Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Investigations: Loan-Modification Scams Prey on Struggling Homeowners

The latest scam to hit burdened homeowners: loan-modification companies that charge exorbitant fees to help them negotiate better loan terms - a service that consumers can get for free from non-profits. The scam can actually make it harder for struggling homeowners to get help, says this Washington Post piece on the growing problem.

TAGS: fraud, housing, investigations

Awards: P.U.-litzers for Stinkiest Media Performances

Happy Holidays and best wishes for 2009! Time for the annual P.U.-litzer Prizes for worst media performances. See the 17th edition here. The Hot-For-Obama Prize went to MSNBC's Chris Matthews for this hilariously weird remark the day Obama swept a primary in Feb. 2007: "My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often."

TAGS: awards

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Investigations: Post-Katrina Race War

"Katrina's Hidden Race War," published in The Nation Dec. 17, reveals the little-known story of a dozen African Americans shot in post-hurricane New Orleans. The Nation's A.C. Thompson found in a lengthy investigation that a militia of gun-toting white men ran amok in the city. The story reports police haven't fully investigated many of the crimes committed against African Americans in the hurricane's aftermath.

TAGS: investigations

Da Biz: The Media's Subprime Debt Bomb

Amid the soul-searching about the media business and tough times ahead in the internet age, there's been little focus on one of the key fundamentals: massive debt. Many of our industry's problems aren't the result of the business model being screwed up per se, but rather because of really bad business decision-making - a fascinating parallel to subprime borrowing, in fact. This interesting article from Silicon Valley CEO Alan Mutter explains more.

TAGS: the biz, future of journalism

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tools: Free Legal Search Engines

Just posted links to three cool free legal search engines in my resources blogroll for "the law, justice, organized crime and policing" (see right-hand bar): Justia, AltLaw and Public Library of Law. Use these babies to search for court decisions, regulations, law blogs, research and laws. Thanks to Bilbo for bringing this Wired story on these sites to my attention.

TAGS: law, search, tools

Monday, December 8, 2008

Books: Torture Policy Rivals 9/11 in U.S. Death Toll

A senior former U.S. military interrogator writes a fascinating account of the troubling torture techniques he saw in Iraq in this Washington Post piece. More details are in his new book, How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.

In his Post piece, Matthew Alexander (a pseudonym) writes: "I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.

"It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me - unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans."

TAGS: Iraq, torture, books, investigations, military

Friday, December 5, 2008

Books: Primer On Investigations Uncovers New Archive on Vietnam Massacres

In a new book, The War Behind Me, U.S. journalist Deborah Nelson gives an insightful play-by-play account of her investigation of newly available U.S. Army records on internal investigations into massacres of civilians in the Vietnam War. Useful as history and a primer on investigative techniques from a pro. Here is a review in the Seattle Times.

TAGS: military, investigations, books, Vietnam

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Biz: Fear Not the Internet; Web 2.0 Tools for Journos

It's a tough time for newsrooms, but some journos are using the web to do exciting stuff. Here are some examples: CopyCamp: An Unconference for News Organizations (the idea is to "turn the newsroom into a community center, so news outlets can work with their audience to tackle community issues"), the Carnival of Journalism project, which offers tons of resources and good discussion of the way forward for media (see here for lots of stuff on student journalism), and these interesting discussions at DigiDave.org on linking and social networking for journalists. I've posted these and other links in my "resources" box for "CAR, Web 2.0 and Citizen Journalism" in the right-hand column of this page.

TAGS: Web 2.0, future of journalism, the biz, online journalism

Friday, November 28, 2008

Investigations: How Citigroup Engineered Its Own Mess

Some of the best-paid bankers in the U.S. "were overrated dopes who had no idea what they were selling, or greedy cynics who did know and turned a blind eye," says Thomas Friedman in this New York Times column on an interesting investigation by the same paper of how Citigroup masterminded its own mess leading up to the Panic of '08. "But it wasn’t only the bankers," Friedman adds. "This financial meltdown involved a broad national breakdown in personal responsibility, government regulation and financial ethics."

TAGS: markets, investigations

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Biz: DigiDave "Bullish" on Journalism, Calls for 10,000 Startups

Digital journalism blogger Dave "DigiDave" Cohn says he's "bullish" on the future of journalism. At least someone's bullish about something. The S&P 500 just broke down below the 2002 lows, so Cohn's optimism is a good antidote to that glum news. Here's his interesting column on the need for 10,000 journalism startups (of which he thinks two will become the new New York Times).

