Marisa Peñaloza | KUNC

Marisa Peñaloza

Marisa Peñaloza is a Producer on the National Desk. From breaking news to documentary-style features, Peñaloza's productions are among the signature pieces heard on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. Her work has covered a wide array of topics, from hurricanes, education, immigration, politics and the economy to homeland security and litigation. She has also produced investigative reports and traveled across the U.S. and the world for NPR.

Although Peñaloza's permanent assignment is on the National Desk, she occasionally travels overseas on assignment. She was in Haiti soon after the heartquake hit near Port au Prince in early 2010. She's covered education in Peru and a dengue outbreak in El Salvador, the Madrid train bombings in Spain as well as the Tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Last year, she traveled to Honduras to cover the sock industry as part of a two-part series on globalization and to El Salvador to produce a series of stories on immigration. Her past productions include coverage of the Elian Gonzalez custody battle from Miami, protests outside the Navy site on the Island of Viequez, in Puerto Rico, the aftermath of the crash of the American Airlines flight 587 in New York. She contributed to NPR's 9/11 coverage. Peñaloza was one of the first NPR staff members to arrive on the Virginia Tech campus to cover the shootings in 2007. She was on assignment in Houston waiting for hurricane Ike to make landfall in September 2008, and she continues to produce coverage of New Orleans recovery after Katrina.

Peñaloza is an award-winning journalist. This year, Peñaloza and a NPR team were honored with several awards for "Dirty Money," an enterprising four-part series of stories that examined law enforcement's pursuit of suspected drug money, which they can confiscate without filing charges against the person carrying it. Local police and sheriffs get to keep a portion of the cash. The awards for "Dirty Money" include the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award in the investigative reporting category; the Scripps Howard Foundation's National Journalism Foundation Award; and the RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award in the "best website" category.

In 2008, Peñaloza was honored by the Education Writers Association with its "National Award for Education Reporting" for a year-long NPR on-air and online series following a Baltimore-area high school's efforts to improve student achievement. She won the Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for Excellence in Reporting on Drug and Alcohol Problems in 2007, for a five-part series of stories that examined this country's gains and losses since the war on drugs was launched more than thirty years ago, "The Forgotten Drug Wars." She is the recipient of the 2005 unity award for producing Debbie Elliott's Brown vs Board of Education piece, "Before Desegregation: The Education Migration."

In 2003, Peñaloza produced a two-part story entitled "Corruption at the Gates." NPR correspondent John Burnett and Peñaloza discovered that some U.S. border officials are on the take, illegally passing drugs and immigrants into the country in return for bribes. The reports won them a National Headliner Award in the investigative reporting category.

In 2001, "Globalization and the Return of Dengue" won Peñaloza the Pan American Health Organization's Award for Excellence in International Health Reporting. The story was part of a series of stories for NPR and American Radio Works on globalization and disease.

Peñaloza made the leap from television to radio in 1997, when she joined NPR's National Desk. Before coming to NPR she was a staff at the local NBC station and a freelance writer for the Fox affiliate in Washington, DC.

Peñaloza graduated from the George Washington University in Washington, DC with bachelor's degrees in Broadcast Media and Political Science. She lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with her husband Eric Niiler, also a journalist, and son Diego.

It's early morning in northeast Syria. It's sunny and chilly. Capt. Alex Quataert briefs his soldiers on the day's patrol.

"In the last 48 hours we've had two attacks on critical petroleum infrastructure," he says.

The convoy will visit one of those sites today.

Over the past 41 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been buying up land on the lower Texas-Mexico border to protect one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America from developers and farmers.

But the Rio Grande Valley of Texas is a hotspot for illegal immigration and drug smuggling, as well as biodiversity. That's why the Trump administration is planning to build 110 miles of border wall through the valley (which is actually a river delta).

Mameyes is a small community of about 1,000 people high in Puerto Rico's central mountains. But in its own way, it is one of the leaders of Puerto Rico's energy future.

Francisco Valentin grew up in Mameyes, where he runs a small store. Even before Maria he had big ambitions for his town. After Maria, he knew he wanted his community to run on solar power. And with the help of foundations, charities and the University of Puerto Rico — not the government — he has done that, converting the town's school, health clinic and several other buildings.

Nearly two years after Hurricane Maria, the town of Utuado is finally getting a new bridge over the Viví River to replace the old concrete and steel one that was heavily damaged during the storm and has been closed ever since.

"This is the main road in and out of town," Héctor Cruz says, as a crew uses a crane and other heavy equipment to construct the new bridge. Cruz is the director of emergency management in Utuado, a community in the highlands of central Puerto Rico.

For the picturesque college town of Durham in southeastern New Hampshire, a reckoning came in 2017.

That was the year a complaint about the cultural appropriation of Cinco de Mayo spiraled into weeks of racial unrest, a boiling over of tensions that had simmered for years at the University of New Hampshire. Students who called out racist incidents faced a backlash of online bullying, swastikas and slurs, and the vandalism of sculptures that symbolized their cause.

Arivaca, Ariz., is a tiny village, population about 700, with an outsize problem.

It sits just 11 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and has become a magnet for self-styled militia groups from out of state that say they want to patrol the border and stop migrants. Their presence has strained a town that has long prided itself on its live-and-let-live, cooperative spirit.

When the women of Arivaca gather for Monday afternoon gentle yoga, there are certain topics they know to avoid.

As federal workers miss their first paychecks since the partial government shutdown began three weeks ago, frustration, anxiety and anger are rising.

Across the country this week, federal workers and industry leaders are starting to organize and rally to demand an end to the partial government shutdown.

"Trump, open the government — today," chanted the hundreds of federal employees and aviation industry executives gathered on the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

Jacinda says she has "no idea" what her family will do if the government shutdown continues past January. Her husband's last paycheck was Dec. 28 and, like many federal workers, he's unlikely to get his next one at the end of this week. He may not get the one after that, due at the end of January, either.

"Our rent is due, the electric bill is due, our cellphones are now past due," she says.

Her husband is a TSA officer in Portland, Ore., but he's not speaking publicly because the Transportation Security Administration forbids personnel to do so.

Despite the Trump administration's immigration clampdown, newly released data show the number of Central American families and unaccompanied children crossing the Southwest border illegally has risen sharply.

The government blames loopholes in U.S. immigration laws for acting as a magnet for immigrants. But there's another explanation. The push factors in impoverished regions in Central America are as powerful as ever.

The current drug addiction crisis began in rural America, but it's quickly spreading to urban areas and into the African-American population in cities across the country.

"It's a frightening time," says Dr. Edwin Chapman, who specializes in drug addiction in Washington, D.C., "because the urban African-American community is dying now at a faster rate than the epidemic in the suburbs and rural areas."

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