Category Archives: NPR

The Other Side Of The Northern Border: Canada Grapples With Refugees Transiting US

The Canada border at Roxham Road near Champlain, New York. Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police staff this unofficial crossing 24 hours a day. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

CHAMPLAIN, New York—Washington has ended a temporary residency program for almost 60,000 Haitians allowed to legally enter the United States following an earthquake in 2010. The affected Haitians will have to leave the US by 2019. The program has also been revoked for two thousand Nicaraguans and it’s unclear if other groups including 300,000 Salvadorans will be allowed to remain. The net result is a continued flow of people crossing the border into Canada by foot. They are taking advantage of a footnote in a Canada-US treaty that says foot crossers won’t be turned back from Canada until their case is heard.

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The Canada border at Roxham Road near Champlain, New York. Canada's Royal Canadian Mounted Police staff this unofficial crossing 24 hours a day. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

After cresting this past summer, the story continues to unfold at places such as Roxham Road, north of Champlain in upstate New York. The United States Border Patrol in Swanton says illegal crossings on foot into Canada are also taking place in Vermont. Only now, before they cross on foot, people like Mansour, a 37-year-old engineer from Yemen, are met by a group of women, Canadians and Americans, that includes Janet McFetridge of Champlain.

A man from Congo speaks with RCMP officers after illegally entering Canada. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

The man from Congo was then frisked before being processed in the white trailer. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

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Guatemala: Constitutional Standoff Threatens Central America’s Largest Economy

A banner left by Guatemalan prosecutors at a seized ranch owned by a now convicted politically connected drug trafficker reads “Evidence.” Guatemalan and foreign prosecutors in the Int’l Commission Against Impunity In Guatemala (CICIG) are investigating multiple Guatemalans politicians. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

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GUATEMALA CITY—A constitutional standoff between the Guatemalan president and a United Nations-led commission prosecuting corruption is triggering a crisis that Guatemala’s Central Bank acknowledges may damage the country’s economy and spawn more illegal migration to the United States. Guatemalans in Vermont are among many within the Guatemalan diaspora in the United States dismayed by an attack on political reform but buoyed by the response of thousands of their countrymen and women inside Guatemala.

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A banner left by Guatemalan prosecutors at a seized ranch owned by a now convicted politically connected drug trafficker reads "Evidence." Guatemalan and foreign prosecutors in the Int'l Commission Against Impunity In Guatemala (CICIG) are investigating multiple Guatemalans politicians. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

Guatemalan citizens carry an empty coffin in front of Guatemala’s National Palace. The coffin symbolizes what demonstrators called the death of democracy following their president’s attempt to expel the head of CICIG. (photo: Gabriel Wer)

 

In 2007, the UN helped establish the International Commission Against Impunity In Guatemala, known by its Spanish acronym, CICIG. The commission’s mandate is the targeting and prosecution of deep-rooted corruption, a corrosive force in Guatemala’s politics, economy and judicial system for generations. CICIG’s investigations helped force the resignation of a sitting Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina in 2015. He is currently in jail awaiting trial while his case proceeds after CICIG charged him and his former vice president Roxana Baldetti in a corruption case. The case is known as La Línea (The Line) in which the Guatemalan customs agency offered companies bringing goods into Guatemala reduced import duties in return for money that was shared among dozens of government officials.

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US-Owned Maquilas Welcome Prospect Of Changes To NAFTA

Alberto Martinez welds steel at a maquila owned by Metal Industries of Florida. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

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Alberto Martinez welds steel at a maquila in Reynosa, Mexico owned by Metal Industries of Florida (photo: Lorne Matalon)

REYNOSA, Mexico–American-owned assembly-line factories known as maquilas that line the Mexican side of the border with the U.S. have been bracing for change since the election of Donald Trump. But not in the way you might expect. They clearly don’t want a border tax placed on their shipments to the United States, as the Trump administration has threatened. But they are embracing the possibility of an updated Nafta saying the current version makes it a harder to operate in Mexico compared to the U.S. It all has to do with time consuming paperwork.

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Maquila managers and trade groups interviewed in both countries see regulatory uncertainty as an opportunity. “Nafta is 30 years old. It hasn’t kept up with today’s economy,” said Mike Myers, a Texan who runs a maquila owned by Metal Industries, a Florida company that makes vents for air conditioners and heating systems.