TAGS: future of journalism, interesting, the biz

Investigations: NPR Host, Guests Had Pharma Ties

Dr. Frederick Goodwin, host of a popular show on NPR, earned at least $1.3 million giving marketing lectures for drug makers between 2000 and 2007, reports this interesting blog item on Jim Romenesko's site, citing this New York Times piece. Especially noteworthy, reported a Slate article on the same controversy last May, is that Goodwin hosted an NPR show called "Prozac Nation: Revisited," which featured four guests who talked about how worries about a link between Prozac and suicide are overblown. All four guests also have financial ties with antidepressant drug makers, according to the report. As well, Goodwin's show, The Infinite Mind, itself has received "unrestricted grants" from one antidepressant manufacturer. Also interesting is the back-and-forth debate appended to the end of that Slate piece between an NPR producer, the NPR ombudsman and the Slate article's authors.

TAGS: pharma, investigations

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Conferences: Call for Internet Research Papers

Internet researchers are being called for papers for the Oct. 2009 annual conference of the Association of Internet Researchers, titled "Internet: Critical," to be held in Milwaukee. Learn more about the conference and this organization (which has an interesting free listserv) here.

TAGS: tools, conference, internet, Web 2.0

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Journalists Attacked: Armenia's Baghdasarian Hospitalized

A leading Armenian investigative journalist known for stories exposing government corruption was hospitalized after an attack outside his office, the latest in a series of attacks on journalists in Yerevan, says this item: "Edik Baghdasarian, who heads the Armenian Association of Investigative Journalists and runs a Yerevan-based online magazine, Hetq, left his office in downtown Yerevan at about 8 p.m. Monday and shortly was ambushed and beaten by three unknown assailants as he was going to get into his car parked in the street, according to his own account."

Baghdasarian was quoted saying: “Right near the car two people attacked me and began to land heavy blows. I retaliated and we were exchanging blows. I punched one of them and since I was holding a mobile phone in my hand at that moment, the phone now has blood stains on it, presumably the blood of one of the attackers." The attackers fled when a security worker fired a shot into the air. The journalist says a computer disc was lost with several investigative stories that he planned for publication. He had recently written about corruption in Armenia’s mining industry.

Reporters Without Borders has called for a thorough investigation.

TAGS: journalists attacked

Tools: Targeted Video Search

Interesting new tool now in beta development: VideoSurf.com. These guys have created a new way to search for video by actually including elements of the video footage in the search algorithm. What does that mean? Unlike YouTube, which searches based on tags and descriptions - and thus, doesn't necessarily reflect what's actually in the video if a poster doesn't include the right info - VideoSurf seems to give more targeted results aggregated from other video sites. Cool.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tools: FOI Litigation Handbook

Lawyer and journalist Harry Hammitt, the FOI guru behind the AccessReports.com resource website, has come out with a new book, "Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2008". "Under the Freedom of Information Act, one need not be a lawyer to file a lawsuit," says Secrecy News, a project of the Federation of American Scientists, in a post on the new handbook. "A clever, committed advocate can sometimes defeat a team of government lawyers and win disclosure of denied documents. On the other hand, an inept, overzealous or unlucky litigant can leave a trail of legal wreckage that will make the lives of other FOIA requesters more difficult. A newly updated guidebook will help any would-be litigant, whether a lawyer or not, to avoid many of the pitfalls of FOIA litigation and to realistically assess the chances of success. Don't file suit without it." Read more here at Hammit's site.

TAGS: FOI, tools

Monday, November 17, 2008

Awards: ProPublica to Recognize Government Investigators

Add this to the what-a-good-idea column: ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative journo outfit in the U.S., is creating a new series of investigative awards for government entities. The awards will honour outstanding reporting by bodies like the Government Accountability Office, Congressional committees, inspectors general, state attorneys-general and the like from federal and state levels. Nominations open now through Jan. 31, 2009, for the 2008 calendar year. Learn more here.

TAGS: awards, investigations, ProPublica

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tools: Credibility-Weighted Search Tool

Interesting new tool being developed: a search engine with results weighted to sites that librarians at major institutions most often refer to. It's called Reference Extract. Kind of a credibility-weighted search. Just added it to my blogroll on the right. See "Resources: Search" for more search tools.

