Concrete structures meant to protect Baltimore bridge appear unchanged for decades

Seconds before the container ship Dali hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last week and tore it down, killing six construction workers, it sailed past a structure designed to prevent that kind of disaster.

Although Maryland has invested in repairing the Key Bridge, records reviewed by NPR indicate the dolphins have not been substantially changed since they were built in the 1970s.

'We got workers in the water': Audio reveals new details of Baltimore bridge rescue

NPR's Investigations Team analyzed more than 1,000 radio messages exchanged between first responders from the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, Baltimore City Fire Department and Baltimore City Police on the day of the collapse, downloaded from The communications, most of which have not been published by any other outlet, reveal new details about the response from police and firefighters and highlight what those first responders did and did not know about the construction crew before and after the collapse.

Alabama's upcoming gas execution could harm witnesses and violate religious liberty

The state of Alabama plans to execute a prisoner in January using nitrogen hypoxia, a process so novel and untested that state officials required the man's spiritual adviser to sign a waiver that said he could be exposed to the gas. The acknowledgment form, exclusively obtained by NPR, also reveals that the spiritual adviser, Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, is required to stay at least three feet away from the prisoner, which may violate both their religious liberties.

Coastal biomedical labs are bleeding more horseshoe crabs with little accountability

As the horseshoe crab bleeding industry has expanded, coast-wide regulation has been limited and the companies have become increasingly secretive. Records I obtained indicate that in some states, fishermen paid by the bleeding companies have handled crabs in ways that research has shown to cause harm or have violated harvest laws without punishment. Meanwhile, the process of approving the alternative in the U.S. has stalled even as the number of birds in the sky has plummeted.

Virginia hid execution files from the public. Here's what they don't want you to see

NPR exclusively published a selection of documents that I managed to photograph at the library before most of them became restricted by the Department of Corrections. The records, which detail responsibilities of staff, include candid photos taken of the prisoners before their deaths and even show the keys to Virginia's electric chair, illustrate how executions were conducted in the state that carried out more than any other.

When train crashes leak harmful chemicals, small town firefighters can be vulnerable

Accidents that result in the release of hazardous materials are rare, but when trains do crash, the consequences can be serious. Most of the recent ones that caused evacuations have happened near small communities, my colleague Nick McMillan and I found. Local firefighters who respond are uniquely vulnerable to the effects. But across the country, they are often under-prepared to handle the chemicals when they come off the tracks.

Carrying out executions took a secret toll on workers — then changed their politics

I spoke with 26 current and former workers who were collectively involved with more than 200 executions across 17 states and the federal death chamber. They were executioners, lawyers, correctional officers, prison spokespeople, wardens, corrections leaders, a researcher, a doctor, an engineer, a journalist and a nurse. Many shared their names and stories publicly for the first time.

And though most of them reported suffering serious mental and physical repercussions, only one person said they received any psychological support from the government to help them cope. The experience was enough to shift many of their perspectives on capital punishment. No one I spoke with whose work required them to witness executions in Virginia, Nevada, Florida, California, Ohio, South Carolina, Arizona, Nebraska, Texas, Alabama, Oregon, South Dakota or Indiana expressed support for the death penalty afterward, NPR found.

Laws require language support for students. Many SC districts are ‘exploitative’ instead

Dozens of South Carolina school districts provide unequal educational opportunities to students because of where they’re from, Lucas Smolcic Larson and I showed, after collecting data from an unprecedented survey we sent to all S.C. districts and speaking to graduates. Many districts openly admitted to using bilingual students as translators instead of hiring professionals to interpret for children whose parents don’t speak English. That’s against the law. We worked with a local Spanish language outlet to publish this article in Spanish as well as English, in order to reach as many bilingual readers as possible.

The US military trained him. Then he helped murder Berta Cáceres

My investigation for The Guardian revealed how a Honduran man who would later be convicted of helping murder environmental defender Berta Cáceres in 2016 was trained and shaped by West Point. The unprecedented look at West Point's little-known international training program raises questions about the schooling provided by the institution to generations of Central American soldiers for more than 200 years, some of whom later became involved with human rights abuses.

They executed people for the state of South Carolina. For some, it nearly destroyed them.

This story was part of a series that won a 2021 Investigative Reporters and Editor’s Finalist award.

The repercussions of execution work for staff have often been left out of conversations about the death penalty, until now. Over five months, I spoke with 10 people who helped administer executions in South Carolina. The closer they and their families were to the act of killing, the more the men said their jobs caused long-term harm. This investigative feature story represents one of the most detailed, intimate portrayals of execution work in America ever published.

Here’s what South Carolina doesn’t want the public to know about firing squads and executions

This investigation was part of the series that won a 2021 IRE Finalist award.

My investigation showed for the first time that shortly before state lawmakers approved the firing squad in May, the SC Department of Corrections created confidentiality agreements to suppress information from over 100 employees they said were members of the execution team. Meanwhile, additional documents I revealed showed that the state spent $53,000 on firing squad preparations, but won't reveal the names of vendors or fully describe some items they bought. And they won't provide their execution protocols at all, though most other states consider that public information. The state's secrecy around executions violates state law, media attorneys agree. It could also be a human rights violation.
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