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Extra Extra Monday: informants allowed to commit crimes, programs covered up, travel rules bent at UCLA

UCLA officials bend travel rules with first-class flights, luxury hotels | The Center for Investigative Reporting
Over the past several years, six of 17 academic deans at the Westwood campus routinely have submitted doctors’ notes stating they have a medical need to fly in a class other than economy, costing the university $234,000 more than it would have for coach-class flights, expense records show.

U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans | Reuters
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

FBI allowed informants to commit 5,600 crimes | USA Today
The FBI gave its informants permission to break the law at least 5,658 times in a single year, according to newly disclosed documents that show just how often the nation's top law enforcement agency enlists criminals to help it battle crime.

Cracks in the System: Salmonella proves to be a problem in beef too | Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting
As recently as March of 2013, Salmonella Typhimurium in ground beef was linked to more than 20 human illnesses in six states. In September 2012 nearly 50 people in nine states became ill from eating ground beef tainted with Salmonella Enteritidis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Top drone supporter, beneficiary now looks to uses closer to home | Investigative Reporting Workshop
The strikes are deeply unpopular in South Asia and in other parts of the world. The Taliban killed 10 foreign mountaineers in Pakistan in June — in retaliation, the Taliban said, for the U.S. drone strikes. Many of the drones that were used in Pakistan, along with those sent to Afghanistan, will soon have a permanent home here in the U.S.

Syria’s unspoken crimes | Vanity Fair
There have been reports that in war-torn Syria, rape has become an epidemic as both sides seek to de-stabilize, frighten, and ruin the other. But unearthing the stories of these widespread atrocities is difficult, and often impossible. Women in Syria face dire political, personal, and familiar consequences if they admit to being victims—no matter how awful the tale. Janine Di Giovanni traveled into the country and through the surrounding refugee camps to trace the few stories that rape survivors dared to speak aloud.

Mexican journalists targeted | Al Jazeera
Amid the recent fanfare surrounding big arrests in Mexico's drug war, those journalists still daring to shed light on the cartels and corrupt state officials keep on dying, and the killers, they just keep on getting away with it.

No accountability in police custody death | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Gina Barton exposes the lack of accountability in a death in police custody. After James Perry died, each agency that handled a piece of the case -- police, sheriff, local hospital -- cited the other in excusing its own actions. Perry, an epileptic, died on the floor of the jail six hours after suffering a seizure.

Industry muscle targets federal 'Report on Carcinogens' | Center for Public Integrity
Increasingly, industry is targeting Huff’s former employer and its parent, the Department of Health and Human Services — in particular, HHS’sReport on Carcinogens. Two lobby groups sued the agency after two widely used chemicals were listed in the report. In a victory for industry, lawmakers mandated additional, ongoing scientific reviews of the document. And, a trade association representing makers of fiber-reinforced plastics claimed credit for a congressional hearing last year that evolved into an open airing of industry grievances.

"Twenty-two percent of plants in Texas that regulators say pose a risk of explosion or toxic release have never have been inspected for emergency preparedness, federal data shows. Another 10 percent were inspected, but not by federal, state or even local governments. Instead, those facilities reported inspections by their own contractors, insurance companies or employees, according to an analysis of the data by The Dallas Morning News." Read The Dallas Morning News' full investigation here.

"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?" Read National Geographic's full investigation here.

"Company-backed reports are pointing out some potential flaws in earlier research. They also are generating questions of their own, in part because industry's role in funding the work has not been clearly disclosed," according to an investigation by the Gazette-Mail

"The Kansas City Star, in a yearlong investigation, found that the beef industry is increasingly relying on a mechanical process to tenderize meat, exposing Americans to higher risk of E. coli poisoning. The industry then resists labeling such products, leaving consumers in the dark. The result: Beef in America is plentiful and affordable, spun out in enormous quantities at high speeds, but it's a bonanza with hidden dangers. Industry officials contend beef is safer than it's ever been."

OMB Watch reports that "the California legislature, as part of its Budget Act of 2012 (passed in June), suspended the state's open meetings law for the next three years in an effort to cut state expenditures."

"The Associated Press has compiled a list of U.S. political terms, phrases and definitions to assist in coverage of the 2012 national elections. The guidance encompasses the Democratic and Republican conventions to nominate presidential candidates; terminology for presidential races; campaign rhetoric; and elections for the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Many of the terms are from the AP Stylebook. Others include writing with context and avoiding clichés."

"After investigating Pentagon propaganda contractors, A USA TODAY reporter and editor have themselves been subjected to a propaganda campaign of sorts, waged on the Internet through a series of bogus websites."

"Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created in their names, along with a Wikipedia entry and dozens of message board postings and blog comments. Websites were also registered in their names."

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