TAGS: tools, search

Investigations: Gas Drilling Sparks Debate About Water Contamination

"In July, a hydrologist dropped a plastic sampling pipe 300 feet down a water well in rural Sublette County, Wyo., and pulled up a load of brown oily water with a foul smell. Tests showed it contained benzene, a chemical believed to cause aplastic anemia and leukemia, in a concentration 1,500 times the level safe for people.

"The results sent shockwaves through the energy industry and state and federal regulatory agencies."

So starts a ProPublica investigation into how natural-gas drilling has sparked a debate about whether it is poisoning watersheds in the U.S. The drilling is usually done by a process called hydraulic fracturing. Pioneered by Halliburton, it shoots water and chemicals underground to break apart rock and release the gas. The process is used in Canada, too. Deemed safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2004, ProPublica has found the chemicals may contaminate underground water aquefers, including in areas around New York City.

The piece says Canadian gas company Encana was fined in connection with gas drilling in Colorado done by a small company it now owns. Encana also agreed to a large settlement with one local woman who developed an adrenal tumour. Encana says chemicals used in the drilling are well contained. Nonetheless, Colorado and other states are looking at reforms to drilling practices.

TAGS: environment, investigations, energy

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Interesting: Obama Intel Policies Likely to Preserve Bush Legacy?

Has the backtracking begun already? Barack Obama's advisors are reportedly signaling the new president may leave intact some of the most controversial policies of the Bush era: the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" methods (what you and I call torture) and warrantless surveillance. This interesting Wall Street Journal report suggests intelligence matters could prove to be the first to alienate Obama's supporters. While Obama was sharply critical of Bush administration intelligence policies, his transition intelligence team is composed of centrist figures who don't advocate major changes, including in such areas of controversy as interrogation and surveillance on Americans.

TAGS: interesting, intelligence

Investigations: U.S. Spent $195 Keeping Secrets For Each $1 For Declassification

Just added a new link to my blogroll: OpenTheGovernment.org. (See my "FOI Resources" section in the column on the right.) This broad-based D.C. coalition advocates for government transparency and provides resources for same. The site has a good resource page if you happen to be researching the secrets and mysteries of the financial bailout here.

The site also recently released its fifth annual report on government secrecy. Did you know that:

- The U.S. government spent $195 maintaining secrets for every $1 for declassification documents in 2007, a five-percent increase over 2006. This, even though fewer documents were declassified last year.

- Eighteen percent of the Department of Defense budget was spent on "black" - highly classified - programs in 2007, or $31.9 billion.

- Government departments spent $7 million less on Freedom of Information implementation last year and has 209 fewer people devoted to this work. This, despite a two-percent increase in the FOI request volume.

- The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees government requests for surveillance of foreign intel suspects in the U.S., okayed 2,371 orders in 2007. It rejected only three.

- Only one-third of U.S. federal contracts were subject to full and open competition.

TAGS: investigations, secrecy

Documents: U.S. Army Unconventional Warfare Manual Posted

Secrecy News, a project of the Federation of American Scientists, has obtained a copy of the U.S. Army's new field manual on unconventional warfare. This major new document outlines special operations doctrine of the kind seen during the Nicaraguan contra operations, anti-Soviet operations in Afghanistan and the present-day Mideast. The manual hasn't been cleared for public release, but Secrecy News has posted a copy here. Included are a historical survey and an extensive bibliography.

TAGS: military, special forces

Monday, November 10, 2008

Awards: Latin American Prizes for Investigative Journalism on Corruption

Transparency International and the Peruvian-based Instituto Prensa y Libertad announce the seventh edition of their Latin American awards for investigative journalism on corruption, worth $35,000. Learn more here.

TAGS: awards, corruption

Monday, November 3, 2008

Interesting: U.S. Press Freedom Ranks 36th of 173 Countries

The U.S. ranks 36th out of 173 countries in terms of press freedom - behind Slovenia, Mali and Jamaica - according to this report from Reporters Without Borders, which urged U.S. presidential candidates to improve protection of journalists in the country. "This situation is unacceptable for the country known for its First Amendment rights, "the group said. "We are asking the candidates to let the American people know how they will improve this ranking and improve access to information for their fellow Americans."

Investigations: U.S. Officials Undermined Bolivia Government

U.S. aid officials played a shady role in undermining the populist government of Evo Morales of Bolivia - the country's first indigenous head of state - according to this story about U.S. government documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests by journalist Jeremy Bigwood.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Market Watch: Volkswagen Oops!

