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For-profit school hired investigator to ‘follow’ reporter in Miami

+ Every journalist’s nightmare scenario: Shortly after the Miami Herald’s Michael Vasquez started reporting on questionable business practices at Dade Medical College, the for-profit school hired a private investigator to “follow” him and dig up information on him.

+ Now Hillary Clinton is jumping in to endorse a federal investigation of ExxonMobil, amid reports that the oil giant engaged in a cover-up to mislead the public about the risks of man-made climate change, which were discovered by its own scientists in the 1970s and 1980s. “Yes, yes, they should,” Clinton said, when asked about the issue at a town hall in New Hampshire on Thursday. “There’s a lot of evidence that they misled.”

+ The Michigan State Police used asset forfeiture funds to pay for controversial Stingray devices, which are used for cellphone tracking, to “fight terrorism” but instead are used to solve everyday crimes and infringe on the privacy of citizens, according to documents obtained by the ACLU.

+ Success Academy, New York City’s high-performing charter school network, is able to achieve great test results by weeding out weak or difficult students, according to documents obtained by the New York Times and interviews with employees.

 

 

The billion-dollar boondoggle behind the runaway blimp

+ The 6,000-foot-long multibillion-dollar surveillance blimp that broke loose on Wednesday afternoon and came down in pieces over Pennsylvania represents the last gasp of one of the Pentagon’s more bizarre boondoggles, reports the Intercept. It was one of only two airships in the 18-year, $2.7-billion-dollar Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, which was once supposed to include 36 blimps to protect the country from cruise missiles.

+ Deutsche Bank is close to settling a regulatory probe into alleged violations of U.S. sanctions laws against Iran and other rogue nations, probably paying about $200 million, reports Bloomberg News.

+ That shocking video of a black high-school student in South Carolina being tossed out of her desk, dragged across the floor and handcuffed is not an isolated case. Across the country, in less-publicized incidents, “thousands of students are also getting arrested, ticketed, interrogated and searched by police officers, often in connection with minor indiscretions or allegations they were disruptive,” reports the Center for Public Integrity. Just yesterday, an Oklahoma City police officer was criminally charged after video emerged of him punching a student in the face.

+ Many of the biggest donors to Republican presidential candidate John Kasich’s super PAC have longstanding business ties to the governor that prompted ethics complaints, which could revive “cronyism concern,” reports Politico’s Isaac Arnsdorf.

 

Feds probing cancer cluster near nuke waste storage site

+ Due to an “unusual” number of rare cancers in Coldwater Creek, a small suburb of St. Louis where nuclear waste has been stored for decades, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control are testing residents.

+ Bible-quoting Warren Buffett wannabe Sardar Biglari – who owns burger chain Steak n’ Shake and Maxim magazine – paid himself a $34.4-billion bonus last year though his flagship hedge fund lost 7.2 percent in 2014 and has under-performed the S&P 500 Index over the last five years.

+ The massive New York Times nail salon exposè, which was one of the paper’s most-read stories of the last year, is riddled with inaccuracies and misquotes, writes Reason’s Jim Epstein.

+ As it does every year, the Hill has picked the top lobbyists in the country, representing groups as varied as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Not sure if the publication’s conclusion that “access equals power” is always valid but it’s a useful list.

 

Judge repudiates explosive testimony that helped undermine Chevron’s $9.5B judgment

+ In case you missed it, this is a must-read: One of the key witnesses who helped Chevron undermine a $9.5 billion judgment it faced in Ecuador for oil contamination in the Amazon jungle is repudiating his prior testimony. Ecuadoran judge Alberto Guerra, who only had $100 to his name in 2011, says that Chevron showered him with perks to win him over, including $326,000, an immigration attorney and a car, once showing him a safe filled with money and telling him, “Look, look, look what’s down there. We have $20,000 there,” according to transcripts obtained by the always-indispensable Courthouse News Service’s Adam Klasfeld.

+ Seven years after the financial crisis put credit-default swaps in the headlines, the secretive circle of banks who control the $14 trillion credit insurance market are being pressured to take on conflicts of interest. At present, firms like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, who wrote the CDS rules and buy and sell CDSs, also decide which debtor’s default has triggered a payout of a CDS, reports Bloomberg News’ Nabila Ahmed.

+ The companies in Louisville, Kentucky that are the biggest repeat pollution offenders rarely clean up their act, even in the wake of fines. Local businesses have paid the city over $3.8 million in fines since 2003, but the city still gets multiple failing grades from environmental groups.

+ The government of Myanmar is furthering the genocide of Muslims in the country by stoking fears in townships and planning riots that left hundreds dead in 2012, according to eyewitness and documents obtained by Al-Jazeera.

 

 

Catholic Church’s alleged child molesters find safe haven in South America

+ South America has become a safe haven for the Catholic Church’s alleged child molesters, reports Global Post. In a year-long investigation, the site tracked down five such accused priests continuing to lead Mass in small remote communities in Brazil, Peru and Paraguay.

+ Victims’ families are shocked at the settlement federal prosecutors reached with General Motors over deaths caused by an ignition switch defect – less than $1 billion and no charges against individual employees. Laura Christian, mother of 16-year-old Amber Rose, who was killed in a July 2005 crash in Maryland, said the deal is “giving G.M. and the other auto manufacturers permission to do it again. And all of the people who were killed in these crashes, including my daughter, will have lost their lives in vain.”

