Friday, September 23, 2005

Mercenaries in America

I was stunned when I read Jeremy Scahill's "Blackwater Down" in The Nation. Scahill gives a first-hand account of how the government has hired private security firms (what we used to call "mercenaries") such as Blackwater USA to patrol the streets of New Orleans. In addition to describing how heavily armed Blackwater soldiers are roaming the streets and taking over buildings, the story reviews the serious implications for democracy when private firms start doing the work once handled by the police and government troops.

Here We Go Again

As Rita gets ready to batter the Gulf Coast, we are once again seeing stunning coverage from the local media, whose reporters are risking their lives and saying goodbye to their families in order to bring us the story. I'm also impressed with how the local media are finding ways to let average citizens contribute their own reports of the storm. The links below are to the coverage being provided by the Houston Chronicle and local network affiliates.
Houston Chronicle:
ABC affiliate:
NBC affiliate:
CBS affiliate:

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Tax Tangle

Many states have tried tax caps to protect homeowners from getting forced out of their houses because of rising assessments. In "Save Our Home," Maurice Tamman of the Sarasota Herald Tribune shows how Florida's 10-year-old system has created a " snarl of inequities." Tamman describes how identical homes in the same neighborhood can have tax bills that differ by thousands of dollars. The series features an interactive map where readers can look at the property values and tax breaks given to any home in the region.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

FEMA Follies

Looks like Hurricane Katrina wasn't the first time FEMA has bungled recovery efforts. In "FEMA: A Legacy of Waste," the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reviews 20 recent disasters to show how the agency has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to people who were untouched by the disasters. To produce this series, reporters Sally Kestin, Megan O'Matz, John Maines and Jon Burstein analyzed a million claims for FEMA assistance and traveled around the country interviewing officials and talking to residents. The details of waste and fraud revealed in this series can serve as blueprint to improve how our nation responds to emergencies.,0,7651043.storygallery?coll=sfla-home-headlines

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Hurricane Watch

I continue to be amazed at the powerful reporting and writing that's being done in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In an earlier posting, I praised the work of New Orleans Times-Picayune and reporters, but great work is being done about the storm by journalists from around the country. In "Like ancestors, Islenos survivors persevere," Frank Main of the Chicago Sun-Times describes Katrina's impact on a community of fishermen and refinery workers near New Orleans whose ancestors came from the Canary Islands. It's beautifully written and taught me about a community I hadn't known about before (disclosure: Frank works with friends of mine and we've had lunch together a couple of times).
September 18, 2005

Abortion stories

Whether you think abortion should be legal or not, I think it's important to understand what it means for real people. By spending a day with the patients, doctors and nurses inside a Little Rock clinic, as well as the lone protester outside it, John Leland of the New York Times shows us the human face of abortion in America. I was especially impressed that while reporting "Under Din of Abortion Debate, an Experience Shared Quietly," Leland, as a male reporter, was able to get so many women to talk openly about this sensitive subject.
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