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Extra Extra Monday: Texas plants lack safety inspections, pensions strain AZ state budget, high-risk health providers stay in business

Many Texas plants lack safety inspections despite risks | Dallas Morning News

"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."


Illegal cigarettes: Quick cash, light penalties | Orange County Register

"California has one of the nation’s highest smuggling rates for the products, and authorities say it’s a drag on taxes and a danger to public health."


State doled out incentives despite red flags | Atlanta Journal Constitution

"State officials who awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to lure jobs here sometimes missed critical red flags in vetting the grant recipients. A review by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of more than 150 economic development incentive files found that some companies omitted critical information. Other times, state officials noted a troubling trail of financial clues and awarded the money anyway."


Rising Arizona public safety pensions strain budget | Arizona Republic

"The cost of funding retirement for Arizona’s first responders has risen 500 percent during the past decade, inflated by enhanced benefits and battered by investment losses, forcing some communities to curb their hiring of police officers and firefighters, The Arizona Republic has found."


Prop. 13 loophole gives edge to big players | Los Angeles Times

"Change of ownership, key to reassessment, is cut-and-dried for homeowners but not businesses. It means a loss of tens of millions of dollars a year in tax revenue."


How textile kings weave a hold on Bangladesh | Reuters

"Thanks to their political clout and now a new Industrial Police force that crushes dissension at their plants, labor activists say, it is the factory owners themselves who keep garment workers' wages lower than anywhere else in the world - and all too often get away with lax safety standards."


Fish die-off in Brown Slough a mystery | Skagit Valley Herald

"The next day, hundreds of shiner perch were found dead on the banks of Browns Slough. A week later, the state Department of Ecology and the Department of Fish and Wildlife say they are no closer to finding a cause. No samples were tested and no cause has been established — just a lot of finger-pointing in a heated email exchange in the hours following the find."

Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses—We Have Private Prisons to Fill | Texas Observer

"Since 2005, immigration has been criminalized as never before. In 2000, when George W. Bush came into office, there were about 10,000 convictions for illegal entry and re-entry—essentially crossing the border illegally; in 2011, even as the number of people crossing the border had plummeted during the Obama administration, there were more than 71,000 such convictions—a 700 percent increase. Immigration is now the most-prosecuted federal crime, surpassing weapons, white-collar crimes and even drugs. Locking up unprecedented numbers of immigrants has swelled the federal prison system. New prisons are being constructed at a rapid pace, most of them privately run. Unlike the rest of the Federal Bureau of Prisons system, prisons for immigrants are completely privatized. So while the mass criminalization of immigrants has torn parents from their families, removed skilled people from the workforce and had a debatable impact on border security, the policy has served one interest very well—private-prison companies."

High-risk health providers stay in business thanks to state insurance | The Star Tribune

"Maple Grove surgeon Joseph Pietrafitta has been sued at least six times for malpractice, leading to $1.2 million in settlements for former patients. The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice also has cited some of the lawsuits in ordering Pietrafitta to take corrective action for “inappropriate” conduct. In 2010, no conventional insurance carrier would give him malpractice coverage, court records show. That could have put him out of business, but Pietrafitta got coverage from the Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association (MJUA),the insurer of last resort. Created by the Legislature in 1976, the MJUA won’t release its records to the public, including names of those health care providers, or even how many they cover. A Star Tribune investigation has found that the group has spent at least $32 million over the last decade to settle claims, including $12 million to resolve 169 claims filed against health care providers, some of whom were accused of crippling or killing patients. Some malpractice lawyers and a former MJUA board member accuse the group of enabling the state’s negligent doctors to continue to practice."

Vital time lost in calls to Sarpy's 911 center | Omaha World-Herald

"National standards say that 90 percent of the time, 911 dispatchers should spend no more than a minute on the phone with a caller before the fire station is alerted to the emergency. But in Sarpy County from 2008 to 2012, only one in five fire and medical calls was dispatched in a minute or less, according to a World-Herald analysis of 911 call data. The median dispatch time was 1 minute, 43 seconds."

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