Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse, KPLU’s and N3’s Regional Correspondent, roves the Northwest to report on broad themes and telling details. His topics run the gamut from business to the environment and human interest. Home base is in Olympia, a legacy of a previously held state government beat from 1991-2003. Although he grew up in Seattle, Tom's radio career began by chance in Minnesota at Carleton College’s student radio station. Tom's memorable moment in public radio: "I am indebted to many people for tips and tutelage, but certainly some of the bluntest -- at times unprintable -- guidance came from NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg. I interned at NPR in 1989 and was privileged to keep Nina's chair warm at the U-S Supreme Court or at the high-octane Iran-Contra trial of Oliver North, wherever she wasn't at the time. Heady stuff for a tenderfoot reporter."

Pages

Cyber-Currency
10:16 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Expedia Begins Accepting Bitcoin For Hotel Bookings

FILE - This April 3, 2013 file photo shows bitcoin tokens in Sandy, Utah.
Rick Bowmer AP Photo

Bellevue, Washington-based Expedia just announced it will start accepting bitcoin for hotel bookings. The online travel site is embracing the volatile, virtual currency on what it calls a "test-and-learn" basis.

Effective as of Wednesday, the digital currency will be a payment option, but only for hotel bookings on the company's U.S. site. 

Read more
Summer Outlook
11:47 am
Mon June 9, 2014

The Blob: Not The Horror Movie, But The Summer Weather Influencer

Sea surface temperature anomalies in degrees Celsius drawn from NOAA/ESRL database.

"The Blob" was the title of a 1958 sci-fi horor movie. It's also the nickname Washington state climatologist Nick Bond has given to a large patch of warmer-than-normal seawater off the Pacific Northwest coast.

This blob is unlikely to become the subject of another movie, but it will influence our summer weather.

Read more
Dangerous Lasers
3:36 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

FBI Offers Big Reward To Rat Out People Who Aim Lasers At Aircraft

The FBI is offering rewards up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest of people who have aimed laser pointers at aircraft. Deliberate targeting of aircraft in flight has increased significantly in the last couple of years in the Northwest. 

The $10,000 reward offer is good for the next 90 days. The FBI wants to protect pilots from being temporarily blinded at night by laser pointers aimed playfully or maliciously from the ground. 

Read more
Summer Forecast
4:36 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Long, Warm Summer On Tap, According To Weather Service Outlook

NOAA Climate Prediction Center

This summer in the Pacific Northwest will be warmer than average, according to the National Weather Service.

The supercomputers at the Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center have crunched long-term trends to produce an outlook for June, July and August. For most of the Northwest, the forecast gives a strong probability of above-normal temperatures.

Read more
Feeding Wildlife
3:50 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Bear-Feeding Case — First Of Its Kind In Wash. — To Head To Court

Accused bear feeder Doris Parks created a nine acre wildlife reserve by buying undeveloped land across the street from her house in Ilwaco, Washington.
Tom Banse

A 70-year-old woman has been criminally charged for allegedly feeding bears at her house on Washington's Long Beach peninsula.

This is believed to be the first time someone has been prosecuted under a relatively new law against feeding large wild carnivores.  

Read more
Emergency Responders
4:27 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Text-to-911 Coming, But Dispatchers Much Prefer Voice Calls

Toby Talbot AP Photo

This week, the four biggest mobile carriers met a voluntary deadline to be ready to allow consumers to send text messages to 911. But don't try that in an emergency just yet. Dispatchers in the Northwest don't yet have the capability to receive texts for help.

The Federal Communications Commission has been pressing cellular companies and emergency communication centers to accelerate text-to-911 rollout. Recently departed agency chairman Julius Genachowski argued, “Access to 911 must catch up with how consumers communicate in the 21st century."

But even when the technology arrives, voice will still be the best choice, according to Washington state E911 coordinator Ziggy Dahl.

Read more
Feeding Wildlife
10:40 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Ilwaco Retiree Could Be First Charged Under New Law Banning Feeding Of Bears

File image
Dam421 Wikimedia Commons

Washington Fish and Wildlife officials are recommending that an Ilwaco woman face charges for allegedly feeding wild bears.

