Long after Sandy, Red Cross post-storm spending still a black box

By Justin Elliott and Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica Red-Cross

Following Superstorm Sandy, donors gave $312 million to the American Red Cross. How did the aid organization spend that money?

A year and a half after the storm, it’s surprisingly difficult to get a detailed answer.

(more…)

What the proposed NSA reforms wouldn’t do; big differences among plans

By Kara Brandeisky, ProPublica 

Edward Snowden Photo: The Guardian/Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras

Edward Snowden
Photo: The Guardian/Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras

Ten months after Edward Snowden’s first disclosures, three main legislative proposals have emerged for surveillance reform: one from President Obama, one from the House Intelligence Committee, and one proposal favored by civil libertarians.

All the plans purport to end the bulk phone records collection program, but there are big differences – and a lot they don’t do. Here’s a rundown. (more…)

Inside the Koch brothers’ campus crusade; Billionaire industrialists investing in students

By Dave Levinthal, Center for Public Integrity 

David, left, and Charles Koch

David, left, and Charles Koch

The campus of Koch Brothers Academy spans a nation.

Learn about the “role of government institutions in a capitalistic society” at South Carolina’s College of Charleston.

Dive into the “integrated study of philosophy, politics and economics” at Duke University and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

And philosophize about the “moral imperatives of free markets and individual liberty” at the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University in Alabama. (more…)

Wireless companies fight to control your cell phone as rare frequency auction looms

By Allan Holmes, Center for Public Integrity celltowers

The setting was ornate, the subject esoteric, but the implications huge.

The crowd that filed last month into the wood-paneled room 226 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building included lawmakers, lobbyists, company executives, and a few mystery guests — a roster that reflected the enormity of the issue at hand: nothing less than control of the growing wireless market and the hundreds of billions of dollars that go with it. (more…)

A modern day ‘Harvest of Shame’: Today’s blue collar temp laborers face abuses in Florida, elsewhere

This story was done in collaboration with VICE News.

By Michael Grabell, ProPublica

A photo from the CBS documentary 'Harvest of Shame, left, and Chicago temp workers on a bus in the early morning hours of Jan. 18, 2013 Photo: CBS News, Sally Ryan for ProPublica

A photo from the CBS documentary ‘Harvest of Shame, left, and Chicago temp workers on a bus in the early morning hours of Jan. 18, 2013 Photo: CBS News, Sally Ryan for ProPublica

CRANBURY, N.J. – Half a century ago, the legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow came to this pancake-flat town in central New Jersey to document the plight of migrant farmworkers for a television special called “Harvest of Shame.”

Today, many of Cranbury’s potato fields have been built up with giant warehouses that form a distribution hub off Exit 8A of the Jersey Turnpike. But amid this 21st century system of commerce, an old way of labor persists. (more…)

Outside groups dwarf candidate spending in Florida special election

By Michael Beckel, Center for Public Integrity 

Democrat Alex Sink, left, and Republican David Jolly

Democrat Alex Sink, left, and Republican David Jolly

The campaign money machines of Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly have not just been matched by outside forces, they’ve been lapped.

Roughly $12.5 million has flooded the heated special election in Pinellas County on central Florida’s gulf coast, but less than one-third of that sum was controlled by the candidates’ own campaigns, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal records. (more…)

Voting rights advocates try to put oversight back the map

By Kara Brandeisky, ProPublica vote

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act last June, justices left it to Congress to decide how to fix the law. But while Congress deliberates, activists are turning again to the courts: At least 10 lawsuits have the potential to bring states and some local jurisdictions back under federal oversight – essentially doing an end-run around the Supreme Court’s ruling. (more…)

Comcast Foundation gives to minority groups likely to aid approval of Time Warner buyout

By Jason McLure, Center for Public Integrity comcast

As Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc. roll out a massive lobbying effort to win regulatory approval for the merger of the nation’s two largest cable companies, one key step for the companies will be garnering the support of prominent civil rights and minority groups. (more…)

Payments to CEO raise new conflicts at top health quality group

By Marshall Allen, ProPublica 

Dr. Cristine Cassel, President and CEO of the National Quality Forum, speaking before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions. Dr. Cassel was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional outside compensation after she was hired in December 2012. (help.senate.gov)

Dr. Cristine Cassel, President and CEO of the National Quality Forum, speaking before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions. Dr. Cassel was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional outside compensation after she was hired in December 2012. (help.senate.gov)

The top executive at the country’s pre-eminent health care quality organization is being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by two large medical companies that have a stake in the group’s work.

The payments to Dr. Christine Cassel raise new conflict-of-interest concerns at the National Quality Forum, which endorses benchmarks that Medicare uses to compensate hospitals based on performance. (more…)

Post traumatic stress crisis ignored: Americans wounded in their own neighborhoods

By Lois Beckett, ProPublica 

A shooting victim is rushed to the hospital in Miami. Photo: CBS4

A shooting victim is rushed to the hospital in Miami. Photo: CBS4

Chicago’s Cook County Hospital has one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation, treating about 2,000 patients a year for gunshots, stabbings and other violent injuries.

So when researchers started screening patients there for post-traumatic stress disorder in 2011, they assumed they would find cases.

They just didn’t know how many: Fully 43 percent of the patients they examined – and more than half of gunshot-wound victims – had signs of PTSD. (more…)

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