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Extra Extra Monday: Nebraska releases prisoners early; Koch brothers hold secret summit; Missile defense system proves unreliable

$40-billion missile defense system proves unreliable | Los Angeles Times

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD, was supposed to protect Americans against a chilling new threat from "rogue states" such as North Korea and Iran. But a decade after it was declared operational, and after $40 billion in spending, the missile shield cannot be relied on, even in carefully scripted tests that are much less challenging than an actual attack would be, a Los Angeles Times investigation has found.

The Missile Defense Agency has conducted 16 tests of the system's ability to intercept a mock enemy warhead. It has failed in eight of them, government records show.

 

Nebraska prison doors open too soon | Omaha World-Herald

The examination of prison records revealed that Nebraska Department of Correctional Services officials had released or were set to release dozens of prisoners years before their sentences were supposed to end.

All told, state officials had carved at least 750 years off the collective sentences of more than 200 of the state’s worst criminals. The problem: The department was using a formula that doesn’t square with how sentences should be calculated.

After The World-Herald revealed its findings Friday to Corrections Director Michael Kenney, he immediately directed staff to recalculate the sentences. He said he had been unaware of the problem.

 

Friends want probe of 77-year-old's death after arrest | Springfield News-Leader

Branson residents are questioning why city police arrested a 77-year-old man with health problems on an Arkansas bad check warrant from 1996 and held him in jail for five days.

Shortly after his release from Taney County Jail, Evans E. Ray was found dead in his home. It's unclear how long he was deceased in the home before he was found.

 

Uncertified teachers in NY state classrooms | Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, N.Y.)

The New York State Education Department’s most recent list of teachers whose credentials do not match their teaching assignments includes 4,280 assignments in more than 1,100 schools across the state, a Central New York Media Group review of state education records found.

While employing an unqualified teacher is a misdemeanor in New York, the state Education Department does almost nothing to crack down on instances where districts sidestep certification rules. The Education Department notifies school districts of instances where teachers may lack proper credentials, but its involvement ends there. Some school districts take action to fix the problem, and others do not.

 

Secret Summit: 24 hours with the Koch brothers | inewsource.org

Last weekend and into today, the billionaire Koch brothers and supporters converged on the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point. This columned, luxury compound, little more than an hour north of San Diego, has 400 rooms, a spa, a golf course, a private beach and six restaurants. Staff confirmed the entire hotel — including food and beverage service — had been bought out for a special event.

An event so secret it had a code name on the schedule: “T&R Sales Meeting.”

Hotel guests who weren’t part of the conference — including two inewsource reporters who stayed the night Friday — were escorted out of the hotel by security on Saturday afternoon.

 

Kids with no vaccinations clustered in some schools | The Columbus Dispatch

Some Ohio schools might as well have a target painted on the side of the building as far as public-health experts are concerned.

In some schools in the state, as many as 1 in 3 incoming kindergartners and newly enrolled older students have parents who oppose vaccines, according to a Dispatch analysis of schools’ immunization counts.

 

Bottom line is more than meets the eyes | The Virginian-Pilot

In one of the most recent releases, Medicare published data about payments to physicians and for outpatient services.

Dr. Alan Wagner’s name stuck out.

According to the records, in 2012, he collected upward of $6 million from the government insurance for seniors, the second-highest amount among nearly 20,000 physicians and other individual providers listed in Virginia. Only a Richmond-based radiologist specializing in minimally invasive procedures ranked higher, receiving $8.2 million from Medicare.

 

St. Clair County doles out more than $3.3 million in settlements behind closed doors | News-Democrat (Belleville, IL)

More than $3.3 million in legal settlements have been approved behind closed doors in St. Clair County in the past 10 years -- possibly in violation of the state's Sunshine laws.

The settlements range from $900,000 to a teenage boy allegedly sexually abused at the county's Juvenile Detention Center to $1,000 to a person claiming injuries when placed under arrest by sheriff's deputies. The county admits no wrongdoing as part of the settlements. County officials released the settlements to the News-Democrat following a request through the Freedom of Information Act.

Read more here: http://www.bnd.com/2014/06/14/3256998/st-clair-county-doles-out-more.html#storylink=cp

"A short stretch across the fence from this road, just a few hundred yards long, is perhaps the one spot along the entire U.S.-Mexico border where Border Patrol agents are most likely to be attacked with rocks and to respond with force," the Arizona Republic reported.