Wildlife agents have removed seven problematic black bears from the woman’s neighborhood and had to euthanize five of them since last fall.

The 70-year-old retiree could be the first person charged under a new law that bans the feeding of large wild carnivores. The Washington Legislature made that a misdemeanor in 2012.

Read more
Jobless Rate
12:19 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Steady Job Gains Chip Away At Jobless Rate In Wash. State

Steady job gains are chipping away at the unemployment rate in Washington state. New numbers released by the Employment Department Wednesday show the statewide jobless rate dropped to 6.1 percent in April, down from 6.3 percent in March. 

The vast majority of new jobs are being created in the Seattle metro area. In the last reporting month, the jobless rate in 87 percent of Washington counties was higher than the national average.

Read more
Oso Slide
9:28 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Oso Slide Prompts Board To 'Take Stock' Of Logging Rules Around Unstable Slopes

A destroyed vehicle and a flag, at half staff, are seen from a one-lane road around the Highway 530 slide area Tuesday, April 29, 2014, near Oso, Wash.
The Seattle Times, Ellen M. Banner, Pool

Washington State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark repeated Monday that "it's still too early to tell" if there is a connection between logging and this spring's deadly landslide near Oso, Washington. Even so, a state panel that sets timber harvest rules decided it was worthwhile to take an all-day look at landslide hazards.

Deborah Durnell, 50, was at work when the huge landslide crashed down on the rural enclave where she lived with her husband. He was at home and died. She hopes the tragedy motivates the state to better protect people.

Read more
Oso Slide
11:51 am
Mon May 12, 2014

USGS Geologist Doubts Cause Of Oso Landslide Will Ever Be Pinned Down

Courtesy of the Washington Governor's Office.

A federal geologist doubts the cause of the deadly landslide near Oso, Washington will ever be fully pinned down.

During testimony in Olympia Monday, USGS scientist Jonathan Godt said heavy rains in February and March certainly contributed to the slide. Geologists have also ruled out an earthquake as a trigger. But Godt says a big missing piece is groundwater flows, for which there's no data.

Read more
Cruise Ship Season
8:00 am
Sat May 10, 2014

Large Cruise Ships Call On Small Northwest Ports To Fill Out Itineraries

FILE - A cruise ship sits moored at a pier in downtown Seattle Friday, April 15, 2011.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Cruise season has begun in the Pacific Northwest with the arrival of gleaming cruise ships. They'll be steaming back and forth to Alaska all summer from Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle. At the beginning and end of the cruise season, those large cruise ships also call on smaller Northwest ports such as Astoria, Port Angeles and Nanaimo, B.C.

Read more
Obituary
12:40 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Tribal Treaty Rights Champion Billy Frank Jr. Dead At Age 83

Billy Frank Jr., a Nisqually tribal elder who was arrested dozens of times while trying to assert his native fishing rights during the Fish Wars of the 1960s and '70s, poses for a photo Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, near Frank's Landing on the Nisqually River in
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

A legendary champion of tribal treaty rights and Northwest salmon restoration died Monday. Billy Frank Jr. was 83 years old.

The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission announced Frank's passing. The message did not give a cause of death.

Read more
Cyber-Currency
2:19 pm
Sat May 3, 2014

Seattle Home To First Bitcoin ATM In U.S. Northwest

Rae Ellen Bichell

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated the ATM was the first in the U.S. 

Seattle has just become home to the first bitcoin ATM in the U.S. Northwest.

Read more
Better Baseball Bat?
11:00 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Axe Bat Wins Converts, But Has To Overcome Baseball Traditionalists

Axe Bat on top versus traditional bat at bottom.
Tom Banse

A family-owned sporting goods company in suburban Seattle is confronting the tension between honoring tradition and embracing innovation in the sport of baseball.

The company is going to market with what it calls a "better" baseball bat.

Read more
Volcanic Activity
10:02 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Magma Rising Beneath Mount St. Helens, But No Eruption Imminent

File image
Don Ryan AP Photo

Scientists monitoring Mount St. Helens confirmed Wednesday that magma is on the rise and "re-pressurizing" the volcano in southwest Washington.

However, they also stress there are no signs of an imminent eruption.

Read more

Pages