Episodes

  • There’s a new battlefield in the culture wars: comic books. The alt-right now has gotten in the business, led by a buxom, Confederate flag-waving superhero named Rebel and a white vigilante who turns immigrants over to ICE.

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  • Desperate to have a child, a couple puts its trust in a fertility clinic that promises more than it can deliver. They enter a world where some clinics take unnecessary risks to make them look far more successful than they are in reality.

    From reporter Jonathan Jones and Reveal’s Bernice Yeung and Emily Harris.

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  • Victim compensation funds are supposed to help victims of crime cover lost wages or funeral expenses. But Reveal teamed up with The Marshall Project and discovered that in some states, African Americans are disproportionately hurt by rules on how that money is handed out.

    Then, Reveal reporters Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter uncover a scheme at a drug rehabilitation facility in the mountains of North Carolina, where clients are being used as a source of free labor.

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  • Some people who live along the Mississippi River are willing to do anything to keep their homes and farms safe from flooding – even if it means inundating their own neighbors. This week, we team up with ProPublica to investigate how rising waters have set off a race to build the highest levee.

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  • *This show was originally broadcast February 3, 2018. *It’s been ten years since former NASDAQ chairman Bernie Madoff was arrested for committing one of the largest financial crimes in U.S. history. For decades he ran a Ponzi scheme from a secret office in New York, duping thousands of investors out of billions of dollars. Many of them lost everything when the house of cards fell.

    How did Madoff pull it off? And what steps have regulators taken in the past decade to ensure that it doesn’t happen again? For this week’s episode, we teamed up with Steve Fishman, a reporter based in New York City who’s followed the story for years. He produced and hosted a seven-part podcast for Audible called “Ponzi Supernova.”

    Through interviews with financial experts, federal agents, Madoff’s cellmates and Madoff himself, Fishman explains how the $60 billion con worked, and why Madoff was able to elude regulators for decades. Fishman says that while Madoff was the mastermind of the scheme, it was banks and other financial institutions who “weaponized” him, turning him from a “local swindler” into an unstoppable force.

    Madoff will spend the rest of his life in prison, but no one from these institutions faced similar consequences. And even though some precautions have been put in place since Madoff’s arrest, financial experts warn that for the most part, investors are still on their own.

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  • African migrants fleeing persecution or seeking opportunity often end up in Libya, where they are tortured and trafficked. Many try to escape to Europe, only to be intercepted at sea and returned to Libya. On this episode of Reveal, we trace their journey and explore how Europe’s immigration policy is helping Libyan warlords and putting migrants at risk. This episode was originally broadcast on May 19, 2018.

    In the first segment, reporter Raphaël Krafft takes us to the open waters off the coast of Libya, where a small boat carrying migrants is trying to flee the country. The boat is filled beyond capacity and starts to take on water and sink. A rescue ship run by nongovernmental organizations from Europe is poised to help, but a coast guard boat from Libya intervenes, creating a standoff at sea.

    Next, we learn why so many migrants – mostly from Africa – end up trapped in Libya and about the conditions they face when they’re there. Krafft meets a young Nigerian man named Osaze Sunday, who was held for ransom and trafficked in Libya before attempting to escape by boat to Italy.

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  • In Texas, the foster care system is failing the vulnerable children it’s meant to protect, leaving many without a safe place to live. Foster children often end up on the streets or in jail, which is one of the few places where they can receive treatment services. This week we look into the crisis in foster care, and efforts to fix it.

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  • Deep in the backroads of central Florida, hidden between trees dripping with Spanish moss, sits the campus of an infamous center for the developmentally disabled. Its story shows what can happen when families have nowhere else to find care for their loved ones.

    After years of complaints, Carlton Palms is finally being shut down. But its parent company, Bellwether Behavioral Health, is still running group homes across the country, where new allegations have arisen.

    WNYC reporter Audrey Quinn investigates the company and speaks to a family whose son was abused at two of Bellwether’s New Jersey facilities. She discovers that, with national spending on autism services expected to increase 70 percent by 2025, the company is owned by a private equity firm.

    Then, reporter Elly Yu investigates the death of a DACA recipient while at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in rural Georgia.

