Extra Extra : May 2010

Juvenile sex offenders mainstreamed in Washington public schools

An investigation by KIRO-Seattle shows that "hundreds of teenagers, convicted of felony sex crimes, are attending middle and high schools throughout Washington."  The station identified at least 412 registered sex offenders under the age of 18.  "Of those kids convicted of sex crimes, 234 are 16 years old or younger. Nearly all of them must attend public school as part of their probation, parole, or other court ordered decree."  The story package includes a map showing the number of juvenile sex offenders enrolled in public schools by district.

BP chose riskier option to seal Deepwater Horizon well

Ian Urbina, of The New York Times, reports that a BP document provide to the paper by a Congressional investigator reveals that BP officials chose "to use a type of casing for the well that the company knew was the riskier of two options."  The selected casing only had a single seal, and if cement did not properly set it could create an leak from the wellhead. "The approach taken by the company was described as the 'best economic case' in the BP document. However, it also carried risks beyond the potential gas leaks, including the possibility that more work ... Read more ...

RV park investment leaves seniors penniless

A News-Press (Fort Meyers, Fla.) investigation found hundreds of senior citizens who invested more than $7 million with a Florida RV park and campground owner. The securities were unregistered and when investors complained to authorities, they were bounced from one agency to the next without any agency taking responsibility to investigate. The owner has declared bankruptcy and senior citizen investors from across the country have lost their life savings.

24-plus hour days billed by home health workers

Glenn Howatt and Pam Louwagie of the Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.) revealed that the state paid a home health care worker who billed for three 32 hour work days.  The Star Tribune investigation found that in at least 21 cases last summer, "the state Department of Human Services paid agencies where care attendants supposedly worked more than 24 hours a day."  The investigation also revealed that the state failed to enforce limits on the number of hours caregivers could work - a measure meant "to control costs and keep clients safe from overworked caregivers."

Chemical s used by BP may pose health threats

A WDSU-New Orleans report shows the chemical dispersant that BP is using on the oil spill in the Gulf may pose health threats to those working on the clean up, and fisherman are reporting illnesses. "Marine toxicologist Riki Ott said the chemicals used by BP can wreak havoc on a person's body and even lead to death.  'The volatile, organic carbons, they act like a narcotic on the brain,' Ott said. 'At high concentrations, what we learned in Exxon Valdez from carcasses of harbor seals and sea otters, it actually fried the brain, (and there were) brain lesions.'"

Gun-rental loophole for felons, others

Felons may be prohibited from buying, owning or carrying guns, but a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation by reporter John Diedrich revealed a loophole in the law allows them to rent guns at gun stores and use them for target practice on indoor ranges. Indeed, gun stores are prohibited from running background checks on those wanting to rent guns – even if the store wants to take that step. The story is part of a series, Wiped Clean, that looks at how Congress protects gun dealers at the public’s expense.

Investigation finds mercury in face cream

A Chicago Tribune investigation discovered high levels of mercury in skin lightening creams sold throughout Chicago. The newspaper sent 50 skin-lightening creams to a certified lab for testing, most of them bought in Chicago stores and a few ordered online. Six were found to contain amounts of mercury banned by federal law. Of those, five had more than 6,000 parts per million — enough to potentially cause kidney damage over time, according to a medical expert.

Mexican government seems to favor Sinaloa cartel

An NPR News investigation has found strong evidence of collusion between elements of the Mexican army and the Sinaloa cartel in the violent border city of Juarez. In an effort to find out whether federal forces are favoring the Sinaloa cartel, NPR analyzed thousands of news releases on the federal attorney general's website announcing arrests for organized crime, weapons and drug offenses. The analysis showed that the Mexican government crackdown has not hit the Sinaloans as hard as it has other cartels.

"Tax sale" foreclosures a threat to homeowners

A report by the Huffington Post Investigative fund examines "tax sale" foreclosures.  Amid the economic downturn, they are happening in Baltimore and other cities, where big banks, brokerage houses, and other investors are gaining the right from governments to collect on paltry debts of citizens. Fees and other costs swell, and homeowners who can't make the payments find themselves evicted. The result is hefty profits for the investors, with dire consequences for some communities. In the story, they follow a woman who lost her home - paid off in 1984 - due to an unpaid $362 city water bill.

Nitrate contamination a problem across California

"The water supply of more than two million Californians has been exposed to harmful levels of nitrates over the past 15 years," according to a report by California Watch. Nitrates are the most common groundwater contaminant, and are a problem in both rural and city water systems. In 1980, nine wells in California exceeded accepted limit for nitrates. By 2007, that number was 648 and scientists anticipate that number to continue to increase if steps aren't made to curb nitrate contamination.