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.

Ways to Connect

Tsunami warning sirens wailed up and down the Washington coast Thursday. Students, businesses and medical workers drilled for an earthquake and tsunami as part of an annual event called "The Great Shakeout."

Tom Banse

Consumer drones look like child's play after you get a gander at the unmanned, water-dropping helicopter that was pitched to the federal government on Wednesday.

It was suitably smoky out when the dual rotor K-MAX powered up for a large audience of federal firefighting managers. A late season wildfire in Boise County supplied the unplanned haze.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin and helicopter maker Kaman supplied the glimpse into unmanned aerial firefighting.

A surgeon at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle said the serious burns to five electricians and dam operators injured in Thursday’s explosion at Priest Rapids Dam in central Washington are consistent with "arc flash."

Ted S. Warren / AP

A Washington State Representative who has been trying to make paid family leave available to all workers says a new federal grant will be a big help. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded $247,000 to Washington state to research how paid family leave might be implemented.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Software giant Microsoft got several chances on Wednesday to impress Chinese leaders with the company's vision of a "free and open" internet. Microsoft's CEO showed the president of China new gadgets at the corporate campus.

Ted S. Warren / AP

The administration of Washington Governor Jay Inslee has officially begun crafting new rules to cap greenhouse gas pollution from large industrial sources. Inslee is flexing his executive powers to bypass the state legislature, which has repeatedly chosen not to put a price on carbon.

Andrea Melendez / AP

Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with titans of Northwest commerce this week on their home turf: Think Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon. Visits from Chinese dignitaries are often accompanied by announcements of deals or sales.

The state unemployment rate in Washington and Oregon was falling at a steady pace in recent years. But lately it's stuck. The latest reading from Washington state released today (Weds.) pegs the state unemployment rate at 5-point-3 percent. That's the same it's been since June. Oregon's jobless rate actually edged up slightly last month to 6.1 percent, as new jobseekers outpaced job creation.

Washington state labor economist Paul Turek says the unemployment rate will probably resume its decline in autumn.

Over the weekend, vampires were afoot in a small town on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Fans of a bestselling teen vampire romance series flooded into the town of Forks from all over the country.

Three police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a rock-throwing man in Pasco, Washington, last February will not face criminal charges.

It’s a dilemma many American families confront: when to ask mom or pop if they’re ready to move into an old folks’ home. For newer Americans, the very idea often clashes with cultural expectations.

Multiple times this summer, the sighting of a wayward hobbyist drone has grounded aerial firefighting aircraft at Western wildfires. But unmanned aircraft have the potential to be useful at wildfires too.

Unhealthy smoke continued to blanket large parts of central and eastern Washington state and north Idaho Wednesday. Some workers in north central Washington were sent home because the dense smoke was rated downright “hazardous.”

The incident command for Washington’s biggest wildfire requested a mental health team to help people in Okanogan County. A national nonprofit called Green Cross has responded to the call.

Two-time Olympian Nick Symmonds has been dropped from the U.S. team for the upcoming world track and field championships in Beijing. U.S. team managers announced their roster Monday.

In a newly released 911 recording, the teenage girl who walked away from a mountainside plane crash reported she was the only one to make it out alive.

A sixteen-year-old girl from Bellingham, Washington, walked out of the woods Monday afternoon -- two days after surviving a small plane crash in the North Cascades.

The Washington National Guard -- joined by officers from Oregon and Idaho -- are preparing for a massive military relief effort.

Golf's U.S. Open Championship tees off starting at 7 a.m. Thursday morning at Chambers Bay Golf Course near Tacoma, Washington.

Soccer fans from the American Northwest are expected to fill sold-out BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, Canada, Tuesday evening as the U.S. Women's National Team takes on Nigeria.

The call of the open road beckons to electric car owners now that Washington and Oregon have completed their portions of the West Coast Electric Highway, a network of rapid recharging stations to enable long distance electric-powered travel.

There's money in a state highway budget that passed the Washington House Thursday to study a one-of-a-kind possible toll bridge fashioned out of retired Navy aircraft carriers.

A bi-partisan group of lawmakers in the Washington legislature launched a move Tuesday to ban powdered alcohol.

According to the monthly update released Wednesday by Washington's Employment Security Department, the state’s unemployment rate stayed flat in February.

Some legislators in Olympia say they're having second thoughts about exempting Western Hockey League teams from state labor laws.

The daffodils and tulips are up and so are hungry black bears. Our unseasonably mild winter is bringing black bears out of hibernation earlier than usual.

Oregon and Washington lawmakers flinched within hours of each other Wednesday when it came to toughening mandatory vaccination requirements for schoolchildren.

A new statistic from Washington state illustrates a problem 911 dispatch centers throughout the Northwest grapple with. About a third of 911 calls in Washington state are mistaken.

Michael Kauffmann

Thousands of people are expected to start long-distance treks on the Pacific Crest Trail this year.

That's inspired in part by the successful movie adaptation of Portland writer Cheryl Strayed's hiking memoir, "Wild." Hollywood’s next hiking movie, “A Walk in the Woods," could spur even more backpacking interest when it's released later this year.

That has Western outdoors enthusiasts backing the build-out of additional long-distance trails, which could offer greater solitude.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

 

The congressional wrangling over immigration policy, which threatens to cut off Homeland Security money later this week, is spilling over to the Washington state Capitol in a fashion.

In Olympia, state representatives may take a preliminary vote Wednesday morning on a measure that would direct local police and jails to stop coordinating with federal agencies on immigrant deportations.

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