May 23rd, 2013
From Alexandra Robbins for Washingtonian Magazine, the story of a critical shortage of nutrients needed to keep children born prematurely alive. An excerpt from the article: “Doctors and pharmacists say that because of nationwide shortages caused by a combination of factors – manufacturing problems, a market with few incentives for companies to produce low-profit drugs, and the government’s delayed and inadequate action – thousands of patients are being malnourished…
“Tens of thousands of patients rely on IV nutrition at home, where home health care companies send them supplies… ‘You just kind of have to pray,’ says Kristina Colmer, a mother in Midland, Maryland, whose three year old daughter Paige has been on PN [parenteral nutrition] since birth. ‘PN is what keeps her alive, so these shortages are terrifying us.’ The family’s home health care company hasn’t been able to get zinc, phosphorous, or calcium, and Paige hasn’t received IV pediatric multivitamins in more than a year.”
Photo of 3 year old Paige Colmer, courtesy of Kristina Colmer.
May 23rd, 2013
From the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, an investigation by Kate Golden of chemicals used on Wisconsin farms and feed lots that run off and pollute natural bodies of water. An excerpt:
“Despite growing evidence of risks, state and federal governments have issued little guidance on how much of these suspected endocrine disruptors in our lakes, streams and groundwater constitute danger for fish, wildlife or people. These chemicals are largely unregulated.
Wisconsin has not systematically looked for endocrine disruptors statewide. Research and regulation of them is poorly funded and loosely coordinated, according to a Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism review of records and interviews with government officials and environmental experts.
‘We’re not a building full of bureaucrats ignorant to the problem,’ said Brad Wolbert, chief of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’s recycling and solid waste program. ‘It’s just that it’s a really big problem.’”
May 21st, 2013
An excerpt: “Thomas Decker, the head of ICE’s regional enforcement and removal operations, said that during operations such as those in Norristown, immigration officials exercise independent judgment in each case.
‘Once we determine alienage, then is it somebody that falls into a priority. And if they fall into a priority then we can take enforcement action,’ Decker said.
However, the very nature of the traffic checkpoints leads to immigration officers encountering and detaining people they wouldn’t otherwise prioritize for public safety reasons.”
May 14th, 2013
From City Limits, a report on New York campaign consultants who help elect, then lobby their candidates. An excerpt: “The firms that both consult and lobby turn the typical pay-to-play concerns of government watchdogs on their head. The issue here is not who’s giving money to a campaign, but who’s receiving candidates’ money—in exchange for valuable help. Consultants are, according to political observers, vital components of any operation: They are in many instances the quarterbacks of campaigns, plotting get-out-the-vote efforts, crafting media strategy and exploiting the weaknesses of the opposition. By accepting or rejecting a client, skilled consultants can significantly affect the odds of a campaign succeeding.
‘When a firm helps someone get elected to office, that firm may have an easier time getting access to that office when they’re trying to influence how they’re going to vote on a particular issue,’ says Bill Mahoney, the New York Public Interest Group’s legislative research coordinator.”
May 14th, 2013
From D.B. Grady and Marc Ambinder, an investigation into secrecy and leaks, based on thousands of recently declassified documents and interviews with more than one hundred officials. From the book jacket: “Real secrets can’t be kept, trivial ones are held forever, and sensitive ones are far too susceptible to political manipulation.”
An excerpt from Chapter One: “With so many secret keepers, it is remarkable how well the secrecy apparatus has kept classified material that might be devastating to the state under wraps. The Bradley Manning WikiLeaks incident of 2010 is heretofore a black swan event. Its execution and impact was astonishing, yet in retrospect somehow obvious and inevitable. More astonishing, perhaps, is that the U.S. government seemed to have no contingency plans or response mechanisms in place. Manning wasn’t cashing in. He wasn’t attempting to overthrow the Republic. He wasn’t blackmailed. He wasn’t an agent for foreign intelligence.
“In fact, the direct intervention of foreign powers isn’t the cause of most leaks, and foreign spies aren’t where the information ends up. More often than not, the first place a leaked secret heads is the Internet.”
