The extraordinary stories of six ordinary heroes who made history, from the spy who saved D-Day to the greatest whistleblower of all time. One person can change the world. Here’s how.
The woman who brought down a notorious mob boss
Eunice Hunton Carter, a granddaughter of slaves, went on to become the lawyer who built the case against Charles “Lucky” Luciano, one the 20th century’s most powerful criminal kingpins. It was an assignment fraught with danger, but one Carter performed with tenacity, intelligence and a sense of mission, discovering the Achilles heel of a man who’d evaded prosecution for years.
She did so in the face of the entrenched racial and gender discrimination of the 1930s, whose impact on the historical record has only started to come clear. Her story was lost and buried for decades, and Carter—who went on to a successful legal career and advocated for social justice—is only now receiving her due.
The woman who reimagined the modern city
Gabriella Gómez-Mont is neither an urban planner nor an engineer nor a politician. She’s an artist. But as creative director of Mexico City’s Laboratorio para la Ciudad (Laboratory for the City), she has tackled some of the thorniest problems confronting the modern metropolis—with astonishing success. She and her team launched one of the biggest open data projects ever seen, drawing numbers from institutions and individuals, building map upon map of their city, to better understand challenges as varied as traffic deaths and social isolation.
Today, cities as far flung as Seoul and Manila seek Gómez-Mont's expertise. As host Sarmishta Subramanian puts it: “Her power of one is in a sense the power of millions—a faith in the talents and wisdom and energy of ordinary citizens, in ordinary neighbourhoods. A belief that change can be made thoughtfully, and for the better."
The world’s biggest whistleblower
One spring day, Bradley Birkenfeld boarded a flight out of Geneva, beginning a journey that would make him one of the greatest whistleblowers in financial history. The former banker with UBS provided information to U.S. authorities that would shatter Swiss banking secrecy and lead some 14,000 well-heeled Americans to fork over an astounding US$5 billion in unpaid taxes.
Abrasive and unsparing with criticism, Birkenfeld is not everyone’s model hero. He spent two and a-half years in a U.S. prison for helping a client evade taxes, yet collected a $104-million award for coming forward. Still, the enormity of his defining act is beyond dispute. So is the value of his perspective. He’s quick, for example, to note that many Canadians who banked with his former employer have never been called to account. “I’m bringing this news,” he says, “but nobody wants to talk about it.”
The woman who hunts illegal arms merchants
Kathi Lynn Austin has targeted, investigated and helped to bring down some of the world’s most dangerous arms dealers, exposing transactions that fuelled the Rwandan genocide and shutting down smuggling networks that helped power years of civil war in the Congo. But she is neither a cop nor a CIA agent nor a crusading prosecutor. … Continue reading "The woman who hunts illegal arms merchants"
The Man Who Stood Up To Putin
It’s been a decade since Sergei Magnitsky was tortured and killed in a Moscow prison. In that time, his name has become synonymous with rule-of-law and international justice—even as those principles come under attack around the world. It is memorialized on the laws of six countries allowing for sanctions against human rights offenders.
We explore the tragic but inspiring story of a mild-mannered tax lawyer who exposed corruption and theft in Vladimir Putin’s Russia; who was urged to flee his homeland, yet stayed to make his case. Sergei Magnitsky believed in the possibility of a Russia—of a world—where justice and truth prevailed. His sacrifice did not go in vain.
The fabulist who saved D-Day
On this 75th anniversary year of D-day, the world marked the invasion that started the liberation of France from Nazi rule. Forgotten in the celebrations was a lynchpin of that operation, a man operating very far from the front.Juan Pujol Garcia was perhaps the most important spy from WWII. As Agent GARBO, he walked into the innermost circles of the Third Reich, earned the Nazis’ trust, and fed them a pack of lies. His tour de force: persuading the Germans of a fabulously fake Allies battle plan for D-Day that diverted their troops and made the Normandy landings a success. A Spanish chicken farmer turned double agent, he tricked the Nazis, fooled his own wife, and helped the Allies win the war.GUESTS: Jason Webster, author of The Spy with 29 Names; Nigel West, author of Operation Garbo: The Personal Story of the Most Successful Spy of World War II