Little has been written about the role of the financial press in the market mess and of analysts quoted in the media. Here's an interesting item from the cover of the last weekend's issue of Barron's, the financial weekly. As part of a market roundup headlined, "More Pain," the story called Volkswagen "perhaps the most overvalued big company on the planet" and cited analysts who said the European automaker's shares "could fall under 100 euros... Its market value of $84 billion is triple Daimler's, a seemingly nutty situation."

Fast forward to Wednesday, when Barron's sister publication, The Wall Street Journal, reported VW's stunning 348-percent rally over the previous two days. "Hedge funds around the world absorbed a punishing blow Tuesday, as soaring shares in Germany's Volkswagen AG created one of the biggest losses from a single bet in recent memory," the article said.

"The funds are expected to face billions of dollars in losses, according to prime brokers familiar with the positions, because they were wagering that VW shares would fall. Instead, shares of the big German auto maker soared 82% Tuesday to €945 ($1,185)...

"VW shares are up 348% over the past two days and 267% in the past month."


TAGS: markets

Monday, October 27, 2008

Journalists Attacked: Nicaragua's Ortega Targets Investigative Journalist

Daniel Ortega's government in Nicaragua is targeting the country's investigative journalism centre and its head, a former Sandinista himself, says this Christian Science Monitor story. Human-rights activists are up in arms over a government raid on the centre's office, in which computers and records were seized.

TAGS: journalists attacked

Interesting: Crash of '08 More Like '73 Than '29

Don't compare the Crash of '08 to 1929. Think the Panic of 1873 instead. Charlie Smith, editor of Vancouver weekly The Georgia Straight, where I frequently write, just ran an interesting post about must-read backgrounder stories on the Crash of '08. One, titled The Real Great Depression, is from historian Scott Reynolds Nelson on how today's mess is closer to the financial tsunami of 1873 than '29. That's the one your grandparents' grandparents used to talk about. It ushered in new words like "bum" and "tramp" and led to massive social and political transformations that set the ground for socialism, fascism, the welfare state and the wars of the 20th century. Wonder what fun stuff is in store for us.

Meanwhile, ProPublica has a good post on how conflict-of-interest at debt-rating agencies stoked the current crisis. Here are two S&P employees chatting on IM last year:

S&P Employee #1: btw-that deal is ridiculous

S&P Employee #2: I know right.. model def does not capture half of the risk

S&P Employee #1: we should not be rating it

S&P Employee #2: we rate every deal

S&P Employee #2: it could be structured by cows and we would rate it

S&P Employee #1: but there’s a lot of risk associated with it – I personally don’t feel comfy signing off as a committee member.

TAGS: markets, interesting

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Investigations: Treasury Dept. Bailout Contracts Blacked Out

BailOutSleuth.com, a new investigative blogging venture that probes the lack of transparency in the U.S. $700-billion bailout of the financial sector, reports in this story that key info is being redacted from the publicly released versions of the contracts signed with accounting firms to do the books for the Treasury Department program. BailOutSleuth.com is a joint effort of Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team, and ShareSleuth.com, a site that probes fraud in "the lower reaches of the stock market."

Interesting disclosure statement on that site: "In certain instances, the majority partner of Sharesleuth.com [Cuban -A.R.] is going to make personal investments based on information we uncover. Those investments will be fully disclosed, so that readers can evaluate any potential conflicts of interest. The reporters and editors, however, will maintain policies of not holding individual securities, and we will report Sharesleuth.com stories no differently than we have others throughout our careers."

TAGS: markets, fraud, investigations, bailout

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Investigations: Major Security Lapses at High-Security Labs

Two of the top U.S. biological labs - which work with the most dangerous microbes known - have major security lapses, according to a General Accounting Office investigation. What's worse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which oversee the labs, seemed to ignore the glaring vulnerabilities.

TAGS: investigations, microbes

Interesting: Hedge Fund Boss Retires at 37, Calls Traders "Idiots"

U.S. hedge-fund manager Andrew Lahde became famous in his business when one of his funds returned an astonishing 866 percent last year, mostly by betting U.S. housing loans would crash. Now, he's retiring at age 37 and in style: his farewell letter - calling fellow hedgies "idiots," telling them to throw away their Blackberries and appealing for the legalization of marijuana - has stirred waves. "All of this behaviour supporting the aristocracy only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America," he wrote. Read more about Lahde here.

