Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from 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 found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" 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.  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.

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 beyond the reach of email.

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Federal fisheries scientists plan to survey Pacific Northwest and Alaskan waters to determine if a harmful European fish virus has spread here.

And now, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and two senators from Alaska are calling for an investigation into the spread of the virus striking Canadian salmon.

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – The U.S. government is considering whether to build short segments of fencing along the northern border with Canada. But the fences won’t stretch very far.

That’s what a U.S. Customs and Border Protection planner told a small audience gathered in Bellingham Tuesday night.

TACOMA, Wash. – A Longshore union says it plans to appeal a federal judge's quarter-million dollar fine for its tactics in a Longview labor dispute.

Friday, lawyers on various sides of the case argued first about that punishment for a clash in early September. Later, the judge took up the heart of the matter. .

U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton found the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in contempt of court for blocking a train and storming a grain terminal about three weeks ago. He's now fined the union $250,000.

Associated Press

SEATTLE – Hometown friends and supporters of Amanda Knox kept an early morning vigil at a Seattle hotel while awaiting the verdict from Italy. The group of about a dozen burst into applause and cheers when they got word that the murder charge against Knox was overturned.

DAR56 / Wikimedia commons

Your power bill could be cheaper if the U.S. didn't send so much electricity north of the border every year. Canada lays claim to around $300 million worth of hydropower annually under the terms of a 50-year-old treaty.

In return, the Canadians manage the upper Columbia River to prevent downstream flooding and to optimize power production. The Columbia River Treaty can be renegotiated soon and there are voices on both sides of the border clamoring for a better deal.

U.S. Census Bureau

About 5,500 same-sex couples in the Northwest checked the box to be counted as married in the 2010 Census. Neither Washington, Oregon nor Idaho recognizes same-sex marriages.

A new Census Bureau report says the number of same-sex couples who identify themselves as married greatly exceeds the number of marriage licenses issued by states that legalized such unions.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Sheriff's deputies and BNSF railroad police are investigating what they say are about a dozen instances of possible tampering with the tracks in southwest Washington. BNSF officials declined to make any connection with an ongoing labor dispute in Longview.

Laura McCallum

It's never too late to make amends. That could be the moral of a story unfolding Saturday near the mouth of the Columbia River. Descendants of explorer William Clark will replace a canoe stolen by the Lewis and Clark Expedition from a local tribe more than two centuries ago.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state agencies are putting entire programs on the chopping block – including $65 million from UW and WSU – to satisfy a request by the governor for more budget savings.

On Thursday, Governor Chris Gregoire notified state lawmakers that she will call them back to Olympia on November 28th for a special budget cutting session to make the cuts.

Autumn officially starts on Friday and that means flu season is close behind. The CDC recommends everyone get a flu shot. This year, a suburban Portland company is promoting a needle-free vaccine for people with needle phobia.

Tualatin, Oregon-based Bioject Medical Technologies makes a vaccine injector powered by a CO2 cartridge. Bioject president Ralph Makar says the way it works is a burst of pressure creates a tiny opening in the skin.

Alan Cleaver / Flickr

The FBI says violent crime dropped 6 percent nationwide in 2010. Northwest states are following that same trend, but see less improvement when it comes to property crime rates.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

An Indian tribe on the Washington Coast on Thursday renewed its plea to Congress to expand its tiny reservation onto higher ground. Quileute tribal leaders previously traveled to the nation's capital after the devastating Japanese tsunami in March.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The unemployment rate held steady at 9-point-3 percent in Washington state in August. The state Employment Department released fresh jobs numbers Wednesday, a day after Oregon reported a slight uptick in its unemployment rate. Now it's at 9-point-6 percent.

In Washington, Employment Department chief economist Dave Wallace says the private sector statewide has added jobs for twelve months in a row now. But he says jobs need to be added at a faster pace to chip away at the unemployment rate.

Nearly one in six Americans lives in poverty, but the numbers are a little better in Northwest states. That's the headline from the latest population survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.

This spring there was a big volcanic eruption in the Pacific Northwest. If you missed it, you're not alone. It happened under the ocean off the northern Oregon coast.

However, all this week a University of Washington research ship has been streaming live video via satellite of lava flows in the undersea crater. In a couple years, 24/7 video coverage of the ocean floor will be made possible by a new underwater fiber optic cable.