Mike Myers, a maquila manager in Reynosa, Mexico. He opposes a border tax but supports an updated Nafta. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

Maquilas are foreign-owned factories in Mexico, many American-owned, that produce goods for export. Mexican and Asian interests also own maquilas, which sprung up like mushrooms after the rain when NAFTA took effect in 1994. Maquilas leverage low labor costs in Mexico and duty free access to the U.S. market to produce everything from televisions to medical equipment to computer parts. Continue reading

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Program Frontera Sur: Migrants Running Gauntlet On Guatemala-Mexico Border

The words read, “Christ Lives.” Migrants and goods such as oil and foodstuffs are transported illegally on a raft below a bridge that is an official port of entry between Mexico and Guatemala. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

ARRIAGA, Chiapas — The town of Arriaga in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas perfectly encapsulates how migration through Mexico has changed since 2014. Located three hours and 11 checkpoints north of the Guatemala border, it’s a former hub of trains known collectively as La Bestia, or The Beast.

But now, the train only comes here to bring in work crews who are repairing the tracks. Migrants who once lined the tracks have been replaced by police and Mexican immigration agents. They circle the town in trucks after months of raids, pulling migrants off trains and erecting concrete walls with barbed wire near the tracks to prevent access.

Migrants still show up here though, albeit in far fewer numbers.

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Health Risks Of Living In US Border Colonias Prompt Funding Increase Proposal

A water storage bucket near Presidio, Texas. The Texas Secretary of State said 38,000 Texans living in border settlements known as colonias have no running water. The Obama administration proposes that the four border states receiving federal funding for low income housing increase the amount those states spend for colonia improvement. (Lorne Matalon)

A water storage bucket near Presidio, Texas. The Texas Secretary of State said 38,000 Texans living in border settlements known as colonias have no running water. The Obama administration proposes that the four border states receiving federal funding for low income housing increase the amount those states spend for colonia improvement. (Lorne Matalon)

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A version of this story also aired on the Texas Standard from KUT Austin

Thousands of mostly poor Hispanic people live in border communities called colonias with no access to running water or electricity.

Now, the Obama administration wants the four border states that receive federal funds for colonia improvement to increase spending there by 50 percent.

The announcement comes as scientists say potential health consequences of living in colonias are too severe to ignore.

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Mexican Venture Capital Seeks Gold In Rubble Of Oil Downturn

The growing number of oil rigs pulled in from the oilfield and stored in this lot in Odessa, Texas, is a testament to the steep decline in the price of crude oil in the last year. (Lorne Matalon)

The growing number of oil rigs pulled in from the oilfield and stored in this lot in Odessa, Texas, is a testament to the steep decline in the price of crude oil in the last year. (Lorne Matalon)

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ODESSA, Texas — Mexican venture capital is hovering over distressed energy companies in the Permian Basin of Texas, the nation’s highest-producing oil field.

Those companies — including oil and gas drillers, and service companies — crafted budgets when the price of crude oil was $100 per barrel. It’s now in the $50 range. And those companies need capital that banks in the United States are sometimes reluctant to give in an oil downturn.

“This is a buyers’ market right now,” said Carlos Cantú, an investor from Juárez.

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“World Views” Interview With Zach Messitte: Mexico, Cartels & Mexican Election 2012

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Lorne Matalon joins the program for a conversation with Zach and Alan McPherson about the escalating drug violence in Latin America. “WorldViews” is produced by NPR member station KGOU at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK.

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Soldier Who Fought for Adopted Land Dies in Iraq

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Lee Christian Wilson died in northern Iraq after a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle. Wilson lived in in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A legal resident of the United States, Wilson was a Canadian citizen who joined the U.S. Army in 2001 to fight for his adopted country.

Lee Christian Wilson, a Canadian citizen, was killed when a roadside bomb exploded on a road in Mosul, Iraq, on Sept. 6, 2007. The military is working to grant Wilson U.S. citizenship posthumously.

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Panama Canal Expansion Plan

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Almost 70 percent of all the cargo that comes or goes from this country winds up passing through the Panama Canal. It’s cheaper to slip through that 51-mile passage than to send all those goods down around the bottom of South America. But as the global economy expands, so too do the container ships that carry those goods.

Work is about to begin on a project to make the canal big enough for its new super-sized customers. A project that comes with a super-sized price tag. Lorne Matalon reports now from Panama on who’s going to pay it.

