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February 06, 2014

Private prison firm pays Idaho $1 million after it was found to be running a "gladiator school"

The prison paid a small fine but refused to admit wrongdoing for allegedly defrauding the government, faking payroll data, and encouraging gladiator-style fights amongst inmates. Private Prison Firm To Pay Idaho $1 Million For False Records That Left Key Security Posts Vacant | ThinkProgress
One of the world’s largest private prison firms agreed to pay Idaho $1 million on Tuesday to compensate the state corrections department for thousands of hours in falsified staffing records while key security positions were left vacant. A lawsuit that initially exposed chronic under-staffing by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) depicted violence — unchecked by an adequate presence of guards and other staff — as so rampant at Idaho Correctional Center that it was known by its inmates as “gladiator school.” Inmates alleged staff encouraged brutal fights between prisoners as a management tool, and another lawsuit by prison guards now alleges that their safety was put in jeopardy by under-staffing. As part of a 2011 settlement of the case in which it admitted no wrongdoing, CCA agreed to make some improvements, including more careful monitoring. Corrections Corporation of America later admitted that it had reported staffing for at least 4,800 hours during which mandatory security posts were actually vacant. But in September, a federal judge held CCA in contempt for failing to comply with the earlier settlement, and wrote, “it is clear that non-compliance was far worse than the report of about 4,800 hours would lead one to believe.” It ordered a steep fine for future misreported hours.

February 04, 2014

82,000 tons of toxic waste has flooded Eden

An antiquated, unlined pit full of toxic coal ash was washed into the local waterways of Eden, NC after a stormwater pipe burst. Coal ash is the awful mixture left over after coal has been burned. It often contains high levels of lead, mercury, arsenic, selenium and other toxic substances. Up To 82,000 Tons Of Toxic Coal Ash Spilled Into North Carolina River From 'Antiquated' Storage Pit | ThinkProgress
A stormwater pipe under an unlined coal ash pond at a shuttered plant in Eden, North Carolina, burst Sunday afternoon — draining tens of thousands of tons of coal ash into the Dan River. Duke Energy, which owns the Dan River Steam Station, retired since 2012, estimates that 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash and up to 27 million gallons of water were released from the 27-acre storage pond. The leak has at least temporarily been stopped, while Duke works on a more permanent solution. Coal ash is a toxic waste byproduct from burning coal, usually stored with water in large ponds. The closest community at risk from the spill is Danville, Virginia, which takes its water from the Dan River about six miles downstream of the pond. No water quality issues have been reported so far. “This is the latest, loudest alarm bell yet that Duke should not be storing coal ash in antiquated pits near our state’s waterways,” Frank Holleman, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) told the Charlotte Business Journal. SELC and others have been calling for Duke to remove ash from earthen basins such as the one at Dan River to more secure lined ponds to protect local water sources. Duke has 14 coal-fired power plants in the state, 7 of which have been retired. In addition to air pollution, coal-fired power plants generate millions of tons of waste every year contaminated with toxic metals including lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium, and selenium — more than two-thirds of which is dumped into landfills, storage ponds, or old mines.

Investigators uncover far-reaching miltary recruitment fraud

The way it works is National Guard soldiers--who also have civilian jobs--took credit for kids who joining the military already, netting nearly $8,000 per recruit. These fraudsters stole tens of millions of taxpayer money in this scam. Wide-Reaching Army Recruiting Fraud Described by Investigators - NYTimes.com
WASHINGTON — An army program meant to increase the number of recruits during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars devolved into an illegal free-for-all that could cost taxpayers close to $100 million, military investigators say, describing new details of what they called a long-running scheme among National Guard recruiters that went undetected for years. Army officials appeared before a Senate hearing on Tuesday and sketched out a far-reaching criminal endeavor that has implicated more than 1,200 people — 200 of them officers — including two generals and dozens of colonels. Criminal investigators for the Army said soldiers, civilians and National Guard recruiters had used a recruiting bonus program as a “bounty” from which they could illegally collect funds for recruiting soldiers they had not actually recruited. Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri and chairwoman of the Senate panel holding the hearing, was visibly irate and repeatedly expressed anger and surprise as she listened to army investigators describe the fraud they say took place under a recruiting program that began in 2005 at the height of the Iraq war to address an enlistment shortfall in the Army National Guard. Under the program, National Guard soldiers — and their relatives, as well as other civilians and retirees — who signed up to be recruiting assistants could earn up to $7,500 for each new recruit they managed to enlist. But investigators said that in many cases, high school guidance counselors and even principals with access to their students’ personal information took credit for recruiting students who they happened to know were joining the army.