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Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries deny, delay asbestos, hazard claims, suits, insiders allege

“Scripps interviewed more than 20 sources -- some confidential -- reviewed dozens of lawsuits and spoke with former insiders, who all allege the Berkshire-owned companies that handle its asbestos and pollution policies -- National Indemnity Co. and Resolute Management Inc. -- wrongfully delay or deny compensation to cancer victims and others to boost Berkshire’s profits. In multiple cases, courts and arbitrators have ruled that the Berkshire subsidiaries’ tactics have been in “bad faith” or intentional.”

Use only as directed | ProPublica and This American Life
“About 150 Americans a year die by accidentally taking too much acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. The toll does not have to be so high.” Read the stories from ProPublica.

Company Behind Snowden Vetting Did Check on D.C. Shooter | Bloomberg
“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.”

Archdiocese knew of priest's sexual misbehavior, yet kept him in ministry | Minnesota Public Radio
“A memo written in 2011 obtained by MPR News from police shows the former vicar general – the top deputy of the archdiocese – did not want parish employees to know about Wehmeyer's past. ‘At every step of the way, this could have been prevented,’ Haselberger said. ‘This is just failure after failure after failure after failure.’”

Insiders Allege Fraudulent Accounting at SamTrans | NBC Bay Area
“Insiders say they were asked to make changes to the San Mateo County Transit District’s financial records that they believe were illegal; they say SamTrans made up expenses to create the appearance it needed more taxpayer money.”

D.C. Fire Stations Near Navy Yard Understaffed in Shooting | NBC Washington
“News4 I-Team has learned some D.C. firehouses were understaffed during Monday morning's shooting at the Navy Yard. Twelve people were killed and eight others injured when 34-year-old Aaron Alexis opened fire inside Building 197 in Southeast D.C. around 8:30 a.m. Alexis was later shot and killed by police.”

Legal problems sent midwife to Utah, where another baby died | Salt Lake Tribune
“This is not the first time El Halta has been accused of straying beyond her expertise. It is not her first encounter with the law, nor her first delivery that ended with a death. But for decades she has remained committed to natural childbirth, and some clients say she has helped countless women avoid complicated surgeries and provided choice in births where hospitals may offer few options. ‘They’ll have to cut off my hands to stop me,’ he once told a Michigan newspaper.”

Metro Phoenix housing market’s turnaround creates new issues | Arizona Republic
Now, buyers and renters live in those places — in properties re-floored, repainted and relandscaped. The number of empty houses in the Phoenix area today stands at about 10,000, according to an Arizona Republic analysis of housing data.

Scoring errors jeopardize tests: Poor oversight raises risk | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“It can mean the difference between college and a factory job; between scraping by and a chance for more. The former principal is still haunted by the few times he told parents their children wouldn’t receive a high school diploma because they had failed the exams.”

Carolinas HealthCare’s planes used for business, personal trips | Charlotte Observer
A Charlotte Observer story published Sunday revealed that the CEO of one of the nation's largest nonprofit hospital systems enjoys a rare perk: the freedom to fly hospital planes for both business and pleasure. Flight logs provided by Carolinas HealthCare System show that chief executive Michael Tarwater took at least 29 personal flights on the system’s planes from 2008 through 2012. Tarwater, an accomplished pilot, often flew hospital planes on business trips as well. Some experts believe the practice is rare – and questionable. “It seems inappropriate for them to use (planes) for personal purposes, given that they are being supported via tax exemption,” said Gerard Anderson, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Hospital Finance and Management. “So we are all paying for the vacation the CEO is taking.”

Lee Zurik Investigation: Hingle to jail, taxpayers pay him $400k | WVUE New Orleans
“Former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle surrendered himself Monday, reporting to a federal prison in South Carolina where he'll serve most of his nearly four-year sentence. And even while he's behind bars, the public will still be paying Hingle.”

UCI doctors downplayed risks of surgical robot | Orange County Register
“Two top UC Irvine surgeons have spent a decade working with a California company to promote a $2 million surgical robot despite a lack of reliable scientific evidence showing that it is safe or gives patients better results.”

