Recently colleague James Tyree and I wrote a series of stories regarding chromium 6 in drinking water.
James wrote about a recent survey that listed Norman has having a high quantity of chromium 6 in it’s drinking water and local experts take on the study and the risk of chromium 6.
I wrote about how Debate has raged on the risk posed by chromium 6 since the 1990s, when legal clerk Erin Brockovich discovered evidence of the carcinogen in the groundwater in Hinkley, Calif.
And I wrote about the contentious battle going on in California over a proposed goal to limit the amount of the chromium 6 that can be in public drinking water.
Now that battle could get even more contentious as the California agency in charge with coming up with the goal released a new draft document on New Year’s Eve that lowered the already stringent proposed standard.
When the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the California agency in charge of developing the Public Health Goal, first offered a standard, it proposed limiting chromium 6 in drinking water to 0.06 parts per billion. Such a reading is 215 times less than the 12.9 ppb found in Norman’s drinking water by the survey conducted by the Environmental Working Group.
The revised draft public health goal — which you can read here in it’s 150-page glory — lowers the proposed standard to 0.02 ppb. For those keeping score, that’s 645 times less than the amount of chromium 6 found in Norman’s drinking water. It’s also about 29,000 times less than the up to 580 ppb measured in Hinkley’s drinking water in the 1990s.
The new proposal is sure to ratchet up the support from environmental groups and objections that many water utilities and business interests voiced in 2009 with the release of the 0.06 ppb proposal.
Many environmental groups and legislators are looking at California as a test case on how much to limit and how feasible it is to limit chromium 6 in drinking water.
It will be interesting to see if those groups also adopt the 0.02 ppb proposal, a standard based on a one-in-a-million-lifetime-cancer-risk level — or the expectation that for every million people who drink tap water with 0.02 ppb of chromium each day for 70 years there would be only one additional case of cancer from exposure to the carcinogen.
But, even with all the focus on California, it should be noted that the state is a long way off from adopting an enforceable standard. The Public Health Goal will only serve as guidance for the California Department of Public Health when it develops the nation’s first drinking water standard for chromium 6. And the adoption of such a standard is likely four to five years away.
Prisoners in Georgia are coordinating strikes with contraband cell phones and demanding better living conditions and payment for their work behind bars. The story comes right on the heels of stories about Justin Lee Walker, AKA “Jus N Walk,” the inmate who caused an uproar after a Facebook profile he updated from his BlackBerry was discovered in his cell at The Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite, .
The Georgia prison story ran in The New York Times Dec. 12. The reporter writes that this is the first time prisoners are known to have used technology to coordinate a movement behind bars.
Another story about the issue ran in Monday’s paper and on www.newsok.com. Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones has said he advocates for cell phone jamming technology in prisons. But the Federal Communications Commission has pushed back.
Jones said cell phones cost from $300 to $700 behind bars. Keeping them out of prisons hasn’t been an easy task. He thinks the only way to keep cell phones out of prison is to make them useless.
Here is video from Newsok about Justin Walker:
Missouri judges now have more to consider when they sentence a criminal: the cost of the punishment.
This interesting article by Monica Davey of the New York Times discusses a controversial new rule in the Show Me State.
Supporters say it’s another tool for judges to more effectively weigh punishments. Critics claim there is no way to put a price tag on the cost of crime, particularly those it harms.
For someone convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, for instance, a judge might now learn that a three-year prison sentence would run more than $37,000 while probation would cost $6,770. A second-degree robber, a judge could be told, would carry a price tag of less than $9,000 for five years of intensive probation, but more than $50,000 for a comparable prison sentence and parole afterward. The bill for a murderer’s 30-year prison term: $504,690.
It’s an interesting approach and seems particularly up for discussion in a state that has the highest female incarceration rate in the country. Not to mention a state corrections department struggling to make things work on a severely trimmed budget.
Read the story here and share your thoughts.
It’s kind of like a dirty secret no one wants to spread: We’re making money off illegal immigrants.
I’ve heard it from reverends, lawmakers, attorneys and colleagues. “Just follow the money, Vallery.”
So I did.
