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 with the hashtag #MuckReads or by sending an email to MuckReads@ProPublica.org. Sign up here to get this digest delivered to your inbox weekly.
“The agency has created a culture that says, ‘If you throw a rock at me, you’re going to get shot.’ ” Politico magazine examines how the U.S. Border Patrol has become “one of the nation’s deadliest law enforcement agencies.” When Bill Clinton was president, we had just 4,000 agents patrolling on our borders. That number had grown to 9,000 by 2001, but the number of agents grew quickly in the aftermath of 2001. That growth—the combined Customs and Border Protection agency employs 60,000 people and operates a fleet of 250 aircraft and drones—has come with a cost: misconduct cases, corruption, and excessive force complaints.— Politico magazine via @YoungRJeremy
If you don’t have to pay the fine for having an unsafe workplace, why provide a safe workplace? Thousands of mines are operating despite owing safety penalties that go back as far as 20 years, according to an NPR investigation. In their years of delinquency, these mines reported injury rates 50 percent higher than mines that paid penalties. In a joint investigation, NPR and Mine Safety and Health News discovered that federal regulators are either unable or unwilling to get these owners to pay up. “Coal mine regulation is not a high-profile area of law enforcement. … It’s a fairly low priority,” said one former assistant U.S. attorney.—NPR via @AnnaBoikoW
Are your strawberries grown with these dangerous pesticides? Nine out of 10 strawberries come from California. But to keep this $2.6 billion industry growing, farmers rely on a fumigant that state scientists say poses an increased risk of cancer. While Dow AgroSciences, manufacturer of the chemical 1,3-Dichloropropene, said agricultural use of the fumigant doesn’t pose a cancer risk, state researchers say otherwise.—The Center of Investigative Reporting via @rachael_bale
Bank of America kept a school district in the dark about shaky bond market. In September 2007, a bond deal went forward for Chicago Public Schools worth $263 million. The deal was based on something called “auction-rate” bonds. These bonds were risky but as long as nothing drastic happened, could turn around quick cash for the district. But something bad happened: the economic meltdown. Internal documents show that the bank had an inkling it was coming, according to a three-part investigation by the Chicago Tribune. The deal went forward anyway. — Chicago Tribune (subscription required) via @ChiTribWatchdog
The nurse may not be in the room as much as you think. U.S. nursing homes report staffing levels to Nursing Home Compare, a consumer website run by the federal government. But the self-reported numbers differ vastly from those reported to Medicare. In fact, 8 in 10 nursing homes reported higher levels of registered nurse care to the government website than they did to Medicare, according to an analysis by the Center of Public Integrity. One advocate wasn’t surprised that the data was flawed, but said she was “truly stunned” by the level of over-reporting by nursing homes.—The Center for Public Integrity via @BGPublic