Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Audio/Video’ Category

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: U.S. Senate Testimony On Fraud At For-Profit Colleges

by August 12th, 2010

A federal investigative report on fraud at for-profit colleges plus related U.S. Senate testimony from an industry insider and a financial expert were at the center of my regular weekly segment today on the work of our Public Data Ferret project, at KOMO-AM 1000 News Radio in Seattle. Here’s the original Ferret write-up, as well as the audio of the segment. The transcript follows.

Brian Calvert: “1.8 million students headed back to a non-traditional classroom this fall. Matt Rosenberg of communityforums.org on the line with us, and Matt, we’re referring in this instance to for-profit colleges. What are some of the names that would be familiar if we’re talking about non-profit institutions?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well, University of Phoenix, Art Institute Of Seattle, Everest University, Argosy University, Kaplan University, to name a few.”

Nancy Barrick: “Alright. These are for-profit colleges. You looked into a report where several of these schools have been investigated. What are they looking at?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Senate testimony last week has shined a glaring spotlight on ethically and financially troubling practices by the big national corporations and other stake-holders that run these for-profit colleges. There was an investigation by the Government Accountability Office plus reports to the Senate from an industry insider – a recruiter who worked in the boiler room – and a financial expert. And what they told the Senate is disturbing. The picture is this: high pressure sales tactics, price gouging, rocketing default rates on the federal loans to students at these for-profit colleges, plus deceptive marketing. Prices are lowballed, accreditation is fudged, and the credits often don’t transfer to other schools or aren’t accepted by employers. So, the emerging picture is that the issues are systemic, not isolated.”

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Oversight Of Federal Resource Lands Lax, Says Watchdog Agency

by July 28th, 2010

Today on my regular weekly segment with “Nine2Noon” co-anchors Brian Calvert and Nancy Barrick on Seattle’s KOMO-AM 1000 highlighting the work of our Public Data Ferret project, we talked about testimony delivered recently by a government watchdog agency that the U.S. Department of the Interior has been lax in managing federal resource lands leased to energy companies for oil and natural gas production. Here’s the audio of today’s radio segment, and here’s my original Ferret write-up of the testimony. The radio transcript follows.

Brian Calvert: “As crews continue to cap spills and clean up oil along the Gulf Coast, Congress is being reminded of major reforms that are long overdue. Matt Rosenberg, with communityforums.org, joins us. Matt, in testimony last week, Congress actually heard some specifics from the Government Accountability Office. Let’s talk about these specifics. The Government Accountability Office was pretty critical when it came to the fact that regular environmental inspections aren’t performed.”

Matt Rosenberg: “They were indeed, Brian, and the Government Accountability Office is kind of the conscience of Congress and the nation and they’ve issued 27 reports since 2004 with suggestions (on oil and gas lease regulation) and last week they reminded a House committee of what needs to be done. For one thing, the rates that are charged are too low, on the royalties paid by private companies that lease federal lands to produce natural gas and oil. Also, late payments go undetected. GAO pointed out the Department of Interior is the oversight agency here, and their IT system can’t even tell if the lease payments are coming in late. The environmental oversight is poor. Inspections too often just haven’t been done for onshore oil and gas leases, partly because department staff at Interior were too busy processing drilling permits. On top of that, the metering equiment is not checked, so they can’t really tell if the lease payments being made are for the right amount. And then, this is the one that really got me, guys. There’s a fudge factor. The current law allows the leaseholders to independently change their previously entered data on production levels and royalties owed. So in essence they can fudge the figures if they want. It’s just a real head-scratcher.”

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Seattle City Employees Retirement Plan $1 Billion In The Hole

by July 21st, 2010

Today during my regular weekly segment on KOMO 1000 Seattle’s “Nine2Noon” show with co-anchors Brian Calvert and Nancy Barrick, I talked about the latest featured item for our Public Data Ferret project. Here’s the original Ferret write-up on fiscal challenges facing the Seattle City Employees Retirement System, and here’s the audio of the segment. A transcript follows.

