicide soon after his return to Wisconsin. Kissinger’s reporting identified numerous mistakes and missed warning signs – by the Army and the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Milwaukee. For example, Weigl had at least ...

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Lawmakers, state employees get millions in health insurance perks

Beth Reinhard and Marc Caputo of The Miami Herald report that Florida taxpayers foot the bill for the insurance premiums of Governor Charlie Crist and other high-ranking Florida officials. According to the article, 2,431 of the 27,479 government employees who receive this subsidy earn more than $100,000. The subsidy program costs about $45 million a year.

Man paroled 22 years after questionable conviction

An investigation by Times Herald-Record reporter Christine Young into the questionable handling by police and prosecutors of a 1987 New York City murder has led to the prison release of a man convicted of the crime. Lebrew Jones, who spent 22 years behind bars for a crime he maintained he did not commit, has been released on parole. Jones - with an IQ of 66 and described by psychologists as "suggestible" - was released on his first eligible chance. That early release, described as "basically unheard of," was due to Young's reporting, Jones' lawyers said.

Consultancies a cash-cow for retired military

Tapes reveal motive in soldiers' killing of four Iraqi detainees

An investigation by CNN's Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost found that U.S. soldiers interrogated by the Army in the 2007 murders of four Iraqi detainees blamed a military policy they said made it too hard to detain suspected insurgents. CNN obtained 23½ hours of Army interrogation videotapes that detail the March 2007 executions of the prisoners by three decorated sergeants. The Army had denied CNN's request for the tapes of a confession by one of the sergeants, the network obtained those tapes and others on its own. The investigation is airing as a series on AC 360 ... Read more ...

Domestic Silence series

A Columbus Dispatch investigation of domestic violence by Stephanie Czekalinski, Jill Riepenhoff and Mike Wagner shows flaws in Ohio laws and policies that create a culture of tolerance and indifference about the top crime in the state. Among the findings in the four-day series are that animals receive more protections than people, restraining orders for victims of domestic violence are flimsy protection at best, and the legal system allows repeat offenders to walk away from charges with little, if any, punishment, despite long histories of battering. Other members of the Dispatch Printing Company also produced stories on the topic this ... Read more ...

FBI tracked Studs Terkel for over four decades

Through the Freedom of Information Act, CUNY graduate student Valerie Lapinski was able to obtain previously unreleased FBI file of Studs Terkel.  The file revealed that the agency suspected Terkel was a Communist.  "The 269-page paper trail spans 1945 to 1990 – covering everything from Terkel’s McCarthy-era blacklisting to his involvement with Paul Robeson and third-party presidential candidate Henry Wallace to a birthday party toast he once made."  The agency never confirmed its suspicion, and stopped compiling information on him in 1990.  Terkel died October 31, 2008.