"Roughly one in every six incidents along the entire 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border in which agents used force against rock throwers in recent years occurred here, across the fence from three adjacent streets leading to the fence in Nogales, Ariz., an investigation by The Arizona Republic has found."

Read the full story here.

"Following an uproar by residents and some members of Congress, the Department of Homeland Security has opened an investigation into whether $15 million in tax dollars to build housing for Border Patrol agents here was improperly spent," The Arizona Republic reports. Read the full story here.

“The U.S. government contractor that vetted Edward Snowden, who leaked information about national surveillance programs, said it also performed a background check on the Washington Navy Yard shooter.”

After 9/11, the New York Police Department built in effect its own CIA  and its Demographics Unit delved deeper into the lives of citizens than did the NSA. The appointments of David Cohen, a former senior CIA officer, and Larry Sanchez, a CIA analyst, represented a major shift in mind-set at the NYPD. Cohen and Sanchez’s guiding idea was that if the NYPD had its own eyes and ears in the ethnic communities of the five boroughs, maybe things could be different. To catch the few, the NYPD would spy on the many.

The Washington Post takes an in-depth look at the "black budget" which spans over a dozen agencies to make up the National Intelligence Program.

Wilson Andrews and Todd Lindeman use data visualizations to lay out what the $52.6 billion is spent on.

Back Home: The Enduring Battles Facing Post-9/11 Veterans | News21
"In the 12 years since American troops first deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 2.6 million veterans have returned home to a country largely unprepared to meet their needs. The government that sent them to war has failed on many levels to fulfill its obligations to these veterans as demanded by Congress and promised by both Republican and Democratic administrations, a News21 investigation has found."

CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran | Foreign Policy
"The U.S. government may be considering military action in response to chemical strikes near Damascus. But a generation ago, America's military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks far more devastating than anything Syria has seen,Foreign Policy has learned."

NSA Officers Spy on Love Interests | The Wall Street Journal
"National Security Agency officers on several occasions have channeled their agency’s enormous eavesdropping power to spy on love interests, U.S. officials said. The practice isn’t frequent — one official estimated a handful of cases in the last decade — but it’s common enough to garner its own spycraft label: LOVEINT."

After West disaster, News study finds U.S. chemical safety data wrong about 90 percent | Dallas Morning News
"Even the best national data on chemical accidents is wrong nine times out of 10. A Dallas Morning News analysis of more than 750,000 federal records found pervasive inaccuracies and holes in data on chemical accidents, such as the one in West that killed 15 people and injured more than 300."

Minneapolis mayor's race lags in disclosing campaign contributions | The Star Tribune
"If candidates for mayor of Minneapolis were running in Boston, they would file a report online of their campaign contributions every two weeks for six months before the election. If they were running in Seattle? Once a week. And in a range of other cities with a mayoral election this fall, they would have shared their donor lists at least four months before voters go to the polls. Instead, contenders in the first open-seat race for Minneapolis mayor in 20 years have received contributions for as long as eight months without having to disclose a single detail to the public, and they won’t release their first campaign finance reports until Sept. 3. Campaign-reform advocates and some candidates say that the system is outdated and that it lags the rest of the country, creating “data dumps” that hinder the public from learning the information in a meaningful, timely way."

Law enforcement can sell confiscated guns | Texas Tribune
"For decades, weapons confiscated by police in Texas were supposed to be repurposed for law enforcement use — or else destroyed. Starting next month, Texans will be able to purchase some of them instead."

Mexican drug cartel activity in U.S. said to be exaggerated in widely cited federal report | The Washington Post
“The number, widely reported by news organizations across the country, is misleading at best, according to U.S. law enforcement officials and drug policy analysts interviewed by The Washington Post. They said the number is inflated because it relied heavily on self-reporting by law enforcement agencies, not on documented criminal cases involving Mexican drug-trafficking organizations and cartels.”

Kentucky budget cuts deprive poorer youth | Al Jazeera America
“These days, Terry, Newman and tens of thousands of other low-income Kentuckians feel under attack. Subsidies for child care and kinship care, the two state programs most central to their lives, which allow them to parent and prevent their fragile work routines from collapsing, were all but eliminated from this year's budget. Earlier this week, families rallied in Frankfort, the state capital, to protest the cuts.”

Bounce-house rentals not all fun and games | Houston Chronicle
"As children's birthday parties ballooned into themed events and pricey productions in recent years, bounce houses became must-have entertainment for some parents. But as the bounce house rental business has grown locally, so have the number of unlicensed operators. At least 170 of these businesses advertise their services in the Houston region, but only 30 are actually licensed with safety inspections, based on a Houston Chronicle analysis of state records."

