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Report critical of North Carolina stimulus projects ‎

Posted August 3, 2010 10:49 p.m. EDT
Updated August 3, 2010 11:39 p.m. EDT

— Republican Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and John McCain (Ariz.) released a report Tuesday profiling wasteful stimulus projects.

The primary goal of the $862 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was to put people to work. But the senators claim some of the money has gone toward questionable projects, including seven in North Carolina.

Read the Full Coburn/McCain Stimulus Report

Among the 100 stimulus projects making the senators' list, entitled Summertime Blues, are:

  • More than $750,000 the University of North Carolina at Charlotte received to develop a computerized choreography program.
  • Nearly $300,000 that Wake Forest University received to study Integral Yoga and whether it is effective for treating hot flashes.
  • More than $770,000 that North Carolina State University received to research how video games can improve the mental health of the elderly.
  • The $144,541 that Wake Forest University received to study how monkeys react to cocaine.
  • Almost a half million dollars that Duke University received to investigate new approaches for improved social networking privacy and functionality.
  • The $266,505 given to Wake Forest University for its science education workshops for reporters.
  • The $1.9 million given to the City of Greenville by the Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control. The Senators say the city failed to meet the requirements for the stimulus funds.

The projects highlighted by the senators' list represent a small fraction of the more than 70,000 stimulus projects underway. Some area universities, however, say the report is misleading and does not properly explain how the stimulus money is being spent.

"Any piece of research that is done on a college campus or anywhere else, when taken out of context, can be turned into something of ridicule,” Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs, said Tuesday.

Schoenfeld said he thinks Duke's inclusion on the senators' report is unfounded and he defended the purpose of the university's social networking study.

"Cyber security and the safety and privacy of social networks that more than a half a billion people use every day is far from frivolous,” he said.

Dr. Jason Allaire, a psychology professor at N.C. State, also defended their stimulus-funded study on video games and the elderly.

Allaire said the project employs five people and isn't a ploy to sell video games to the elderly as the report implies. He said the study could eventually help senior citizens ward off dementia.

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-Lillington, was critical of potential motivations behind compiling the report.

"I understand he (McCain) has a primary coming up very quickly, and then the election will follow very shortly,” he said.

Etheridge said he hadn't read McCain and Coburn's list, but he thinks it's likely a political stunt and that there are more important matters to focus on.

"Let's talk about things that make a difference in people lives," the lawmaker said.

A White House spokeswoman said President Obama's administration will review the claims of the report but that stimulus projects have put at least 3 million people back to work.