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Tom Dreisbach

Tom Dreisbach is a producer and editor for NPR's Embedded. His work has examined how opioids helped cause an HIV outbreak in Indiana, the role of video evidence in police shootings, and the controversial development of Donald Trump's Southern California golf club. In 2018, his work on Embedded was awarded a national Edward R. Murrow Award from RTDNA. Prior to working on Embedded, Tom was an editor for All Things Considered, NPR's flagship afternoon news show.

The city attorney of Los Angeles announced Wednesday that his office is suing Wellness Matrix Group for allegedly engaging in a "fraudulent scheme" related to the COVID-19 pandemic that was both "sophisticated" and "wide ranging."

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One hundred thousand - that is how many people are now known to have been killed in the U.S. by a virus few had ever heard of just a few months ago. With less than 5% of the world's population, the U.S. accounts for nearly one-third of all known coronavirus fatalities. NPR's David Welna looks at this grim milestone and at where the American death toll may be headed.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: It took barely four months for the number of lives lost in the U.S. to the COVID-19 pandemic to reach the 100,000 mark.

In late March, the California company RootMD started advertising "at-home Covid-19 exposure and immunity tests" for consumers worried about the coronavirus. For $249, the company said it would mail out a test kit — including a "lancet" that buyers could use to prick their finger and collect a blood sample. Then, the company promised, consumers could mail that sample back to "certified MD immunologists" to test for antibodies to the coronavirus, and get results within 48 hours.

The kind of financial schemes depicted in movies like The Wolf Of Wall Street and Boiler Room never went away, and Wall Street's top cops are warning investors that the coronavirus has only created new opportunities for that type of financial fraud.

In response, the Securities And Exchange Commission has "substantially accelerated" its pace of enforcement related to the pandemic, says Stephanie Avakian, who co-directs the SEC's enforcement division.

Mike Feuer, the city attorney of Los Angeles, announced on Monday that his office had "filed a civil law enforcement action against, and achieved an immediate settlement with," a company that had been "illegally selling" an at-home test for the coronavirus.

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In the early morning of June 12, 2017, a group of eight Central American migrants decided to go on a hunger strike to protest conditions at the immigration detention center where they were being held in California.

It was the middle of a sunny day on Jan. 14, and hundreds of students and staff were on the playground of an elementary school in Los Angeles when a school employee called 911 to report a bizarre emergency on his campus.

"It was actually raining airline fuel onto my campus," the school employee said.

When a government expert in mental health visited one of the largest immigration detention centers in the U.S. in 2017, she knew the conditions that detainees there sometimes face. A past inspection had found that staff often failed to obtain adequate mental health histories, leading to faulty diagnoses and, in some cases, treatment plans that were incorrect.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says one of his "highest priorities" is to take on the leading cause of preventable death in the United States: smoking.

McConnell has sponsored a bill, along with Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, that would increase the tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21.

Scott Pruitt, the current head of the Environmental Protection Agency, first came to national prominence back when he was Oklahoma's attorney general. In that role, he sued the agency he now runs 14 times, in a series of court cases alleging overreach by the federal government.

The Sunday before Scott Pruitt's confirmation hearing to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Pruitt stood on the stage of his hometown church, bowed his head, and prayed.

"I stand on a platform today with a man of God who's been tapped to serve our nation," said the Rev. Nick Garland, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla.

Ever since Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller unveiled charges against George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump 2016 presidential campaign, the White House has insisted Papadopoulos played an unimportant role in the campaign.

If there's one constant throughout Steve Bannon's career, it's his ability to reinvent himself. His resume includes time in the U.S. Navy plus jobs working with Goldman Sachs; Biosphere 2; a Florida maker of nasal sprays; and a Hong Kong company that employed real people to earn virtual gold in the online video game World Of Warcraft.

Updated on Oct. 20 at 4:04 p.m. ET

Throughout his presidential campaign and since, President Trump has made bold assertions about his charitable giving. But as the Washington Post has thoroughly documented, those boasts of philanthropy don't always stand up to scrutiny.

Editor's Note: This story includes language that may be offensive to some readers.

When Donald Trump arrived in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., in 2002, he was welcomed as a "white knight," says former City Councilman Tom Long.

Trump bought a golf course there that had gone bankrupt after the 18th hole literally fell into the ocean in a landslide.

Long, a Democrat, says residents looked forward to Trump's promises of repairing the course and generating revenue and attention for the city.

Despite that goodwill, the relationship got off to a rough start.

An advisory panel convened by the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate the health risks of the powerful opioid painkiller Opana ER says that the danger it poses as a drug of abuse outweighs its benefits as a prescription painkiller.

The time-release opioid was reformulated in 2012 to make it harder to crush. The goal was to reduce abuse by snorting it. But users quickly figured out that the new formulation could be dissolved and injected.

When Kevin Polly first started abusing Opana ER, a potent prescription opioid painkiller, he took pills — or fractions of pills — and crushed them into a fine powder, then snorted it.

When Opana pills are swallowed, they release their painkilling ingredient over 12 hours. If the pills were crushed and snorted, though, the drug was released in a single dose.

"Just think about it," Polly says, "12 hours of medicine, and, 'BAM!' you're getting it all at once."

The message from park rangers, amateur metal detectors and regular fisherman at California's Lake Perris is unanimous: The water is lower than they've ever seen it.