Justice Dept. watchdog never probed judges' NSA concerns | USA Today
“In response to a FOIA request from USA TODAY, the Justice Department said its ethics office never looked into complaints from two federal judges that they had been misled about NSA surveillance.”

DeVry Lures Medical School Rejects as Taxpayers Fund Debt | Bloomberg Markets Magazine
“DeVry, which has two for-profit medical schools in the Caribbean, is accepting hundreds of students who were rejected by U.S. medical colleges. These students amass more debt than their U.S. counterparts -- a median of $253,072 in June 2012 at AUC versus $170,000 for 2012 graduates of U.S. medical schools.”

DWP says it can't track millions in ratepayer money | Los Angeles Times
“DWP ratepayer funds flow to two groups run by agency managers and union leaders, with little accountability.”

“A (Milwaukee) Journal Sentinel investigation found property owners with major sources of rental income who did not reveal it in applications for public assistance. The cases reveal a gap in regulation that affects every public assistance program in the state. Local and state regulators fail to verify actual income when applicants report that they make no money or are self-employed. 'Basically we're supposed to accept what they tell us,' said one public assistance fraud investigator in southeastern Wisconsin. The government considers much of the information about recipients of public assistance to be confidential, making it impossible for the public to hold regulators accountable for oversight of the dozen or so taxpayer-funded programs.”

According to an investigation by the Springfield News-Leader, the fire alarms in  apartments in Wheaton, Mo., for low-income residents where four adults and a child died in a Thanksgiving Day fire were disabled a decade ago by the company that manages the apartments. The company, Bell Management, Inc., of Joplin manages about 3,700 apartments in three states. The company president said Bell Management has disabled fire alarms at other apartments it manages but wouldn't say how many of the apartments lack working fire alarms or where they are. The apartments in Wheaton, Mo, did have working smoke detectors. Missouri does not have a statewide fire code that regulates when fire alarms when are required. The Wheaton apartments were partially financed by USDA Rural Development and regularly inspected by the agency.


"Officials of oil-rich Azerbaijan, including members of the Aliyev ruling family, have established companies in Prague, bought land, and built hotels and luxury villas most of them focused around in the famous spa city of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad).

The problem is that some of these investments are illegal.

The full extent of their investment became clear after reporters for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) examined the Czech property and company records of prominent Azeris.  The political elite, it appears, has been playing a real life game of Monopoly in a race to acquire properties in the heart of the European Union."

Chesapeake Energy has become the principal player in the largest land boom in America since the 1850s California Gold Rush, amassing acreage positions that rival those of any U.S. energy company. Its strategy is clearly spelled out in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: “We believed that the winner of these land grabs would enjoy competitive advantages for decades to come.” Chesapeake isn’t nearly as transparent about its methods, however. Reuters reviewed hundreds of internal Chesapeake emails, thousands of pages of documents and dozens of lawsuits in seven states, and interviewed contractors who cut deals for the company. What emerged were tough tactics in acquiring land that some analysts say push ethical and legal limits -- and that even some of the company’s own contractors considered dubious. Features detailed examples from Texas, Ohio and Michigan.

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 some? Let us know.  Send us an email at web@ire.org or tweet to @IRE_NICAR. We’ll add it to the list and spread the word.

Uncounted Casualties
The Austin American-Statesman
Scores of recent Texas war veterans have died of overdoses, suicide and vehicle crashes, a six-month Statesman investigation finds.

Majority of third-strike inmates are addicts, records show
Center for Investigative Reporting 
Convicts imprisoned under California’s three strikes law are no more inclined to high-risk "criminal thinking” than other inmates, but are far more likely to be addicted to drugs and alcohol, according to data from the state prisons department. 

