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Disciplined doctor behind controversial sports supplement study

The latest installment in USA TODAY’s ongoing “Supplement Shell Game” investigation published today finds that the key author of a safety study of the controversial sports supplement Craze is a doctor who has been disciplined in two states for issues relating to fraudulent billing practices and other misrepresentations. Now the editor of the peer reviewed journal that published the study says he has “serious concerns” about the research after being contacted by scientists and USA TODAY.

The ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today. Farmers have wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and contaminated water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found. Five million acres of land set aside for conservation have been converted. The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy.

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.

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 web@ire.org


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."

An exclusive Journal review of government emails suggests battles have been won, and minds swayed, through a combination of behind-the-scenes maneuvers and long-standing connections between the scientists’ group and government officials. These ties, some say, have served to keep competing ideas at bay.”

ProPublica reports that in 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced years' worth of studies from a major drug research lab were potentially worthless. Those studies were part of the bases for about 100 drugs that made it to the U.S. market. According to ProPublica, the FDA let those drugs stay on pharmacy shelves with no new testing and has refused to name the drugs, saying to do so would reveal trade secrets. Meanwhile, the FDA's European counterpart ordered several of the drugs to be pulled from shelves.

In today's follow up, reveals that the agency's slow, secretive response was not an anomaly.

According to a report from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a sharp rise in students diagnosed with major disabilities is forcing many Minnesota schools to take difficult and at times divisive new steps to tailor classrooms to the disabled students’ needs, no matter how expensive that gets. Even as overall school enrollment declined over the past decade, the number of disabled students rose 14 percent. Many of the state’s most psychologically troubled students also are being sent to school settings for the first time as mental health programs that once served them have been cut back or eliminated. By law, state and federal budgets are supposed to cover about 90 percent of the cost of educating students with special needs. But they are falling short, shifting much of the cost to local school districts. Spending on special education is soaring — it has risen 70 percent in Minnesota over the past decade to $1.8 billion this school year.

"Driven by a common belief in Asia that ground-up rhino horns can cure cancer and other ills, the trade has also been embraced by criminal syndicates that normally traffic drugs and guns, but have branched into the underground animal parts business because it is seen as “low risk, high profit,” American officials say.”

Bloomberg News reports that more than 244,00 Americans with injuries are consigned to nursing homes, where patient lawyers say they are warehoused with inadequate care. In many cases, they are housed in institutions designed for geriatric care, not the specialized care they need, and in some cases they are in facilities graded poorly on measures like quality and cleanliness.

Repeated independent reviews of the agency, including one by the Institute of Medicine released this month, have found that its board is rife with conflicts of interest. In fact, of the $1.7 billion that the agency has awarded so far, about 90 percent has gone to research institutions with ties to people sitting on the board, according to an analysis by David Jensen at the California Stem Cell Report, which closely follows the agency's operations.

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