Extra Extra : December 2010

For-profit colleges double spending on lobbying to fight regulations

John Lauerman and Jonathan D. Salant of Bloomberg News found that for-profit colleges, faced with new federal restrictions, more than doubled their lobbying spending, bringing in six former members of Congress to help make their case on Capitol Hill. Ten education companies and their trade association spent $3.8 million on lobbying in the first nine months of 2010, up from $1.5 million in the comparable period last year, according to reports filed with Congress.

U.S. has approved billions in business with blacklisted countries

Despite sanctions and trade embargoes, over the past decade the United States government has allowed American companies to do billions of dollars in business with Iran and other countries blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism, an examination by Jo Becker of The New York Times has found. Nearly 10,000 licenses for deals involving such countries have been granted.

As deportations from county jails increase, some avoid criminal prosecutions

As the number of deportations from county jails increases across the country and in central Ohio, local authorities are struggling to deal with the fallout, a year-long examination by the The Columbus Dispatch found. In a communication mixup, ICE agents deported a witness in a murder trial before he could testify. The accused, a US citizen, was freed. And immigrants facing serious criminal charges use deportation to avoid criminal prosecution. Once deported, those immigrants are free to plan their clandestine return to the country. All the while the costs to taxpayers to fund the broken immigration system mount.

With little regulation online education can be costly

An investigation by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting shows how high school diplomas received online can be a waste of money and not recognized as valid. According to the report although dozens of organizations accredit schools, "the U.S. higher education community at large only recognizes a handful of accrediting organizations as legitimate." With little regulation in the online education market, individuals can spend lots of money on degrees that are essentially worthless.

Deepwater Horizon's final hours

An investigation by The New York Times details the final hours of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Based on interviews with crew members and sworn testimonies, the Times was able to piece together what happened during the final hours of this disaster. "What emerges is a stark and singular fact: crew members died and suffered terrible injuries because every one of the Horizon’s defenses failed on April 20. Some were deployed but did not work. Some were activated too late, after they had almost certainly been damaged by fire or explosions. Some were never deployed at all."

Behind the foreclosure crisis in three U.S. cities

To answer nagging questions about the foreclosure crisis, Jennifer LaFleur of ProPublica and Sanjay Bhatt of The Seattle Times built a database based on a random sample of some 1,200 foreclosure filings from the central county of three metro areas -- Seattle, Phoenix and Baltimore. Their findings challenge some of the conventional wisdom about the foreclosure crisis and reveal regional differences in who got into trouble and why.

Incomes lucrative for many at nonprofit hospitals

An investigation by John Ryan of Seattle public radio station KUOW found that 19 people working for nonprofit hospitals  in the Puget Sound region earned more than $1 million in 2008. The nonprofit groups paid the seven–figure sums even as Washington state fell into its worst recession in decades. According to the charities' filings with the IRS, another 59 employees earned at least $500,000 that year.

Gun stores remain open due to ineffective laws

Hobbled by Congress, federal watchdogs rarely revoke the licenses of lawbreaking gun dealers. And when they do, stores can easily beat the system by having a relative, friend or employee pull a fresh license - something that routinely happens across the country, a Journal Sentinel investigation by reporters John Diedrich and Ben Poston has found. The newspaper identified more than 50 stores in 20 states over the past six years where such a move was made, wiping the operation's slate clean. The newspaper's review, which involved contacting more than 150 gun dealers, uncovered 34 additional stores with indications a ... Read more ...

Property insurance system puts Floridians at risk

Sarasota Herald-Tribune reporter Paige St. John spent the past year investigating Florida’s property insurance crisis. Her work exposed companies that continued to sell policies when they had no way to pay claims and revealed company owners who demanded rate hikes while secretly siphoning profits from their struggling businesses. The series also revealed how insurers and reinsurers manipulated the market to overcharge homeowners and maximize profits, even as those homeowners struggled to pay their rising bills. Her examination of the finances of more than 100 companies led to a Web presentation and mobile app that allows homeowners to judge their ... Read more ...