Brian Calvert: “What if the retirement plan you were counting on, ends up going broke? Matt Rosenberg of communityforums.org – where you can use their feature The Public Data Ferret – joins us. Matt, you recently looked at a report on the Seattle City Employees Retirement System. According to the study, that plan has a billion (dollars) more in liabilities than its current market value….It sounds like pretty bad news.”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well, it is. The value of the funds always fluctuates because of the nature of the investments, but you kind of have to plan for that, and it appears that due diligence has gone somewhat missing, unfortunately. The liabilities – the amount that will have to be paid out over the next 30 years – have…doubled since 1999 and assets have grown, but not nearly as much, partly because of the economy and the stock market. The city and employees pay in, but there’s going to have to be a big rate hike. The report says the city is going to have to pay most of it because of contracts that cap the added amount of employee contributions.”

Nancy Barrick: “And from what I’ve heard, it’s not just the city facing this problem. We’re looking at it at the county level, also the state level.”

Matt Rosenberg: “Ah, it’s a problem that exists widely. (King) County employees are part of the state pension system, which is doing okay but could be doing better, according to a recent report. There are real issues here, and part of it is limiting future liabilities and getting under the hood. Part of the problem with the city plan, Nancy, is that employees are guaranteed a 7.75 percent annual rate of return and their share of increases, if any are needed, is strictly capped. So, you know, one guy down in California who’s attacking this issue says that it’s kind of like going to Las Vegas with your brother-in-law’s paycheck, when governments guarantee a high rate of return. We don’t get that, necessarily, in the private sector. And so in the future, maybe we need to see new employees not having their retirement funds planned by the city, but doing it on their own, while they (the city) still meet obligations to current employees (and retirees).”

Nancy Barrick: “Alright. Interesting topic. Matt Rosenberg of communityforums.org, and you can check them out, with the Public Data Ferret.”

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Regulating The Display Of Human Remains In Seattle

by July 14th, 2010

This morning in my regular weekly segment on KOMO 1000 featuring the work of our Public Data Ferret project, I discussed with “Nine2Noon” co-anchors Brian Calvert and Nancy Barrick the new bill introduced today in a Seattle City Council Committee to regulate the display of human remains. Here the original Ferret write-up, and here’s today’s audio segment. The transcript follows.

Brian Calvert: “Remember The ‘Bodies’ exhibit? It’s come to Seattle twice, but a new law could prevent its return. Matt Rosenberg of communityforums.org joins us – that’s where you can use their feature The Public Data Ferret. And Matt, today the Ferret found a meeting note; today the City Council will talk about banning the ‘Bodies’ exhibit unless it conforms to some new rules. What exactly is the Council looking for here?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well, we came across the actual bill online at the committee’s Web site, and they would like to make sure, basically, there is permission granted in advance by the deceased before they die and are displayed in a commercial exhibit like “Bodies,” or from their next of kin.”

Brian Calvert: “That’s part of the controversy with the exhibit because as the exhibit has made its rounds we’ve also found out many of these bodies may have belonged to prisoners in China, right, and they may not be being used (with) permission?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well exactly right, and ‘Bodies’ was hailed as educational and innovative and it certainly was, but there was a lot of controversy because nothing was known, not only about whether permission had been granted by the individuals, but really, how they died or what they’d been jailed for – and these concerns stemmed from ongoing human rights troubles in China, where despite great economic and social progress, there’s still been documented reports in recent years of politically motivated detentions and beatings, forced abortions, property confiscation and Internet censorship.”

