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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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Multiple news outlets are reporting that President-elect Donald Trump will nominate retired General John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Kelly would be the latest in a string of military officers that Trump wants on his White House team. DHS enforces immigration and border security laws, topics that were central to Trump's campaign platform. He promised to build a wall along the southern border...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: There's been a rash of small earthquakes in Oklahoma and Texas in recent years. Scientists say many of these earthquakes are caused by oil and gas operators pumping their wastewater underground. In Texas, a new oil discovery could mean even more drilling wastewater to dispose of. The two states have very different views on how to deal with the quake problem. We're going to hear from two reporters now, one in each...

Desperate Haitian immigrants have been massing along the U.S.-Mexico border for months seeking humanitarian relief. In the past year more than 5,000 have sought entry into the United States — a 500 percent increase over the previous year. After the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti, thousands of citizens migrated to Brazil looking for work. But as Brazil has slipped into recession in recent years, many of them have hit the road again, heading north on a 6,000-mile journey to the U.S....

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. DAVID GREENE, HOST: During the campaign, Donald Trump talked tough about immigration wherever he went. And judging from an interview the other night on the CBS program "60 Minutes," no reason to think he won't follow through with at least some action. Trump said he definitely plans to build a barrier on the U.S.-Mexican border. He said he is not going to round up all 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. as he vowed during...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. DAVID GREENE, HOST: All right, Steve, let's indeed go across that border and into the state of Texas, which handed Donald Trump 38 electoral votes last night. Any hope the Democrats had of younger Latino voters turning the Lone Star State blue were wiped out by Trump's very strong support among white men, which was a trend across the country. NPR's John Burnett covers Texas and the U.S. border. He joins us from San Antonio. Good...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: Last night, as the election results poured in, NPR's Sarah McCammon was at Donald Trump's victory party, talking to the supporters about the impact of the Republican nominee's victory. Trump supporter Robin Hall (ph) said she expected Trump would work for the many voters who opposed him. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST) ROBIN HALL: I do think that all the minorities have been disenfranchised in the past. I...

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Edit note: This report includes some graphic scenes. The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas originated in prison in the early 1980s as a protection racket for white inmates, but as the tattooed gang members were released into the free world, they became one of the most violent crime syndicates in America. Two years ago, the Justice Department trumpeted that it had "decapitated" the leadership of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, or ABT. Seventy-three gang members were convicted, including all five...

On Oct. 2, 1835, a small group of rebellious colonists in what is now South Texas defied Mexican rule with the memorable battle cry: "Come and take it!" The dare referred to a small brass cannon, but it became a declaration of Texas' independence and grit as famous as "Remember the Alamo." Today, you can see a twist of the historic slogan on the Come and Wash It Laundromat and Come and Style It beauty salon, both in the town of Gonzales . What chaps some townfolk, though, is how activists and...

A group of inmates in Texas is suing the state prison system, the nation's largest, arguing that extreme heat is killing older and infirm convicts. The inmates allege it constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" and they're asking the courts for relief. The six plaintiffs are doing time in the Wallace Pack Unit, located in the humid pasturelands between Austin and Houston. Daily measurements taken by the National Weather Service show that since the beginning of this summer, the peak heat...

It's no wonder that in Texas, home to the largest prison system in the nation and the busiest death chamber in the developed world, there's a museum about its prisons. To find it just look for the sign with the ball and chain on Interstate 45, north of Houston. Jim Willett, the Texas Prison Museum director, is not your typical museum docent. His deep knowledge of the artifacts of state-ordered punishment comes from the years he oversaw the looming, red-brick penitentiary in downtown...

Polls show that the idea of building a wall across the southern border remains unpopular with the general public and especially in the U.S. borderlands . But not everyone living near the international divide opposes a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico. Donald Trump has a small, zealous following along the southern frontier. Hudspeth County, in far West Texas, has desert, mountains, cactus, coyotes and 250 Republicans. The GOP county chair is Maria Guadalupe Dempsey. She looks as sweet as a...

If you watch a watermelon harvest you may never think about the pink summery fruit again the same way. Two pickers walk the rows. They bend over and grab the 20-pound gourds and pitch them to a man perched on the side of a dump truck, who heaves them up to another catcher in the truck bed. The pickers have arms like Popeye and the timing of acrobats. They like this crop because the bigger the melons the more they can earn. These days, field hands in the Rio Grande Valley are supposed to earn...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The calculated killing of five uniformed officers would be traumatic for any metropolitan police department in America, but it has fallen especially hard in Dallas, where the police force already suffers from low pay and poor morale. Citizens in Dallas are rallying around their officers in blue, suggesting the events could be a turning point for the embattled department. Since the July 7 rampage, heartwarming scenes of support for the Dallas police have unfolded in front of the fortresslike...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Women who want an abortion in deeply conservative Texas have slightly more choice these days than they had a few months ago. In March, the Food and Drug Administration simplified rules on abortion medication, allowing patients to take the standard regimen of abortion drugs later in a pregnancy. However, the recent spike in the number of women choosing legal, non-surgical abortions in U.S. clinics has not slowed brisk sales of abortion drugs south of the border, in Mexican pharmacies. One of...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Immigrants fleeing gang violence in Central America are again surging across the U.S.-Mexico border, approaching the numbers that created an immigration crisis in the summer of 2014 . While the flow of immigrants slowed for much of last year, nothing the U.S. government does seems to deter the current wave of travelers. Immigration officials opened controversial family detention camps in south Texas. They publicized immigration roundups earlier this year, with more to come. A big U.S. public...

There are things that happen in Texas that you just can't make up, such as Diamondback Day at the state Capitol building in Austin. On a cool weekend in February, a dozen of the coiled pit vipers rattle menacingly in an outdoor rotunda where cheerful handlers let visitors pet them. It's all in good fun. The Jaycees in the West Texas town of Sweetwater bring the snakes down every year as a public relations gimmick to promote their annual rattlesnake roundup, held every March over three days ....

The federal government's controversial immigrant family detention camps in south Texas are back in court. A Texas state judge has blocked a state agency from licensing the childcare facility inside a mammoth, 2,400-bed private lock-up. The detention facility was opened to temporarily confine undocumented mothers and children who have been surging across the Texas-Mexico border fleeing dangerous conditions in Central America. Immigrant advocates and detainees have complained bitterly that...

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There is a pistol-packing revolution going on in America. Nearly 13 million Americans have permits to carry concealed handguns — triple the number just nine years ago — and that figure is low because not every state reports. It's puzzling that so many Americans are choosing to arm themselves at a time when the FBI tells us violent crime and property crime have been falling dramatically for two decades. In search of handgun permit holders, I drove out to the Texas Firearms Festival , an...

Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, there is a bronze chest filled with gold and precious gems. The search for this hidden treasure has become a hobby for some, an obsession for others, and for one recent searcher — a fatal pursuit. The man behind the treasure is Forrest Fenn, an 85-year-old millionaire, former Vietnam fighter pilot, self-taught archaeologist, and successful art dealer in Santa Fe, N.M. "No one knows where that treasure chest is but me," Fenn says. "If I die tomorrow, the...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. DAVID GREENE, HOST: Here is President Obama yesterday. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) BARACK OBAMA: Canada's joining us in our aggressive goal to bring down methane emissions in the oil and gas sectors in both of our countries. GREENE: Cutting methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent over the next nine years. That is the president's latest effort to curb greenhouse gasses. And let's learn more about methane emissions from NPR's John...

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