A Busy Summer Week at ProPublica
It may still be summer, but ProPublica had one of its most word-dense (and picture-dense, and video-dense) weeks ever. Each day we published an in-depth story or notable development in our ongoing investigations. Here’s a rundown in case you missed some of our work.
Monday, Aug. 23
Overseeing the Gulf Spill Claims Overseer: BP handed control of the spill claims process over to independent paymaster Kenneth Feinberg. We’re watching to see if Feinberg’s promises are enacted, and whether or not they improve on BP’s management.
- Read our article on Feinberg’s proposed reforms.
- We’ve created a widget to track the claims payout, which you can embed in your own website.
- If you’re a claimant, we’re interested in hearing about your experience with the claims process.
- Also in Gulf spill news, if you wondered why we leaned toward a half-glass-empty attitude toward the claims of a recent the-Gulf-is-mostly-empty-of-oil study: it was funded by BP.
Tuesday, Aug. 24
“Do What You Have To Do”: In the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans police were told they could shoot looters, according to former and current members of the force. We co-reported this story with the Times-Picayune and PBS Frontline as part of our ongoing investigation into the post-Katrina breakdown of law and order, including 11 officer-involved shootings of civilians.
- Read the article about the NOPD’s orders to shoot looters.
- Watch the PBS Frontline documentary, “Law & Disorder,” the culmination of our yearlong collaborative investigation into the officer-involved shootings in the days after Katrina.
- Watch an interview with reporter A.C. Thompson by PBS NewsHour.
- On Thursday, the Times-Picayune broke the news that federal agents began an inquiry on the NOPD’s shooting orders.
Wednesday, Aug. 25
A Modification Denial, Modified: Last week, we profiled Suzanna Wertheim, a California homeowner recently diagnosed with terminal cancer who said a series of mistakes by Wells Fargo had prevented her from getting her mortgage modification. After our story, and Wertheim’s appearance on “The Rachel Maddow Show", Wells Fargo offered her a modification.
- Read our third profile in the series: Wallace Farmer, a homeowner who gave up on getting a modification after a year of bureaucratic holdups.
- We also updated our colorful chart showing the state of the government’s loan modification program with the latest monthly Treasury data. Reporter Paul Kiel’s take: The numbers are getting bleaker.
Thursday, Aug. 26
The German Connection: For nearly two years, a German company has argued that it can’t be sued for the defective drywall shipped by one of its Chinese subsidiaries. But our investigation with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune found documents showing that the German umbrella company was closely involved in managing its subsidiaries, including quality control and raw materials procurement.
- Read the article, “Documents Tie German Company to Chinese Subsidiary That Produced Defective Drywall.”
- Read our ongoing investigation of drywall that has made homes uninhabitable, and the tainted drywall’s manufacturers and distributors.
Friday, Aug. 27
Welcome to CDO World: Reporters Jake Bernstein and Jesse Eisinger, in partnership with NPR’s Planet Money, reveal how Wall Street bankers “perpetrated one of the greatest episodes of self-dealing in financial history.”
Their analysis shows for the first time how much banks, primarily Merrill Lynch, created a demand for otherwise hard-to-sell collateralized debt obligations by buying up their own product.
- Read our investigation, “Banks’ Self-Dealing Super-Charged Financial Crisis.”
- Need visual clarity? We chart the extent of Merrill Lynch’s self-dealing, self-dealing broken down by each CDO and the CDO daisy chain.
- Listen to the story on NPR: “How Wall Street Made the Mortgage Crisis Worse.”
- For some comic (strip) relief, read “Welcome to CDO World!”, our illustrated guide to the financial shenanigans. And the Gregory Brothers, of Auto-Tune the News, auto-tuned the bankers.
- Blogger Marian Wang put together a crib sheet of the CDO names and narratives.
- The first part of our CDO investigation, “The Magnetar Trade”, also featured an NPR collab (with This American Life) and inspired its own song, “Bet Against the American Dream.”
Tainted Trials: The New York Times editorialized that torture had jeopardized the government’s ability to convict accused terrorists, based on our report (co-published with the National Law Journal) on how the government has lost eight of the 15 cases in which Guantanamo inmates alleged mistreatment.
- Read our report, “Judges Reject Interrogation Evidence in Gitmo Cases.”
- See our list of the 15 lawsuits in which Guantanamo inmates claimed abusive interrogations.
- We’re also maintaining a database of the 50-plus Guantanamo detainee lawsuits that have been decided by federal judges.
Rethinking Fracking : PBS's "Need to Know" will feature our reporting on hydraulic fracturing (aka "fracking"), a method of natural gas drilling that may pose risks to our water supply.
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