Nancy Barrick: “Yeah. Something not everyone knew about the exhibit. And if we pass this law, we’ll be following, what, in the tracks of San Francisco?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well that’s right. They passed a measure like this in the year 2005. And City Council member Nick Licata is the driver of this legislation, and his Housing, Health, Human Services and Culture Committee is going to have their first discussion of the bill today, they might even vote on it. And if it clears committee, it goes to the full council, and could become law. But, you know, this about basic human dignity, I think. It’s great to see how muscles really work. Or what a diseased organ looks like. And this so-called ‘plastination’ process that they used in ‘Bodies’ is definitely a breakthrough, but the permission issue is big. And then, Premier Exhibitions, Brian and Nancy, is a publicly-traded company on Wall Street with a market capitalization of $54 million and they’re doing this in 10 (North American) cities right now. This is very much a money-making enterprise, so, all the more reason for it to be on the level.”

Brian Calvert: “Interesting stuff. Matt Rosenberg, thanks for your time this morning, Matt’s with communityforums.org.

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Global Energy Use And Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2005-2035

by July 7th, 2010

On my regular weekly radio segment on KOMO 1000 News Radio in Seattle featuring the work of our Public Data Ferret project, yesterday I spoke with “Nine2Noon” anchor Brian Calvert about a recent report on global energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions over the next several decades. Here’s the original Ferret write-up on the report, and here’s the audio of the on-air segment. The transcript follows.

Brian Calvert: “So are we as a planet learning to conserve more energy? A report by the U.S. Energy Department says, overall, not really. Matt Rosenberg of communityforums.org – where you can use their feature The Public Data Ferret – joins us on the line. And Matt, this week the Ferret has taken a closer look at that report on future global energy use. Tell us what you found.”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well you bet Brian. This was a real eye-opener. The 2010 International Energy Outlook should serve as a potent reminder that getting a grip on energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions will require truly global action, especially including the developing nations of Eurasia, Asia, Africa, Central and South America. Now, one of the base case projections, getting right to the findings here, is that from 2005 to 2035, total global energy use will grow 56 percent, and a rate four times greater in developing nations than in the more mature economies.

“And then coal, Brian. Everyone is keeping an eye on the use of coal because it’s one of the dirtier sources out there. And coal use will level off in the more mature economies but it will more than double by 2035 in the emerging world. And then the real kicker, carbon dioxide emissions. Same story. major growth in the developing nations, leveling off in the more mature economies. China, having a huge impact in the growth of carbon dioxide emissions.”

Brian Calvert: “Matt, I was looking through the report this morning and the thing that caught my eye is it seems like all of the messages of conservation and all the things that we’ve done here in this country, those messages seem to be being heard, but it’s the rest of the world where either the message isn’t getting out or they just have no other choice than keeping creating energy in the way they currently are, and at the rates that they currently are.”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well it’s a real thorny dilemma and a U.S. climate bill isn’t nearly the half of it all. Conservation, efficiency and technology are really important, but, you know, so too is going to be good policy and global political leadership on this, which as we know, is a huge challenge. So, I think nobody really wants to impose a blanket solution. It’s not smart or possible. But I will tell you this, Brian, I think a huge fork in the road for many nations will be the choice between a so-called ‘cap and trade’ strategy versus a carbon tax, which some economists say is a better approach. But, the real kicker is the developing nations want the developed nations to pay for cleaning up their energy supplies. And with the budget and debt issues that Europe and United States are facing, I just don’t see that happening.”

Public Data Ferret On KOM0 1000: Beach Water Quality

by June 30th, 2010

Yesterday on my regular weekly KOMO 1000 radio segment highlighting our Public Data Ferret project, the topic was swimming beach water quality. Here’s the audio file, and the original Ferret write-up. Now, the full transcript of the segment.

Nancy Barrick: “And are you heading to the beach this summer, planning to, if we get some nice weather? Make sure the water isn’t polluted. Matt Rosenberg with communityforums.org is on the news line, our Public Data Ferret. And Matt, how about this King County link that you’re checking out, when it comes to beaches?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Yeah. Lately we’ve heard quite a bit about concerns on the swimming water around Golden Gardens Beach in Seattle, and fecal coliform bacteria. But what about all the other beaches around here? And that’s where this great site from King County comes in. Their swimming beach bacteria measurements are very helpful. They check out 28 different public swimming beaches or streams, all summer long, and they report it online. And it’s a really good site to check out before you head out with the kids.”

