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 on our site and @ProPublica.
The Journalist and the Spies, The New Yorker
Earlier this year, Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad was found dead shortly after publishing an article asserting that members of Pakistan's Navy had ties to Al Qaeda. Dexter Filkins had spoken with Shahzad just nine days before he went missing. Here, Filkins recounts how Shahzad told him he was being threatened by Pakistan's intelligence service, and talks to other journalists who say they've been intimidated by the authorities.
Contributed by @AzmatZahra
America's Dangerous Food-Safety System, Daily Beast
Food inspectors across the country say that budget cuts and short staffing have made it difficult for them to inspect all the factories they're assigned to. The Daily Beast reviews the holes in our food safety system, and talks to two mothers who lost their children after eating food tainted with E. coli. Contributed by @stepshep
Water District Taps Google For Good Coverage, Los Angeles Times
A California state agency has been using taxpayer money to buy good press. A company that Google listed as a news organization has received nearly $200,000 to write positive stories about the Central Basin Municipal Water District.
Contributed by @shelbygrad
Exposed After Eight Years: A Private Eye's Dirty Work For Fleet Street, Independent
Newly reviewed evidence from a 2003 investigation shows that News International journalists weren't the only ones who paid private investigators to obtain information through illegal means. Files seized from one investigator's home include thousands of phone hacking requests from other media companies.
See all Muckreads on the UK's phone hacking scandal.
Promises, Promises: Food Anti-Terror Programs Costly, Associated Press
After 9/11, the Bush administration set up programs to protect the nation's food supply from a potential terror attack. Since then, the government has spent $3.4 billion on the programs, which are so mired in bureaucracy that it's hard to gauge what, if anything, they've accomplished.
Contributed by @joannalin
The Knock at the Door, New York Magazine
This is the story of an overworked, well-liked child welfare supervisor who went to prison for the murder of a girl she'd never met. Her case sheds light on the way that short staffing and mountains of paperwork can get in the way of the most important part of a social worker's job: checking up on the families they're trying to help.
Contributed by @KYWeise
Cosmetic Surgery Gets Cheaper, Faster, Scarier, USA Today
Under pressure to increase profits, plastic surgery clinics are increasingly cutting corners. USA Today talks to patients who have been left disfigured, and reviews other cases where patients have died. Contributed by @LukeKerrDineen
Water Testing in Chicago Raises Concerns About Screening Process for Lead, Chicago Tribune
Tests of Chicago water suggest that the nationwide technique for gauging lead levels in drinking water may not be getting accurate results.
Contributed by @egabler
TODAY IN SLATE
The Right Target
Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.
The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget
It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is
I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights
Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.
Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.
It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice
Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.
In Defense of HR
Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.