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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economic recovery
3:10 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

New Data Points Show 'Soft Patch' in Hiring, Slow Overall Growth

Washington state hit a soft patch in hiring and saw slow overall growth, according to two new data points released Wednesday.

Washington state's unemployment rate essentially held steady at 7 percent from August through October. Federal government furloughs delayed the release of the data last month, which resulted in the release of two sets this month.

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stargazing
11:23 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Look to the Sky before Dawn This Week to Catch Comet ISON

Comet ISON passed through Virgo earlier this month.
Aaron Kingery NASA

If you wake up early and the skies are clear, you could be in for a treat this week. A comet named ISON should be visible through binoculars over the southeastern horizon. Astronomy websites have hyped the passage of this comet as the best in more than a decade. But a lot depends on a close encounter with the sun next week.

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preserving moments
7:01 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

'Keepers' Make Sure Time Capsule Doesn't Get Lost In Time

Volunteer "keepers" stand near the opened doors of a safe containing time capsules at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. The safe contains 16 mini-time capsules which are filled with new items every 25 years, starting in 1989.
Rachel La Corte Associated Press

Time capsules run a high risk of being forgotten once they're buried. In 1989, the organizers of the Washington State Centennial Time Capsule took measures to guard against such loss.

The Time Capsule has some unusual features. For one, the big green safe is not buried; it's on display on the ground floor of the state Capitol. That makes it possible to update the capsule at regular intervals—in this case, every 25 years.

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boeing package
10:17 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Wash. Legislature Plows Ahead with Boeing 777X Tax Breaks

Boeing's 777 assembly line in Everett, Wash.
Ashley Gross KPLU

The state Legislature is plowing ahead with a package of tax breaks and incentives to convince the Boeing Company to build its next big jet in Washington. But this is happening against a backdrop of new doubts about Boeing's willingness to commit given labor turmoil.

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Columbia River Treaty
4:21 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

U.S. Columbia River Users Call for 'Better Bargain' with Canada

Anomieus Flickr

U.S. Senators from the Northwest say it’s time "to strike a better bargain" with Canada over hydropower generated along the shared Columbia River. That was one upshot of a Thursday Senate hearing to discuss how to renegotiate a nearly 50-year-old cross-border treaty.

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Business
3:28 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Boeing Offers Deal to Keep 777X in Wash., Inslee Calls Special Session

This image shows the Boeing 777x assembly line in Everett, Wash.
Ashley Gross

 

Boeing Co. has proposed an eight-year labor agreement that would guarantee construction of the new 777X in the Puget Sound.

In response, Gov. Jay Inslee said he would call a special legislative session on Thursday in hopes of swiftly approving a package of bills to appease Boeing.

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certifiable nuisance
7:00 am
Sat November 2, 2013

Spread of Sweaty Sock-Scented Bugs Alarms Growers, Scientists

Invasive stink bug on an olive branch in the Willamette Valley.
Vaughn Walton Oregon State University

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.

Researchers say the population really seems to have taken off this year. With the approach of winter, these stink bugs are leaving the fields and may just crawl into your home.

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employment rights
5:10 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

U.S. Stepping Up Enforcement of Veterans' Reemployment Rights

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

The U.S Justice Department announced a settlement Monday with the battery retailer that fired the Iraq War veteran.

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drunk-driving arrests
4:45 pm
Fri October 25, 2013

Fall of DUI Cases Continues after Liquor Sales Privatization

Flickr

The Washington State Patrol has compiled a full year of data covering drunk-driving arrests and crashes since private retailers took over liquor sales in the state. So far, the voter-approved liquor privatization has not altered the long-term downward trend of DUI cases.

Hard alcohol is much more widely available since grocers, big-box stores, and other private retailers started selling it in Washington state in June of last year. But increased availability did not bring increased mayhem on the roads to judge from stats toted up by the Washington State Patrol.

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It's Complicated
3:17 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Alaska Airlines' Alliance With Delta Evolves into 'Frenemies'

Tom Banse

It’s a phrase typically used to discuss a messy relationship: "It's complicated."

Those are the words the president of Alaska and Horizon airlines used Thursday to describe the state of the alliance between the Seattle-based carriers and Delta Air Lines. You might also call these airlines "frenemies."

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government shutdown
3:56 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

Shutdown Mop Up: Wash., Idaho Seek Unemployment Payback

Washington is looking for payback this week—that is, the state wants recently furloughed federal workers to repay unemployment benefits.

The 16-day partial government shutdown lasted long enough for some furloughed federal workers to collect one week of unemployment benefits. But when Congress made the deal to end the shutdown, it included back pay for the furloughed workers.

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dark sky ordinance
9:55 am
Sat October 19, 2013

Rules to Curb Light Pollution Advance One City, Park at a Time

hiimniko/Flickr

Even though this week brought clear skies, chances are you can't see the Milky Way at night. That's because the glare from city lights washes out all but the brightest stars where most people live.

A smattering of Northwest cities and counties are taking action by passing new rules for outdoor lighting. It's not all about the stars; some people take a dim view of light regulation.

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climate change
4:18 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Inslee Wants to Explore State-Only 'Cap and Trade' Scheme

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday laid out how he'd like the state to combat global warming pollution, including eliminating any electricity generated by coal and putting a statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Legislative Republicans immediately raised concerns.

Back in 2008, the Washington Legislature set ambitious goals for reducing the state's carbon footprint. But they're just goals without enforcement mechanisms. Subsequently, a pact between 11 western states and provinces to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions fell apart. 

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deep sea innovation
4:13 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Seattle Co. Partners with UW to Build One-of-a-Kind Submarine

Rendering of manned deep sea sub in development in Seattle.

A commercial submarine operator is teaming up with the University of Washington to build a new manned deep-sea sub. The five-passenger mini-sub could be available for charter by oil companies or researchers beginning in 2016.

Seattle-based OceanGate Inc. currently operates two small submarines for hire. It sees a market for deeper diving manned submersibles. To that end, the small company has partnered with the University of Washington and Boeing to design a stubby, bullet-shaped mini-sub with a 180-degree viewing dome in its nose.

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swimming with sharks
5:01 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Point Defiance to Let Visitors Swim with Sharks

Ingrid Barrentine Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Beginning Friday, an aquarium in Tacoma will let paying visitors dive in a shark-infested tank.

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.

Ah, the things you might question there's high demand for. More than 400 people have already made reservations to take a dip in a tank full of sharks. Cue the theme music from the movie “Jaws.”

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