Extra Extra : August 2010

Collateralized debt obligations fueled financial crisis

A report by ProPublica's Jake Bernstein and Jesse Eisinger "shows for the first time the extent to which banks — primarily Merrill Lynch, but also Citigroup, UBS and others — bought their own products and cranked up an assembly line that otherwise should have flagged."  These banks dealt in collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs.  A CDO is a collections of mortgage bonds, and each includes risky investments.  The banks would then create new CDOs to sell the risky pieces creating false demand for these toxic assets.

Nightclubs linked to sex trafficking continue to flourish

An investigation by The Palm Beach Post found that operators of nightclubs linked to sex trafficking by the FBI not only still are in business in Palm Beach County  — they are expanding. The Post also found one of the clubs was issued a Florida liquor license only because regulators failed to identify its operator as a felon with a history of shady dealings in the nightclub industry.

Corrosion could threaten structure of Gateway Arch

A report in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reveals that the iconic stainless steel Gateway Arch is corroding. Reporter Nick Pistor reviewed engineering documents, which indicated corrosion, some of it feared aggressive, and severe discoloration of the stainless steel skin have long been present. The National Park Service allowed the newspaper to inspect a corrosion investigative report for about 40 minutes, but took away access citing national security concerns. The report, issued in 2006, called for a deeper study, for which the National Park Service says it only recently obtained funding.

Law & Disorder looks at police corruption in post-Katrina New Orleans

Law & Disorder, a special report by FRONTLINE, ProPublica and  The Times-Picayune, investigates a number of questionable police shootings in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, raising new questions about the actions of police officers — and their command structure — in the aftermath of the catastrophe.  This airs on PBS August 25, and can be streamed online following the broadcast.

Small Business Administration failed hurricane victims in Gulf

The Associated Press investigated how the Small Business Administration responded to the hurricanes of 2005, and the impact on the Gulf Coast five year later.  The yearlong investigation by Mitch Weiss, Michael Kunzelman, Holbrook Mohr and Cain Burdeau found that loan officers rejected loans they should have approved, deleted loan applications for no valid reason, manufactured impossible to meet deadlines to clear a backlog of cases and made the loan process so difficult and chaotic that thousands just gave up. As a result, many people along the Gulf Coast are still struggling five years after the storms.

Patients in Peril series

From a violent patient allowed to roam free to a pregnancy case that violated policy at every turn and nurses who falsified documents to cover their mistakes, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation exposed a raft of problems at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, home to the county's most vulnerable residents. Reporters Meg Kissinger and Steve Schultze found lax oversight at the complex allowed a patient with a history of violence, including sexual assault, to repeatedly find new victims, including one who became pregnant and another he is charged with sexually assaulting. Staffers repeatedly allowed the patient to leave ... Read more ...

InvestigateWest:Cruise Ships Dump Waste To Dodge Laws

An InvestigateWest report on the billion dollar cruise ship industry in the Washington-Alaska cruise market found that most ships avoid tougher state regulations and dump their waste in Canadian waters between the two states, despite state efforts to adopt stricter standards for sewage and wastewater discharge.

Brevard (FL) Students Frequently Held Back

Mackenzie Ryan reports that struggling students in Brevard's public schools have a greater chance of repeating a grade than their peers in other parts of the state. In 2009, 7.1 percent of Brevard students were held back, compared with 4.6 percent statewide, a FLORIDA TODAY analysis of education data shows.