This is a collection of recently published reports by a journalist for hire. Scroll down, click images to load source material in a new tab/window. Contact: matt.stroud [at] yahoo.com

How lobbying dollars prop up pyramid schemes

From The Verge:

The New York Times acknowledged that “Herbalife has mobilized its own army of lobbyists to defend itself against Mr. Ackman’s charges.” But it didn’t emphasize that Herbalife spent nearly 800 percent more on lobbying in 2013 than Ackman did. It also didn’t mention that Herbalife’s intense lobbying effort last year is part of an influential, decades-old political strategy undertaken by the multi-level marketing (MLM) industry — a group of companies and industry groups like Herbalife that promote so-called “direct sales” businesses, which sell products in tandem with the opportunity to sell products. This political strategy — with ties to dozens of current congressional representatives who have received handsome donations from MLM companies and industry lobbyists — has pushed federal regulators away from investigating these companies. It’s also encouraged federal regulators to avoid defining the explicit difference between a legal MLM and an illegal pyramid scheme.

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A new police computer in Chicago says it knows the names of 400 future killers

From The Verge:

What McDaniel didn’t know was that he had been placed on the city’s “heat list” — an index of the roughly 400 people in the city of Chicago supposedly most likely to be involved in violent crime. Inspired by a Yale sociologist’s studies and compiled using an algorithm created by an engineer at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the heat list is just one example of the experiments the CPD is conducting as it attempts to push policing into the 21st century.

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The Private Prison Racket

From POLITICO Magazine:

As inmate populations have soared over the last 30 years, private prisons have emerged as an appealing solution to cash-starved states. Privately run prisons are cheaper and can be set up much faster than those run by the government. Nearly a tenth of all U.S. prisoners are housed in private prisons, as are almost two-thirds of immigrants in detention centers—and the companies that run them have cashed in. CCA, the oldest and largest modern private prison company, took over its first facility in 1983. Now it’s a Wall Street darling with a market cap of nearly $3.8 billion. Similarly, GEO Group, the second largest private-prison operator, last week reported $1.52 billion in revenue for 2013, its most ever and more than a hundredfold increase since the company went public ten years ago.

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Why the West Virginia water crisis is a problem for everyone

From The Verge:

"What makes this weird is that there’s no way to know when it’ll end. When a water main breaks and you lose your water, it’s such a priority to the town that the water is back up that day — often within hours. Sometimes sooner. But it’s really different when someone says, ‘Your water is poisoned. We don’t know when you can have it back. And you certainly can’t get near it, or do your laundry, or take a shower, or wash your dishes, or drink it.’”

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Why Taser is paying millions in secret ‘suspect injury or death’ settlements

From The Verge:

A little research helped to pin down procedural changes Taser made in September, 2009. And a public records search helped to narrow the possibilities down to four representative cases that may have been settled. Those cases have a few major factors in common: they involve a Taser shot at someone’s chest; they involve someone going into cardiac arrest; and they involve an accidental death. For years, Taser has battled in court to show that its electronic control devices — its ECDs such as the X2 and the X26 — cannot kill. But if its recent settlements are any indication, the company may either be slowly backing away from that premise, or at least attempting to draw a line in time after which the company feels it’s no longer liable for someone’s death.

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