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You Can See a 'Leash on My Neck' and More in MuckReads Weekly

Some of the best #MuckReads we read this week. Want to receive these by email? <a href="">Sign up</a> to get this briefing delivered to your inbox every weekend.

Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern said Sandy response was "near flawless." Not true. An investigation by ProPublica and NPR found that the charity botched key elements of its disaster relief efforts after hurricanes Isaac and Sandy, at times putting public relations above delivering aid. Internal Red Cross documents and dozens of interviews show that the charity diverted vehicles for press conferences and dispatched empty trucks just to "be seen." — ProPublica

The FDA is approving some cancer drugs, whether or not they extend a patient's life. Drug makers can win approval with "surrogate measures" like tumor shrinking, without meeting the gold standard of cancer treatment: patients actually living longer. Over the last decade, "the FDA allowed 74% of [54 new cancer drugs] on the market without proof that they extended life," according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today analysis. — Journal Sentinel via @john_diedrich

"You can pretty much see a leash on my neck with my employer." The H-1B visa is supposed to offer opportunities in America to highly skilled workers in other countries, and be a talent boon for companies here. But standing between a person acquiring a visa and the job is a labor broker. The Center for Investigative Reporting and The Guardian investigate how brokers supplying high-tech Indian workers to U.S. companies have turned the visa program into an "underground system of financial bondage." — Center for Investigative Reporting via @WillCIR

"This is our lifeline. We make our living off that water." A surge in algae blooms is threatening the ecosystem and economy of Florida's expansive Indian River Lagoon, where 60 percent of its sea grasses have died along with hundreds of animals — including more than 250 manatees — in recent years. The Daytona Beach News-Journal investigates the causes ("decades of ditching, draining and pollution") of the devastation, and prospects for remediating the damage. — News-Journal via @joelcampbell

The FAA backed off of safety improvements for small planes. In 1990, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed updated regulations on equipment and designs that could prevent airplane fires that have since claimed at least 600 lives. "But facing opposition from airplane manufacturers, the FAA withdrew its proposal, saying it wasn't worth the extra expense," reports USA Today. Placing the value of human life at $1 million was integral in killing these proposals. As noted by the FAA, "If the value of life were $2 million rather than $1 million, the benefit-to-cost ratio would be twice as great." — USA Today

Is ideology hampering health coverage in Mississippi? In Mississippi, one in four adults go without health insurance. For African Americans, it's one in three. Yet in the first year of the Affordable Care Act, only 20 percent of the 300,000 who could have gained coverage did. In fact, Mississippi was the only state where the percentage of uninsured went up, not down, in the first year of Obamacare. Politico's Sarah Varney found a "series of cascading problems," including errors and misinformation, disorganization, racial divisions and an "unyielding ideological imperative of conservative politics." — Politico via @HanqingC

And a few midterm #MuckReads to get you into Election Day: ProPublica's Robert Faturechi on dark money emerging in Kansas judicial races in Kanas (without the campaign finance rules that apply to other elections); Theodoric Meyer explains how a handful of super PACs are employing " nondisclosure disclosures" to keep donors secret; the Center for Public Integrity's Michael Beckel charts the dark money pouring into one of the nation's most expensive electoral battles: Kentucky's U.S. Senate race; Al Jazeera America's Greg Palast investigates voter-roll purging in 27 states that is having an outsized impact on minority voters.



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