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."

Ways To Connect

Courtney Flatt

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.

Grizzly bears pile on the fat every autumn. But in their obese state through hibernation, they don’t appear to suffer health consequences like overweight humans do.

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.

Anna King

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

Those farmers are concerned about getting enough pickers for late summer and fall crops.

Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons

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

But the approval came with a twist.

Horemu / Wikimedia Commons

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

The federal scientists attempted to map an earthquake fault under Seattle simply by listening for underground echoes from all the noise we humans create at the surface.

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.

Radiation experts don't believe there is cause for alarm on our shores, but some coastal residents are stepping forward to pay for seawater testing just to be sure.

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.

Seattle-based Alaska Air posted a record second quarter profit Thursday, a day after Delta toasted its own high earnings.

But Alaska executives are still showing concern about a flood of new seats on their home turf.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says 1,000 National Guard troops will take a crash course in wildfire fighting so they can be deployed to central Washington fires. A blaze in Okanogan County that the governor calls a “firestorm” has destroyed around 100 homes.

Inslee says the troops are currently in Yakima for annual training.

"We're lucky, because they are on duty and in a place they can be trained. So we are going to bring trainers from the Department of Natural Resources to train them as rapidly as possible to be available — not just now, but for the rest of the summer," he said. 

Bureau of Land Management

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.

Andrew Medichini / AP Photo

Organizers of the next FIFA Women's World Cup hope to leverage the unusually high interest in this year's men's tournament in Brazil to their benefit. Group play and the 2015 World Cup final will take place just across the border in Vancouver, Canada.

Courtesy of Chelan County Emergency Management

Crews battling wildfires in eastern Washington and southeastern Oregon are dealing with sizzling hot temperatures of a heat wave.

Firefighters are gaining ground this weekend despite the wilting heat. Four of the five largest fires are nearly 100 percent contained.

Photo provided by Weyerhaeuser.

A coastal Northwest county is the first to strike back against pricey recreation permits now being required by some large timber companies. The Grays Harbor County commission voted unanimously Monday to take a tax deferral away from private timberland owners that charge for public access.

Washington State Department of Transportation

Washington and Oregon may follow Idaho’s lead in temporarily suspending advertising for bids for some highway projects.

Idaho’s decision is the result of a standoff in Congress over how to replenish the money in the pot for highway construction.  

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs wants to rewrite the rules that determine how a tribe becomes officially recognized in the eyes of the feds. The proposal raises hopes for status and federal benefits among some unrecognized tribes in the West.

The bid to streamline and simplify the process of tribal recognition encourages leaders of native groups and bands currently frozen out of federal programs. But they have to contend with existing tribes who fear having to share territory, resources or casino customers.

AeroVironment / AP Photo

Imagine looking out your window to see a drone hovering outside. That happened earlier this month to a partially-dressed Seattle women who was startled and outraged.

That incident came up Monday as a Washington state task force convened for the first time to develop privacy rules for drones — something Oregon and Idaho have already done. The task force quickly narrowed its focus to use of drones by government agencies.

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