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Protesting Torture Flights

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A Johnston County judge has convicted three people of trespassing. But he dismissed charges against five others who were arrested after trying to serve citizens’ arrest warrants against pilots for a private air transport company based at the County Airport in Smithfield. Aero Contractors has been accused by the German government of flying terrorism suspects to countries where they face torture. Lorne Matalon reports the case raises questions about alleged acts that the US government doesn’t want to be formally responsible for.

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A Somber All-American Week at Fort Bragg

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Each year, the city of Fayetteville, N.C., celebrates All-American Week to honor the military service members who serve at nearby Fort Bragg.

Organizers canceled this year’s event because so many soldiers are deployed overseas, and many Bragg-based personnel have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past few months.

But one event would not be canceled — a memorial for recently fallen members of the 82nd Airborne Division. Even as the service took place Wednesday, other 82nd Airborne paratroopers were getting ready for imminent deployment.

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Duke Lacrosse Team Starts a Fresh Season

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Duke University’s men’s lacrosse team begins a new season Saturday. The 2006 season was suspended after rape allegations and a case plagued by conflicting testimony. Lorne Matalon of North Carolina Public Radio reports on the team’s efforts to press ahead.

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Passaro Found Guilty

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Update: A live version of this story is available below.

 

A former CIA contractor from North Carolina was found guilty on charges he beat an Afghan detainee who later died while in custody. David Passaro was found guilty on three counts of simple assault and one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury. He was the first American civilian charged with prisoner abuse since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began. Lorne Matalon reports.

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Fishermen Struggle to Survive

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North Carolina’s commercial fishermen and women are facing severe economic challenges right now. There are fewer fish to harvest, and developers are buying up the waterfront land where fisherman dock their boats and unload their catch. So fewer people are making their living in a profession that has been a hallmark of the state’s maritime heritage. North Carolina Public Radio’s Lorne Matalon reports.

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Haitian Police Chief Battles Widespread Corruption

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Haitians line up outside a gov't building to get identification cards needed to cast ballots in an upcoming election.

As Haiti’s president-elect Rene Preval takes power, the man who must try to keep order during this transition is considered a reformer and rarely grants access to Western media. Mario Andresol is the recently appointed chief of the Haitian National Police.

Andresol has started a purge of the force. At considerable risk, he has arrested dozens of officers he says are involved in drug trafficking, organized kidnapping rings and politically motivated killings. His efforts to clean up the police force have made him a symbol of reform.

“The system is corrupted,” Andresol says. “The system is spoiled. You cannot have a new government in the same system as we have now. Unfortunately, everyone only thinks about elections and how to become president. And yet at the same time, our system that we have now, the establishment, is spoiled, and corrupt.”

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N.C. Town Mourns Army Spc. Kevin Jones

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The coastal town Washington, N.C. is mourning the death of Army Spc. Kevin Jones, who was killed by a roadside bomb while serving on his second tour in Iraq. Friends and family say the 21-year-old was as a thoughtful, sensitive soldier who was concerned that anti-war protests were undermining the effort in Iraq. Lorne Matalon of North Carolina Public Radio has a remembrance.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The coastal North Carolina town of Washington is mourning the death of Army Specialist Kevin Jones. He was killed by a roadside bomb while serving on his second tour in Iraq. Friends recall the 21-year-old as a sensitive man deeply affected by the ongoing debate over US operations in Iraq. North Carolina Public Radio’s Lorne Matalon has this remembrance.

LORNE MATALON reporting:

Friends say Kevin McCray Jones was a rambunctious child, one who loved to roam and discover, a Boy Scout who once nurtured a wayward turtle before returning it to the sea. The path he followed to the Army began in ROTC class at Washington High School. Tom Meeks was Jones’ ROTC instructor. He’s teaching a new class how to move in unison as his students get ready for a parade.

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Mongolian Reindeer Herders: A Vanishing Breed

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Sanjim, 64, has been a nomadic reindeer herder since childhood.

Carving a life out of the rugged Mongolian landscape was never easy. Now rich elements of a nomadic culture are in danger of disappearing. As part of the “Worlds of Difference” series on cultural change aired on NPR, Lorne Matalon visited with the Tsachin — nomads who herd reindeer. He learned that Mongolia’s domesticated reindeer population has fallen to fewer than 700 animals, maintained by 44 families who are trying to hold on to a centuries-old way of life.

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