State reporter earns a top spot in national competition for science-related coverage

My investigative reporting for WIRED, Scientific American and The State earned second place in the 2021 Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award, a national competition for young science journalists. “Eisner’s investigation on the industrial exploitation of horseshoe crabs is a model of dogged reporting,” the Council for the Association of Science Writers wrote in the announcement of my Honorable Mention. “She won accolades for challenging a powerful company that other journalists have had trouble penetrating.”

Americans Took Prevagen for Years—as the FDA Questioned Its Safety

Commercials for Prevagen have insisted that “it’s safe and effective,” an assurance Quincy echoed to regulators. But my investigation for WIRED now shows that for years officials at the FDA questioned the basis for the company’s claims. Multiple FDA inspections, most of which have not been reported before, found significant issues with Quincy’s manufacturing processes, complaint handling, and the quality control testing that was supposed to ensure its products were safe. And thousands of Americans have reported experiencing “adverse events” while taking Prevagen, including seizures, strokes, heart arrhythmias, chest pain, and dizziness. While the existence of adverse event reports alone don’t prove a product is the cause, the nature and pattern of complaints about Prevagen worried FDA officials, according to agency records. One internal report from 2015 stated that the “numerous adverse events reported” indicated “a serious safety hazard.”

Prison Is Even Worse When You Have a Disability Like Autism

My investigation for The Marshall Project found that state officials across the country often fail to identify incarcerated people with developmental disorders, a group that faces overwhelming challenges behind bars, from bright lights to noises to social dynamics. One reason may be that many states don’t adequately identify prisoners with developmental disorders. I sent questions to all 50 state corrections departments asking whether and how they screen prisoners for developmental or intellectual disabilities. Of the 38 agencies that responded, 25 reported using screening protocols that several mental health and legal experts said don’t meet professional standards. Five states said they don’t screen for developmental disabilities at all.

‎Deconstructed: The System That Killed Berta Cáceres»

When Berta Cáceres was murdered in 2016, she was the leading environmental activist in Honduras and, arguably, the world. A member of the indigenous Lenca people and the founder of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Peoples of Honduras, or COPINH, Cáceres was the most formidable opponent of a powerful energy company called Desarrollos Energeticos Sociedad Anónima, or DESA. Their Agua Zarca dam project would have occupied Lenca land and interfered with waterways sacred to their community. Cáceres worked tirelessly to increase scrutiny of DESA and turn the people of Honduras against the dam, until the early hours of March 3, 2016, when someone had her killed. At the time, David Castillo sat atop DESA’s executive ranks as president and CEO. He is now on trial in the Honduran Supreme Court, charged with ordering Cáceres’s death. Whoever plotted her killing likely underestimated the amount of attention it would bring, drawing Honduras into the international spotlight to a degree unseen since the country’s 2009 coup—but the high-profile case is far from the only one of its kind. Reporters Chiara Eisner and Danielle Mackey join the Intercept’s Maia Hibbett to discuss.

The story of ‘La Isla’: How Hispanic students became the face of Hilton Head

The world knows Hilton Head Island as a resort paradise with pristine beaches and golf courses to match. Its gated communities play host to multi million-dollar homes and, overwhelmingly, white retirees. It’s an image that hides history: the native island families who trace their lineage back long before white developers arrived and today’s new reality: a significant Hispanic and Latino community that is coming into its own.

Why are ‘Dreamers’ who call South Carolina home leaving? ‘It’s like a toxic relationship’

The occupational and educational limitations that DACA recipients face in South Carolina are some of the most restrictive in the nation. But the laws themselves are not the only problem. An investigation by my co-reporter Lucas Larson and I showed DACA recipients reported falling victim to misinformation about the laws while studying at South Carolina’s educational institutions, and said racism was tolerated in the schools they attended. Taken together, the “toxic” climate they described made their situations more difficult than the laws required, they said, and has led to some of them choosing to leave the state. Reporters spoke to seven of the thousands of S.C. students with DACA status. Though they grew up in different regions of the state, their stories of mistreatment and misinformation were similar.
Ariane Mueller

Vaccine testing is changing. Why is this $13B lab still bleeding SC horseshoe crabs?