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  • In December 1944, Adolf Hitler surprised the Allies with a secret counterattack through the Ardennes forest, known today as the Battle of the Bulge. In the carnage that followed, there was one incident that top military commanders hoped would be concealed. It’s the story of an American war crime nearly forgotten to history.

    After desperate house-to-house fighting between German and American forces, American soldiers wrested control of the Belgian town of Chenogne. Americans rounded up the remaining German prisoners of war, took them to a field and machine-gunned them.

    Reporter Chris Harland-Dunaway found an entry in General George S. Patton’s handwritten diary referring to the incident in Chenogne. Patton called it murder. So why then was there no official investigation?

    Through vivid interviews with a 93-year-old veteran who witnessed the event, conversations with historians and the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg Trials, and analysis of formerly confidential military records, we investigate why justice never came for the American soldiers responsible for the massacre at Chenogne.

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  • Old paint, old pipes and demolition dust often are sources of toxic lead. It’s a poison known to cause neurological damage in children. For adults, new science shows lead exposure increases the risk of heart disease. Reveal investigates the lurking threat from the dust of urban demolitions to the wilds of Wyoming. This episode was originally broadcast March 31, 2018.

    In Detroit, dust is a particular concern. Because of the population drop, the city is tearing down tens of thousands of empty homes. Contractors are supposed to follow strict protocols on demolitions, but when those rules are not enforced, lead dust can drift around the neighborhood, poisoning children in unsuspecting families. Reporter Eilís O'Neill explores the impact.

    Next, we go to the Fruitvale neighborhood in Oakland, California, where the rate of kids with high lead levels in their blood was greater than in Flint, Michigan, during the height of the water crisis there. Reporters Angela Johnston and Marissa Ortega-Welch of KALW in San Francisco explain how high housing costs and lead exposure are connected and introduce us to public health nurse Diep Tran, who says lead poisoning puts enormous stress on families.

    “I've seen parents go into shock,” Tran says. “Most of them are anxious. Some feel guilty and go into denial, which is not good for the child, because parents in denial don't want to work with us. How can the child recover if we don't help the family?”

    She says her only option sometimes is to advise families to move to a homeless shelter to escape exposure to lead.

    Paul Flory could not escape. He grew up in Idaho’s Silver Valley, a longtime mining area that’s now a lead-laced Superfund site. Host Al Letson talks with him about going to school next door to a smelter and the struggles he’s had after his childhood lead poisoning was recorded – and then largely ignored.

    Finally, we discover how tiny fragments of lead bullets hurt hunters’ unintended targets: eagles, condors and other scavenging wildlife. We trace lead dust from game guts to eagle brains in Wyoming.

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  • President Donald Trump has pledged allegiance to what he calls America’s “energy dominance.” This is good news for the oil and gas industry. We examine what this means for Alaskan villagers coping with climate change, Native American artifacts in Utah and birds flying over the U.S.

    *
    *To find out, we talk with a former Interior Department official who became a whistleblower after helping relocate Alaskan Native villages threatened by rising temperatures. We also examine the energy industry’s influence on the Trump administration and visit public lands in southeastern Utah, where parcels leased for oil and gas exploration contain sensitive Native American archeological sites.

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  • This week, we continue our ongoing investigation into what happens to immigrant children after they’re detained by the U.S. government. Our latest story investigates a vacant office building being used by a defense contractor to house children.

    Then, we travel to the Gulf Coast to learn why last year was the costliest hurricane season on record. In Houston, we discover that homes flooded by Hurricane Harvey were actually built inside a reservoir.

    We end on the Louisiana coast, where officials say they can no longer provide protection to homes most vulnerable to flooding, and that residents will have to abandon them.

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  • This week’s episode of Reveal investigates shark fishing in Central America and a U.S.-based seafood company that claims to be a model of sustainability.

    We start in the jungles of El Salvador, where reporter Sarah Blaskey and photojournalist Ben Feibleman investigate one of the largest shark-fishing operations in the region. The men who crew these boats are migrants from Vietnam who work under grueling conditions.