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to a report from The Washington Post.

Based on an internal audi and other top-secret documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, The Washington Post reports that most infraction involved unauhtorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets, ranging from "significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls." 

Read the documents at The Washington Post.

The Koch Club | Investigative Reporting Workshop
Koch foundations gave more than $41 million to 89 nonprofits from 2007-2011, part of a wide effort at funding organizations with public policy, education and political interests that align with those of Koch Industries, run by Charles and David Koch. The Investigative Reporting Workshop examined Internal Revenue Service documents for a closer look at Koch giving, which also includes millions to the arts, medicine and colleges across the country, as well as continued support of a "No Climate Tax Pledge." 

Control tower errors rise at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport | The Star Tribune
Air traffic controllers made more mistakes recently at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport than at five of the 10 American airports that had more plane traffic. And MSP had almost as many errors as the Atlanta airport, which is the nation’s busiest with nearly three times the passengers.

13 excessive force complaints in officer involved in controversial shooting | The Star Tribune
His supervisors and fellow officers praise Officer Lucas Peterson as a courageous and exemplary cop. Court records offer a different view — an officer whose aggressive methods frequently cross the line. Since he joined the force in 2000, he has been named in at least 13 excessive force complaints that so far have cost the city and other agencies more than $700,000 in settlements, court and city records show.  The actions of Peterson and other officers have come under scrutiny as the Hennepin County attorney’s office reviews whether police were justified in shooting Terrence Franklin in the basement of an Uptown houseMay 10.

Paid via Card, Workers Feel Sting of Fees | The New York Times
A growing number of American workers are confronting a frustrating predicament on payday: to get their wages, they must first pay a fee.

ATF uses fake drugs, big bucks to snare suspects | USA Today
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has locked up more than 1,000 people using controversial sting operations that entice suspects to rob nonexistent drug stash houses. See how the stings work and who they target.

Oregon Employment Department shake-up casts spotlight on accusations of nepotism | The Oregonian
An ongoing investigation by The Oregonian into the Employment Department shake-up shows that familial relationships figured prominently as the agency's top tier unraveled. The director is retiring after a state probe, the deputy abruptly departed for a lower paying state job, and the No. 3 was fired as Gov. John Kitzhaber's administration cleaned house.

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 web@ire.org


Inpatient hospital bills can vary widely | San Antonio Express-News
Consumers rarely know in advance what hospitals will charge when they are admitted for inpatient procedures, particularly in emergencies. However, a San Antonio Express-News analysis of data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services suggests it's worth taking into consideration — because fees can vary widely from one hospital to the next.

Fireworks lobby ensures nightly barrage in Indiana neighborhoods despite noise, danger | The Indianapolis Star
In a state with some of the nation’s loosest laws, fireworks stands pop up this time of year like weeds in your garden — in strip malls, abandoned big-box stores and under tents by the side of the road. Millions of dollars are spent, an estimated $50 million annually in this state alone, on fireworks that are labeled “consumer grade” but often rival what you might see at a professional show.

To Cope with Sequester, Justice Department Staffs Unpaid Attorneys | ProPublica
There are currently 96 unpaid special assistant U.S. attorneys working for the department, according to a spokesperson, who said paid assistant U.S attorneys have starting salaries ranging from $44,581 to $117,994.

Secret no-fly list blamed for American's Bangkok nightmare | Los Angeles Times
A Pomona medical student spent 10 nights in an airport detention area after, he believes, his name turned up on the list. His ordeal underscores the mystery surrounding the government roster.

Nearly One in Five Members of Congress Gets Paid Twice | National Journal
They draw government pensions from previous work in addition to their congressional salary. The practice is called “double-dipping.”

NSA in Utah: Mining a mountain of data | Salt Lake Tribune
In many ways, the new Utah Data Center is the quintessential black box … but a sharper picture of what is likely to go on within its walls has come into focus with recently leaked documents on NSA surveillance, combined with prior revelations, building specifics, information from defense contractors and hints dropped by top NSA brass.

There’s no argument that Mexico-based crime organizations dominate drug smuggling into the United States. But the public message that the Border Patrol has trumpeted for much of the last decade, mainly through press releases about its seizures, has emphasized Mexican drug couriers, or mules, as those largely responsible for transporting drugs.

It turns out that the Border Patrol catches more American citizens with drugs than it does Mexican couriers, according to an analysis of records obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

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