Tom Banse

Tom Banse covers business, environment, public policy, human interest and national news across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be heard during "Morning Edition," "Weekday," and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Before taking his current beat, Tom covered state government and the Washington Legislature for 12 years. During the early 1990s, he worked in the Seattle bureau of United Press International. He got his start in radio at WCAL–FM, a public station in southern Minnesota. Reared in Seattle, Tom graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a degree in American Studies. In 1996, he spent two months reporting from Bonn and Berlin, Germany on an Arthur F. Burns Fellowship. In 1999, he traversed the globe to cover the Pacific Rim (Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan) on a Jefferson Fellowship.

When not sifting through press releases, listening to lobbyists, or driving lonely highways, Tom enjoys exploring the Olympic Peninsula backcountry and cooking dinner with his wife and friends. Tom's secret ambition is to take six months off work and travel to a faraway place where there are no radios.

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NPR Story
8:37 am
Tue August 19, 2014

Five Hospitals In Washington And Oregon Among Victims Of Computer Hack

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 10:56 am

A national hospital chain says it suspects Chinese hackers breached its computer system earlier this year. Patients whose doctors work with any of five hospitals in the Northwest might have had financial data stolen.

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NPR Story
12:42 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

What Happens When 911 Callers Don't Speak English?

Dispatch supervisor Brenda Faxon and director Mark Buchholz in the Willamette Valley 911 Communications Center in Salem.

Originally published on Mon August 18, 2014 9:04 pm

In an emergency, the last thing you want to hear is, "I can't understand you." The reality is emergency dispatchers in the Northwest generally speak one language, English. But in our increasingly polyglot society, some people in distress inevitably can't communicate in English.

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Public Safety
10:16 am
Mon August 18, 2014

How Northwest Emergency Dispatchers Get Help To 911 Callers Who Don't Speak English

Dispatch supervisor Brenda Faxon and director Mark Buchholz in the Willamette Valley 911 Communications Center in Salem.
Credit Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

In an emergency, the last thing you want to hear is, "I can't understand you." The reality is emergency dispatchers in the Northwest generally speak one language, English. But in our increasingly polyglot society, some people in distress inevitably can't communicate in English.

A recent emergency call came in to the Willamette Valley 911 Center in Salem, Oregon where the caller didn't speak the same language as the dispatcher. This call could have happened anywhere in the West. A call in a foreign language is a near-daily occurrence in this region's urban counties.

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Wildlife
5:51 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Triple Rescue And Rehab Ends Well For Lucky Ospreys

Rehabbed osprey flies away after its release Wednesday in Finley, Washington.
Andrea Berglin

Originally published on Sun August 17, 2014 6:23 pm

Three young ospreys and a parent are flying free along the Columbia River today after surviving close calls with litter.

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Wildlife
4:00 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Feds Decide Wolverine Does Not Merit Threatened Species Status

File photo

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 4:36 pm

The wolverine is not going on the threatened species list after all. Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced federal protected status for the fierce and rare carnivore is unwarranted at this time.

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Science
9:32 am
Mon August 11, 2014

Are Western Wildfires Really Getting Worse? 3 Recent Studies Say No

Smoke rises from the Snag Canyon fire burning in southeast Washington.
Credit Inciweb

It might seem like fire season is as bad as it’s ever been. But there’s a group of researchers who question that prevailing wisdom.

Three fresh science papers from separate institutions each makes the case that today's forest fires in the West burn less than in historical times. One of the co-authors is Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon.

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NPR Story
8:42 am
Mon August 11, 2014

Seattle Runner Smashes Speed Record For Full Length Of Pacific Crest Trail

Seattle native Joe McConaughy reached the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail in record time Sunday.

Originally published on Mon August 11, 2014 11:23 am

A 23-year-old Seattle man has smashed the speed record for hiking the full length of the Pacific Crest Trail. Recent college grad Joe McConaughy crossed into Canada on Sunday, exactly 53 days, 6 hours and 37 minutes after leaving the Mexican border on the storied trail.

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NPR Story
6:36 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Is Wildfire Severity Really Getting Worse?

File photo. Is this year's fire season the worst it has ever been? New research suggest it is not.

Originally published on Mon August 11, 2014 11:21 am

It might seem like fire season is as bad as it's ever been. But there's a group of researchers who question that prevailing wisdom.

