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."

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Military & Defense
5:03 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Army Suspends Brig. Gen. In Charge of Western Region Medical Care

File photo of Brig. Gen. John Cho speaking at an Army town hall meeting in March 2014.
John Brooks U.S. Army

The Army Surgeon General Thursday suspended the commander in charge of Army hospitals in 20 western states. 

Brigadier General John Cho led the U.S. Army's Western Regional Medical Command headquartered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. A brief Army statement said Cho was indefinitely suspended due to an issue with the "command climate" in his organization.

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In Case Of Emergency
9:30 am
Tue August 19, 2014

What Happens When 911 Callers Don't Speak English?

Dispatch supervisor Brenda Faxon and director Mark Buchholz in the Willamette Valley 911 Communications Center in Salem.
Tom Banse

In an emergency, the last thing you want to hear is, "I can't understand you." The reality is emergency dispatchers in the Northwest generally speak one language, English. But in our increasingly polyglot society, some people in distress inevitably can't communicate in English.

So what happens then?

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Environment
3:01 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

Triple Rescue And Rehab Ends Well For Lucky Ospreys

Rehabbed osprey flies away after its release Wednesday in Finley, Washington.
Andrea Berglin

Three young ospreys and a parent are flying free along the Columbia River today after surviving close calls with litter.

One of these ospreys was rescued by BPA linemen last week as it dangled from its nest in a tangle of plastic baling twine near Kennewick, Washington. The other two were pushed out of a different nest near Burbank, Washington, when their mother thrashed about in a wad of derelict fishing net.

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Environment
4:00 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Feds Decide Wolverine Does Not Merit Threatened Species Status

FILE - This undated photo provided by Defenders Of Wildlife shows a wolverine that had been tagged for research purposes in Glacier National Park, Montana.
AP Photo/Defenders of Wildlife, Ken Curtis

The wolverine is not going on the threatened species list, after all. On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced federal protected status for the fierce and rare carnivore is unwarranted at this time.

The wolverine is making a slow comeback from the brink of extinction in the Lower 48 states. But shrinking mountain snow packs caused by global warming could reverse those gains.

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Environment
5:00 am
Tue August 12, 2014

WSU Researchers Collaborating With Feds In Effort To Bring Back Bumblebees

Preparing to inseminate a queen bee.
Megan Asche

Some scientists are going to great lengths to help the agreeable Western bumblebee make a comeback.

You might not have noticed, but this important pollinator of both flowers and greenhouse crops has nearly disappeared from the landscape. An introduced fungal disease is suspected of decimating populations of the fat and furry Western bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis).

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Tracking Wildfires
4:59 am
Tue August 12, 2014

Is Wildfire Severity Really Getting Worse?

FILE - A plane drops fire retardant over a wildfire as clouds of smoke billow behind and above Saturday, July 19, 2014, near Carlton, Washington.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

It might seem like fire season is as bad as it's ever been. But there's a group of researchers who question that prevailing wisdom.

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Man Vs. Self
9:28 am
Mon August 11, 2014

Seattle Runner Smashes Speed Record For Full Length Of Pacific Crest Trail

Seattle native Joe McConaughy reached the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail in record time Sunday.
Michael Dillon / Run For Colin

A 23-year-old Seattle man has smashed the speed record for hiking the full length of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Recent college grad Joe McConaughy crossed into Canada on Sunday — exactly 53 days, six hours and 37 minutes after leaving the Mexican border on the storied trail.

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Environment
5:00 am
Fri August 8, 2014

Fatal Attraction: Ospreys In A Bind With Baling Twine, Fishing Line

This is how ospreys' unhealthy affinity for baling twine can kill. Idaho Fish and Game biologist Beth Waterbury rescued this osprey in the nick of time.
Beth Waterbury Idaho Fish and Game

Osprey nests are a common sight near rivers, lakes and bays in the Northwest. If you look closely with binoculars, you might notice some of these large raptors like to line their nests with discarded baling twine or fishing line. The problem is it can kill them.

Now wildlife biologists are working with ranchers and at boat ramps to keep the attractive nuisance out of the ospreys' clutches.

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Science
9:47 am
Wed August 6, 2014

How A Fat Grizzly Bear Could One Day Help Humans Avoid Diabetes

Washington State University is home to the nation's only captive grizzly bear research center.
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.

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Energy Exports
5:55 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Oregon Terminal Developer Gets Blessing For Natural Gas Exports

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.

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Business & Labor
10:33 am
Thu July 31, 2014

Northwest Farmers Worried About Visa Backup For Legal Migrant Workers

This file photo shows workers at a berry farm outside of Eltopia, Washington.
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.

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Church And State
9:36 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Pierce County Becomes First In Northwest To Approve 'In God We Trust' Motto Display

This file photo shows the exterior of the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
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.

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Earthquake Science
5:00 am
Mon July 28, 2014

USGS Tries Listening To Human Racket To Understand Seismic Hazards

This photo shows a seismic "thumper" used to map earthquake faults.
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.

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Environment
5:00 am
Fri July 25, 2014

Donors Pay To Test Seawater For Traces Of Fukushima Radiation

Fukushima seawater radiation plume dispersal model by Rossi et. al.
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.

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Business
5:43 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Alaska Air Says It's Holding Its Own Against Delta Onslaught

This photo shows an Alaska Airlines 737 plane.
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.

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