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Reveal: A Trek Through Some Lawless Land


On the next Reveal, we’re taking you to lawless lands.

From Africa and the Middle East to places in Oregon and Texas, we explore what happens in the absence of government and find out who or what comes in to fill the void. Sometimes, it’s a strongman enforcing his will; other times, it’s just anarchy, and occasionally it’s something completely unexpected.

We start in Libya, where a black hole created by the fall of dictator MoammarGadhafi has been filled by roving militias and the growing threat of the Islamic State group. Police no longer can maintain the rule of law, and the only thing people can do is call for help from the dozens of armed groups that keep order — but they operate according to their own rules.

Next, we head to the rural West — Josephine County in Oregon, to be more specific — where budget cuts have stretched law enforcement to the breaking point. There’s no detectives division, the jail runs on a skeleton crew, and deputies patrol just 10 hours a day. Fixing the problem would mean raising local taxes, but residents refuse to do so.

Then we travel to a Texas town that is known as one of the most corrupt little cities in America: Crystal City. The town's mayor has been arrested — several times — and the FBI took away most of the city council in handcuffs after they allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for awarding permits and city contracts. Without a functioning government, things have spiraled out of control.

From a dusty town in Texas, we go to a swath of desert wedged between Sudan and southern Egypt. BirTawil (beer tahWEEL) is the last unclaimed territory on earth, and it’s been that way for more than 100 years due to a dispute over competing maps and a neighboring stretch of desert.

We meet a farmer from Virginia who’s decided to make this place his very own kingdom, in order to fulfill a promise to his daughter, who had her sights set on being a princess.

Reveal is a weekly radio program produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.

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