    Next, we follow reporters from The Associated Press as they continue their award-winning investigation into the seafood industry. Robin McDowell, Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza look into one of the country’s leading sustainable seafood companies, Sea to Table.

    The company provides seafood to restaurants, universities and private homes across the country, claiming all its fish are wild caught and directly traceable to a U.S. dock. The reporters examine whether those claims hold up.

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  • Far from the World Cup stadium cheers, a prisoner held in Russia is six weeks into a hunger strike.

    Reveal host Al Letson talks with Masha Alyokhina, a founding member of the Russian feminist punk rock collective Pussy Riot, about the efforts to free Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker convicted of an armed plot during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He denies any involvement. His supporters fear U.S. President Donald Trump has undermined their cause. Alyokhina knows the topic well: She spent time in prison for challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin, too.

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  • President Donald Trump said he was ending family separation at the border this week. But we’ve stayed on the story, investigating the issues that remain: children being drugged at migrant shelters, asylum-seekers being denied at ports of entry and the problems with Trump’s new detention plan.

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  • This episode was originally broadcast July 1, 2017.

    Picture an American farmer. Chances are, the farmer you’re imagining is white – more than 9 out of 10 American farmers today are. But historically, African Americans played a huge role in agriculture. The nation’s economy was built largely on black farm labor: in bondage for hundreds of years, followed by a century of sharecropping and tenant farming.

    In the early 1900s, African American families owned one-seventh of the nation’s farmland, 15 million acres. A hundred years later, black farmers own only one-quarter of the land they once held and now make up less than 1 percent of American farm families.

    The federal government has admitted it was part of the problem. In 1997, a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture said discrimination by the agency was a factor in the decline of black farms. A landmark class-action lawsuit on behalf of black farmers, Pigford v. Glickman, was settled in 1999, and the government paid out more than $2 billion as a result. But advocates for black farmers say problems persist.

    On this episode of Reveal, reporter John Biewen of “Scene on Radio” tells the story of a black farmer who says the USDA treated him unfairly because of his race.

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  • Last fall, we threw out a simple question after a show about U.S. immigration policies: What do you wish you knew about immigration?

    Across the country, listeners responded with hundreds of text messages – from small towns in Iowa, Colorado and Massachusetts to big cities such as Los Angeles, Atlanta and Chicago.

    We chose four questions and took our team of reporters and producers to task to answer them.

    To figure out the answers, we go deep into immigration court, help one listener uncover her grandfather’s secret past about entering the country and break down the path to legal citizenship. On the way, we meet scam artists, attorneys, asylum seekers and do-gooders learning immigration law for kicks.

  • Baltimore’s police department was already notorious.

    But this year, eight former police officers were convicted on federal racketeering charges stemming from an FBI investigation. They belonged to an elite task force charged with getting guns off the city’s streets. Instead, the plainclothes cops roamed Baltimore neighborhoods at will, robbing people on the street, breaking into homes to steal money, drugs or guns and planting evidence on their victims.

    The targets of the Gun Trace Task Force included drug dealers and ordinary citizens. One of its favorite tactics was to speed toward a group of men on a street corner, chase whoever ran and shake them down. On top of all this, the officers falsified their timesheets to almost double their salaries.

    This episode of Reveal asks if the task force was simply a rogue operation or if the officers were aided and abetted by fellow cops and even supervisors within the department.


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  • The collision of the opioid epidemic with criminal justice reform has created a boom for the rehab industry. Those with wealth and insurance often are able to pay thousands of dollars for private long-term programs. But the less fortunate have become easy prey for rehabs with a tantalizing promise: freedom from addiction for free.

    Reveal reporters Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter have been uncovering the ways that some of these rehabs exploit their desperate clients. In this episode, they describe to host Al Letson the shocking things they found at one rehab in the mountains of North Carolina.

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  • Some police departments are embracing a set of tactics designed to reduce the use of force – and prevent police shootings. Rather than rushing in aggressively, officers back off, wait out people in crisis and use words instead of weapons.

    But this training isn't required in most states. Reveal teams up with APM Reports and finds that most cops spend a lot more time training to shoot their guns than learning how to avoid firing them.

    This episode was originally broadcast on May 6, 2017.

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