The weekly watchdog: Nov. 14 - Nov. 18

This week's top investigations from iWatch News

By

 Updated:

From left: Jay LaPrete/AP, Emma Schwartz/iWatch News

Air pollution map tells a toxic story across the country

When an interactive graphic delivers the goods, you know immediately. If you haven’t had a chance to delve into the map accompanying our Poisoned Places investigation, please check it out. Developed by our partner NPR, the graphic shows 17,000 facilities that have emitted and continue to emit poisonous chemicals into the air endangering the health of tens of thousands of American citizens. This information is cross-indexed with EPA’s risk screening data. By entering your ZIP code, you can “fly in” to your city or town and see who’s polluting — and just how dangerous it may be to your own health. Collaboration generates great investigative reporting and this map is a case in point. Many news organizations at the local level are doing their own stories based on this information. NPR reported this morning that the EPA has cracked down on a polluting copper plant in Arizona.

Getting easier to pack heat legally

In the past three years, 22 states have weakened or eliminated laws regulating the possession of concealed weapons. These measures are easing testing and eligibility requirements for obtaining a permit, opening up new public and private places where people can have concealed weapons, and giving new legal clout to those who use guns to defend themselves, according to an iWatch News investigation. The new freedoms for holders of concealed weapons permits may now get an additional boost from proposed federal legislation that would require states to recognize each other’s permits. The measure, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, strongly supported by the pro-gun NRA, is slated for a House vote this week. Gun control groups argue that the ultimate aim of concealed carry proponents is to hollow out laws until there is nothing left to enforce.

Gov. Perry OK’d  his own Texas insurance mandate

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a professed proponent of limited government, has made repealing federal health care reform a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. But iWatch News reports that in 2009, the governor quietly signed an unprecedented health insurance mandate into law, which some leading experts say could waste vast sums of money and provide little medical benefit. The Texas Heart Attack Prevention Bill requires insurance companies to pay for CT scans and ultrasound tests that can detect heart disease. Perry’s actions came two years after he signed a controversial executive order that mandated HPV vaccines for sixth grade girls — an order which the legislature quickly overturned and which was widely criticized as an example of intrusive government and political cronyism. The Perry administration contends that both laws were designed to save lives.

Watchdog journalism in the digital age

The Center for Public Integrity and the Paley Center for Media in New York hosted a program on watchdog journalism last week. Attendees got an inside look at the Center’s partnership with NPR on Poisoned Places, heard about new models to sustain investigative reporting and got tips on how to digitally dig for public information. You can watch an archived video of the event here.

Until next week, 

Bill Buzenberg 
Executive Director

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