Horseshoe crabs are at least 445 million years old and grow larger in South Carolina than almost anywhere else in America. Since their blue blood can expertly detect a potentially deadly bacterial toxin, for decades, they’ve been bled to help develop safe vaccines. But the process that can harm the animals is no longer needed, some scientists say. And the company that still bleeds the animals in the state, Charles River Laboratories, has for years presented information to the public that experts say has been misleading and sometimes inaccurate, my investigation for The State Media Co. showed.

‘The refuge is closed’: Permits to be required for Cape Romain horseshoe crab harvest

For decades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has allowed fishermen working for pharmaceutical companies to harvest horseshoe crabs from the beaches and salt marshes that make up South Carolina’s Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge without first conducting a review of how the harvest may be damaging wildlife, or requiring that fishermen apply for permits from the federal government. A six-line announcement signed by a regional chief of the agency and quietly published on the refuge’s website

Company accused of polluting ocean with plastic has an ally: SC ports

Never-before-seen documents reviewed by The State Media Co. — reported here for the first time — revealed leadership at the Ports Authority has been helping shield Frontier and its business supplier from scrutiny despite internally noting that the company was responsible for spills. And in emails exchanged in private, leaders of both organizations sometimes seemed to dismiss ecological concerns or public accountability, the documents show.

Large Methane Leaks Reveal Long-Standing Shortfalls in Oversight

For years, oil and gas companies have been required to detect and repair methane leaks in their equipment. But scientists have produced dozens of studies over the past decade that suggest the current methods and technology used by industry to detect leaks—and by regulators to estimate how much methane is emitted—are inadequate to catch the actual scale of the problem, as my story for Scientific American shows.

Company accused of plastic pollution agrees to pay SC nonprofits $1M in settlement

Half a year after my reporting revealed for the first time that the SC Ports Authority and the CEO of a company accused of plastics pollution shared a friendly relationship, the company agreed to pay $1 million to the two Charleston-based environmental nonprofits that had been suing it. Emails I published showed the Ports Authority president offered to shield the company's CEO from public scrutiny after a government agency found evidence of pollution at the site it rented from the port — despite acknowledging internally that Frontier’s facilities were prone to spillage and holding the company financially responsible for clean-up costs.

The rise of buildings for the deaf and blind

For The Economist's Christmas Special Edition, the only double edition of the magazine, I reported on how architects are adapting to the need for more multisensory design. A number of firms have started to prioritize the needs of people with a wide range of sensory abilities. In doing so, they've embraced new technology, and a different vision of architecture--one that considers a building’s acoustics, lighting, tactility and smell.

Scientists said to buy cheaper, safer voter machines. South Carolina spent $51 million on these instead

For The State and The GroundTruth Project, I reported that for years, choices about voting technology in South Carolina have been made behind closed doors. Scientists believe the technology products S.C. officials ultimately selected, including the voting machines now being used in the 2020 presidential election, have not always met the “gold standard” for safety. The piece also highlights that the methods favored by the SEC have benefited one corporation: Election Systems & Software (ES&S). Despite a decade of evidence that shows technology made by ES&S was involved with repeated voting problems in S.C. elections, the state has continued to award the majority of funds designated for election hardware and software to ES&S. The latest awards in 2019 and 2020 totaled over $57 million.

Scientific research on the coronavirus is being released in a torrent

More than 7,000 papers on the pandemic—covering everything from virology to epidemiology—have been published in the past three months. Much of it is being done differently. There's less peer review and more speed, which is overwhelmingly a good thing. Leaders need quick answers to direct policy and better contain the new virus. But publishers have historically done a bad job at retracting false science, which needs to be watched as it can feed misinformation. A collaboration with reporter Alok Jha, this was the lead note in the science and technology section of the May 9 2020 edition of The Economist and was featured on the cover.
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