Friday, September 30, 2005

Disasters Waiting to Happen

How prepared is your community for a Katrina-scale disaster? That's what Greg Bruno of the Times Herald-Record in the Hudson Valley and Catskill region of New York asked. In his investigative story "Local disaster plans lacking," he found that three-quarters of the communities in his area would be unprepared if a catastrophe struck. He discovered that of the 75 community plans he reviewed, the majority "are outdated, incomplete and vague." In an area that is prone to flooding, has a large nuclear power plant and houses prime terrorist targets such as West Point, this is no idle threat. Bruno's story is an example of the kind of journalism that can save lives if it is heeded.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sorry Neil

Earlier in September, I posted a NewsGem, "Farm Band-Aid?" that linked to a Chicago Tribune story that examined the finances of the group behind the Farm Aid charity concerts. Neil Young, one of my favorite rockers and a Farm Aid founder, later denounced the story as being distorted and unfair. Today the Tribune's public editor, Don Wycliff, reviewed the original story and found that, while it didn't contain any factual inaccuracies, it failed to capture the full scope of the help Farm Aid gives to farmers. As a result, I'm withdrawing the original story from NewsGems.,1,5765849.column?coll=chi-opinionfront-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Cronies in Charge

More than any administration before it, the Bush Administration has filled the federal government with political appointees with limited experience in the crucial duties they are supposed to perform, Mark Thompson, Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen of Time report. In "How Many Mike Browns are out There?" they show that FEMA isn't the only vital agency where political connections are being put before experience. Thompson, Tumulty and Allen detail how key jobs at the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Management and Budget have gone to people whose credentials are questionable. "Some of the appointments are raising serious concerns in the agencies themselves and on Capitol Hill about the competence and independence of agencies that the country relies on to keep us safe, healthy and secure," they write.,9171,1109345-1,00.html

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Usual Suspects

Contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts are being awarded through no-bid contracts to firms with close ties to top politicians such as Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and ex-FEMA chief and Bush campaign manager Joe M. Allbaugh. In "Many Contracts for Storm Work Raise Questions," Eric Lipton and Ron Nixon of The New York Times sift through the first $1.5 billion of Katrina contracts awarded by FEMA to find out who's getting what.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

On Her Own

What happens to teens once they leave foster care? While reporting "Almost 18 -- and feeling old," Patricia Wen of the Boston Globe talked with 17-year-old Maria Medina during a period of six months as she struggled to figure out what to do with her life once she leaves the safety of foster care. The result is a beautifully crafted two-part series that shows us the world through the eyes of a young woman who has already known much pain and must now make difficult decisions. Here is one of the many compelling passages:
"But for foster children like her, there are no parents to fall back on, no spare bedrooms to return to, no second chances. If anything, it is Maria's family that leans on her. She worries that her dreams are sinking as fast as her grades.
'Now I'm almost 18," she sighed as she prepared to return to Chelsea. ''I feel old. And I'm scared. '"
Site Meter