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Unfit for flight: Lies and coverups mask roots of small-plane carnage

A USA TODAY investigation shows repeated instances in which small aircraft crashes, deaths and injuries were caused by defective parts and dangerous designs, casting doubt on the government's official rulings and revealing the inner workings of an industry hit so hard by legal claims that it sought and won liability protection from Congress.

Wide-ranging defects have persisted for years as manufacturers covered up problems, lied to federal regulators and failed to remedy known malfunctions, USA TODAY found. Some defective parts remained in use for decades — and some are still in use — because manufacturers refused to acknowledge or recall the suspect parts or issued a limited recall that left dangerous components in hundreds of aircraft. The manufacturers involved paid hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements that received little or no public attention until now.

To see all of the content, visit the project landing page.

$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

One in four of the more than 3,700 commercial motorcoach and passenger van companies regulated by the federal government has never received a full safety evaluation, according to an investigation by The Boston Globe. Nearly half have not been reviewed in more than two years.

Buses carry nearly as many people as airlines, but receive far less scrutiny. More than 170 people were killed in bus crashes from 2010 to early 2014, while no one died in commercial plane crashes on US carriers during that period.

In the weeks leading up to a botched execution, an Oklahoma assistant attorney general referred to defense attorneys’ warnings that the execution could go awry as “hysterical speculation,” records released to the Tulsa World show.

Assistant Attorney General John Hadden also wrote in a March 21 email that he was “not eager to answer a bunch of questions” from reporters about the state’s execution plans but worried about appearing “overly secretive.”

Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office released more than 100 pages of emails to the World Friday following an Open Records Act request. The World requested all emails since March 1 regarding the execution of Lockett and Warner and development of the state’s execution protocol.

The World’s records requests to Fallin’s office, DOC and the DPS all remain pending.

 

RELATED:

Robert Wiesner stood to receive tens of thousands of dollars through a major county public safety project by working for a contractor that he helped to hire, the state Attorney General's Office claims in newly available court documents.

Wiesner, one of four defendants in a wide-ranging bid-rigging criminal case, is the former security director of the Monroe County Water Authority and the husband of County Executive Maggie Brooks.

Read the full story from the Democrat and Chronicle here.

Eleven years of data analyzed by the Columbus Dispatch showed that those charged multiple times with operating a vehicle while impaired were able to get their charges reduced through a plea deal almost as often as those who had no recent drunk driving charges. 

Some say repeat offenders know how to beat the system. Drivers can refuse to submit to a breath test if they are pulled over by police. In 2009, defendants refused chemical tests in 36 percent of the cases handled by city prosecutors. In 2013, it was 41 percent. Without the results of such tests, prosecutors lack a key piece of evidence. 

States have been reducing hospital beds for decades, because of insurance pressures as well as a desire to provide more care outside institutions, USA TODAY reports.

Tight budgets during the recession forced some of the most devastating cuts in recent memory, says Robert Glover, executive director of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. States cut $5 billion in mental health services from 2009 to 2012. In the same period, the country eliminated at least 4,500 public psychiatric hospital beds — nearly 10% of the total supply, he says.

The result is that, all too often, people with mental illness get no care at all.

In a series of stories in the coming months, USA TODAY will explore the human and financial costs that the country pays for not caring more about the 10 million Americans with serious mental illness.

Read the full story here.

"A News Tribune investigation found that at least eight cars have plunged into the water at the Narrows Marina boat launch over the past 17 years. Four of 11 occupants were killed. Another was left permanently disabled," the News Tribune reported.

The accidents involved different types of people, from thieves outrunning the cops to an elderly couple who apparently got lost. Two drivers were drunk.

Records from the accidents paint a similar picture: All were the result of lost or confused motorists driving into the water by mistake. All happened in the dark. Most happened at or around high tide. Often it was raining.

The News Tribune found no government safety standards or guidelines specific to private boat launch facilities."

Read the full story here.

More than half of the private wells in the Town of East Fishkill have higher concentrations of sodium from road salt than some government health standards recommend, according to a new study by local scientists.

The findings by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies are preliminary. But they represent the first scientific analysis of well test data collected as a result of laws enacted in 2007 by three southern Dutchess County towns. The findings highlight the potential for continued and deeper analysis of the growing body of well test data, which include results for dozens of other contaminants at each location.

The data were provided to the Cary Institute by the Poughkeepsie Journal, which used custom software to collect and collate the well test results from the Dutchess County Department of Health's website.

Read the full story from the Poughkeepsie Journal here.

Officials, emergency responders and citizens in waterside communities across the Southern Tier and Central New York rely on stream and river level information to make decisions affecting public safety in the event of a potential flood.

Yet in recent years, government funding for the critical devices has become as fickle and unpredictable as the waters themselves.

Losing the equipment leaves forecasters in the dark, unable to put out advance warnings to those who could be in harm’s way.

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