Mishandled Remains, Fake Honey, and a Bottle Battle

This week’s top MuckReads from ProPublica.

An aerial view of the Grand Canyon.
Will plastic bottles be banned at Grand Canyon National Park?

Photograph by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

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 The best submissions are selected by ProPublica’s editors and reporters and then featured on our site and @ProPublica.

Remains of War Dead Dumped in Landfill, Washington Post
It isn’t happening anymore. But from 2003 to 2008, the Dover Air Force Base mortuary had been cremating troops’ remains and dumping the ashes in a landfill, instead of the current practice of burial at sea. Families were not told of the method. The Air Force’s deputy chief of personnel said that it “was the common practice at the time, and since then our practices have improved.”
Contributed by @stepshep

Parks Chief Blocked Plan for Grand Canyon Bottle Ban, New York Times
Grand Canyon National Park officials were close to banning the sale of plastic bottles until the plan was suddenly halted when Coca-Cola protested. The company owns the Dasani brand and has donated more than $13 million to the parks. The creator of the plan said water bottles are “the single biggest source of trash” inside the canyon, and that he felt ethical issues surrounding the idea were being “influenced unduly by business.”
Contributed by @KYWeise

The Congressman With Banks on the Side, Reuters
We know Rep. Phil Gingrey, a Republican representing Georgia, hasn’t been particularly good at banking. One of the banks he invested in shut down and the other has cumulative losses of nearly $16 million. What we don’t know is whether his investments, up to $500,000, run afoul of House ethics rules. Reuters wrote that his “botched foray into banking is in some ways typical of the self-dealing rampant in Georgia during the housing boom.” Gingrey told Reuters he’s done nothing wrong.
Contributed by @elliottjustin

Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey, Food Safety News
Pollen has been removed from more than three-fourths of the honey tested from U.S. grocery stores, including some of the biggest brand names. This means the product can no longer be classified as honey, and makes it impossible to judge its safety (pollen can help track the source of the honey). Though this would cause several food safety organizations around the world to flunk the product, the FDA does not test products labeled as honey for pollen content.
Contributed by @foodinteg

The Cruelest Show on Earth, Mother Jones
A yearlong investigation turned up several examples of abuse in how Ringling Bros. treats its animals. “Ringling elephants spend most of their long lives either in chains or on trains, under constant threat of the bullhook, or ankus—the menacing tool used to control elephants,” says Mother Jones. Despite whistleblowers, inspectors and investigators building a case, regulators have not acted.
Contributed by @danielle_ivory

These stories and many more can be found at ProPublica. You can also subscribe to a daily #MuckReads email or follow ProPublica on Twitter. Reader submissions are key to making #MuckReads a success—please contribute!