Courtesy of University of Washington

A University of Washington research ship is sending amazing live video of the aftermath of an undersea volcanic eruption. The large volcano is about 300 miles due west of Astoria, Oregon.

Some scientists theorize life on our planet started at a place like this.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

PORT ANGELES, Wash. – Seattle's Kingdome collapsed with a bang. Explosive demolition experts also brought down the cooling tower at the former Trojan nuclear plant. But if you're hoping for the same excitement from the upcoming destruction of two big hydropower dams on Washington's Elwha River, you'll be disappointed.

The history-making dam removal that begins in September will happen slowly and methodically.

Aleph1 / Flickr

WARRENTON, Ore. – Perhaps you've had salmon, tuna or swordfish for dinner recently. Or maybe it's on the menu tonight. Every big fish that lands on your plate got that big by eating lots and lots of little fish.

If you don't have abundant small fish in the ocean, you won't have the big fish. That's why some scientists, fishery managers and advocacy groups are paying more attention to the small prey in the sea.

Some environmental group now also want tighter regulation, and that's making fishermen nervous.

A short-line railroad is taking a hard look at opening a coal shipping terminal at the Port of Grays Harbor. This is the third location proposed by different developers in western Washington. It would export Rocky Mountain coal to Asia.

The corporate parent of the Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad proposes to redevelop a public port terminal in Hoquiam. The railroad anticipates coal exports would be its main business.

Associated Press

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has named Democrat Patty Murray of Washington to co-chair a powerful "super committee" charged with finding more than $1 trillion in deficit cuts this fall.

The choice immediately drew cries of disbelief from conservatives.

Governor Chris Gregoire is telling state agencies to prepare for further budget cuts because of the faltering economy. Her budget office today asked agencies for ideas to reduce planned spending by 5 or 10 percent. 

Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor's downgrade of federal debt is unlikely to have much near term effect on the borrowing costs for the state. Although, S&P did deal the city of Tacoma a blow by downgrading it's credit rating on debt backed by the federal government.

A DNA test has failed to connect a deceased central Oregon man to the unsolved 1971 hijacking of a Northwest Orient jet. This according to the man's niece. She came forward this week to finger her uncle as the legendary fugitive D.B. Cooper.

The woman who claims her uncle was the legendary hijacker D.B. Cooper believes he lost all the money from his heist.

At SeaTac Airport in 1971, a hijacker exchanged a planeload of passengers for 200,000 dollars in ransom and four parachutes. Transplanted Oklahoman Marla Cooper now says the fugitive and a previously unknown accomplice were her uncles.

Idaho Fish and Game

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington ranchers would get full compensation for confirmed wolf kills of their livestock under a new state wolf management plan. That proposal got its first public airing in Olympia Thursday.

Just as in neighboring Oregon, ranchers are uneasy about how the payments will work in reality.

An expert on the infamous airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper is dubious about the latest suspect to emerge in the 40-year-old case. An Oklahoma woman went public this week with the claim her late uncle was the mysterious hijacker.

In the last ten years, the federal government and rural landowners have spent increasing sums of money thinning spindly trees and removing underbrush. The aim is to reduce risk from wildfire.

A new study by the Forest Service finds that tree stands need to be "intensively" thinned for that strategy to be effective.

Study co-author David Peterson of the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Seattle says a dense tinderbox forest before thinning could have more than a 1,000 trees per acre.

Adrian Wolf

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Wildlife biologists are employing a little trickery to stop the downward spiral of a rare grassland bird in Western Washington. On Friday, biologists took eggs from healthier larks in Oregon and swapping them into western Washington nests, hoping the lark mothers don't notice.

Liesl Matthies

The Congressional stalemate over the debt ceiling isn't the only Washington standoff in the news this week. A separate showdown over spending by the Federal Aviation Administration is having an immediate effect on jobs and airport construction in our region.

Since last week, this little noticed budget battle has shut down non-essential divisions of the FAA. Airline ticket taxes are going uncollected and the federal workers who drive that money back out for airport improvement projects are furloughed.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

PORTLAND – According to government statistics, American Indians are 70 percent more likely to die by suicide than the general population. The high suicide rate has been called a "silent epidemic." But it's silent no more.

Prevention workers at a health workshop in Portland are hoping teen-generated web videos, music and even a comic book can save lives.

The National Park Service Wednesday gave its support to turning part of the Hanford nuclear site into a new national park.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says Hanford's historic B Reactor deserves park status in order to tell the story of the race to build the atomic bomb. 

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