New England Muckrakers

Notable investigative stories from newspapers, websites and TV and radio newsrooms in the six New England states plus “Citizen Muckraker” reports.

Recent Posts

Special investigative report: Anatomy of a recall

The federal government is poised to publish a proposed consumer-protection rule that would require all processors of raw ground beef to keep records so retailers can better trace the sources of contaminated products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday. The rule is designed to minimize the number of people affected by food-borne illnesses like the 2011 salmonella outbreak that was linked to ground beef sold by the Scarborough-based Hannaford supermarket chain. Hannaford’s records met federal requirements at the time, but because the records were incomplete, the USDA couldn’t identify the source of the beef that sickened at least 20 people. That gap in the nation’s food-safety system was the focus of a Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram special report, “Anatomy of a Recall,” published in March 2012. The investigation found that the USDA had known since 1998 that better record-keeping was needed to help food-safety investigators trace sources of contaminated meat and prevent additional illnesses. Continue Reading →

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Hobbled IRS can’t stem dark money flow

When federal election lawyers decided the nonprofit Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies likely violated political spending limits, campaign finance watchdogs were certain the Internal Revenue Service would take action. After all, lawyers for the Federal Election Commission argued that Crossroads GPS,co-founded by Republican operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, spent more on politics than anything else leading up to the 2010 election. Then the IRS tea party scandal exploded. Read the full story at the Center for Public Integrity.  Continue Reading →

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Hazards tied to medical records rush

President Obama and Congress poured $30 billion in taxpayer subsidies into the push for digital medical records beginning in 2009, with only a few strings attached and no safety oversight of the vendors who sell the systems.
The move was touted as a way to improve patient care and help rein in medical costs. Five years later, the explosion in the use of the electronic records has created the potential for efficiencies and safety benefits but also new risks for patients, the scope of which still is not fully understood. Read the full story at the Boston Globe Continue Reading →

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Children stuck in crisis: Connecticut’s psychiatric emergency gets worse

You’ve probably heard stories like this before. The number of children and teens going to emergency rooms in mental health crisis, some waiting days for an inpatient bed, has been growing for more than a decade. ER staff are used to seeing a bump in patients at the end of each school year. But what happened this spring was unprecedented, say people who work at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, parents of kids with psychiatric illnesses and community mental health providers. “I don’t remember a period like that before where the volume was so high and we had so many kids where there wasn’t a place to facilitate them to, there wasn’t a place for them to go to,” said Gary Steck, CEO of Wellmore Behavioral Health, based in Waterbury. Continue Reading →

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Special report: Does pressure to reunify families lead to tragedy?

Sandra Eastman was searching for love. With a childhood marred by violence, instability, cocaine and abuse, as an adult she wanted a peaceful family life of her own. Eastman’s mistake, perhaps, was to let that need blind her to the threat her husband posed to her baby girl, Dezirae Sheldon. Dennis Duby, who friends described as an angry, jealous, violent liar, is charged with Dezirae’s murder. Click here for a timeline of Dezirae’s life. Continue Reading →

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Health system overhaul plan has Medicaid advocates worried

State officials are seeking millions of dollars in federal funds with the ambitious goal of redesigning how health care is paid for and delivered to the majority of Connecticut residents. But critics say a late addition to the application has the potential to significantly change Connecticut’s Medicaid program, in ways they worry could make it harder for low-income children and adults to receive care. Read the full story at the CT Mirror.  Continue Reading →

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Boston’s residency rule routinely flouted

Thirteen of the 22 top leaders in Boston’s Police Department live outside the city in apparent violation of the city’s residency requirement, a law frequently ignored and weakly enforced, according to a Globe analysis of payroll and property records. Among them: the Police Department’s second in command, Superintendent in Chief William G. Gross, who lives in Milton, according to payroll records. But he’s hardly alone. Managers in the city’s technology division and the Inspectional Services Department, high-ranking school administrators, and the head of the school police, Eric J. Weston, also live beyond Boston’s border. So does Matthew A. Cahill, executive director of the Finance Commission, a city watchdog agency. Continue Reading →

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Years home, female Iraq vets endure the wounds of war

It’s been nine years since Eunice Ramirez served in Iraq, but she still suffers from war wounds – post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, respiratory problems and frequent crying triggered by her memories. Suzanna Smaldone, who also returned home from Iraq in 2005, lives in constant pain and can’t bring herself to talk about her war injuries. Cheryl Eberg, home from Iraq for seven years, counsels other veterans, but their war stories can trigger her own mental health issues. Though it’s not unusual for veterans of both sexes to struggle for years with war injuries when they return home, officials say that women veterans have their own unique challenges, which can make their transition to civilian life particularly hard.  

Read the full story at the Connecticut Health I-Team Continue Reading →

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More than 200 inmates in prison because of lack of housing

There are 224 Vermont inmates sitting in prison who could be released if they had a place to live, according to data from the Department of Corrections. DOC officials say they need more halfway houses, but that is not the only hurdle inmates who have served their sentences face when they are sent back into the community. It is not clear whether the number represents a trend up or down from past years, although a DOC official said the number of inmates eligible for release except for housing last fall was 194. Read the full story at the VT Digger Continue Reading →

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How politics derailed EPA science on arsenic, endangering public health

 Living in the lush, wooded countryside with fresh New England air, Wendy Brennan never imagined her family might be consuming poison every day. But when she signed up for a research study offering a free T-shirt and a water-quality test, she was stunned to discover that her private well contained arsenic. “My eldest daughter said ... ‘You’re feeding us rat poison.’ I said, ‘Not really,’ but I guess essentially ... that is what you’re doing. Continue Reading →

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