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It’s like ‘having a dealer teach you how to count cards’ – OSHA whistleblower speaks out about Amazon

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In September 2017, 59-year-old Phillip Lee Terry was doing routine maintenance on a forklift at an Amazon warehouse near Indianapolis when the forks and heavy metal platform suddenly came down and killed him. Just a few feet away from the site of the accident was a device that would have saved his life. Why didn’t he use it? 

This was John Stallone’s question when he began investigating the case for the Indiana state Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He found serious lapses in safety training and protocol at the warehouse. But all citations against Amazon eventually were dropped, and the global company ultimately paid no penalty for Terry’s death. Stallone describes a cozy relationship between Indiana officials and Amazon. He shared his story with Reveal reporter Will Evans for the first time. 

In the second of a two-part series with PBS NewsHour, Reveal closely follows a trail of documents and witnesses to investigate why an Amazon worker was blamed for his own death.

‘That should not be happening’ – Amazon warehouses’ serious injury rates more than double industry average

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At more than 100 Amazon fulfillment centers across the United States, workers are closely monitored down to the second on how long it takes them to do their job – from loading bins with products to packing boxes and sealing packages so they land “smile side up” at the customer’s door. 

But workers say this intense focus on speed has led to serious injuries that put them out of work for weeks at a time. Amazon closely guards its safety logs and won’t share these numbers with journalists or the public. But through a federal regulatory requirement, reporter Will Evans was able to obtain injury logs from more than 20 fulfillment centers across the U.S. and delve into the company’s opaque safety record. 

Evans found that the serious injury rate at these warehouses is more than double the industry average. At some centers, it is four to six times the average. In the first of a two-part series with PBS NewsHour, Reveal takes a first-ever look at safety records maintained by the nearly trillion-dollar company.

The Fourth Trimester: Postpartum takes on a new meaning for new moms with history of opioid abuse

In the United States, where most states take a punitive approach to mothers with a history of substance abuse, addiction treatment seldom caters to pregnant women who are vulnerable to relapse and overdose during and after pregnancy. In states that have not expanded Medicaid, coverage for pregnant women expires 60 days after childbirth. Missouri almost became the exception last year when it passed a bipartisan law, House Bill 2280, to extend coverage for women with a history of substance abuse to one year after childbirth. 

The law was to go into effect in August 2018, but more than a year later, implementation is at a standstill as the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services evaluate a waiver that would allow the federal government to grant Missouri flexibility with its Medicaid program. 

In partnership with “Vice News Tonight” on HBO, Reveal investigative fellow Cassandra Giraldo documented the lives of single mothers and recovering heroin users Sally Diullius and Erica Slaughter as they navigate their postpartum period in St. Louis County.

This segment originally aired Sept. 3, 2019.

‘If you have an addiction, you’re screwed’ – How Facebook and social casinos target the vulnerable

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Facebook recently received a $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission for mishandling users’ personal information. But how does Facebook’s handling of personal information affect its users?

In this partnership with PBS NewsHour, Reveal examines how Facebook is partnering with social casino games to monitor and analyze the behavior of vulnerable players. The companies are using big data and advanced software to predict which people will spend massive amounts of money on the games and then targeting these people with aggressive marketing.

For some people, these games result in financial ruin. Suzie Kelly, a grandmother from suburban Dallas, ultimately spent $400,000 playing a virtual slot machine game on the Big Fish Casino app on her iPhone. She took out two home equity loans, spent her family inheritance and borrowed money from her husband’s 401(k), all to pay off credit card debt from the game.

And the kicker? She can’t win any money in the game. It’s not traditional gambling. Players can never cash out their virtual chips for real money. They’re paying only to buy more chips, which allows them to spend extra time in the game.

“So this is, in some ways, pure addiction,” says Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Social casino games, such as slot machines and poker games on Facebook and mobile devices, have become... Read More >

The Terrorist Hunter

The Terrorist Hunter

Rita Katz is credited with uncovering key information about al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, but detractors say she is too eager to find terrorist plots where none exist.

Rita Katz is a lone wolf in a profession dominated by men. As the director of SITE Intelligence – Search for International Terrorist Entities – she is no stranger to controversy. While she is credited with uncovering key information about al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, detractors say Katz is too eager to find terrorist plots where none exist.

Director Ann Shin presents Katz’s story within the context of the multibillion-dollar counterterrorism industry. The U.S. spent an estimated $175 billion on counterterrorism in 2017 – an elevenfold increase from before 9/11. As the documentary reveals Katz’s own personal history, it also exposes how fear and terror play out in our society.

This documentary was funded by a grant from Glassbreaker Films and the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation. The film will air as a part of Reveal TV on public television stations across the country. Check your local listings here.

More films in the series

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Freedom Fighters

Freedom Fighters

Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy interweaves the stories of three brave women – a former child bride, a police officer and a labor crusader – who are speaking out against inequality and pushing for equal rights.