“In fact, there’ve been 16 beach closures due to this bacteria since 1998 and the worst trouble spots have been Juanita, Meydenbauer Bay, Matthews and Gene Coulon beaches. So far this season, just one closure, at Hidden Lake, in Shoreline – but there have been 11 other instances where bacteria levels raised some concerns. The site is real intuitive. Maps, clickable, lots of data coming right at you. So I highly recommend it.”

Carleen Johnson: “And Matt, what about the state site, where you can check out the safety of shellfish harvesting?”

Matt Rosenberg: That’s an excellent site the state provides. And some of the beaches in Seattle on the Puget Sound side are covered there, not by the county site. But they also report on shellfish harvesting, where it’s safe and where it’s not. And as most Washingtonians know, there are always a lot of these sites (that) are closed, so you really want to check there first. And also, while we’re talking about water safety in the summer, King County warns that, you know, there were 16 drownings in open waters in King County last year. So at their beach site they also have some information on the data and prevention tips for people who are swimming. You want to stay safe.”

Nancy Barrick: “Good information. Thank you Matt Rosenberg of communityforums.org, our Public Data Ferret.”

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Washington Hospital Infection Rates

by June 23rd, 2010

Yesterday in my regular weekly segment on KOMO 1000 News Radio Seattle featuring news from our Public Data Ferret government transparency project, I highlighted online information from the state on hospital infection rates. Here’s the original Ferret write-up and audio of the segment. The transcript follows.

Nancy Barrick: “And how about hospital infections, that’s our topic today with Matt Rosenberg, of communityforums.org, that’s where you can use their feature the Public Data Ferret. And Matt, you know, going to the hospital, pretty stressful event, and now, an increasing risk of infections going on with hospital stays. What have you found about tracking the record of hospitals?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well good morning Nancy and Bill. The State Department of Health here in Washington publishes online annual data revealing which hospitals have the highest rates of infection from tubing and ventilators. What you do, is you got to the department’s “Hospital-Associated Infection Performance Data” hub. I know that’s a mouthful, we’ve got a link to it at our post at Data Ferret, and there, you can use handy interactive maps and tables to learn more. So, naturally, I checked it out. One of the two big categories is infections from what are called “central line tubing.” And we’ve all seen this stuff, it’s used to deliver fluids or drugs or take blood samples or even monitor the pressure of inside heart arteries.”

“And the four hospitals units in the state with the highest central line infection rates, in 2009 according the state department of health, were the adult medical surgical intensive care units at Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon, Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, Swedish Medical Center Cherry Hill in Seattle, and the neonatal ICU at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital.”

“Now, I do want to share the second major category, and that’s ventilator-associated pneumonia infections. Eight facilities were reported by the state as having high rates in 2009. Harrison, again, in Bremerton, plus Overlake Medical Center In Bellevue, Mary Bridge Children’s in Tacoma, St. Clare in Lakewood, Peace Health St. John in Longview, Legacy Salmon Creek in Vancouver, Holy Family in Spokane and Valley Medical Center in Spokane Valley.”

Bill Rice: “And real quick Matt, where can we get more information?”

Matt Rosenberg: “More at our site. And I do want to share that education on how to prevent this stuff is important. We link to that, there are a lot of sanitary steps that are very crucial, and the state also reports something called ‘adverse events’ such as surgical tools being left inside bodies or fatal falls, but they just give raw numbers, not rates. We’ll be following that with the state to see if they can get the data in better shape.”

Nancy Barrick: “All the news we don’t want to know, but should. Thank you so much, Matt Rosenberg with communityforums.org.”