A Betryal of Trust
The Arizona Republic
In more than 400 instances, victims of sexual assault turned to the Maricopa County Sherriff's Office, trusting detectives with wrenching details in pursuit of protection and justice. In some cases, the Sherriff's Office did little or nothing. Only now is the full impact of that inaction coming to light, as The Republic reveals what victims characterize as a betrayal of trust.

Port Authority: What's a port authority, anyway?
Investigative Newsource
Developers have drooled for years over the Port of San Diego’s Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal. But each new idea — most with a football stadium attached — has been beaten back by those who believe a rare, deep water port should remain — just that.Today, Port Authority, the latest I-Newsource/KPBS investigation, tackles the question: Are we getting the biggest bang for our considerable bucks at that terminal?

Lax controls leave Michigan's ex-cons free to kill 

The Detroit Free Press
As the Michigan Department of Corrections searches for ways to manage its nearly $2-billion budget, it is releasing ex-cons into the community who are
committing a growing number of violent crimes, a Free Press investigation found.

Joseph Merlino: The mobster next door
The Miami Herald
A Mafia icon from Philadelphia has settled in Boca Raton, fresh out of prison. Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown examines what he might be up to now.

High-stakes tests, low-level security
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The latest installment of the paper’s coverage of school’s reveals that more cheating scandals are most likely inevitable, because states cannot ensure the integrity of their tests.

How clout keeps court cases secret
The Chicago Tribune
Cook County judges routinely have hidden hundreds of cases from public view since 2000, sealing lawsuits involving a famous chef, millionaire businessmen and even other judges

Blue Line protects off-duty cops behind the wheel
Buffalo News
Police also call it ‘professional courtesy’ - forgiving the infractions committed by one of their own. It typically involves speeding, but officers can get a pass for erratic or impaired driving as well. Professional courtesy can extend to the close relatives of police officers, and to the prosecutors, judges and politicians who are part of the system.

Agent Orange’s Lasting Effects
The Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Chemical still damaging lives of those exposed, their families

Home, Foreclosed Home
Salem Statesman Journal
The ripple effect in our community from the housing market collapse affects local residents in traditional and unexpected ways that will linger for years. The Statesman Journal examines those effects in a five-part series.

Elusive Evergreen State Professor Found In Chile
KUOW Puget Sound

A former Evergreen State College professor in Washington State has evaded efforts to collect the $120,000 fine against him.  KUOW found the man, Jorge Gilbert, working for Universidad ARCIS in Santiago, Chile.

"The number of vacant homes and rentals has exploded 52 percent in Pima County in the past 10 years, thwarting a housing market recovery and driving even some middle- and upper-income neighborhoods into decline.

An Arizona Daily Star analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows the spike in unoccupied homes and apartments has pushed Pima County's vacancy rate from 9.4 percent of housing units in 2000 to almost 12 percent in 2010. That means about one in eight homes or apartments in Tucson is vacant."

"Following the deadly Esperanza wildfire in Southern California in October 2006, in which five U.S. Forest Service firefighters were killed, a task force recommended tougher zoning and code enforcement to limit development in the mountain forests considered high fire hazard zones. Yet within a year of those recommendations, Riverside County supervisors gave the go-ahead to a 150-home, upscale development in a small mountain community that burned in Esperanza.

A review of campaign finance records by The Desert Sun’s Keith Matheny shows the Orange County-based project developer, his wife or his company contributed a total of more than $12,400 to the campaigns of every Riverside County supervisor and the district attorney. The donations began in December 2008 — one week after the county preliminarily approved the project — and continue into this year."

In 2002, farmers in two Colorado counties experienced a devastating drought but because of shares held in a “century-old irrigation company,” were told they would be able to “keep their coveted their irrigation water.” However, nine years later, the farmers are still facing dry land and looming financial ruin. In this investigation by theDenver Post, reporters Karen E. Crummy and Eric Gorski reveal that the lawyer for the Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Co., also represented the “United Water and Sanitation District,” which was the public water district “attempting to build a Front Range water-delivery system.” The lawyer, John P. Akolt III, received numerous rewards from the FRICO board for creating a contract that essentially failed to salvage the farms.

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