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Unchecked irrigation threatens to sap Minnesota groundwater

Crop irrigation has boomed in Minnesota in the past few years, increasing land values and raising yields for corn, soybeans and other crops. But hundreds of Minnesota farmers appear to be irrigating cropland without the state permits required to use large volumes of public water, according to Minnesota Public Radio News.

Of roughly 1,200 crop irrigation wells drilled from 2008 to 2012, more than 200 likely are operating without a permit, a Minnesota Public Radio News investigation of public well records found. In addition, nearly 200 others operated without a permit until the past year or so.

Click to read the full story. 

From the IRE Journal: Learn how reporter Mark Steil used data to find hundreds of unpunished water violations in rural Minnesota.

Thousands of people went without food stamps in North Carolina last year after government computers across the state crashed, according to the Huffington Post.

According to the report:

"The food stamp delays can be traced to troubles with a computer system designed by Accenture, one of the world’s largest consulting firms. The company is among a small group of politically connected technology contractors that receive government business across the country despite previous criticism of their work.

Accenture won the North Carolina contract after spending thousands of dollars on political contributions and lobbying in the state. North Carolina hired Accenture even though at least six other states -- Colorado, Florida, Wyoming, Kansas, Wisconsin and Texas -- have canceled contracts with the company in the past decade over problems with its computer systems."


"CBC Toronto crunched the numbers and found that a Scarborough restaurant tops the list of violations with more than thirty - resulting in eight yellow signs - in just two years." Read the full story here.

A USA Today investigation found that consumers who buy Reumofan, a Mexican dietary supplement considered a "100% natural" treatment for arthritis and joint pain, "are risking dangerous side effects and trusting their lives to a company that uses fake addresses, lies about the ingredients in its products and may not even exist."

USA Today set out to find the company behind Reumofan products, Riger Natural, and the people responsible through searching corporation records and visiting addresses listed for it in Mexico. The addresses were fake, and no evidence exists the companies ever had facilities in the locations, USA Today reports: "Even Mexican health authorities have been unable to track down the company."

USA Today launched the first part of its investigation titled Supplement Shell Game: The People behind risky pills. The first article examines Matt Cahill, who has spent time in federal prison and now faces another federal charge after creating a series of products over the past 12 years -- one of which contained a pesticide banned for human consumption. One of Cahill's supplements, Craze, was marketed as "all-natural" and rated Supplement of the Year, and later was found to include undisclosed levels of amphetamine-like compounds. The supplement has been linked to several athletes' liver failures.

Experts told USA Today that Cahill's history is emblematic of an industry with a lot of "bad actors" reaching the mainstream, as producers can operate without scrutiny and their products can hit the market without prior approval.

A Salon report states: “Major conglomerates claim their food is healthy. But they might have funded the study -- and the feds barely care.”

Unjustified | Newsday
“Report reveals how cop shot unarmed man - and kept his job.”

Secret files reveal how pay-to-play works in N.J. | The Star-Ledger
“A special report by The Star-Ledger exposes how one politically connected engineering firm parlayed campaign donations into millions of dollars in public contracts, all the while keeping the scheme hidden from the public. An analysis of the records, meticulously kept and numbering 137 pages, found Birdsall made more than 1,000 secret campaign contributions worth in excess of $1 million to politicians of all stripes and in all corners of New Jersey. At the same time, the company cashed in on more than $84 million in public contracts.”

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. Did we miss something? Email suggestions to

Female workers face rape, harassment in US agriculture industry | The Center for Investigative Reporting
“Hundreds of female agricultural workers have complained to the federal government about being raped and assaulted, verbally and physically harassed on the job, while law enforcement has done almost nothing to prosecute potential crimes.”

Under the Curse of Cartels | The Oregonian
“In a nine-month investigation, The Oregonian has learned that Mexican cartels, including the powerful Sinaloa and the brutal Los Zetas, have infiltrated almost every corner of Oregon. At last count, authorities were aware of no fewer than 69 drug trafficking organizations selling drugs in the state, nearly all supplied by cartels.”

Computer Industry, Unions Big Donors to Immigration Bill Supporters |
“The 27 senators who voted against the amendment, which strengthens border security but is also a step towards passing the overall immigration package, on average received very little money from those three types of groups, but did receive heavy support from donors in the agribusiness industry.”

Top Medicare prescribers rake in spending fees from drug makers | ProPublica
“Data obtained and analyzed by ProPublica suggest another factor in the drug Bystolic's rapid success: Many of the drug's top prescribers have financial ties to Forest Laboratories, its maker.”

Sodomy Hazing Leaves 13-Year-Old Victim Outcast in Colorado Town | Bloomberg News
“High-school hazing and bullying used to involve name-calling, towel-snapping and stuffing boys into lockers. Now, boys sexually abusing other boys is part of the ritual. More than 40 high school boys were sodomized with foreign objects by their teammates in over a dozen alleged incidents reported in the past year, compared with about three incidents a decade ago, according to a Bloomberg review of court documents and news accounts.”

In Debate Over Military Sexual Assault, Men Are Overlooked Victims | The New York Times
“In a debate that has focused largely on women, this fact is often overlooked: the majority of service members who are sexually assaulted each year are men.”

