Extra Extra : April 2010

Problems plague Georgia's foster care system

An investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed widespread problems in Georgia's foster care system.  "The newspaper reviewed more than 1,500 reports of state inspections and investigations, which provide an astonishing narrative of stark conditions and inadequate oversight in small foster homes and large group facilities alike. "  In one case, an 17-year-old with a history of "incest and other sexual activity" was placed in a home with an autistic, mute 8 year old where they shared a bed.

Army trauma units failing to meet needs of soldiers

James Dao and Dan Frosch, of The New York Times, report on Warrior Transition Units that were created in the wake of the Walter Reed scandal. Meant as safe havens for soldiers as they recuperated from injuries and transitioned back into active duty or civilian life, the units "are far from being restful sanctuaries. For many soldiers, they have become warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned officers."

Safety practices at coal mines vary throughout U.S.

An investigation by Dan Barry, Ian Urbina and Clifford Krauss, of The New York Times, shows wide discrepancies in safety practices at coal mines throughout the United States. Mine disasters, such as the methane explosion that caused 29 fatalities at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine, have colored the national perception of the industry. "A comparison between Massey’s safety practices and those of other operators in the coal industry shows sharp differences, helping to explain why Massey mines led the list of those warned by federal regulators that they could face greater scrutiny because of their many violations. "

Failures in electronic record systems may pose danger to patients

A review of Food and Drug Administration reports by Fred Schulte and Emma Schwartz, of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund, revealed failures in electronic medical records systems that have resulted in death or serious injuries for patients. These "adverse events" could indicate bigger issues as hospitals make the move from paper to electronic records. Experts worry that "the prospect of stimulus funding – an estimated $5 million or more per hospital – encourages hospitals to install systems prematurely, possibly exposing patients to harm associated with software glitches and other system bugs."

Carbon offsets have little impact on global warming

A joint investigation by The Christian Science Monitor and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting "found that individuals and businesses who are feeding a $700 million global market in offsets are often buying vague promises instead of the reductions in greenhouse gases they expect." Carbon offsets are unregulated and often linked to projects that are never completed. In other instances, they are paying for projects that would have been completed without them.

Consumers call tactics of debt collectors abusive

An investigation by Mc Nelly Torres, of ConsumerAffairs.com, found consumers complaining of illegal, abusive conduct as collectors defy federal and state enforcers. “There’s no doubt that the debt collection industry is thriving. You can’t get blood from a rock, but these guys are trying,” said Ira Rheingold, executive director and general counsel of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington D.C. Consumer advocates say stronger federal laws -- and much more aggressive enforcement -- are needed. While debt collector abuses are nothing new, Torres reports that consumer advocates fear the abuses will ... Read more ...

Nursing homes collected million yet cut staff, wages

An investigation by Christina Jewett and Agustin Armendariz of California Watch shows that 232 nursing homes in California "either cut staff, paid lower wages or let caregiver levels slip below a state-mandated minimum" despite collecting about $236 million in additional funding intended to hire more caregivers and increase wages. "Many nursing homes appeared to use the cash infusion to help bolster their bottom lines, according to a California Watch analysis of state nursing home data. Among the 131 homes that cut staff by 2008, the median profit was 35 percent more than other homes in the analysis."

Dozens tricked into registering to vote Republican

Brian Joseph of The Orange County Register reports on how petitioners "tricked dozens of young Orange County voters into registering to vote as Republicans." Written complaints have been filed with state election officials by at least 99 people who have been unwittingly registered to vote Republican. A similar fraud landed eight petitioners in jail in 2006.

Little done to deter violations of Clean Air Act

Through analysis of Clean Air Act data kept by the Environmental Protection agency, The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, Ind.) found government regulators have a list of more than 200 facilities in Indiana they say have broken air pollution laws in the past three years, yet little or nothing has been done to stop them. The majority of the Indiana companies that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says have violated the federal Clean Air Act since January 1, 2007 were still in violation three years later, and in more than a third of those cases, state and federal regulators have ... Read more ...