Here are this week's top must-read stories from #MuckReads, ProPublica's ongoing collection of the best watchdog journalism. Anyone can contribute by tweeting a link to a story and just including the hashtag #MuckReads or by sending an email to MuckReads@ProPublica.org. The best submissions are selected by ProPublica's editors and reporters and then featured at ProPublica and @ProPublica.
For the Costliest Homes, Foreclosure Comes Slowly, Wall Street Journal
High-end homeowners, with loans of at least $1 million, tend to remain in their houses, without making payments, for longer than those with smaller loans. In 2008, this foreclosure gap didn’t exist. So what gives?
Contributed by @KYWeise
The Deadliest Place in Mexico, Texas Observer
After Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006, he sent military forces to the Juarez Valley to squelch the drug cartels. Residents claim an alliance formed between the two instead, and years later, most people who haven’t fled are either terrified or dead.
Contributed by @Jake_Bernstein
U.S. "Info Ops” Program Dubious, Costly, USA Today
The Pentagon has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to sell the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to often-hostile populations. But no one really seems to know whether the marketing and propaganda campaigns, dubbed here “the modern equivalent of psychological warfare,” are actually working. On Friday, members of Congress called for a probe of the program.
Contributed by @elliottjustin
Bending the Tax Code, and Lifting AIG’s Profit, New York Times
Wondering about that $19.8 billion fourth-quarter profit that AIG announced? It turns out the company earned only $1.6 billion, and the rest comes in the form of a tax benefit resulting from the Treasury Department tweaking a rule back in 2008 to help out the company during the financial crisis. “This rule-twisting could deprive the government of tens of billions of dollars, assuming the firm remains profitable,” the Times reports.
Contributed by @coracurrier
How Three Germans Are Cloning the Web, Businessweek
Three German brothers have hit on a wildly successful business model: They take an Internet business that is succeeding in the United States anc copy it for the international market. Among their more-than 100 countries are clones of Zappos, eHarmony, Airbnb, and Pinterest. A former high-level employee estimates the company is worth at least $1 billion.
Contributed by @KYWeise