Extra Extra : August 2011

After spending millions on a publicly funded power plant, company has little to show

In a two-part series, the Duluth News Tribune found that despite receiving $42 million in state and federal funding over 10 years, a proposed “clean coal” plant has yet to move a shovelful of dirt. And despite receiving all of its backing from the public trough, the company’s spending records, including its officers’ paychecks, were put under wraps by the state legislature. The paper also found that the project is in need of more public funds to survive, and yet has not lined up a single customer for its power.

Rep. Tom Anzelc, D-Balsam Township, called out Excelsior Energy ...

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Florida housing market still struggles with foreclosures

As the real estate market began to crumble around 2007, the Florida housing market took a big hit. In 2009, nearly 6 percent of the state’s “entire housing stock” was in foreclosure. While the market has improved slightly in the past two years, there are still “almost 40,000 properties in foreclosure. “Almost 30,000 more are in the short sale process … and “another 56,000 are in preforeclosures.”

Ralph De La Cruz of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that because of the giant number of foreclosure cases, the state hired former judges and used “expedited procedures ...

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KBR’s umbrella contract with the government raises questions

As U.S. troops moved into Afghanistan in the months following 9/11, there were few facilities in place that would offer them support. As Sharon Weinberger of The Center for Public Integrity reports, “the military needed someone to do everything from housing troops to rebuilding airfields. The solution was a contract called the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or LOGCAP, a type of umbrella contract the Army had been using to support is military bases overseas.”

In 2001 the Army awarded the “LOGCAP III” to the firm KBR, which was “once a subsidiary of Halliburton.” For the next decade, KBR ...

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Journalism students report on the Haitian population in the Dominican Republic

Seventeen students from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University traveled “to the Dominican Republic to investigate how immigration and border policies are affecting the country’s large Haitian population.” The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting recently published several reports on what the students found:

“Whitney Phillips examined how the Dominican Republic “has re-written its Constitution, re-interpreted old laws and passed new ones” to deny Haitians birthright citizenship (en Español), Lauren Gilger told the story of pregnant Haitian women crossing over the border to give birth, and Serena Del Mundo described how the ...

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Death penalty in Military polluted with racial disparities

Melissa Taylor, McClatchy, reports on the findings of a disturbing academic research study. “A  group of law and statistics professors found that minorities in the military were twice as likely to be sentenced to death as their white counterparts, a statistic higher than is known to exist in most civilian court systems.” However, the authors of the study also stated that there is “no suggestion here that any participant in the military criminal justice system consciously and knowingly discriminated on the basis of the race of the accused or the victim”, despite the fact that there is “substantial evidence that ...

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U.S. Navy struggling to maintain ships

Michael Fabey, from Aviation Week, reports on the deteriorating health of some our Navy’s ships, mostly due to budget cut backs tied with our involvement overseas.

“As conflicts were heating up in the latter years of the previous decade, the Navy shifted its funding focus from ship repair to buying items like helicopter components or combat vehicles.”

Now, as budgets tighten all across the board, the U.S. Navy needs to come up with ‘billions of dollars’ in order to keep their ships from sinking. Literally. Coming directly from the February 2010 Fleet Review Panel study- “The material readiness ...

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Towing Services Division continues to rack up high overtime payouts

Since 2007, the city of St. Louis has worked to cut overtime costs. Many departments have been successful, though one stands out as continuing to rack up high overtime payouts: the Towing Services Division. Reporter David Hunn of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, writes that the foremen “in the towing division serve as examples of how the city often uses overtime to fill in for positions lost in budget cuts.” If one or two workers cannot work, other employees fill in the shifts. This usually means they work on their scheduled days off.  The most “senior” employee pocketed “at least ...

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Wilkes-Barre mayor used used summer jobs program to hire family, friends

Citizens Voice reporter, Andrew Staub, uses DocumentCloud to publish documents showing Mayor Tom Leighton has been hiring his kids and relatives for summer jobs. Over the past 8 years, Leighton hired his children for over a dozen different positions.  However, it’s not just his children he’s hiring, but also affluent children from his neighborhood.

“The hires have clouded a summer jobs program that offers organized activities and lunch for city youth and resume-building work experience for the hires. A review of Leighton’s seasonal and temporary hiring, funded largely through more than $2 million in budget allocations over ...

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CMS reports over 600 pages of neglect at Dallas County public hospital

Dallas’ Parkland Memorial Hospital, which offers care to much of the poor community in the Dallas County area, have been targeted by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. They found countless incidents of deficiencies in the hospital, including “patients lost in hallways, buckled over in pain. Children discharged without medical screening or stabilizing care. Emergency room patients repeatedly placed in dirty bedding.”

The hospital must address the problems or face losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal health care funding. If the agency, on reinspection, finds that the patient care deficiencies aren’t corrected, Parkland could lose ...

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Charity’s director has felony past, including theft

Shaun Hittle, of the Lawrence Journal-World, investigates one charity in Lawrence, KS, and the man behind it.

Andrew Gruber, The Purple Heart Veterans Foundation’s director who payed his brother’s fundraising business nearly a half million dollars in 2010 is now being investigated on past criminal charges.  Among many other charges, Andrew spent time in a Kansas prison for felony theft after pleading guilty to stealing a rental car in 2000. Gruber was sentenced to probation and restitution in the case but failed to make timely payments toward the $11,000 court-ordered victim restitution and missed numerous court appearances ...

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