By Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica
A resident jogs along a new stretch of boardwalk and restored beach more than six months after Superstorm Sandy in May 2013 in New Jersey. (John Moore/Getty Images) (John Moore)
Contractors with the Army Corps of Engineers last month finished pumping more than 1.8 million cubic yards of sand onto the beach in Ocean City, N.J., which had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Using a combination of Sandy aid and funds already earmarked for adding sand to beaches, the federal government picked up $14 million of the roughly $18 million tab. And it's not the first time Washington has paid to dredge up sand and pump it onto Ocean City's beaches.
The federal government also helped pay to restore Ocean City's beaches in 2010, according to data compiled by Western Carolina University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. And in 2004. And in 2000.
In total, Washington has spent at least $40 million on nine separate efforts to help restore the city's beaches over the last two decades, according to the data, adding more than 12 million cubic yards of sand.
Beaches are essential to the economies of places like Ocean City. But critics say paying to restore beaches year after year is one of a number of ways the government subsidizes less-than-smart development and rebuilding along coasts that are increasingly vulnerable to flooding and hurricane damage, even as it has discouraged coastal development in other ways.
We've taken a closer look at four of these subsidies.The Stafford Act
When it comes to coastal subsidies, "the Stafford Act - which allows the president to declare a disaster and pour federal aid into individual states and individual counties - is maybe the biggest problem,' said Robert S. Young, a geology professor at Western Carolina University who directs the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines.
The law, passed in 1988, commits the federal government to paying 75 percent of the cost of rebuilding roads, bridges and other infrastructure damaged in a disaster.
But the infrastructure is typically rebuilt in the same way it existed before a storm, Young said. There's no requirement that the bridges or anything else be rebuilt to withstand the rising seas.
The money often goes to well-off beachfront communities. The classic example, Young said, is Dauphin Island, Ala., a town popular with vacation homeowners from Atlanta and New Orleans. As the New York Times reported last year, the federal government has spent at least $80 million rebuilding the island's infrastructure since 1979. That's more than $60,000 on each of the community's 1,300 residents, adjusted for inflation.show more
By Joseph Lichterman, Reuters
A federal investigator carries yellow crime tape at a field which investigators are prepared to dig up for the remains of former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa in Oakland Township, Michigan June 17, 2013. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters) (REBECCA COOK)
FBI agents in suburban Detroit widened their search of an overgrown field Tuesday for the remains of former Teamsters union boss Jimmy Hoffa, who disappeared nearly 38 years ago and is thought to have been murdered by mobsters.
The search for Hoffa along with a dig at the former home of late New York mobster Jimmy Burke, the suspected mastermind of the 1978 Lufthansa cargo heist, and the trial of Boston gang leader James "Whitey" Bulger made Tuesday especially notable for followers of U.S. organized crime cases of the 1970s and '80s.
FBI agents have been digging for Hoffa's remains since Monday when a backhoe was driven onto a field in Oakland County, about 20 miles north of the Machus Red Fox restaurant where Hoffa was last seen alive. The FBI opened the search after a tip from reputed mobster Anthony Zerilli.
Federal investigators stand next to heavy equipment by a field which they are prepared to dig up for the remains of former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa in Oakland Township, Michigan June 17, 2013. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters) (REBECCA COOK)
They broke for the night and resumed Tuesday morning. FBI officials said the search had been widened but gave no further details.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told reporters on Tuesday the search of the 40- to 50-square-yard (33- to 40-square meter) area would continue at least another 48 hours. He said police and FBI officials remain optimistic but that nothing had been sent for lab analysis so far.
The FBI brought in forensic anthropologists from Michigan State University and a cadaver-sniffing dog from Michigan state police to help search a half-acre (0.20 hectare) of the site, according to a person close to the investigation who asked not to be identified.
Curious bystanders gathered on Tuesday near the field, which was blocked off by Oakland County sheriff deputies, and peered through wavy grass and trees to see agents digging and the backhoe at work.
The search for Hoffa, who was 62 when he disappeared in 1975, has spawned many theories about his final resting place, ranging from under an end zone in Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, to the General Motors Co headquarters in downtown Detroit and the Everglades in Florida.show more
By Jenni Grubbs, The Fort Morgan Times
Part of the Brush High School cross country team joins Amy VanDyke on running along state Highway 34 during her leg of the MS Run the US fundraiser, which passed through Brush Friday, June 14, 2013. VanDyke finished her run from Hudson to Wray a little before noon Monday, June 17. (Photo courtesy Jeff Marcus)
I DID IT!!! 146 miles in 6 days!!! I feel so blessed to have been a part of such an amazing relay team. This was for those who live with MS each day," Amy VanDyke posted on her Facebook page a little before noon Monday.
