Extra Extra : April 2007

Unethical deals in N.J. school district

John Froonjian of The Press in Atlantic City, N.J., dug into insurance contracts in the Pleasantville school district to uncover a web of insider deals and millions wasted in a struggling district that gets two-thirds of its funding from the state. The Press found that in Pleasantville, school board contracts, political fundraising and private jobs are intertwined. The process has produced apparent conflicts of interest, possible violations of the state's pay-to-play law, defiance of election-finance laws and potential violations of the federal law designed to protect personal medical information. The Press investigation followed a successful lawsuit to gain ... Read more ...

Decreasing enrollment in Denver Public Schools

Burt Hubbard and Nancy Mitchell of Rocky Mountain News found that about a fourth of school-age children ages 5 to 17 in Denver don't attend the city's public schools. Analyzing data from Denver Public Schools, suburban school districts, private schools and the U.S. Census Bureau, the study found that an estimated 15,700 students bypassed Denver Public Schools last year in favor of private or suburban schools that are seen as safer or academically superior. "In addition, about 4,600 Denver kids up to age 17 didn't go to school at all for reasons as varied ... Read more ...

The politics of life and death

Dan Horn of The Cincinnati Enquirer analyzed the 6th Circuit court's death-penalty decisions since 2000 to show that 6th Circuit judges consistently voted along partisan lines, and that "a federal death-penalty appeal can be a game of chance." A review of every 6th circuit death penalty decision since 2000 found that judges appointed by Republican presidents vote to deny inmate appeals 85 percent of the time, and judges appointed by Democrats vote to grant at least some relief 75 percent of the time. That means life-and-death decisions often hinge on the luck of the draw: A panel with a ... Read more ...

Recurring health violations uncovered in NC university cafeteria

FBI's terrorism mission leaves white-collar crime unpunished

A story by Paul Shukovsky, Tracy Johnson and Daniel Lathrop of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on a profound shift in the FBI's mission. Due to a shift in focus to national security following 9/11, the FBI has failed to pursue thousands of white-collar crimes. "Five-and-a-half years later, the White House and the Justice Department have failed to replace at least 2,400 agents transferred to counterterrorism squads, leaving far fewer agents on the trial of identity thieves, con artists, hatemongers and other criminals." Lathrop built a database from the records the P-I collected for their investigation and "the ... Read more ...

NC state property commission dissolved

In March of 2007, J. Andrew Curliss of The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., reported on the failings of the North Carolina Commission on State Property. The commission was created to sell off surplus land owned by the government in an effort to generate quick revenue. But in the three years since its inception, there had not been a single sale and the commission was rife with problems. On April 5th, the legistlature agreed to shut down the commission, which will free up over $160,000 of taxpayer money. The governor has said he plans to quickly sign the ... Read more ...

Questions raised about Marine deaths at an-Nasiriyah

Eric Longabardi of ERSNews.com reports on exclusive photos from the battle at an-Nasiriyah in Iraq. Additional photographs used in the Pentagon's investigation were obtained by ERSNews.com through a FOIA request. The battle, in which 18 Marines were killed, is the largest single loss of American troops since the beginning of the war in Iraq. While the official Pentagon investigation states that this was a "friendly fire" incident, it also concludes that no Marines were killed by "friendly fire." According to a PRWire release, "The non-official photos obtained by ERSNews.com and additional exclusive investigative reporting indicate something ... Read more ...

Rural Development grants finding way to urban areas

Gilbert M. Gaul and Sarah Cohen of The Washington Post report that a majority of money from the USDA's Rural Development program is ending up in urban areas. "More than three times as much money went to metropolitan areas with populations of 50,000 or more ($30.3 billion) as to poor or shrinking rural counties ($8.6 billion)." The aid, originally intended for "farmland and backwoods areas that were isolated and poor," has been spent on everything from a popular tavern on Martha's Vineyard to wiring an affluent Houston suburb for internet service. The discrepancies exist because ... Read more ...

NC representitive's election disclosures inaccurate

Mark Schreiner of the Star-News in Wilmington, N.C., analyzed disclosure reports and found that state Rep. Thomas Wright failed to account for over $119,000 in campaign contributions since 1992. "Election officials said an unintentional omission would not draw a penalty if corrected, but there is the possibility of criminal charges if contributions were not disclosed intentionally." Wright's re-election campaign is currently under criminal investigation by the state elections board.