by Terry Parris Jr ProPublica, Dec. 5, 2014, 1:24 p.m.
$1 spent influencing politics = $760 received from the federal government. America’s most politically active corporations 2013 like Ford Motor Company, McDonald’s and Bank of America 2013 pumped $5.8 billion into federal lobbying and campaign contributions between 2007 and 2012. An analysis of 14 million records by the Sunlight Foundation found that in return, these companies got $4.4 trillion in federal business and support. To put that in context, the federal government paid $4.3 trillion in Social Security benefits over the same period to 50 million Americans. 2014 Sunlight Foundation via @jake_bernstein
The pastor calls it “work therapy.” Advocates and labor lawyers call it “exploitative,” and possibly illegal. Pastor Tom Atchison is founder and CEO of New Beginnings, one of Tampa’s largest homeless programs. For years, “Pastor Tom” has supplied a homeless labor force to work concessions at major sporting events, for local construction jobs and even grant writing for the center itself. While these workers get food and shelter, they remain as penniless as when they arrived. Employing this population in for-profit work for no pay may violate the Fair Labor Standards Act, experts say. And, Atchison is applying to run a new multi-million dollar homeless shelter, potentially entrusting him with an even larger homeless population. 2014 Tampa Bay Times via @Rachael_Bale
“They put poison on his skin and in the air he breathed.” Benzene is the 17th most-produced chemical in the U.S. It’s a key ingredient in gas and cigarettes. It’s a component for producing plastics, adhesives, lubricants and pesticides. And chronic exposure is linked to leukemia and other cancers. But being the 17th most-produced chemical in the U.S., it has a powerful industry behind it. An investigation by The Center for Public Integrity found that a $36 million study funded by America’s oil and chemical titans was “designed to protect member company interests.” Industry reps say research is sound. Authors of the work claim no bias. But experts say the research, and the strategy the industry employs, shields companies from workers compensation claims. 2014 Center for Public Integrity via @Smaczni
Adopted or kidnapped? Right now, Americans cannot adopt Guatemalan children. But at one point it was a big business. From 1996 to 2006, the number of adopted children from Guatemala increased 663 percent, and agency fees for adopting parents ranged from $20,000 to $50,000. But that business, in some cases, boiled down to human trafficking. Such are the claims surrounding Karen Abigail Lopéz García, a child adopted by a Missouri couple who has been living there for the past six years. Her Guatemalan parents claim she was kidnapped and essentially sold to an American adoption agency. An investigation by Guernica tells Karen’s story, taking you into the world of adoption in Guatemala. 2014 Guernica Magazine via @ErinSiegal
“…considers not only the numbers of people, but their prominence.” That’s one factor the National Transportation Safety Board lists in a manual when determining how many officials to send to investigate crash sites. A USA Today analysis of 600 recent NTSB investigations found that the agency’s typical response is to send out four or five people. But high-profile incidents, like the fatal crash involving John F. Kennedy Jr., often draw outsized responses (the agency dispatched 56 people to investigate Kennedy’s crash). Officials say they use these high profile cases to address a wide audience of pilots and the public, to quell speculation and to deal with the media. But some of the most extensive investigations revealed very little about what actually led to the crashes. 2014 USA Today via @rlocker12
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