Wisconsin resident VanDyke was part of a major fundraiser for multiple sclerosis research that is stretching across the United States. She and 15 other runners are each running multiple marathons during MS Run the U.S., with the journey having started April 15 in Los Angeles and set to finish Sept. 6 in New York City. Van Dyke's first leg of the relay was from Hudson to Wray, which is what she completed Monday.
But VanDyke isn't actually finished running for this cause. She will run another leg in Illinois in August.Run's origins
The nonprofit MS Run the U.S., Inc. was created in 2009 by Ashley Kumlien as a way to raise money for a disease very close to her heart -- her mother has multiple sclerosis and has suffered some of the debilitating effects that it can cause.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which a person's immune system starts to attack the brain's nerves, specifically the myelin sheath coating the nerves, which leads to scarring and nerves that don't always send signals correctly from the brain to the body. That can mean anything from a loss of sensation in small patch of skin to full loss of control of limbs or loss of eyesight over a long period of time -- or in a very short amount of time.
Having been diagnosed with MS in 1980, by 2009 Jill Kumlien had been dealing with the disease and its effects for 29 years, and her daughter, Ashley, had witnessed this while growing up.
"My mom is very positive and has a great spirit and faith in God," she said, but added that she had some "significant disabilities" because of MS.
"It's hard growing up and seeing that" in one's mother, but then seeing others' mothers not have to face that challenge, Ashley Kumlien said. "That's my motivation: to do something for her." And in 2009, Ashley Kumlien became really serious about doing something about the disease and working toward finding a cure.
"I've always been a lifelong runner," Ashley Kumlien said. "I got the idea to run across America" to benefit research for a cure for MS. She took that idea and ran with it -- literally.
Ashley Kumlien formed a government-approved nonprofit charitable organization, MS Run the U.S., Inc., to collect donations that would then be given to the National MS Society. She found sponsors to cover the costs of her 2010 run, and then gathered a whole lot more in donations that would go to the charity toward MS research. Her 3,288-mile solo journey began March 22, 2010, in San Francisco and ended in Sept. 28, 2010, in New York City. Once she reached Colorado, one of the places she ran through was Brush, where she met local high school cross country coach Jeff Marcus.show more
By Barbara Liston, Reuters
Sybrina Fulton (L) and Tracy Martin, the parents of slain teen Trayvon Martin, sit waiting for proceedings to begin during jury selection as George Zimmerman enters the courtroom in Seminole Circuit Court, in Sanford, Florida., June 18, 2013. (Joe Burbank/Pool/Reuters) (POOL)
A Florida judge ordered 40 prospective jurors who passed an initial vetting to return to court on Wednesday to start the second and final round of questioning in the murder trial of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman's defense team estimates the second round will be completed in two days, with opening statements as soon as Monday, followed by witness testimony.
Zimmerman, 29, is accused of racially profiling Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager and guest of a homeowner at a gated community in Sanford, and shooting him during a struggle in February 2012.
The case drew international media attention and nationwide protests after police initially let Zimmerman, a light-skinned Hispanic, walk free based on his claim of self-defense.
George Zimmerman stands as the judge leaves the courtroom as jury selection continues in his second-degree murder trial in Sanford, Florida, June 18, 2013
Prosecutors and defense lawyers on June 10 began questioning prospective jurors about what they know about the case from the intense news coverage it generated and opinions they might have formed. The prospective jurors were questioned individually to avoid spreading details and viewpoints about the case.
In the second round, the potential jurors will be questioned as a group on issues that could include race, guns and self-defense.
Six jurors and at least four alternates will be chosen to hear the case.
(Editing by David Adams and Bill Trott)
By HOWARD WEISS-TISMAN / Reformer Staff
Brattleboro Town Manager Barb Sondag (Reformer file photo)
BRATTLEBORO - Town Manager Barbara Sondag has handed in her resignation to the Brattleboro Selectboard and will be leaving at the end of July.
Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein made the surprise announcement at the beginning of Tuesday night's board meeting, saying that the board had only received the information Monday.
Sondag has taken a job as city administrator in Olivette, Mo., which is near Sondag's family home in Illinois, Gartenstein said.
Her final day as town manager will be July 23.
"I feel fortunate to have been able to be here," Sondag told the board and the audience at Tuesday's meeting. "It seems like an appropriate time to be leaving. The town is financially in good order. I look forward to the challenge ahead."
Sondag recognized the current and former board members, the citizens and the department heads and staff members.
She thanked the board for "Making life always interesting."show more