According to a Center for Investigative Reporting article, hundreds of female agricultural workers have complained to the federal government about being raped, assaulted and verbally and physically harassed on the job, while law enforcement has done almost nothing to prosecute potential crimes.

Terrorism fears have led government to cloak the danger of hazardous chemical plants | The Houston Chronicle
"Around the country, hundreds of buildings like the one in West store some type of ammonium nitrate. They sit in quiet fields and by riverside docks, in business districts and around the corner from schools, hospitals and day care centers. By law, this shouldn’t be a mystery. Yet fears of terrorism have made it harder than ever for homeowners to find out what dangerous chemicals are hidden nearby. Poor communication can also keep rescue workers in the dark about the risks they face."

Milwaukee County mental health system traps patients in cycle of emergency care | The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Milwaukee County's mental health system focuses less on continual care and more on emergency treatment than any in the nation. Despite scandals, studies and promises of reform, the system is like many of its patients: It never gets better."

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. Did we miss something? Email suggestions to

In California, incarcerated students fall through gaps in special education laws | The Center for Investigative Reporting
"California and federal laws allow students with disabilities to receive special education until age 22. But the laws are vague enough that deciding who should provide that education is unclear."

Now, You Can’t Ban Guns at the Public Pool | ProPublica
"For 20 years, Charleston has been an island of modest gun restrictions in a very pro-gun rights state. But its gun laws — including a ban on guns in city parks, pools and recreation centers — are now likely to be rolled back, the latest victory in a long-standing push to deny cities the power to regulate guns."

Minneapolis cops rarely disciplined in big-payout cases | The Star Tribune
"Despite nearly $14 million in payouts for alleged police misconduct over the past seven years, the Minneapolis Police Department rarely concluded that the officers involved did anything wrong, according to a Star Tribune analysis. Of 95 payouts from 2006 to 2012 to people who said they were victims of misconduct, eight resulted in officers being disciplined, according to records from the police and the city attorney’s office. The 12 costliest settlements were for cases that did not result in any officer discipline, the Star Tribune found. They included the $2.19 million paid in the case of a mentally ill man shot dead in 2006 by police, and the $1 million paid in the case of a woman severely burned by a police flash grenade in 2010."

As Factory Farms Spread, Government Efforts to Curb Threat From Livestock Waste Bog Down | Fair Warning
"As factory farms take over more and more of the nation’s livestock production, a major environmental threat has emerged: Pollution from the waste produced by the immense crush of animals."

Law to protect news sources could backfire in some cases, experts say | St. Louis Beacon
"Contrary to conventional wisdom, the proposed federal shield law backed by the press and President Barack Obama wouldn’t help reporters protect their sources in big national security cases, such as the recent ones involving the AP and James Rosen of Fox. In fact, the law could make it harder for the press to protect sources in those cases."

Faltering Courts, Mired in Delays | The New York Times
“The Bronx courts are failing. With criminal cases languishing for years, a plague of delays in the Bronx criminal courts is undermining one of the central ideals of the justice system, the promise of a speedy trial.”

The Curse of Fertilizer | National Geographic Magazine
"Runaway nitrogen is suffocating wildlife in lakes and estuaries, contaminating groundwater, and even warming the globe’s climate. As a hungry world looks ahead to billions more mouths needing nitrogen-rich protein, how much clean water and air will survive our demand for fertile fields?"

Nuclear byproduct levels on Treasure Island higher than Navy disclosed | CIR
Land slated for development on Treasure Island contains elevated concentrations of cesium-137, a byproduct of nuclear fission associated with an increased risk of cancer, according to an independent analysis commissioned by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

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. Did we miss something? Email suggestions to

Nevada buses hundreds of mentally ill patients to cities around country | The Sacramento Bee
“Over the past five years, Nevada's primary state psychiatric hospital has put hundreds of mentally ill patients on Greyhound buses and sent them to cities and towns across America.”

A backlash against Minnesota's growing ranks of Level Three sex offenders | The Star Tribune
“Nearly 300 of Minnesota’s most dangerous sex offenders now live outside confinement, and more than half of them are residing in only a few neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul, a Star Tribune analysis of state records shows. That saturation is occurring despite a state law that requires authorities who supervise newly released sex offenders to avoid concentrating them in any community. Sidestepping the law, however, brings no penalties.”

The making of ‘K2’ | Lawrence Journal-World
“A trio of men, indicted last week for their role in selling and manufacturing the synthetic marijuana product, were warned about the murky legal territory of their multimillion-dollar K2 operation, as well as the potential health dangers of the substance. But the millions of dollars the sale of K2 raked in were too just too much to resist, according to federal court documents released last week.”

Granting of some bonds comes through backdoor practice, with no prosecutor input | Austin American-Statesman
In many instances, the decision is in direct contradiction to the recommendations of court workers who assess the defendant’s risk of fleeing or harming the public, an American-Statesman review has found.

Painkillers not always the solution for gymnasts | Salt Lake Tribune
“Young gymnasts battling physical discomfort to perform a sport they love is a common, almost clichéd storyline. However, more doctors and researchers now are not only paying attention to the high number of injuries gymnasts suffer but also to the increasing amounts of anti-inflammatory medication they take as a result.”

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