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Lisa Montgomery: The road to execution

Lisa Montgomery’s crime was an especially abominable murder: In 2004 in the small mid-West American town of Skidmore, she strangled an expectant mother, Bobbie Jo Stinnett. She then cut open her victim’s womb and kidnapped her baby, who survived the ordeal. Her lawyers argued that she was mentally ill at the time – as a consequence of appalling abuse she had suffered in childhood, including gang rape and torture. They said she was also brain-damaged and delusional. Nevertheless, in the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency, she paid for her actions with her own life - the first female to be executed by the US federal government in almost seven decades. As a new President assumes office, promising reform of America’s criminal justice system, Hilary Andersson charts the story of this unsettling case, from Lisa Montgomery’s tragic beginnings to her final moments, and finds a nation deeply divided over the issue.

Warning: Disturbing content

Producer: Michael Gallagher
Editor: Bridget Harney

(Image: Lisa Montgomery. Credit: Wyandotte County Sheriff / via EPA)

President-elect Joe Biden

On Wednesday, 20 January Joe Biden will be sworn in as America’s 46th president of the United States, after scoring a record-breaking victory on his third attempt at winning the White House. After 36 years in the Senate, and Barack Obama’s VP for eight more, Joe Biden is Washington Man epitomised – though has always presented himself as the common man. BBC special correspondent James Naughtie charts Joe Biden’s blue-collar roots and political career, and asks what can he and the Democratic Party offer America, following one of the most divisive periods in American history.

My viral video and me

Colm Flynn tracks down the internet's original viral video superstars and reveals how becoming an online sensation changed their life. So many people spend their time chasing the allure of fame, however, very few ever reach the level of world-wide recognition that viral phenomena obtain almost overnight. Colm tracks down the people he watched online growing up, to find out what happened to them after their initial viral fame faded.

Coronavirus: Young widows

Each Covid-19 death has a tremendous personal impact on loved ones. Host Nuala McGovern talks to three women who have lost their husbands to the disease. Their Facebook group 'Young Widows and Widowers of Covid-19’ is supporting others in the same situation. They call it “the club that nobody wants to join”. We also hear from three people in South Africa, Australia and the US who share the unexpected social consequences - both positive and negative - of wearing face masks when you have a facial disfigurement or difference.

Social influencers and the perfect body

In the age of social media and the selfie, the perfect look is everything. That's what online influencers tell their followers. Some are also happy to provide a 'how-to’ guide to obtaining the perfect body through cosmetic surgery. Often though, they are cashing in – taking payment and perks to promote certain clinics – and not always declaring the fact. Those who read their reviews and watch their videos can easily be misled into thinking that their recommendations are impartial. What’s more, the surgical procedures that influencers push can be risky or even downright dangerous. For Assignment, Joice Etutu hears from women whose lives have been changed after booking surgery in Turkey through one clinic where procedures have gone wrong – and where influencers themselves regret ever getting involved.

Producer: Kate West
Reporter: Joice Etutu
Editor: Gail Champion

(Image: Plastic surgeon marking a woman’s body for plastic surgery. Credit: Getty Images)

The digital human: Sacred

Sacred objects and places are often imbued with memories - memories we cherish, which define who we are. Aleks Krotoski asks if technology can be a conduit for sacredness and give us a greater understanding of our relationship with the sacred.

Vice President Elect Kamala Harris

The California senator has made history in three ways – as the first woman, first black person and first person of Indian origin to be elected as vice president. Many observers believe she will be one of the most influential vice presidents in recent history. But what makes Kamala Harris tick? Mark Coles presents a profile of a leader who has been praised for her determination to address social injustice – but has also faced criticism for her sometimes tough policies on law and order.

Coronavirus: Intensive care

As vaccines begin to be administered in several countries, many places are experiencing worrying rises in cases and deaths from Covid-19. One effect is that hospitals have to try and cope with the increasing number of patients. Host Nuala McGovern hears from three doctors working in ICUs in South Africa, Brazil and the United States on the stressful frontline of intensive care.

Libya's Brothers from Hell

Amid the anarchy of post-Revolution Libya, seven brothers from an obscure background gradually took over their home town near Tripoli. They're accused of murdering entire families to instill fear and to build power and wealth. They created their own militia which threw in its lot, at different times, with various forces in Libya's ongoing conflict. And they grew rich by levying taxes on the human and fuel traffickers crossing their territory. Now, the full horror of their reign of terror is being exposed: since they were driven out in June, more and more mass graves are being discovered. The Libyan authorities - and the International Criminal Court - are investigating what happened. But the four surviving Kani brothers have fled. Will they ever face justice? And what does their story tell us about why the 2011 overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi brought not democracy, but chaos, to Libya? Tim Whewell reports.

Editor: Bridget Harney

(Image: A defaced mural depicting Mohsen al-Kani in the town of Tarhuna. Credit: Mahmud Turkia/AFP via Getty Images)

The Digital Human: Ghoul

Violent content online has rightly been condemned, yet while we criticise those facilitating the supply we rarely talk about the demand. Aleks Krotoski asks who views it and why.

Donald Trump: The political record

What is Donald Trump’s political and policy legacy? Nada Tawfik explores how four years of the Trump presidency has challenged US policy conventions and re-written the narrative of American political discourse.

Donald Trump: The man

Donald Trump was the businessman and TV show host who became the 45th President of the United States, with huge power and resources at his fingertips. Rob Watson tells the life story of one of the most extraordinary people to occupy the Oval Office.

298 episodes

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