Pakistan routinely is ranked as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women, where they often are subjected to violence at the hands of men. Repercussions are minimal, and more than half of Pakistani women who experience violence keep it a secret out of shame and fear. With female literacy at a historic low and patriarchy running deep in the justice system, women across Pakistan continue to be treated as second-class citizens.

Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy interweaves the stories of three brave women – a former child bride, a police officer and a labor crusader – who are speaking out against inequality and pushing for equal rights. The short documentary features a mix of verité sequences and animation as it follows these crusaders on a mission to create a more just country for their fellow citizens.

This documentary was funded by a grant from Glassbreaker Films and the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation. The film will air as a part of Reveal TV on public television stations across the country. Check your local listings here.

More films in the series

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Nellie Bly Makes the News

Nellie Bly Makes the News

The story of a muckraking investigative journalist who changed the game for women in reporting before women even had the right to vote.

Elizabeth Cochran, who wrote under the pen name Nellie Bly, was one of the best-known female journalists of the Victorian era. She gained instant fame for her exposé of poor conditions at a mental asylum, which she uncovered by feigning insanity and having herself committed. She later captured the attention of the country with her solo whirlwind race around the world to try to beat the 80-day record set in Jules Verne’s novel.

Director Penny Lane draws from extensive primary sources, including Bly’s own writing, presenting both real-world interviewees and reenactments in several styles of animation and illustration.

This short film examines the porous line between reporting facts and telling stories, while creating a dynamic portrait of a woman who refused to accept the status quo.

This documentary was funded by a grant from Glassbreaker Films and the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation. The film will air as a part of Reveal TV on public television stations across the country. Check your local listings here.

More films in the series

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‘I feel worse than animals’ – caregivers tell their stories

 

Caregivers work intimately with the elderly. They bathe, dress and feed them and help with basic hygiene. But who looks out for the caregivers?

By 2034, the number of Americans who are 65 or older is expected to outnumber children – a first in U.S. history. Providing for the elderly has become a multibillion-dollar industry, and about 29,000 residential care facilities operate across the country. But a new investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found that across the U.S., caregivers in small residential communities are being overworked and underpaid. There are at least 1,400 cases nationwide in which care facility operators broke minimum wage and other labor laws, in some cases effectively paying caregivers as little as $2 an hour to work around the clock.  
In this collaboration with PBS NewsHour, Reveal examines how some caregivers earn rock-bottom wages to work day and night, while their employers profit from their labor.

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When a child is taken from a parent

More than 2,600 kids were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy. What happened to those children? Reveal’s investigative reporting team looked at facilities across the country to answer that question.

After being separated from their parents at the border, some of the children were held in office buildings operated by a company without a child care license. This is the story of a child who stayed in those offices.

This is one of many stories of migrant children who have spent time in federal custody without a parent. Nearly 15,000 unaccompanied minors currently are detained in the U.S.; they’re held in places ranging from tent cities to trailers and shelters, some of which have a history of mistreatment, including forced drugging, sexual assault and physical abuse.

Seventy-one companies receive funds from the federal government to house and supervise unaccompanied minors. Nearly half of the $3.4 billion paid to the companies in the last four years went to places with serious allegations of mistreating children.

Explore

See for yourself where the children have been housed. Click on the red dots for information on the shelters.


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Sources: Reveal analysis of records released by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, updated with information from The Texas Tribune, other news media reports and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

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Explore extensive written coverage of family separation... Read More >

Puerto Rico is ignoring its Zika crisis

Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, the government has reported zero new cases of Zika. But doctors on the ground are finding an alarming number of new infections among pregnant women. The government’s claims that the Zika crisis is over is being called into question: Could there be no new official cases because officials have just stopped counting? For this PBS NewsHour report from The GroundTruth Project and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, Beth Murphy tracks the course of Zika in Puerto Rico over the course of two years.

For more on this story, listen to the Reveal episode “The Storm After the Storm.”

Transcript

Stefan Rodriguez was born with severe birth defects caused by the Zika virus… now 18 months, he will never be able to walk or talk.

Valerie: He’s having seizures now – oh, that’s it…

His mom, Valerie, tested positive at the height of the Zika epidemic in 2016…. when all pregnant women in Puerto Rico were tested – for free.

ZORRILLA: The zika epidemic really increased the number of birth defects in places where we had zika. It’s irrefutable.

Dr. Carmen Zorrilla is a long-time OB-GYN at University Hospital in San Juan. she says few of the island’s 4,000 Zika babies have problems as devastating as Stefan’s… but Zika can cause many other developmental issues, too – like eyesight and hearing problems.

ZORRILLA: And this is why I believe that testing during pregnancy is so important.

In the first 9 months of 2017, testing identified another 1500 pregnant women with... Read More >

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