Collision course: With wary eye on big trucks, bike riders seek safe space on city streets

By Bridget Huber, FairWarning truckcycle

On a July afternoon in New Orleans last year, Philip Geeck was riding his bicycle in a marked bike lane on a busy street. Approaching an intersection, he came up alongside a tractor-trailer truck hauling a tank of chemicals. Geeck, 52, was at the 18-wheeler’s midpoint when suddenly, without signaling, the truck began to turn right, witnesses say.

Victor Pizarro was driving nearby and watched in horror as the scene unfolded. He saw a look of confusion on Geeck’s face as the trailer came toward him. Geeck, an experienced cyclist known to his friends as “Geric,” tried to get away from the truck but couldn’t make it. First his wheel went beneath the semi’s enormous rolling tires, then his foot, then his entire body was dragged under. “It just kind of sucked him in,” Pizarro said in an interview. (more…)

Off-Road industry looks to Congress to put brakes on safety regulation

By Myron Levin, FairWarning 

Photo: Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association

Photo: Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association

Manufacturers of off-road vehicles have mounted fierce resistance to proposed federal rules aimed at reducing rollover crashes that have killed hundreds of riders. After failing to persuade the Consumer Product Safety Commission to shelve the rules, the companies have turned to Congress to run interference.

Powered by an aggressive social media campaign and political donations, a measure moving in the House and Senate would impose a two-year ban on regulating the popular trail machines known as recreational off-highway vehicles, or ROVs. (more…)

Meet the ‘Dark Money’ phantom; Ohio lawyer at nexus of nonprofit network is conservatives’ secret weapon

By Carrie Levine, Center for Public Integrity 

The West Chester, Ohio, office of Langdon Law LLC, led by David Langdon — a little-known but powerful force behind numerous organizations with conservative political agendas. Photo: Carrie Levine/Center for Public Integrity

The West Chester, Ohio, office of Langdon Law LLC, led by David Langdon — a little-known but powerful force behind numerous organizations with conservative political agendas. Photo: Carrie Levine/Center for Public Integrity

WEST CHESTER, Ohio — Just outside Cincinnati, tucked among insurance agencies, hair salons and a yoga studio, is the nexus of one of the nation’s most mysterious networks pouring secret money into elections.

“Langdon Law LLC Political, Election Nonprofit and Constitutional Law,” reads its small sign, which faces the building’s parking lot rather than the street.

On a Tuesday afternoon last month, that parking lot was empty. No one answered the Langdon Law office door. Phone calls went unreturned. Unlike other heavy-hitting political lawyers, David Langdon doesn’t grandstand.

But don’t overlook him. (more…)

How Medicare Advantage investors made billions off loose government lips

By Fred Schulte, Center for Public Integrity medicarecard

The third of February 2011 was mostly a ho-hum day on Wall Street­ — but not for companies offering Medicare Advantage plans. Several of those firms hit the jackpot, tacking on billions of dollars in new value after federal officials signaled they might go easy on health plans suspected of overcharging the government.

The stocks took off after the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services advised the health plans in a memo that it was rethinking a move to ratchet up audits of the privately run Medicare plans. Some of these plans are run by publicly traded insurance companies whose fortunes can rise and fall significantly upon news of a change in Medicare policy. (more…)

Talc-Ovarian cancer link sparks growing legal battle

By Myron Levin, FairWarning 

Deane Berg, who filed a first-of-its kind lawsuit blaming her ovarian cancer on Johnson & Johnson talc powders

Deane Berg, who filed a first-of-its kind lawsuit blaming her ovarian cancer on Johnson & Johnson talc powders

Deane Berg’s doctor called her in the day after Christmas, 2006, to give her the crushing news. She’d had her ovaries removed, the pathology results were back, and they could not have been much worse.  Berg had stage III ovarian cancer, and her prognosis was poor.

Despite her 25 years as a physician’s assistant, Berg, then 49, knew next to nothing about ovarian cancer. Grappling with the “why me?” question, she studied the risk factors, finding just one that could apply: regular use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene.

Talc powder might be a cause ovarian cancer–who knew? It turned out that some people did. (more…)

Another Startling Verdict for Forensic Science

By Ryan Gabrielson, ProPublica hairevidence

With the introduction of DNA analysis three decades ago, criminal investigations and prosecutions gained a powerful tool to link suspects to crimes through biological evidence. This field has also exposed scores of wrongful convictions, and raised serious questions about the forensic science used in building cases.

This week, The Washington Post reported the first results from a sweeping study of the FBI forensic hair comparison unit, finding that 26 of 28 examiners in the unit gave flawed testimony in more than 200 cases during the 1980s and 1990s. Examiners overstated the accuracy of their analysis in ways that aided prosecutors. (more…)

Health data breaches sow confusion, frustration

By Charles Ornstein, ProPublica anthemhack

As the privacy officer for The Advisory Board Co., Rebecca Fayed knows a thing or two about privacy and what can happen when it’s violated.

But when Fayed received a letter telling her that she, like nearly 80 million others, was the victim of a hacking attack on health insurer Anthem Inc., she couldn’t figure out why. Anthem wasn’t her insurance provider. (more…)

Unicorns, the Tooth Fairy and 54.5 MPG

By Stuart Silverstein, Fair Warning gaspump

The Obama Administration has repeatedly trumpeted its plan to boost the average fuel economy of new cars and light trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by the 2025 model year.

In a 2011 White House news release announcing an agreement with automakers to reach the goal, President Obama called it the “the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” By 2025, he said, average fuel economy “will nearly double to almost 55 miles per gallon.” (more…)

America remains top arms seller to the world

By Julia Harte, Center for Public Integrity patriot

The United States remains the largest exporter of weaponry to the world, with Russia hanging onto second place and China grabbing ahold of third, according to the latest annual survey by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which ranks sales of weapons based on their value, quantity, and function.

The market they are supplying is expanding. Arms sales over the past five years are 16 percent higher than they were from 2005 to 2009, SIPRI reported, signaling growing demand for major weapons. (more…)

How much is your arm worth? Depends on where you work

By Michael Grabell, ProPublica, and Howard Berkes, NPR

Top: Jeremy Lewis smokes a cigarette outside of his parents’ home in Albertville, Alabama, less than 50 miles from the Georgia state line. If he had been injured in Georgia he would have been entitled to far more than the $45,000 he received under Alabama’s workers’ comp system. Photo: Dustin Chambers for ProPublica

Top: Jeremy Lewis smokes a cigarette outside of his parents’ home in Albertville, Alabama, less than 50 miles from the Georgia state line. If he had been injured in Georgia he would have been entitled to far more than the $45,000 he received under Alabama’s workers’ comp system. Photo: Dustin Chambers for ProPublica

At the time of their accidents, Jeremy Lewis was 27, Josh Potter 25.

The men lived within 75 miles of each other. Both were married with two children about the same age. Both even had tattoos of their children’s names.

Their injuries, suffered on the job at Southern industrial plants, were remarkably similar, too. Each man lost a portion of his left arm in a machinery accident. (more…)

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