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Wildlife
10:38 am
Wed August 6, 2014

Fatal Attraction: Ospreys In A Bind With Baling Twine, Fishing Line

This is how ospreys' unhealthy affinity for baling twine can kill. Idaho Fish and Game biologist Beth Waterbury rescued this osprey in the nick of time.
Beth Waterbury Idaho Fish and Game

Originally published on Wed August 6, 2014 4:21 pm

Osprey nests are a common sight near rivers, lakes and bays in the Northwest. If you look closely with binoculars, you might notice some of these large raptors like to line their nests with discarded baling twine or fishing line. The problem is it can kill them.

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NPR Story
6:41 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

How A Fat Grizzly Bear Could Help You Avoid Diabetes

Washington State University is home to the nation's only captive grizzly bear research center.

Washington State University’s mascot is the cougar, but the university is also home to the nation’s only captive grizzly bear research center. A new study involving those bears yields insights into possible therapies for human obesity and diabetes.

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NPR Story
6:09 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Oregon Terminal Developer Gets Blessing For Natural Gas Exports

File photo of an LNG terminal in Nynashamn, Sweden.

A proposed liquefied natural gas terminal near Astoria, Oregon, received the U.S. Department of Energy’s blessing Thursday to export to all overseas markets. It's a necessary approval to make the controversial project pencil out, but many hurdles remain.

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Agriculture
6:19 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Northwest Farmers Worried About Visa Backup For Legal Migrant Workers

File photo of workers at a berry farm outside of Eltopia, Washington.

Originally published on Wed July 30, 2014 8:03 pm

A breakdown in a U.S. State Department computer system that processes foreign worker visas has sowed major worries at some Northwest orchards.

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Local Government
9:21 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Pierce County First In Northwest To Approve 'In God We Trust' Motto Display

File photo from the exterior of the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

A divided county council in Pierce County, Washington Tuesday voted to display the motto "In God We Trust" in its chambers. That makes it the first jurisdiction in the Northwest to become part of a national campaign to feature the motto.

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Research
4:45 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

USGS Tries Listening To Human Racket To Understand Seismic Hazards

A seismic "thumper" used to map earthquake faults.
Horemu Wikimedia Commons

Originally published on Fri July 25, 2014 6:22 pm

Research geologists have just finished a field trial to test a less invasive way to complete seismic hazard surveys.

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Business
6:25 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Alaska Air Says It's Holding Its Own Against Delta Onslaught

An Alaska Airlines 737 plane.
Alaska Airlines

The intensifying competition between Alaska Airlines and rival Delta Air Lines in the Western skies does not seem to be hurting the bottom line of either company.

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NPR Story
5:47 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Donors Pay To Test Seawater For Traces Of Fukushima Radiation

Fukushima seawater radiation plume dispersal model by Rossi et. al.
Deep-Sea Research journal

It's been more than three years since the Fukushima nuclear plant accident resulted in a spill of millions of gallons of radioactive cooling water into the Pacific. Oceanographers projected that it could take until this year for highly diluted traces of that spill in Japan to reach the West Coast of North America.

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NPR Story
6:53 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Washington Governor Asks For Cooperation With Fire Evacuation Requests

Smoke billows over US Highway 97 near Pateros, Washington, on Friday.

More than a dozen wildfires in eastern Washington and eastern Oregon continue to threaten homes and cause numerous road closures. Washington Governor Jay Inslee Friday asked residents near those fires to heed evacuation notices when issued.

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Wildlife
9:44 am
Thu July 17, 2014

Endangered Species Listing For Wolverine Looking Doubtful

File photo of a wolverine

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 1:22 pm

A federal threatened species listing for the wolverine is looking increasingly unlikely.

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NPR Story
9:44 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Feds To Remove Fewer Wild Horses From Western Rangelands This Year

File photo of the August 2010 Wild Horse Gather by the Bureau of Land Management at the Stinkingwater Herd Management Area near Burns, Oregon.

The federal Bureau of Land Management plans to capture and remove fewer wild horses from Western rangelands this summer. An agency statement blames budget constraints and already-full holding pens.

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Wildfires
2:35 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

How Wildland Firefighters Deal With Triple-Digit Heat

A portable, temporary air monitor was placed on the roof of the high school in Entiat and has been collecting samples since Thursday. Note the ground-hugging wildfire smoke in background.
Credit Courtesy of Chelan County Emergency Management

Fire crews across the Northwest are dealing with sizzling hot temperatures not just from flames, but also a general heat wave.

You can't wear shorts and a T-shirt to a firefight. So how do you stay cool and functional on the fire line when the thermometer is pushing triple digits? U.S. Forest Service spokesman Joe Anderson says "the main thing is to stay hydrated" and pace yourself.

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