May 7th, 2013
An excerpt from the article: ”… high-tech license readers, now mounted on 87 police cruisers statewide, scan literally millions of license plates in Massachusetts each year, not only checking the car and owner’s legal history, but also creating a precise record of where each vehicle was at a given moment. The records can be enormously helpful in solving crimes — for example, Fitchburg police used the technology to catch a serial flasher — but they increasingly make privacy advocates uneasy.
Use of the technology is outstripping creation of rules to prevent abuses such as tracking the movements of private citizens, or monitoring who visits sensitive places such as strip clubs, union halls, or abortion clinics. A survey of police departments that use automated license readers found that fewer than a third — just 17 out of 53 — have written policies, leaving the rest with no formal standards for who can see the records or how long they will be preserved.”
May 7th, 2013
From Forrest Wilder of the Texas Observer, the story of an aggressive federal immigration policy that fills the cells of privately run prisons.
An excerpt from Wilder’s report: “Instead of simply detaining undocumented immigrants who have done nothing more than cross the border and sending them out of the country or releasing them, the U.S. government would now file criminal charges and send them to prison. [Jose] Rios was charged with illegal re-entry, a federal immigration felony that earned him a 14-month sentence, much of it spent in a notorious private prison in South Texas. Rios pleaded guilty, as do 97 percent of all immigration-related defendants.”
(Photo: 2009 riot in protest of poor conditions at West Texas private prison)
April 8th, 2013
Journalist and author Brad Tyer moved to Montana for the picture-postcard scenery, looking for pristine waters where he could set down a canoe. What he found was entirely different. From the book: “I gradually began to gather that the Clark Fork [River] wasn’t quite what I thought it was. The river I had shadowed on my drive in had long been choked by the detritus of a century’s worth of copper mining upstream. The ‘Treasure State’ of Montana’s license plates was sourced in metal, and it had been mined for a century in Butte… Butte copper had wired America, strung across the country to deliver residential electricity and telephone connections, feeding power to unbridled industrial growth and cladding the bullets that won two world wars.”
But by 1983, the toxins created by copper production had turned the Clark Fork River’s upper reaches into the largest Superfund site in the US.
Tyer’s book, Opportunity, Montana: Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape, published by Beacon Press, tells the story of the attempts to restore and rebuild a poisoned river. Tyer finds that in the process, “millions of tons of toxic soils are being removed and dumped – once again – in Opportunity,” a small forgotten town in Montana.
April 4th, 2013
From VTDigger in Vermont, the story of a project that would lure foreign investors with the prospect of US residency - on hold after running into trouble with Vermont authorities.
An excerpt from the article by Nat Rudarakanchana and Anne Galloway: “Last spring, state officials became aware that a key participant in the project recently stepped down from a leadership role in the company. Richard Parenteau, the founder of DreamLife, who state officials say is now a ‘background investor,’ was convicted of perjury in Quebec last summer, according to court documents, after a decade-long dispute over a will. State officials say as a result of the conviction, Parenteau, a former Rock Forest (Quebec) chief of police, is no longer able to cross the border for meetings in Vermont. Parenteau has also been accused of violating labor rules in Quebec, according to court documents.
Over the last 20 years, Parenteau has created and dissolved more than two dozen companies in Florida and Vermont, some of which list his sons Marc-Andre and Richard Jr. as business associates, according to information from state websites. Five of the entities bear the DreamLife name, including an insurance company, a real estate firm and a finance company, all three of which are now inactive.”
March 21st, 2013
From Madeline Ostrander, reporting for The Nation, the story of California’s Cap-and-Trade program, and whether it will be fair to communities suffering from the state’s worst air pollution.
Excerpts: “California has been nearly alone in its efforts to curtail greenhouse gases, after attempts to pass federal climate legislation collapsed in Congress in 2010 and several states abandoned plans to pursue their own regulations. The nation’s only other program, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, regulates power plants alone. But this spring, several Democrats, including Senator Barbara Boxer, are trying to push new climate bills through Congress. AB 32’s success or failure could buoy or sink the prospects for federal legislation—and influence the course of similar initiatives in other countries…
“…cap and trade applies to California’s biggest and most notorious polluters. Starting this year, the refineries in Wilmington, for example, will need to acquire allowances or offsets for every ton of greenhouse gases they emit. Each year, they’ll decide whether it’s cheaper to cut carbon emissions at their facilities or buy more rights to pollute.”
Photo Courtesy of: Francis Reynolds / The Nation