+ As the execution of Richard Glossip was delayed on Wednesday by an Oklahoma appeals court, his accomplice Justin Sneed is speaking out for the first time since a letter surfaced alleging that he regrets his testimony in the case. Sneed disputes the letter, allegedly written by his teenage daughter, asserting in an interview with The Frontier that he fully stands by his claims that he was paid by Glossip to beat their boss to death.

+ The former president of Panama, who fled the country amid multiple investigations and “a legacy of corruption, overspending and improvisation,” is now living in Miami’s “Scarface” pad.

EPA to get more aggressive on civil rights reviews after decades of inaction

+ Kudos to the Center for Public Integrity’s Yue Qui and Talia Buford for spurring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt a more aggressive approach to civil rights reviews after their reporting on the agency’s decades of inaction.

+ The rise of family offices, which handle the personal finances of hedge fund managers such as Bill Ackman from within their own firms, is raising concerns since they are more lightly regulated than hedge funds and could bring up conflicts since investments might overlap or collide.

+ Former CIA director Leon Panetta may have crossed ethical lines by revealing details about the classified mission to hunt Osama Bin Laden to the filmmakers behind “Zero Dark Thirty. Among the tidbits in this Vice News story: Top spooks were treated to dinners and hotel stays by screenwriter Mark Boal.

+ Calls to replace Mary Jo White as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are growing louder and more aggressive. Mobile billboards (the “Dump (Mary Jo) Truck”) are crisscrossing Washington DC this week and more than 115,000 activists have signed a petition and called the White House asking President Obama to replace White, who has many Wall Street connections and has had to recuse herself several times from decision impacting former clients such as JPMorgan.

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The inside story of how a healthcare giant made billions by breaking the law

+ Today’s must-read: The first installment of Steve Brill’s 15-part, 58,000-word investigation of Johnson & Johnson, the drug giant that covered up the dangerous side effects of a powerful anti-psychotic drug, Risperdal, that it was illegally marketing to children and the elderly.

+ The botched rollout of Obamacare was partly due to sloppy work by inadequately trained government employees, who failed to “identify delays and problems that contributed to millions in cost overruns,” according to a new audit by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ inspector general. Despite this abysmal record, the much-criticized prime contractor, CGI Federal, still receives huge government contracts (586 contracts and grants worth almost $300 million in FY2015 alone), according to our analysis of government spending records.

+ To the surprise of practically no one, the Navy’s contracting system is “not auditable” – resulting in wasteful spending and inaccurate financial statements – according to a new audit by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

+ Despite the fact that the psychiatric records of infamous serial murderess Amy Archer Gilligan (whose story was told in the movie “Arsenic and Old Lace”) are over 50 years old, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled this week that the documents should not be released and remain confidential.

 

VW tried to suppress research showing its cars could be easily hacked

+ VW spent two years in the courts trying to suppress expert research showing that thousands of its cars are vulnerable to “keyless” car theft.

+ Etsy brags about “transparency,” then sets up secret offshore tax arrangement in Ireland, via Jesse Drucker.

+ Three years ago, temp worker Duquan “Day” Davis was crushed to death by a palletizer clogged with broken bottles at a Bacardi plant in Jacksonville, Florida. In his memory, worker health and safety advocates are calling for stronger protections for the surge of temporary employees who have entered the work force in recent years.

+ Photos have emerged of lion killer Walter Palmer posing with a massive black bear he illegally slaughtered nine years ago in Wisconsin, for which he was fined for lying to authorities and sentenced to a year of probation.

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How ISIS created a vast system of sexual slavery

+ Today’s must-read: How the Islamic State planned and created a vast system of sexual slavery: “In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin.”

+ Security agencies in Canada may have broken the law when they conducted surveillance of environmental activists opposed to tar-sands oil drilling, prompting hearings in parliament.

+ A real-estate company owned by North Carolina Republican congressman Robert Pittenger’s family is being probed by the FBI amid concerns that investors were being defrauded.

+ These are the U.S. companies whose CEOs make the most money compared to their workers (via Bloomberg News).

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‘Wrong man’ spent 589 days in jail

+ Jerome Hayes had plenty of solid alibis and passed a lie detector test​​ – yet he stayed in a Jacksonville​, Fl​ jail cell for 589 days. An investigation by the Florida Times-Union uncovered shoddy police work, inaccurate statements by prosecutors about the existence of evidence, and failure to turn over evidence.

+ How to get a sneak peek at bank profits, via an obscure government website.

+ At a rally in Michigan yesterday, Donald Trump vowed to stop Ford from building a $2.5 billion plant in Mexico, unlike his chief rival, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who would be too beholden to lobbyists and campaign contributors. But Trump has his own donors in the auto industry – including auto dealer Ernie Boch Jr., who is throwing a fundraiser for the candidate at his mansion in Norwood, Massachusetts.

+ One of Washington state’s biggest prisons – the 2,400-inmate Monroe Corrections Complex – has polluted local rivers and wetlands by illegally dumping “roughly half a million gallons of sewage water and other contaminates,” reports Prison Legal News.

+ NYC shines a new light on city contracts and hearings with the dramatic expansion of public records.

+ If you’re an investigative journalist in DC, come to the happy hour tonight!