Laura Sullivan | KERA News

Laura Sullivan

An $8 billion federal program to build housing for the poor is so lacking oversight that virtually no one in government knows how it is working, a government auditor testified before Congress today.

"IRS and no one else in the federal government really has an idea of what's going on," said Daniel Garcia-Diaz, an auditor with the Government Accountability Office while testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. "These are basic accountability requirements we would expect of any program, especially one as important as this one."

Farryn Giles and her 6-year-old son Isaiah have been living in a crumbling apartment building with her ex-husband, who's letting her stay for a couple months. Pigeons have infested the walls of the courtyard. Before she lived here, she was sleeping on and off in her car.

On the south side of Dallas, Nena Eldridge lives in a sparse but spotless bungalow on a dusty lot. At $550 each month, her rent is just about the cheapest she could find in the city.

After an injury left her unable to work, the only income she receives is a $780 monthly disability check. So she has to make tough financial choices, like living without running water.

A new report by the New York attorney general's office finds that a lack of accountability in the nation's flood insurance program is costing taxpayers millions. The office also announced 50 felony charges against an engineering firm for allegedly writing fraudulent reports in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

The American Red Cross spent a quarter of the money people donated after the 2010 Haiti earthquake — or almost $125 million — on its own internal expenses, far more than the charity previously had disclosed, according to a report released Thursday by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.

The report also says the charity's top officials stonewalled congressional investigators and released incomplete information about its Haiti program to the public. It concludes "there are substantial and fundamental concerns about [the Red Cross] as an organization."

This story is Part 1 of a two-part series. See our second piece about local recovery programs that are struggling to help homeowners here.

On a cold rainy day last fall, dozens of people gathered in a plaza across the street from New Jersey's state Capitol. They held press conferences and slept overnight in lawn chairs.

Sen. Chuck Grassley is asking federal investigators to give him the names of officials at the American Red Cross who did not cooperate with the government's recent inquiry into the charity.

The American Red Cross is facing new criticism today as government investigators and a congressman call for independent oversight over the long-venerated charity.

Federal legislation is being unveiled that would force the Red Cross to open its books and operations to outside scrutiny — something it has repeatedly resisted.

The American Red Cross, which has often boasted of its transparency, attempted last year to halt a congressional inquiry into its disaster relief work, according to a private letter Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern wrote to Rep. Bennie Thompson.

The American Red Cross is under pressure this week to answer detailed questions from Congress about how it spent the nearly half-billion dollars it raised after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Some of those answers might be difficult to come by. New documents obtained by NPR and ProPublica reveal that the Red Cross may not have an accurate accounting of how all the money was spent.

Haitian journalists pressed an official from the American Red Cross to explain how the charity spent almost half a billion dollars in the country — but got few answers at a news conference this week at Le Plaza Hotel in downtown Port-au-Prince.

When a devastating earthquake leveled Haiti in 2010, millions of people donated to the American Red Cross. The charity raised almost half a billion dollars. It was one of its most successful fundraising efforts ever.

The American Red Cross vowed to help Haitians rebuild, but after five years the Red Cross' legacy in Haiti is not new roads, or schools, or hundreds of new homes. It's difficult to know where all the money went.

Two of South Dakota's largest tribes won a sweeping victory in federal court that could reverberate for tribes across the country.

A federal judge has ruled that the state Department of Social Services, prosecutors and judges "failed to protect Indian parents' fundamental rights" when they removed their children after short hearings and placed them largely in white foster care.

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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley starts her second term today. But absent from the inaugural ceremony will be a long-standing tradition: a poem read by the state's poet laureate.

State officials say they cut the two-minute poem for time, but some residents suspect it was the mention of slavery that got it tossed.

Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth has written poems for South Carolina's past three inaugurations. She describes those efforts as "safe."

The poems leaned heavily on nature and animals.

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Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is asking the American Red Cross to explain inaccuracies in how it has said it uses public donations, citing questions raised by an NPR and ProPublica investigation.

Grassley called into question how much of the charity's donations actually go to disaster services.

Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was sentenced to 18 months' supervised probation today after pleading guilty to drunken driving.

He was arrested in September after leaving a casino in downtown Baltimore. Police documents show that he swerved over a yellow line while going 84 in 45-mph zone. Police say Phelps failed field sobriety tests and registered a 0.14 on a blood-alcohol test. In Maryland, the legal limit is 0.08.

The White House says the devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures was done with "malicious intent" and was initiated by a "sophisticated actor" but it would not say if that actor was North Korea.

Spokesman Josh Earnest says the matter is still under investigation.

"Regardless of who is found to be responsible for this, the president considers it to be a serious national security matter," Earnest says.

Young women who are sexually assaulted are vastly unlikely to report those crimes to police, according to a newly released Justice Department report.

Even more striking, women ages 18 to 24 who are in college or trade school are less likely to report such incidents than those who aren't in school, despite the increasing number of sexual assault advocates and counselors on campus in recent years.

The Obama administration released new guidelines today to ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement officers. The guidelines replace ones adopted by the Bush administration in 2003.

The new rules prohibit profiling based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion or sexual orientation and apply to federal officers, such as the FBI and Secret Service and any local law enforcement that work with them on task forces.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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The American Red Cross's CEO, Gail McGovern, has spelled out the organization's promise to donors repeatedly in recent years.

"Ninety-one cents of every dollar that's donated goes to our services," McGovern said in a speech at Johns Hopkins University last year. "That's world class obviously."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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For weeks, Ferguson police and local leaders met with community groups and activists to work out a plan for the aftermath of the grand jury's decision whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

A federal appeals court has ruled that a man who has spent about 40 years in solitary confinement in a Louisiana prison should have his conviction overturned.

Albert Woodfox, the only member of the so-called Angola 3 still incarcerated, was convicted of the 1972 murder of a young prison guard named Brent Miller. Woodfox was found guilty along with fellow inmate Herman Wallace.

"Text neck," the posture formed by leaning over a cellphone while reading and texting, is a big problem, according to the author of a newly published study in the National Library of Medicine.

Kenneth K. Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, says the bad posture can put up to 60 pounds of pressure on the upper spine — sometimes for several hours a day, depending on how often people look at their devices.

Airbus has filed a patent for a new plane that looks decidedly more Star Trek Enterprise than airplane.

The Financial Times dubbed it "flying doughnuts."

"I believe that sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated."

Updated at 12:45 p.m. ET.

A new employee survey isn't good news for the American Red Cross. Just 39 percent of employees trust the senior leadership of the organization. And 4 out of 10 employees have doubts about the charity's commitment to ethical conduct.

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