Thursday, March 23, 2006

Shipping News

Following the brouhaha over a Dubai-based company taking over management of U.S. ports, Kevin Baron and Michael Kranish of The Boston Globe took the story a step further by looking at who owns some of the boats using those ports. In "Foreign Owners Tied to US Fleet," they report that foreign firms own three-fourths of the cargo ships in a special fleet that carries supplies such as helicopters and rocket launchers to U.S. forces abroad. Kranish and Baron give a balanced look at why the Pentagon launched the program, which is budgeted at $1.7 billion for a decade, and why some people are concerned about it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Fine Mess

Martha Mendoza and Christopher Sullivan of the Associated Press have written an impressive investigative story on how the federal government often fails to collect multi-million-dollar fines against people and companies that have broken the law or regulations. Mendoza and Sullivan used FOIA requests to determine that the amount of unpaid fines has soared in the last decade to more than $35 billion because they are often waived or reduced, or because the government loses track of them. Sullivan and Mendoza give great examples of the companies who never paid their full fines such as the pipeline company whose gasoline spill and explosion killed three people and the nuclear labs that exposed workers to radiation.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Killing Civilians

Tim McGirk of Time has a chilling story this week on whether a battalion of U.S. Marines massacred 15 civilians, including women and children, in western Iraq. "One Morning in Haditha" explores how the Marines responded last November after insurgents killed Lance Corporal Miguel (T.J.) Terrazas, 20, of El Paso. The Marines initially said the civilians died in the same blast that killed Terrazas, but witnesses and doctors claim the civilians died the next day when the Marines went on a rampage of revenge. A video obtained by Time from an Iraqi journalism student appears to back up the Iraqis' claim. McGirk deserves credit for pushing ahead with a difficult investigation despite the military's initial denials.,8599,1174649-1,00.html

Monday, March 20, 2006

Saved by the Bastards

Reporters are writing a lot of good stories about the troubles veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars face once they come home. One of my favorites appeared Sunday in The Portland Oregonian. In "Wounded Lives," Julie Sullivan tells the story of Oregon National Guardsman William R. Stout Jr., whose life tumbles out of control after he returns home from Iraq because of post-traumatic stress disorder. She describes how a group of wounded veterans called the Blasted Bastards, along with his wife and two daughters, pull together to give him the help he desperately needs. It's a story of love, war, pain and the bonds of friendship. Sullivan's story features deep reporting and a compelling narrative that makes it hard to stop reading.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

When the Well Runs Dry

Investigating corruption in business has to overcome many hurdles because so much of the information is kept in private hands rather than on the public record. But through superior reporting, Jim Adams, Caroline Lynch Pieroni and R.G. Dunlop managed to clear these hurdles in today's Louisville Courier-Journal with "Kentuckian's Well Deals Cost Investors Millions." The story describes how Kentucky-based Robo Enterprises Inc., an oil and gas development company with operations around the country, attracted millions of dollars a year from thousands of investors even though its wells were rarely successful. Adams, Lynch Pieroni and Dunlop detail how no states, including Kentucky, ever tried to shut Robo down despite administrative actions and lawsuits against the company in at least a dozen states.
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