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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Millions of voters’ personal information is being bought and sold on the dark web

The day after the voting technology failure in Iowa, the Globe published my story highlighting another aspect of the complexities and unknowns related to election technology: A massive dataset of voter registration information from 81 million Americans has been sold dozens of times on dark markets, sparking fears of identity theft and fraud. Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea told me keeping voter registration information accessible allows the public to hold officials to account. I covered the both sides of the evolving story.

Medical community struggles with own opioid dilemma: How to heal the healers?

Published on the front page of The Boston Globe: Medical professionals are far from immune to opioid misuse. In fact, due to their easy access to pain medication and the high stress levels that come with treating patients, they may be especially susceptible. But many clinicians say they are often denied access to medication approved to help them recover from opioid addiction, precisely because they practice medicine.

When People with Intellectual Disabilities Are Punished, Parents Pay the Price

A sex offense conviction can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. But when the convicted is someone with an intellectual disability, who can’t understand and comply with the rules and restrictions of their sentences, it falls on the guardians to suffer the financial, social and psychological burdens of the crimes. I reported the story for The Marshall Project, and shot the photography.
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