Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

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Search results for "The Desert Sun" ...

  • Title: The Desert Sun: An Empire in the Desert

    These stories reveal the stunning influence that a single farmer in California's Imperial Valley, Mike Abatti, has exerted over the region's Colorado River water and energy industry. Abatti has benefited from decisions made by his friends in elected office, a judge with ties to his family, and a district attorney whose second-in-command is his sister-in-law.
  • Desert Sun: Poisoned Cities, Deadly Border

    The investigation exposed how pollution is making people sick and leading to deaths on the U.S.-Mexico border, and how lax government oversight in Mexico is allowing industrial pollution to continue unabated.
  • California Prosecution Fees

    The Desert Sun uncovered how residents of three cities in the Coachella Valley were being billed massive fees that paid for private attorneys the city had contracted to go after the residents' for minor city code violations. Petty offenses, like having a messy yard or hanging a Halloween decoration on a street light, led to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars being demanded of the residents. If they couldn't pay, liens were assessed. Following the reporting, the cities stopped the practice, state lawmakers made it illegal in California and a class-action lawsuit led to at least one city refunding the residents.
  • Bottled Water from a National Forest

    The Desert Sun revealed in a series of investigations that the U.S. Forest Service has been allowing Nestle to pipe water out of a national forest to produce bottled water using a permit that lists an expiration date of 1988. The newspaper found that Forest Service officials failed to follow through on plans for an environmental review that would have assessed whether the use of water for bottling is harming sensitive habitat along a creek. The Desert Sun also obtained records showing the agency hasn’t examined the environmental impacts of hundreds of expired permits that allow for the use of water from national forests.
  • The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater

    The historic agreement reached in Paris in December that will curb carbon emissions is heartening, but oil isn’t the only resource being pumped out of the ground at an alarming rate—with catastrophic consequences for the planet. In an eye-opening series for USA Today, The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, CA, and other Gannett newspapers, Pulitzer Center grantees Ian James and Steve Elfers investigate the consequences of groundwater depletion, an overlooked global crisis. “Groundwater is disappearing beneath cornfields in Kansas, rice paddies in India, asparagus farms in Peru and orange groves in Morocco,” writes Ian. “As these critical water reserves are pumped beyond their limits, the threats are mounting for people who depend on aquifers to supply agriculture, sustain economies and provide drinking water. In some areas, fields have already turned to dust and farmers are struggling.” Climate change will only exacerbate the crisis, yet few seem to be taking this existential threat seriously. “Even as satellite measurements have revealed the problem’s severity on a global scale, many regions have failed to adequately address the problem,” says Ian. “Aquifers largely remain unmanaged and unregulated, and water that seeped underground over tens of thousands of years is being gradually used up.”
  • Aquifer at Risk

    In the series “Aquifer at Risk,” The Desert Sun revealed significant declines in groundwater levels in the Palm Springs area and exposed how water agencies in the California desert haven’t adequately addressed the problem of falling water tables. Through an analysis of water agencies’ records, the newspaper found that the aquifer’s levels have plummeted over the years despite imported flows of water – a situation that poses serious long-term risks for an area that has sold itself as a desert oasis for tourists and retirees. The series examined the causes and impacts of groundwater depletion in California, and pinpointed groundwater pumping by golf courses as a major contributor to the problem in the Coachella Valley. The series prompted the area’s largest water district to make a major policy shift, led to the formation of a golf water conservation task force, and magnified concerns that California’s approach to managing groundwater has serious flaws.
  • Boss Thy Neighbor: Homeowner associations are an increasingly prevalent -- and troubled -- form of local government

    In 1970, there were 10,000 homeowners associations. Today, there are 230,000 of them, collecting "around $34 billion in dues to manage billions of dollars in communal assets." Along with this growth has come a backlash from people who consider housing covenants and other hallmarks of homeowners associations an affront to their property rights and personal liberties. Other critics say that these associations, wielding many of the powers of local government, drive neighbors apart instead of bring them together. In one case, an elderly man in Nevada was fined for leaving his lawn half-mowed while seeking relief from the desert sun. But don't expect city and local government to usurp these associations of their powers: "city officials across the country compel builders to set them up in an effort to make new developments pay more of their own way."