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.

Washington state hit a 'soft patch' in hiring and is looking at slow overall growth. That news comes from two new data points on the Washington economy out Wednesday.

NASA Photo/Aaron Kingery

If you wake up early and the skies are clear this week, a comet named ISON should be visible through binoculars over the southeastern horizon.

If you wake up early and the skies are clear this week, a comet named ISON should be visible through binoculars over the southeastern horizon.

Hotline calls and emails to report suspected Japanese tsunami debris have gone way down this year. But West Coast states are still keeping their guard up in case another wave of flotsam from the 2011 disaster washes up on our shores.

In 1989, the organizers of the Washington State Centennial Time Capsule took measures to guard against it being forgotten -- and lost.

 The Boeing Company and its Machinists union have reached a tentative deal that clears the way to build Boeing's next big jet in Washington state.

A malodorous invasive bug has gone from a worry to a certifiable nuisance for some Northwest farmers and gardeners. The name of this insect is a mouthful: the brown marmorated stink bug.

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

"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.