TAGS: markets, interesting, hedge funds

Monday, October 20, 2008

Journalists Attacked: "Murder Russia-Style"

This TIME story from Moscow-based Yuri Zarakhovich is a good backgrounder on recent attacks on journalists and political figures in increasingly authoritarian Russia.

TAGS: journalists attacked, Russia

Events: Stevie Cameron Speaks About Pickton Case

Author Stevie Cameron, a member of the advisory board of the Canadian Centre for Investigative Reporting (of which yours truly is vice-president), will give a talk at Fredericton's St. Thomas University on her years of work investigating one of Canada's most notorious serial killers, Robert Pickton. Cameron, author of The Pickton File, is working on a second book on the gruesome case, The Pig Farm. Her talk happens Thursday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m. in the McCain Hall auditorium.

TAGS: investigations, justice

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Investigations: Media Ignored Derivatives Timebomb

Amid all the media hoopla about regulatory failures that contributed to the market collapse, you'd think journalists had been warning us all along about what was going to happen. Nothing could be more ridiculous. The recent coverage has ignored the fact that the financial press bulled housing - and derivatives - all the way up, just like it bulled dot-com stocks during the previous mania. Here's one good - albeit rare - look at the media role in all this, from Harper's Washington editor Ken Silverstein.

TAGS: markets, fraud, derivatives, investigations

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Investigations: Christopher Cox's SEC Gutted Enforcement Arm

Under chair Christopher Cox, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission "undermined and demoralized" its enforcement division, which investigates securities fraud, according to this exposé in Portfolio magazine. Cox has insisted he wasn't asleep at the switch in the run-up to the financial hell sweeping the planet. But Portfolio reports Cox's SEC reduced the watchdog division's powers and, as a result, fines against companies, individuals and brokers fell from $1.5 billion in 2005 to $507 million last year.

TAGS: market, fraud, investigations, SEC

Investigations: Q&A With Shadow Factory Author Bamford

Author James Bamford, who has delved deeper than anyone into the super-secretive U.S. National Security Agency, speaks with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman about his latest book, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America. Bamford reveals major new info on how the NSA conducted espionage on American military personnel, aid workers and journalists. His revelations have sparked two Congressional inquiries. See their Q&A here.

TAGS: intelligence, spy, investigations

Interesting: Q&A on Army Cemetery at Heart of HBO's "Section 60"

Interesting Q&A with filmmakers Jon Alpert and Matt O'Neil here about "Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery," part three of their documentary trilogy for HBO exploring the human costs of the wars in the Mideast.

TAGS: Iraq, Mideast

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Investigations: Financial Rules Re-Written on the Fly Behind Closed Doors

As markets flirt with Armageddon, historic changes in U.S. government financial regulations are taking place on a near-daily basis behind closed doors, with virtually no outside scrutiny, time for reflection or consideration of consequences and alternative measures, says this ProPublica item, drawing on a Wall Street Journal piece. The story by ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative journalism outfit, is part of an interesting series it has devoted to probing the reasons for the financial crack-up - and some of the flawed solutions. See more here.

TAGS: markets, investigations

Investigations: Camorra Makes Sicilian Mafia Look Like Disney

Italian investigative journalist Roberto Saviano is living under 24-hour police protection after exposing Italy's little-known Camorra organized crime organization, which he calls Italy's "other Mafia." The Camorra isn't as infamous as the Sicilian Mafia, but its hometown of Casal di Principi, outside Naples, makes the Sicilian crime stronghold of Corleone look like "Disneyland," Saviano says in this Telegraph of London story on his investigations and upcoming film about the Camorra.

TAGS: investigations, organized crime

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Journalists Attacked: Politkovskaya Murder Commemorated

Several hundred people marched in Moscow today to commemorate the murder of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006, according to this item from the RIA news service. A Russian journalist union official said 300 reporters have been killed during investigative work in the country in the past 15 years.

TAGS: journalists attacked, Politkovskaya

Monday, October 6, 2008

Investigations: Leading Psychiatrist Didn't Disclose Pharma Payments

One of the most influential psychiatrists in the U.S. violated research rules and earned more than $2.8 million in consulting arrangements with drug makers without disclosing much of it to his university, according to this New York Times story on the latest revelations to shake medical circles on cozy relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

TAGS: pharmaceutical, drugs, investigations

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Investigations: Drug Informant Killed, Tortured While Agents Looked Other Way

U.S. federal agents looked the other way while one of their drug informants participating in the torture and murder of a dozen people in the border town of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, says this item about the revelations of the DEA's retired former head of South American operations, Sandalio “Sandy” Gonzalez. The informant received $220,000 for his services infiltrating the notorious Juarez cartel, says Gonzalez in this very interesting Q&A. Gonzalez says he was reprimanded after he questioned the cover-up of the informant's activities and forced into early retirement.

