Here are this week's top must-read stories from #MuckReads, ProPublica's ongoing collection of the best watchdog journalism. Anyone can contribute by tweeting a link to a story and just including the hashtag #MuckReads or by sending an email to MuckReads@ProPublica.org. The best submissions are selected by ProPublica's editors and reporters and then featured on our site and @ProPublica.
The Deadliest Place in Mexico, The Texas Observer
After Mexico President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006, he sent military forces to the Juarez Valley to squelch the drug cartels. Residents claim an alliance formed between the two instead, and years later, most people who haven't fled are either terrified or dead.
Contributed by @Jake_Bernstein
U.S. ‘Info Ops' Programs Dubious, Costly, USA Today
The Pentagon has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to sell the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to often-hostile populations. But no one really seems to know whether the marketing and propaganda campaigns, dubbed here “the modern equivalent of psychological warfare,” are actually working. On Friday, members of Congress called for a probe of the program.
Contributed by @elliottjustin
Bending the Tax Code, and Lifting AIG's Profit, The New York Times
It looks like AIG is unlikely to pay taxes for a number of years, thanks to a rule that the Treasury Department bent for the insurance giant and several other companies in 2008. Nearly $18 billion of AIG's recent $19.8 billion, fourth-quarter profit was thanks to the tax break.
Contributed by @coracurrier
How Three Germans Are Cloning the Web, Businessweek
Three German brothers have hit on a wildly successful business model: Find a promising Internet business in the U.S., and make replicas of it abroad, in some cases copying everything down to the fonts. A former high-level employee estimates the company is worth at least $1 billion.
Contributed by @KYWeise
Rockwall Doctor Who Owns DeSoto Medical Firm Among 7 Accused of Bilking Medicare, Medicaid for $375 Million, The Dallas Morning News
Authorities have charged a Dallas doctor with orchestrating the largest home health-care fraud ever carried out by a U.S. physician. The doctor and six associates allegedly recruited fake patients among Dallas' homeless population and elsewhere, then falsified records that earned the defendants $375 million in Medicare and Medicaid funds over a five-year period.
Contributed by @hisgirlhildy
For the Costliest Homes, Foreclosure Comes Slowly, The Wall Street Journal
High-end homeowners, with loans of at least $1 million, tend to remain in their houses, without making payments, longer than those with smaller loans. In 2008, this foreclosure gap didn't exist. What gives?
Contributed by @KYWeise
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