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.

The sound of tsunami warning sirens sent hundreds of people in Seaside, Oregon scurrying on foot to higher ground today. The resort town held a community-wide evacuation drill.

Seaside High School students had to trot more than a mile to get to safety. Seaside is considered among the more vulnerable population centers on the Northwest coast. The majority of the town would be flooded in a major tsunami. Other coastal towns are planning similar evacuation drills later this month, including Coos Bay and Garibaldi.

Oregon State University

Rare, once-lost historic records about pioneer Chinese immigrants to the Northwest have found a new life online. The digital archive is hosted by Oregon State University. A Chinese-American civic group hopes the document trove can help families locate ancestors gone missing early in the last century.

Hanson Dodge Creative

Some Olympic hopefuls are lucky. They have six-figure endorsement contracts and can concentrate solely on training for peak performance. More commonly, dreams of Olympic glory mean scrounging for dollars. One runner from Eugene even auctioned his left shoulder on eBay recently. 

Eugene-based runner Nick Symmonds began his outdoor campaign for a spot on the 2012 Olympic team this past weekend.

Geologists have discovered two previously unknown earthquake faults -- and possibly a third -- near Bellingham, Washington. The scientists working for the U.S. Geological Survey believe the shallow faults are capable of spawning damaging tremors.

The team of geologists from California and western Washington had a hunch there would be active earthquake faults near the U.S.-Canada border. Similar faults run right under Seattle and Tacoma. So they started looking in earnest five years ago.

A day after Oregon delivered a virtually unchanged monthly jobs report for March, neighboring Washington did the same. Washington's employment department pegged the state's unemployment rate last month at 8.3 percent. That's the same as the revised rate for February.

OSU Special Collections & Archives

Federal water and dam managers are draining reservoirs in the Columbia and Snake River basins to get ready for "big water" coursing down river. In recent weeks, the Army Corps of Engineers has called for bigger draw-downs -- or as the agency calls it "drafting" -- to protect against flooding. Supervisory engineer Peter Brooks says more room is needed to catch runoff from the bountiful snows of March.

CompassioninWorldFarming / Flickr

A new market survey finds many of the region's farmers in an optimistic mood because demand is strong and commodity prices are high. Exceptions to the overall trend include dairy and onion farmers.

The region's largest farm lender and crop insurance provider describes the ag economy as mostly bullish. Northwest Farm Credit Services vice president Michael Stolp says robust global demand supports the positive outlook.  "During the economic recession, agriculture was one of the bright spots and continues to be one of the bright spots."

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Get ready to spot a new kind of "bird" in the sky. Within the next month, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to green light the use of small unmanned aircraft by emergency services.  Some sheriffs' departments in the Northwest are showing interest in these aircraft.

What we're talking about here are scaled up hobby airplanes and helicopters or scaled down military drones. A booth rented by unmanned aircraft systems company Prioria Robotics drew a crowd this week at an emergency management conference in Tacoma.

There are some 7,000 spoken languages in the world, and linguists project that as many as half may disappear by the end of the century. That works out to one language going extinct about every two weeks. Now, digital technology is coming to the rescue of some of those ancient tongues.

Members of the Native American Siletz tribe in Oregon say their native language, also called "Siletz," "is as old as time itself." But today, you can count the number of fluent speakers on one hand. Siletz Tribal Council Vice Chairman Bud Lane is one of them.

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