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Episode 62: On Patrol

This week, we walk the US-Canada border with Border Patrol agents, and hear the concerns of civil rights lawyers who worry about their ability to stop people they suspect of living in the country without documentation. We’ll also hear the story of an unusual experiment proposed for Martha’s Vineyard, one that asks residents to trust a scientist who’s trying to stop the spread of Lyme disease. We meet a man who’s become a Boston institution while playing music in a bear suit. And we go to church on an uninhabited island.

U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brad Brant on the U.S. -Canada border in Highgate, Vt. Photo by Ryan Caron King for NENC

South of the Border


United States Border Patrol agents are dedicated to protecting the border 24 hours a day, monitoring for things like drug smuggling and human trafficking. Their jurisdiction also extends significantly inland. Within 100 miles of the border and the coastline they have broad authority to stop cars for immigration questions.

Civil rights advocates say recent stops in New Hampshire and Vermont are concerning. Vermont Public Radio’s Kathleen Masterson reports.

Carlos Rafael’s fleet, nearly one fifth of the fishing fleet in New Bedford, Massachusetts, photographed on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016.  Photo by Tristan Spinksi for Mother Jones/FERN.

Earlier this year we brought you the intriguing true crime story of Carlos Rafael, also know as “The Codfather.” Back in March, the New Bedford Massachusetts – based fishing magnate plead guilty to 28 counts of fraud. The Codfather grossly under-reported his catch – at the expense of smaller fishermen who lacked the permits to bring in more valuable fish.

Last week, Rafael was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison, plus a $200,000 fine. Because of his outsized influence, Rafael’s imprisonment has the potential to reshape New England’s groundfishing business. To learn more, we invited back Ben Goldfarb, a freelance journalist who’s covered the case of the Codfather for Mother Jones Magazine and the Food and Environment Reporting Network.

Veteran Cindy McGuirk speaks up for women veterans at a town hall meeting addressing concerns about the Manchester VA on July 31, 2017. Photo by Peter Biello for NHPR

NEXT  has also been keeping an eye on problems at the VA medical center in Manchester, New Hampshire. This past July, the Boston Globe Spotlight Team published an investigative report detaining unsanitary conditions and patient neglect at the VA – a facility that was given a four-star rating by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The next day, two top officials were removed. Two days after that, a pipe burst, flooding five floors at the hospital. One of those spaces was dedicated to women’s health. Now, as the Manchester VA rebuilds itself, some see an opportunity to improve the experience for women veterans. New Hampshire Public Radio’s Peter Biello reports.

Surrounded by Water


Not only was Lyme Disease discovered here in New England, it’s had a pretty profound effect. As we’ve reported, the Northeast has the biggest concentration of Lyme cases, and the problem seems to be getting worse. Public health officials have tried all sorts of efforts to cut down on the transmission of the disease, which is spread by deer ticks – after they are infected by rodent hosts.

Geneticist Kevin Esvelt (right) takes questions from a Martha’s Vineyard audience. in July 2016. Photo by Annie Minoff for Science Friday

One of the places with the highest concentrations of Lyme cases is also one of New England’s most famous vacation destinations: Martha’s Vineyard. That’s where the podcast Undiscovered went to track a geneticist who’s proposing a novel solution – releasing genetically modified mice on the island. Undiscovered co-host Annie Minoff joins us to talk about a science experiment that has as much to do with people and politics as mice and ticks.

Margie Howe Emmons sits in the outdoor chapel on Chocurua Island on New Hampshire’s Squam Like. Photo by Sean Hurley for NHPR

Every Sunday morning through the summer, a bell rings out three times from an island in the middle of Squam Lake. It’s a signal that boaters, kayakers, and even swimmers, should begin to make their way to the island – because church is about to start.

With a granite boulder serving as an altar and music from a hand cranked organ, Chocurua Island has hosted religious services of all kinds for more than a hundred years. New Hampshire Public Radio’s Sean Hurley visited the island with one of its most devoted caretakers.

Net Zero

The all-concrete “Home Run House” in Warren, VT. Photo by Jon Kalish for NENC

We’ve been bringing you stories of super-energy-efficient housing as part of our series, The Big Switch. Most of these dwellings use a combination of traditional building materials, some high tech advancements, and renewable energy sources like solar and geothermal to get to what’s called “net zero” – meaning NO fossil fuels. Reporter Jon Kalish found another such building in the small town of Warren, Vermont. But the key to this house is its unconventional building material.

Renderings show the “Home Run House” when complete. Image courtesy of Dave Sellers.

Bostonians are not exactly known for the warm fuzzies, but in recent years a fuzzy, costumed street performer has won the affection of many in New England’s largest city. The busker dresses in a bear suit, plays the keytar, and is known as Keytar Bear.

Freelance reporter Carol Vassar wanted to know more about the bear, and the man inside the costume. She brings us this report.

A post on the “We Love Keytar Bear” Facebook page after the performer was attacked by teenagers this June.

About NEXT

NEXT is produced at WNPR.
Host: John Dankosky
Producer: Andrea Muraskin
Executive Producer: Catie Talarski
Contributors to this episode: Kathleen Masterson, Ben Goldfarb, Peter Biello, Annie Minoff, Sean Hurley, Jon Kalish, and Carol Vassar
Music: Todd Merrell, “New England” by Goodnight Blue Moon

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We appreciate your feedback! Send praise, critique, suggestions, questions, and story leads next@wnpr.org. Tweet your Keytar Bear photos to us @NEXTNewEngland.