I’m sure it’s upsetting to some. And the irony isn’t lost to the intelligent ones–We are making money off people many want out of here as quickly as possible.
The rate? About $54 a day (if they’re locked up on immigration-related charges) and $19 an hour for driving them to and from jails, according to county sheriff’s department officials. It results in millions in revenues for many counties in the state.
But at its purest form, this story was just way for me to shine a mirror on ourselves.
It’s a little more complicated, perhaps, than we’d like to think.
On Thursday baseball star Cal McLish, 84, died. McLish pitched 15 seasons in the majors and coached many more. And than as a scout and instructor, likely gave many players a start in their careers.
And while he probably never knew, McLish was my first journalistic interview. It was back in sixth or seventh grade and we probably had some type of assignment to interview somebody noteworthy. I believe it was for English class, but those details are vague in my mind.
What I do remember is thinking how much I didn’t want to interview somebody. That was until my dad suggested McLish. My dad, and also my little league baseball coach, knew I was baseball crazy. And he knew McLish from the golf course.
I don’t remember everything McLish told me during that interview, but I do remember how he made a wide-eyed, baseball-crazy boy feel at ease.
I remember what he told me when I asked him how he pitched Ted Williams: “Throw him low fastballs and hope he just got a single.”
I remember thinking how hard it was going to be to spell his whole name, Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish.
I remember him telling me how he pitched in an all-star game and retired Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks, among others.
I remember making an “A” on the report.
And I remember what a nice man he was. I’m pretty sure I left with his autograph that day.
I probably would have gotten into journalism even if I hadn’t interviewed McLish all those years ago.
But what I do know is that when I’m getting ready to do a difficult interview, I often flashback to that first one. And for a moment I smile.
So, thanks Mr. McLish for making a young boy an experience he never forgot.
On Tuesday I attended the “Stand for the Silent” anti-bullying vigil at the state Capitol. I was doing so as part journalist/part father.
I’ve covered this story for more than four months, since I first wrote about the May 13 death of 11-year-old Ty Field. Ty reportedly committed suicide after being bullied at his school in Perkins.
So even though I had no plans to write about the event, I felt a strong enough connection to want to attend and see what was going to happen. I figured I could shot some video and probably blog about the event later.
When I told my wife about my plans to attend, she was quick to want to go and take our 10-year-old daughter. I don’t usually take my family along when I’m doing work. In this case, I felt it was OK to make an exception. My wife truly wanted to show her support for the anti-bullying effort and thought it could be a learning experience for our daughter. I couldn’t argue.
When we arrived I was happy to see about 500 people at the vigil. It’s been amazing to see how this group of high school students have grown this “Stand for the Silent” movement. For anybody that questions the youth of today, they should take a hard look at the passion this group has shown in fighting for this cause.
Similar anti-bullying vigils were conducted Tuesday in at least 21 states and six foreign countries after students involved in the program promoted it over Facebook, organizers said. The idea of “Stand for the Silent” was formed earlier this summer during an Upward Bound summer session at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, a college preparation program for first-generation college-bound students. The 60 students in the program were inspired after hearing of Ty’s story.
At the vigil, Ty’s dad, Kirk Smalley said he was going to take a step back and work on healing along with his wife, Laura. Mr. Smalley said he always considered himself a private person and wants to retreat somewhat and take some time to be with family. Mr. Smalley said he is confident that the Upward Bound students have a good handle on spreading the word. Mr. Smalley’s courage in fighting for reform in schools and spreading the anti-bullying word is certainly amazing. He and his family have certainly earned a break.
And to judge by the turnout on Tuesday and the students who have helped grow “Stand for the Silent,” I certainly think the movement Mr. Smalley has spurred forward by telling the heart-wrenching story of Ty’s death is left in good hands.
Update: On Tuesday, Aug. 17, a federal judge granted a third stay of execution for Jeffrey Matthews. This time the stay was based on a substitute sedative being used in Oklahoma’s lethal injection method.
A hearing has been set for Oct. 15 and a new execution date, if one is allowed, will be determined after that hearing.
