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States of Transparency: Illinois

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The Open Government Directive encouraged states to put valuable government data online. In this series we're reviewing each state's efforts in this direction.

This week: Illinois

Website: www.accountability.illinois.gov

In a state where good government groups have been working to increase transparency since the days of Al Capone, how is Illinois doing in bringing their transparency efforts into the 21st century? Quite well, say open government boosters like US Public Interest Research Group, who recently ranked the state third in their review of state websites designed to get crucial spending data online. Still, local transparency advocates ...

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States of Transparency: Washington

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The Open Government Directive encouraged states to put valuable government data online. In this series we're reviewing each state's efforts in this direction.

This week: Washington
Website: www.fiscal.wa.gov



USPIRG, a public interest group, ranked Washington state second lowest in the country in a recent evaluation of spending websites that track contracts and grants among other expenditures across states.

While the site, fiscal.wa.gov, links to a relatively broad swath of datasets, that data will have to get a lot more granular to be really useful to researchers and journalists.

A transparency website was mandated ...

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States of Transparency: Ohio

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The Open Government Directive encouraged states to put valuable government data online. In this series we're reviewing each state's efforts in this direction.

This week: Ohio
Website: www.transparency.ohio.gov

Ohio's open government site, transparency.ohio.gov, contains links to a few searchable databases; the results of one of them can even be downloaded as an Excel file. Unfortunately, the majority of the data cannot currently be downloaded.

Here's a rundown of what is and isn't available online:

Expenditures: The broad strokes -- how much each agency spent per month -- are downloadable as Excel files ...

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States of Transparency: Arizona

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The Open Government Directive encouraged states to put valuable government data online. In this series we're reviewing each state's efforts in this direction.

This week: Arizona
Website: www.azcheckbook.com


Arizonans finally got a government spending website in February with azcheckbook.com, joining 35 other states that offer such data online. Transparency efforts there still have a long way to go, however. USPIRG, in an April report, rated Arizona last among states that have such open government sites.

State Treasurer Dean Martin, who calls AZcheckbook a "labor of love," says he completed it in his spare time and ...

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OGD: Medicare data shows trouble spots for nursing homes

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A couple of weeks ago we looked at one Florida nursing home  to see what available government data could tell us about the quality of care. Today we'll take a look at what the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) data can tell us about nursing homes throughout the nation as a whole.

A few well-respected researchers (such as Charlene Harrington and her colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco) have tackled these questions in depth, but reporters can still glean useful nuggets through their own quick and dirty analysis.

We used the Nursing Home Compare data ...

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States of Transparency: Kentucky

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The Open Government Directive encouraged states to put valuable government data online. In this series we're reviewing each state's efforts in this direction.

This week: Kentucky
Website: www.opendoor.ky.gov


While Kentucky has one of the country's most highly rated open government websites, OpenDoor.Ky.Gov, there is still much the state could do to provide more information in friendlier formats to reporters and the public.
The site, launched by Governor Steve Beshear in January 2009, was rated best in the country by USPIRG in its April survey of state government spending sites. It features a ...

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Oil spill: BP pipelines trigger safety violations

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This week, we've been gathering resources for reporters looking to put the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill into context. While the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) doesn't have jurisdiction over the safety of the offshore wells themselves, they do enforce safety regulations for oil pipelines and can tell us if BP has violated any of these regulations of late.

The records show that civil penalties have been levied on BP pipelines for safety violations ten times since 2002 (the earliest year the data is available online), and three more have been ...

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Medicare data reveals nursing home abuse and neglect

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Resident #208 was found by inspectors at Capital Healthcare Center in Tallahassee, Fla., in a pool of urine. On July 16, 2009, inspectors found that the the resident -- who was incontinent -- hadn't been changed for five hours.

Other residents complained of ill treatment; one told inspectors he or she had fallen several times recently, and was then accused of faking those falls "to get staff in trouble." (The reports hide the identities of those making allegations.)

The reports go on. The facility was cited on multiple occasions for allowing pressure sores to develop on immobile patients, giving unnecessary catheters ...

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OGD: A state-by-state look at Medicare payments

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Click on the picture for a larger version.

Over the last few years, hospitals in a few states have consistently received more money than others from Medicare in so-called "outlier payments" for inpatient services. These additional payments are handed out when a hospital takes on an unusually expensive case.

This takeaway comes from a quick review of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)' "Dashboard," a new online repository of spending data.

While the Dashboard is still in its beta version, and currently only has inpatient data (no home health or nursing home information, for example), a few points ...

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OGD: VA nurses get second lives

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Recruiters have long used video games to sell military service to young people. The armed forces also use games -- er, "computer simulations" -- to train troops for battle. Now the Veterans Affairs Department plans to join the fun by sending its nurses to Second Life.

According to its open government plan, VA health care providers will "virtually practice patient safety techniques" in Second Life's online world, using alternate identities called avatars. The idea is to have providers work through scenarios before they encounter them in the real world.

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