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Extra Extra Monday: Medical bills, hyperengineered food and private prison cash

Time
Bitter Pill: Why medical bills are killing us
“Breaking these trillions down into real bills going to real patients cuts through the ideological debate over health care policy. By dissecting the bills that people like Sean Recchi face, we can see exactly how and why we are overspending, where the money is going and how to get it back. We just have to follow the money.”

New York Times Magazine
The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food
“Inside the hyperengineered, savagely marketed, addiction-creating battle for American ‘stomach share.’”

Columbia Journalism Review
Immigration reform and private prison cash

“Key lawmakers in the immigration debate are among the top recipients of campaign contributions from the prison industry”

The New York Times
Major Banks Aid in Payday Loans Banned by States
“Major banks have quickly become behind-the-scenes allies of Internet-based payday lenders that offer short-term loans with interest rates sometimes exceeding 500 percent.”

Welcome to IRE's roundup of the weekend’s many enterprise stories from around the country. We'll highlight the document digging, field work and data analysis that made their way into centerpieces in print, broadcast and online from coast to coast. Did we miss something? Email tips to web@ire.org

Los Angeles Times
Herbalife cozies up with UCLA
“UCLA's Medical School has an unusually close relationship with Herbalife, which constantly promotes its connection to doctors there. Where do sensible ideas end and the shilling for Herbalife begin?”

The Indianapolis Star
Star Watch: Troy Woodruff ordered bridge rebuilt to benefit his family, records suggest
“To help out his family, a state highway official last year ordered construction supervisors to redo the approaches to a bridge over Interstate 69, despite objections from the project supervisor — at a cost to Indiana taxpayers of $770,444.”

The Tampa Bay Times
"Nonviolent" work release centers house murderers, other violent criminals
“A Tampa Bay Times' investigation found 20 murderers housed at work release centers across the state, including one who lives at the facility next to where Tifft was speaking. While work release centers are often described as a way for nonviolent offenders to transition back into society, a Times' analysis found that hundreds of inmates living in them have been convicted of violent crimes”

Las Vegas Sun
California, Nevada take opposite stances when disciplining the same doctor
“Nevada doesn’t disclose its response to a doctor who admitted to battery on a woman, California pulled his license.”

Austin American Statesman
Austin rail push resumes, but key questions linger
But despite those stirrings and official enthusiasm, fundamental questions about urban rail remain unresolved: What precisely will the first segment be, how much will it cost and will the federal government, as supporters presume, shoulder half the cost? Who will operate the system, and where will that entity find the money to pay operating costs? And those costs are also an unknown, but likely to be well above $10 million annually even for a relatively short starter system”

The Miami Herald
The Case of the phantom ballots: an electoral whodunit
Within 2½ weeks, 2,552 online requests arrived from voters who had not applied for absentee ballots. They streamed in much too quickly for real people to be filling them out. They originated from only a handful of Internet Protocol addresses. And they were not random. It had all the appearances of a political dirty trick, a high-tech effort by an unknown hacker to sway three key Aug. 14 primary elections, a Miami Herald investigation has found.”

The Boston Globe
In nonprofit game, athletes post losing records
“But an examination of the group’s financial records — part of a Globe review of more than 150 Internal Revenue Service filings by 50 nonprofits operated by professional athletes — reveals that just 37 cents of every dollar raised by the Josh Beckett Foundation went toward its mission to “improve the health and well-being of children.” That’s far less than the 65 to 75 cents that nonprofit specialists say is an acceptable minimum.”

Chicago Tribune
Court cases secret, so are the reasons
State law requires that some legal battles be filed under seal, such as whistleblower lawsuits. But the Tribune found chancery judges also have sealed cases for a fellow judge, the Wrigley family and a former Chicago Bulls basketball player.

The Star Tribune
Minnesota draining its supply of water
"Minnesotans have always prided themselves on their more than 10,000 lakes, great rivers and the deep underground reservoirs that supply three-fourths of the state’s residents with naturally clean drinking water. But many regions in the state have reached the point where people are using water — and then sending it downstream — faster than the rain and snow can replenish it. Now state regulators, who have never said no to a water permit, for the first time are planning to experiment with more stringent rules that will require some local communities to allocate scarce water."

The Arizona Republic
Troubled teens: At risk and overlooked
An Arizona Republic investigation finds some of Arizona's most severely troubled youth have reportedly been sexually and physically abused in residential treatment centers amid lax oversight by the state agencies that license, monitor, fund and assign children to the facilities.

The Journal Gazette
IOSHA falling down on job?
"The Indiana agency charged with keeping workplaces safe performs far fewer inspections than in the past, issues fewer serious violations and in recent years has struggled with employee turnover. Created in the 1970s as a state-run offshoot of a similar federal agency, the current Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a dramatically changed – and some say underfunded – agency."
OSHA assessing state safety offices’ effectiveness
"Problems in Nevada four years ago have federal officials still trying to determine whether states with their own workplace safety agencies are as good as OSHA."
Tragic consequences: Worker's death spotlights decline in plant safety inspections

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