Extra Extra : December 2009

Disabled workers paid cents-per-hour for work at state-run homes

Clark Kauffman of the Des Moines Register reports that more than 300 mentally retarded wards of the state are being paid less than the minimum wage for work performed at two state-run homes for the disabled. Seventy-four of the workers are paid an average hourly wage of 60 cents or less, and some of the labor is performed for the benefit of various for-profit companies. One worker averages 11 cents an hour working for a company owned by one of the world's richest private equity firms, the Carlyle Group. The wages are legal under a 71-year-old federal law intended ... Read more ...

Questions about results, conflict-of-interest surround early-childhood initiative

The Fresno Bee published a two-part series on accountability problems with Fresno County First 5, an early childhood initiative approved by voters in 1998. The first story found that, despite promises made to voters and millions of dollars spent on evaluations, First 5 hasn’t produced a complete evaluation of its results, raising questions about the effectiveness of the programs. The second story found that every member of the First 5 commission has worked for or represented an agency that received money from the commission.

Lax regulators allow nurses to lose licenses in one state, keep them in others

Nurses with troubled records can cross state lines and work without restriction, an investigation by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica and The Los Angeles Times found. Using public databases and state disciplinary reports, reporters found hundreds of cases in which registered nurses held clear licenses in some states after they'd been sanctioned in others, often for serious misdeeds.

Regulations crippling commercial fishing industry

A Life at Sea/A Life at Risk, a six-part series by The Press of Atlantic City (N.J.), examined the crushing impact of federal and state fishing regulations on New Jersey's $1 billion a year commercial fishing industry.  "The regulations use size limits, gear restrictions, seasons, quotas and other methods to reduce the catch. A new round of regulations is coming and the Department of Labor predicts they will be a factor in reducing fishing jobs by 16 percent over the next seven years."

Stimulus loans scarce for minority-owned businesses

Aaron Glantz of New American Media reports that analysis of data from the federal government's Small Business Association (SBA) revealed racial inequities in small business loans given out as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While race is not recorded by Recovery.gov, data from the SBA found that 91 percent of the 4,497 loans where race was reported went to white-owned businesses.

Losing 'Letta series

A six-month investigation by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette attempts to document the story of Carmeletta Green, a 12-year-old who disappeared from her home 27 years ago.  Police and court documents were reviewed and 38 people interviewed to piece together the story.  Remains found in 1991 were finally identified as Carmeletta Green Nov. 30, 2009.  Her case is now being pursued as a homicide.

Distribution of economic development loans questioned

The Buffalo News analyzed loans and grants data to see how the city "spends the federal funds it receives to promote economic development and urban renewal." The analysis showed that two-thirds of the almost $2 million in grant money went to Masten District where the mayor used to serve as councilman. Other regions in need of development, such as Grant Street, did not see much of the grant money. Overall, under Mayor Byron Brown, lending by the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp. has dropped significantly. An interactive graphic shows how money has been distributed throughout the city.

Teacher placement system undermines hiring choices

A voiceofsandiego.org project reveals a flawed teacher placement system that can undercut schools from making straightforward choices on the fundamental issue of who teaches in their classrooms.  A survey of over two dozen principals revealed that in approximately one out of every five teacher hires they were not able to pick the applicant they wanted.