In Thursday’s (Aug. 12) Oklahoman, I had an article on a clemency request of death-row inmate Jeffrey David Matthews, who is set for lethal injection on Tuesday. Since then the request for an unprecedented second clemency hearing has been denied. The state Attorney General’s Office laid out their argument against such a hearing in a letter to the pardon and parole board.
I first wrote about Matthews’ case in July with the article “Los Angeles actress, model fights for Oklahoma death row inmate’s freedom.” That article has links to many videos and documents that can give you background on the case, as well as a link to Victoria Redstall’s website. I have not been in touch with Redstall since that article.
But, I have received numerous inquiries from national media outlets about the case. I’ve been happy to help other journalist cover this story. I’m a firm believer that an execution must be covered. It’s the highest form of punishment the law allows and should receive the media’s full attention.
An unexpected response to that first article came from the condemned man himself. In a letter, “response to article by Michael Baker of Oklahoman,” sent to both The Oklahoman and The Tulsa World, Matthews compares himself to the tag line for the movie “Absence of Malice,” “Supposed you picked up this morning’s newspaper and your life was a front page headline… And everything they said was accurate… But none of it was true.”
I guess this comparison would make me Sally Field. Hmmm… Maybe we shouldn’t take the comparison too far.
If you read his letter, linked to above, you should make sure you also read the AG’s letter to the pardon and parole board and a letter the prosecutors sent to the Gov. Brad Henry. And remember the the two victims, Otis Short and his wife, Minnie, whose throat was slashed during the robbery and was forced to lay motionless next to her dead husband as her home was robbed.
I think as citizens, and certainly as a journalist, it’s important to know as much as possible about a case before the state’s harshest punishment is carried out.
Immigration is a topic that brings with it a ton of emotion. Just mention the Arizona law over the dinner table and you’ll be hit with everyone’s perspective and the intensity of the feelings behind them. The divides are so intense we mince our words to walk more softly on the eggshells, or we throw it all out on the table for everyone to see.
I’ve brought this up before, but the debate is so heated, people even take issue with the nouns used to describe the subject:
Illegal immigrant. Alien. Undocumented worker. Criminal. Temporary worker. Refugee. The list goes on.
But I want to be very clear on what I report on in Monday’s paper. In 2009, the Oklahoma Criminal Illegal Alien Rapid Repatriation Act went into effect. When it did, state prison officials had one more way to address prison overcrowding and a means to identify and deport illegal immigrant convicts. These folks are in state custody, not locked up in a county or city jail because of they were driving without a license. Most of them were selling drugs, had felony alcohol-related convictions or had committed ‘nonviolent’ but still dangerous offenses.
So far, the state has transferred about 200 convicts to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. We’ve saved millions of dollars doing this.
But there are some questions to be raised about this program and that’s why I chose to report on it. Some are coming back across the border after they’re deported. They will be even more of a burden on taxpayers: Reentry after removal has stiff consequences for felons and for good reason. If caught reentering, the returnees face a federal sentence of as much as 20 years. After that, the convict comes back to Oklahoma to finish the sentence being served at the time of their deportation.
Read up on more about the repatriation program in Monday’s edition of The Oklahoman. Also, check it out online at www.newsok.com/watchdog.
I’ve been thinking about starting an immigration-related blog, too. Shoot me an email or leave a comment if you’d be interested in reading something like this.
Fellow watchdog reporter Vallery Brown and I wrote a couple of days ago about statistics published by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Those numbers showed real clearly that the Oklahoma County jail had the highest homicide rate. What the methodology of the study did not show is how the rate was determined. The formula — deaths/average daily population X 100,000 skewed the numbers a bit for smaller jails, even the study’s author admitted.
Since then, even more problems have surfaced with the study. Today, The Tennessean in Nashville offered a story about how authorities in Davidson County, Tenn., and San Diego County, Calif., also believe the numbers are not only skewed but just plain wrong.
Those two counties have similar complaints of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department published in The Oklahoman and NewsOK.
Part of the problem, from a reporter’s standpoint and for just about anyone else interested, is that when the DOJ released the results of its number crunching it did not also release the raw data it crunched. Nobody wants to replicate the whole study, but it certainly would be good to be able to verify the parts were interested in reporting.