Fact Checker Too: Duke silences local reporter who probed its affairs. Star from heyday of Duke football dies. Nolan Smith ACC player of the year

✔ Fact Checker is expanding. We're experimenting with shorter items of interest to Dukies, in addition to our deep essays. Let us know what you think. Duke.Fact.Checker@gmail.com

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Duke University has silenced one of the reporters who dug the deepest into university affairs.

Fact Checker learned very early Wednesday morning from a concerned Loyal Reader that Sarah Avery has left the Raleigh News and Observer and has been hired at Duke. We confirmed the move with the city desk, but Avery does not yet have a listing at Duke (we checked with the overnight phone operator and on-line directory), and we did not want to wake PR VP Michael Schoenfeld at 2 AM to ask him if she's joining his department or what.

One of Avery's most recent stories was a poignant portrayal of 63 year old Joyce Shoffner, breast cancer patient (or victim if you prefer) of the quack Dr Anil Potti. FC broke the news about her ordeal in December with exclusive posting of a letter that her brother sent to President Brodhead. At that time, Shoffner declined to speak -- but Avery elicited moving testimony from her that newspapers around the nation picked up because at last we saw a suffering face attached to the story.

Sample quote from the Shoffner article:

"She feels betrayed by Duke, an institution she trusted, and by science, an endeavor she has long championed. 'I'm devastated by this whole thing,' she said. "If you have a very serious cancer and two-and-a-half years later you think you are involved in a study that is cutting edge and [it's discredited], it is devastating."


We got tipped to Avery's move by a Loyal Reader whose daughter had surgery in 2004 at one of the two Duke operated hospitals (but not the main one on West Campus), and went from "a beautiful healthy single mother to someone that lives in pain and the unknown each and every day."

Duke operated on several thousand patients even though surgeons observed their instruments felt "slippery" and "greasy." Yes several thousand. The surgical instruments had been mistakenly washed in used hydraulic fluid from elevators, not sterilizing detergent. The results were devastating in some cases.

Avery's work exposed the malpractice. But Duke kept the lid on the story by settling with many patients; it wore others out by immorally using its firepower to procrastinate lawsuits. One of the worst legal moves in FC's opinion involves a man who was not hurt: for five years Duke wouldn't tell him if he was exposed to the filthy hydraulic fluid, so he sued. It turned out he was not affected, and now Duke is suing the man to recover its defense lawyer costs. Some days I just seethe at Duke's general counsel Pam Bernard for such tactics.

Deputy Fact Checkers assigned; we'll know more.

✔ Belatedly, the Law School has informed alumni that that John Adams Law '62 has received the nation's highest civilian honor -- the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Obama honored him at the White House in mid-February,

Adams founded the National Resource Defense Council in 1970 after his son woke up next to an open window, soot on his forehead. (We believe this was in New York City.) Adams is senior statesman of the environmental community.

✔ Headline in Forbes: "The Best Law Schools for Getting Rich." With little explanation of methodology, the magazine looked at the earnings of mid-career graduates working in the private sector. (So that excludes lower paying government and charitable organizations) Stanford #1 at $236,000, Duke #2 at $221,000. Yale a surprising #33 at $159,000.

The magazine notes that only a sliver of graduates nation-wide get the $160,000 a year starting salaries touted by major firms. Disclosure: those salaries climb very slowly and people are dropped like flies. FC friend at one major NYC firm says only 3 percent of the incoming associates will make partner.

✔ US News and World Report: Duke in the top five for undergraduates doing internships, presumably a step toward a better job. #1 Colorado School of Mines.

“More people are being killed in Libya than in all of the other Arab countries combined, far more,” said Bruce Jentleson, professor of public policy and political science.

New fund-raising gimmick. An anon alum has challenged the alumni office to round up 1,000 people who did not contribute to the Annual Fund last year, but are willing to write checks this year. The prize: $100,000.

✔ Basketball news. FC does not cover team competition for Duke sports, yet, but we do encounter interesting tidbits which we will pass along.

✔✔ Nolan Smith '11 was named ACC player of the year. 73 out of 75 votes. Kyle Singler '11 got one, some kid at UNC another. Coach K: "From his freshman year to now, Nolan has probably progressed more than any player we've had here. It's not like he was this instant star. He's done it because he continually looks for ways to improve."

Duke men's basketball brought in $26,667,056 in 2009, according to Forbes Magazine. That makes us #1, with Louisville second and UNC third at $20,551,168.

✔ While you began spring break, our joint (men, women) indoor track and field team excelled with seven members going to the NCAA's. Tanner Anderson '14 qualified for the high jump with a season best 7' 2 1/2". He's now 14th in the national rankings. Curtis Beach '13, currently tied for 2nd in the nation in the heptathlon, gets an automatic bid, as does Kate Van Buskirk '11, women's mile and mile medley relay. Joining her on the MDR will be Devotia Moore '11, Cydney Ross '12 and Rebecca Craigie '14. And lastly Amy Fryt '11 holder of Duke's pole vault record.

The university announced the death of one of the greats from the heyday of Duke football. Elmore Hackney '38 passed away Saturday in California at age 95. Known as "Honeyboy," he ran for 1,359 yards and 20 touchdowns in three seasons, leading the team to 24 victories in 1935, 36 and 37. To boot, in one game against Colgate, the quarterback picked up 136 yards returning punts. After his playing days, Honeyboy operated the Duke stadium scoreboard for more than 50 years. Final note: he's in our Duke Athletics Hall of Fame.

✔ What happened in evolution? Duke assistant professor Brian Hare has spent several months a year in the Congo studying bonobos -- chimps to you. Though humans share 98.7 percent of our DNA with chimps, we've managed to become far more violent. Hare: "There has never been a recorded case in captivity or in the wold of a bonobo killing another bonobo."

Thank you for reading -- and tipping -- FC.