Tom Banse | KUOW News and Information

Tom Banse

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.

An Army Reservist will collect back pay from an Everett, Wash. company accused of violating his reemployment rights.

Washington and Idaho want recently furloughed federal workers to repay unemployment benefits. But a quirk in Oregon law means affected workers there will get to keep whatever they received.

An eco-saboteur charged in a fire-bombing spree that spanned the American West changed her plea in federal court on Thursday.  Rebecca Rubin pled guilty to conspiracy and multiple counts of arson. 

Rubin is now 40 years old. When she was in her twenties, she joined a cell of radical environmentalists loosely affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front.

Federal investigators blame the shadowy cell for around 20 arsons spanning five Western states. The attacks happened between 1996 and 2001.

Beginning this Friday, an aquarium in Tacoma, Wash., will let paying visitors dive in a shark-infested tank. That's right. The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium has built a dive cage in a tank that is home to 17 sharks. Experienced scuba divers can even swim out into the center of the pool. We sent correspondent Tom Banse to get to the bottom of this story.

Ah, the things you might question there's high demand for. Well, more than four hundred people have already made reservations to take a dip in a tank full of sharks. 

A final inspector general's report released Tuesday condemns the Bonneville Power Administration for discriminating against veterans and other applicants during jobs hires.

Bonneville is this region's biggest wholesale electricity and transmission provider. 

BPA issued a contrite response to the scathing report from the U.S. Energy Department's inspector general.

The effects of the partial federal government shutdown are rippling across the Northwest.

Closed national parks will be one of the first visible effects of the partial government shutdown expected to begin Tuesday. National forest and BLM campgrounds will also close.

Fishermen around the Northwest are enjoying some exceptional salmon runs this autumn. Puget Sound is teeming with pink salmon and there's a record-breaking fall Chinook run in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

Telemedicine is rising to new levels of accessibility thanks to the increasing prevalence of smartphones, tablets and webcam equipped computers.

Name the volcano that geologists consider the most dangerous in the Northwest.

According to fresh numbers out Wednesday from the state employment department, the unemployment rate in Washington state edged up slightly in August to an even 7 percent as hiring slowed.

A seaport in northern British Columbia is serving as the test site for a venture to make international cargo inspections more efficient.

Last Friday, a large ferry collided with a sailboat, sinking that much smaller craft.

Still smarting from a wasp sting this summer? Well, you're not alone. It's been a "banner year" for yellow jackets in the Northwest by many accounts.

First there was Craigslist. Then other more specialized websites arrived to make it easier to rent out your spare bedroom, vacation home, or even your car. A new category to catch on in the Northwest allows drivers to reserve a parking spot in someone else's driveway.

The concept is pretty simple says Alex Stephany, London-based CEO of the website parkatmyhouse.com.

"The idea is just if you have a parking space or driveway that is not being used some of the time, you can let someone else use it and you can make some money in the process."

Members of Congress from Washington state are mostly undecided ahead of an expected vote next week to authorize military force against Syria.

It's been a busy summer on the high seas for researchers trying to figure out the inner workings of an ominous earthquake fault. The Cascadia Subduction Zone runs offshore from Vancouver Island to Northern California. When it rips, we could have a magnitude 9 catastrophe.

University of Washington geophysicist Paul Johnson led a nearly month-long research cruise to the likely epicenter for the Big One. His ship carried an unmanned minisub to probe the seafloor directly over the still somewhat mysterious Cascadia earthquake fault.

Remember the "sequester" cuts? The dust is finally settling and the consequences becoming real for a program in the U.S. Forest Service that sends money to timber counties.

At the beginning of sequestration, the Forest Service demanded that rural counties pay back some of the timber payments they'd already received and spent. But all of the recipients of the federal aid refused to go along with this approach to across-the-board federal budget cuts.

A storied research sub that explored and filmed the wreck of the Titanic is making an appearance in the Northwest. The deep-diving submarine "Alvin" is in Astoria this week while its support ship changes crews.

It's actually one of two well-known submersibles passing through the port town.

In addition to exploring the Titanic, the stubby three-person submarine Alvin has also found a lost H-bomb in the Mediterranean Sea and discovered dramatic hydrothermal vents. Alvin departs Astoria at the end of this week to begin sea trials to test out a $41 million upgrade.

The Port of Port Townsend, Wash., is providing a temporary home to a piece of literary history. But the dry-docked sardine fishing boat once chartered by the writer John Steinbeck faces an uncertain fate. 

The 76-foot boat's original name was the Western Flyer. In 1940, John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts (who later inspired the character Doc in "Cannery Row") chartered the wood vessel for a cruise around Baja California.

That journey resulted in a book still widely read, "The Log From the Sea of Cortez."

"Hackerspaces" are popping up all over the Northwest. But these aren't dens of computer infiltrators.

What we're talking about are community workshops for tinkering, machine tooling, 3-D printing and any other hands-on creativity you can think of. Some market themselves under the more benign-sounding label of "maker space." These workshops are now drawing attention as private incubators for entrepreneurship.

But let's straighten out this name business.

The viability of carbon capture and storage can spark lively debate among climate scientists, activists and industry. This week, technicians in southeast Washington continue a field test to show how carbon dioxide could be injected and trapped deep underground.

It's an experiment led by the Pacific Northwest National Lab. Injection of fifty tanker truck loads of CO2 will take about four weeks. Then comes about a year and a half of monitoring to see if the global warming gas stays locked away forever beneath ancient lava flows.

Federal agencies have expanded how much of the Northwest they think is suffering from drought.

An updated map released Thursday shows 88 percent of Idaho's territory is now categorized in moderate to severe drought. Just over half of Oregon is similarly parched. Washington state is faring better with just a sliver of land on the Idaho border classified in drought conditions.

Federal land managers have banned the use of exploding targets on public lands in the Northwest. The concern is wildfires.

Fire investigators suspect exploding targets sparked at least half a dozen wildfires in Washington and Idaho over the past year. The chemical explosives give target shooters instant feedback that they've hit their mark from long range.

Urban development around military bases in the Northwest and across the nation is creating a headache for the U.S. Defense Department. So Wednesday, several federal agencies announced they will pool money to preserve buffer lands, starting with Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma.

Federal and state money will be used to buy conservation easements or buy property outright to prevent development on more than 2,600 acres of farmland and prairie. The land is in Thurston County, Washington near Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Here's a little known fact that may affect your power bill: Every year, public utilities in the Northwest give British Columbia several hundred million dollars worth of electricity. That's to compensate Canada for managing the upper Columbia River to minimize flooding and maximize hydropower downstream.

Americans are pushing for a better deal, but the B.C. government is preparing to defend what's now considered an entitlement.

This week a research ship is retrieving dozens of seismometers that have spent the last year on the ocean floor off the Northwest coast. Earthquake scientists hope the data they're about to get will shed more light on the structure of the offshore Cascadia fault zone. That plate boundary will be the source of the Big One whenever it rips.

The National Institutes of Health Wednesday announced it will retire the great majority of chimpanzees used in federally-supported medical research.

The institute director says the use of our closest animal relative for invasive studies can no longer be justified in most cases. That means more than 300 chimps are headed into retirement. But neither of the two chimpanzee sanctuaries here in the Northwest say they're prepared to take new chimps.

The U.S. Senate wants to put a stop to Border Patrol checkpoints and warrantless searches taking place far from the border with Canada. The policy change was included in an amendment to the larger immigration overhaul being debated this week. It pleases civil liberties and immigrant advocates, but concerns frontline Border Patrol agents.

The Canadian dollar -- affectionately known as the "loonie" -- is dropping in value. 

Pages