Extra Extra : November 2010

Lax regulations in Texas lead to record DWI fatalities

A KHOU-Houston ongoing investigation finds questionable laws and misplaced priorities may be fueling the Texas record for more DWI fatalities than other state. Investigative Reporter Jeremy Rogalski found that the agency that is supposed to regulate bars, and take action against them if they "over-serve" a drunk, instead spends nearly all of its resources and time pursuing  those businesses for taxes and other state-revenue related issues. Rogalski also discovered another little-known law called "Safe Harbor." The 'brainchild' of liquor lobbyists, the 24 year-old program gives bars immunity from civil and state penalties when they over-serve a drunk, even when that ... Read more ...

Tracing the guns used to kill cops

In The Washington Post's continuing investigation, The Hidden Life of Guns, reporter Cheryl W. Thompson offers the first comprehensive analysis of how cop-killers got their guns. "Legal purchase was the leading source of weapons used to kill police officers. In 107 slayings, the killers acquired their firearms legally. In 170 deaths, The Post could not determine how the shooters got their guns, including 29 killings in which weapons were not recovered." Additionally, the analysis showed that traffic stops and domestic disputes are the two deadliest situations for officers.

Satellite monitoring of sex offenders under attack

In a two-part story on North Caroina's satellite-based monitoring of sex offenders program, the Winston-Salem Journal newspaper found that technological limitations create a system that some say does nothing more than create a false feeling of security. Additionally, legal challenges may reduce the number of offenders who will have to enroll. The Journal built an in-house spreadsheet to track more than a year's worth of decisions out of the state Court of Appeals, which showed that GPS monitoring was overturned in more than half the cases the court considered. The Journal also used a database of statistics provided ... Read more ...

Radiation levels in tap water underreported in Texas

A KHOU-TV investigation has uncovered that for years Texas’s environmental agency improperly “lowered” test results showing the amount of radiation in the tap water of thousands of communities. As a result, millions of citizens have not been aware of the risk they were taking just drinking their local water.  In particular, the TV report found that for carcinogenic “alpha particles”, the state’s “lowballing” helped many water companies avoid getting into federal trouble.  KHOU looked at one water provider with an official record of only twice exceeding EPA alpha radiation limits. In fact, the KHOU I-team discovered the utility ... Read more ...

Finding healthy food a struggle for many on food stamps

WBEZ radio in Chicago takes an in-depth look at food deserts in Chicago — areas where people using food stamps have little or no access to full-service grocery stores. Despite violations of the food-stamp program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has not cited any vendors for problems. Liquor stores, gas stations and dollar stores make up 30 percent of food-stamp sales in Chicago, the station's Natalie Moore found in her investigation. The online version of the radio story includes maps showing types of food-stamp vendors by location.

Serial killer series prompts police to re-open investigations

Police in Ohio and Indiana have launched new murder investigations after a Scripps Howard News Service investigation revealed dozens of clusters of unsolved killings of women nationwide that are likely the work of serial killers. Also, authorities in Nevada acknowledge they are hunting a serial killer, although the public has not been told that the unsolved murders of up to seven women are connected. Through analysis of over 525,000 murders in America, Thomas Hargrove created a database that crime experts say is the most complete accounting of homicide victims ever assembled in the United States. Using the Freedom of ... Read more ...

Combat-related injuries compound stuggles of soldiers returning from war

A report for CNN by Alex Quade explores the struggles of veterans suffering with combat-related health issues as they try to reintegrate into civilian life following service in Iraq and Afghanistan.  "War veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury and their families say military commanders, policy-makers, health care providers, and communities need to take more steps to help make their transition into the civilian community seamless." Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey recently acknowledged that the military is "too bureaucratic" when it comes to the handling and reintegration of its war veterans.

Welfare waste and abuse a problem in the Twin Cities

An investigation by KSTP-St. Paul, Minn. found that welfare funds are being used to purchase products such as cigarettes, alcohol, lottery tickets and tattoos. The seeming misuse of funds is actually legal. Through undercover reporting and data analysis, they tracked these purchases from the Twin Cities to the U.S Virgin Islands. The findings are already sparking change at the Minnesota State Capitol.

Felons, including sex offenders, ran camp for homeless kids

A Palm Beach Post investigation showed that Palm Beach County government officials paid a convicted child molester, thieves, drug dealers and other people with criminal records nearly half a million dollars to run subsidized summer camps for homeless and foster children during the past three years. The story also called attention to a loophole in Florida law that allows anyone, even a registered sex offender, to open a summer camp and gain unsupervised access to trusting parents' children.