TAGS: war on drugs, investigations, DEA

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Investigations: SEC's Shorting Ban Could Prolong Crisis

The SEC's ban on short-selling financial stocks - and similar bans in Canada and elsewhere - are unlikely to help those companies and may just prolong the market crisis, says this report by analyst Mark Hulbert, who specializes in statistical studies of the markets. Short-sellers tend to react to market momentum, rather than cause it, according to research Hulbert cites. As well, while SEC restrictions on naked short-selling were in place last summer, the financial stocks affected actually performed worse on average than the rest of the market, the research shows. Hulbert reports that the SEC's own research supports these conclusions. He notes that the ban impairs normal market dynamics and could cause stocks to trade at values that diverge widely from their true value.

TAGS: market, SEC, investigations

Investigations: Over Half of Nursing Homes Cited for Violations

More than 90 percent of nursing homes were cited for violations of federal health and safety standards last year, says this New York Times story on this federal audit. About 17 percent of nursing homes had deficiencies that caused “actual harm or immediate jeopardy” to patients. Problems included infected bedsores, medication mix-ups, poor nutrition and abuse and neglect of patients.

TAGS: investigations, health

Monday, September 29, 2008

Investigations: 57% of Pharma Trials Go Unpublished

The results of 57 percent of studies on new pharmaceutical drugs aren't published within five years of the drug coming to market, says this Guardian story on a review of 90 drugs approved by U.S. regulators. The researchers say the failure of drug companies to publish the evidence amounts to "scientific misconduct" and "harms the public good" by preventing informed decisions by doctors and patients. Read the complete study in Public Library of Science Medicine here.

TAGS: drugs, pharma, science, investigations

Investigations: $91M Carbon Offset Market Lacks Credibility

The fast-growing market for carbon offsets, now worth $90 million in the U.S. alone, is so opaque and loosely regulated it offers consumers "limited assurance of credibility," says this Wall Street Journal story on a federal audit of the market. The offsets should be approached with caution by legislators regulating companies that use them to comply with greenhouse-gas emissions controls, the audit says. See the Government Accountability Office report here.

TAGS: environment, investigations, carbon, climate change

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stevie Cameron to N.B. for Journalism Chair

Stevie Cameron has been named the Irving Chair of Journalism at New Brunswick's St. Thomas University, says this item in the Miramichi Leader. She'll be conducting workshops and public lectures. Cameron, a leading Canadian investigative journalist, is a member of the advisory board of the Canadian Centre for Investigative Reporting (where I'm the v-p). For more on our upcoming benefit and book talk by the CBC's Susanne Reber in Hamilton this Saturday, Sept. 27, see this post. And here's the centre's new website.

TAGS: Canadian Centre for Investigative Reporting, Stevie Cameron, Canada

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Investigations: Harper Record Probed in 504-Page Tome

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has released what it calls the "most comprehensive" study of the Harper government's record to date. The 504-page tome, just in time for the upcoming federal election, covers everything from energy to the environment, governance and the economy and was prepared by 47 analysts. Available for free download here.

TAGS: Canada, Harper

Interesting: GM, GE, Ford Added to Short-Selling Ban

The list of firms on the U.S. short-selling ban list is growing. Incredibly, now, GM, GE and Ford have been added, says this New York Times story.

TAGS: markets, interesting

Investigations: $13B in Iraq Aid Lost to Fraud

An extraordinary $13 billion meant for Iraqi reconstruction was stolen or wasted in fraud schemes, says a former Iraqi investigator in this Washington Post item.

TAGS: Iraq, corruption, fraud, investigations

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Investigations: Fed's Once-Pristine Balance Sheet Now Loaded With Junk

So is the $700-billion financial bailout in the U.S. going to work? Or is it just transferring risk from private hands that bunged it up to the public and endangering the government's own finances? This Financial Week item shows that under the stewardship of Ben Bernanke, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board's balance sheet, pristine and virtually risk-free just six months ago, now consists of a huge portion of troubled assets. While U.S. government treasuries accounted for 91 percent of the Fed's mix of reserve assets six months ago, today 48 percent consists of riskier holdings.

TAGS: markets, Bernanke