John Burnett

As a roving NPR correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett's beat stretches across the U.S., and, sometimes, around the world. Currently, he is serving as Southwest Correspondent for the National Desk.

In December 2012, he returned from a five-month posting in Nairobi as the East Africa Correspondent. Normally, he focuses on the issues and people of the Southwest United States, providing investigative reports and traveling the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. His special reporting projects have included New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, and many reports on the Drug War in the Americas. His reports are heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition.

Burnett has reported from more than 30 different countries since 1986. His 2008 four-part series "Dirty Money," which examined how law enforcement agencies have gotten hooked on and, in some cases, corrupted by seized drug money, won three national awards: a Scripps Howard National Journalism Award for Investigative Reporting, a Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists Award for Investigative Reporting and an Edward R. Murrow Award for the accompanying website. His 2007 three-part series "The Forgotten War," which took a critical look at the nation's 30-year war on drugs, won a Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for Excellence in Reporting on Drug and Alcohol Problems.

In 2006, Burnett's Uncivilized Beasts & Shameless Hellions: Travels with an NPR Correspondent was published by Rodale Press. In that year, he also served as a 2006 Ethics Fellow at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida.

In 2004, Burnett won a national Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for investigative reporting for his story on the accidental U.S. bombing of an Iraqi village. In 2003, he was an embedded reporter with the First Marine Division during the invasion of Iraq. His work was singled out by judges for the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award honoring the network's overall coverage of the Iraq War. Also in 2003, Burnett won a first place National Headliner Award for investigative reporting about corruption among federal immigration agents on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In the months following the attacks of Sept. 11, Burnett reported from New York City, Pakistan and Afghanistan. His reporting contributed to coverage that won the Overseas Press Club Award and an Alfred I. duPont Columbia University Award.

In 2001, Burnett reported and produced a one-hour documentary, "The Oil Century," for KUT-FM in Austin, which won a silver prize at the New York Festivals. He was a visiting faculty member in broadcast journalism at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in 2002 and 1997. He received a Ford Foundation Grant in 1997 for a special series on sustainable development in Latin America.

Burnett's favorite stories are those that reveal a hidden reality. He recalls happening upon Carlos Garcia, a Mexico City street musician who plays a musical leaf, a chance encounter that brought a rare and beautiful art form to a national audience. In reporting his series "Fraud Down on the Farm," Burnett spent nine months investigating the abuse of the United States crop insurance system and shining light on surprising stories of criminality.

Abroad, his report on the accidental U.S. Air Force bombing of the Iraqi village of Al-Taniya, an event that claimed 31 lives, helped listeners understand the fog of war. His "Cocaine Republics" series detailed the emergence of Central America as a major drug smuggling region. But listeners may say that one of his best remembered reports is an audio postcard he filed while on assignment in Peshawar, Pakistan, about being at six-foot-seven the "tallest American at a Death to America" rally.

Prior to coming to NPR, Burnett was based in Guatemala City for United Press International covering the Central America civil wars. From 1979-1983, he was a general assignment reporter for various Texas newspapers.

Burnett graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

Over the holidays, my family drove across the beautiful voids of west Texas and New Mexico and stopped at a lot of convenience stores for gas. Every time I went inside to use the loo, I saw them: giant displays of dried meat in every size and flavor.

I remember jerky almost ripping my molars out on car trips when I was kid. It's been around forever. So why the comeback?

Last year, there were emotional protests for and against a law that would allow Texans to walk around with pistols on their belts. It passed, and on Jan. 1, Texas became the 45th state in the union to allow the open carry of handguns.

But in an unforeseen backlash, the new law may actually hurt the cause of handgun carriers.

Federal immigration agents have initiated a controversial roundup of Central American families who were part of the border surge that began in 2014.

They are mainly young mothers with children whose asylum claims have been rejected. The Homeland Security Department says 121 have been picked up out of more than 100,000 immigrants who crossed the border illegally.

At a shelter home in East Austin, the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, have terrified immigrants here who lost their cases and await deportation.

Most nights, you can walk into a blues club and find a harmonica player blowing their heart out onstage. The wailing, honking sound associated with Western movies and juke joints is what many harp players have emulated for decades. But in the rarefied world of the harmonica, the earth has lately shifted on its axis — primarily because of one man.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

If you own a commercial building in America, chances are you're going to take out terrorism insurance. It has moved into the mainstream with the depressing frequency of international incidents. Six in 10 major businesses in America are insured for terrorism damage, according to the Insurance Information Institute, although the coverage is rarely used.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

A backlash against American Muslims is on the rise again after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris and last week's attacks in San Bernardino, Calif. Advocates say the number of hate crimes and harassment incidents today is nearly as bad as it was in the weeks after Sept. 11.

An anti-Muslim climate seems especially potent in the Dallas area.

The body of St. Maria Goretti, patron saint of purity and mercy, drew tens of thousands of the faithful to 54 American churches — from New Jersey to Illinois and Texas. It was the first time that the entire skeleton of a canonized saint — known in the Catholic Church as a relic — has come to the U.S.

Her bones, encased in a wax statue dressed in white, lay in a glass casket throughout the trip. People came to visit at each stop, standing in line, kneeling before the reliquary and holding prayer cards and rosaries against the glass.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been under fire for opening three detention centers to hold Central American immigrant families who fled to this country seeking asylum.

Under the pressure of a federal court order, ICE is now exploring ways to release the mothers and children with alternatives to detention — but human rights activists are unhappy that the same for-profit prison company that locked up the families now manages their cases after release.

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