Martin Kaste

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy, as well as news from the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to general assignment reporting in the U.S., Kaste has contributed to NPR News coverage of major world events, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the 2011 uprising in Libya.

Kaste has reported on the government's warrant-less wiretapping practices as well as the data-collection and analysis that go on behind the scenes in social media and other new media. His privacy reporting was cited in the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 United States v. Jones ruling concerning GPS tracking.

Before moving to the West Coast, Kaste spent five years as NPR's reporter in South America. He covered the drug wars in Colombia, the financial meltdown in Argentina, the rise of Brazilian president Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and the fall of Haiti's president Jean Bertrand Aristide. Throughout this assignment, Kaste covered the overthrow of five presidents in five years.

Prior to joining NPR in 2000, Kaste was a political reporter for Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul for seven years.

Kaste is a graduate of Carleton College, in Northfield, Minnesota.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Now, the images from Ferguson - images of heavily armed police - have triggered a national debate about whether American cops have become too militarized. President Obama pointed to that concern yesterday.

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Some red states like Louisiana and Texas have emerged as leaders in a new movement: to divert offenders from prisons and into drug treatment, work release and other incarceration alternatives.

By most counts, Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the country. In recent years, sentencing reformers in the capital, Baton Rouge, have loosened some mandatory minimum sentences and have made parole slightly easier for offenders to get.

But as reformers in Louisiana push for change, they're also running into stiffening resistance — especially from local prosecutors.

The Justice Department announced Tuesday it has resolved a two-year-old standoff with the county attorney in Missoula, Mont., in what was originally a dispute over accusations that local prosecutors weren't doing enough to prosecute rape cases.

Body-worn video cameras are quickly becoming standard-issue for American police, especially at departments in the process of reform. And in New Orleans, the troubled police department is now requiring almost all officers to wear the cameras.

The city's police department has a dark history of corruption, racism and brutality. The low point may have been the Danziger Bridge episode, after Hurricane Katrina, when police shot unarmed people, then covered up the crime.

These days, the department is trying to rebuild the public's trust — which is where the body cameras come in.

Montana resident Markus Kaarma pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of murdering a German exchange student last month. Kaarma shot the 17-year-old while the student was trespassing in his garage. The case has attracted international scrutiny to the contentious debate over how far Americans may go when defending their homes.

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The minimum wage may go up anyway in Seattle. Politicians there want to raise the local minimum higher than current 7.25, and higher than President Obama's goal of 10.10. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Seattle's current minimum wage, like all of Washington state's, is $9.19 per hour.] Seattle is seriously considering setting the minimum wage at $15.

Here's NPR's Martin Kaste.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Seattle - 15, 15, 15!

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Washington has become the first state to lose its waiver to the No Child Left Behind Act. Most states have waivers to some of the more stringent requirements of the 2001 federal law but those waivers come with conditions. As NPR's Martin Kaste reports, Washington is being punished because it didn't fulfill a condition that is very dear to the Obama administration.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: What the administration wants is simple. Teachers should be evaluated, in part, on how their students do on standardized tests.

Washington has become the first state to have its "No Child Left Behind" waiver revoked by the Obama administration. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan notified the state of his decision today, which will restrict Washington's flexibility in spending federal education dollars.

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And on his way to Asia, the president will make a stop in Washington state. There, he will view the destruction from a massive landslide north of Seattle in the town of Oso. Obama will meet with those affected by that disaster and first responders. It was a month ago that the hillside gave way and wiped out a rural neighborhood. Crews have been looking for the remains of victims ever since. The official death toll now stands at 41. NPR's Martin Kaste visited the site, and has this update.

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As soon as you drive into town, it's pretty clear that Long Beach, Wash., is all about the razor clam. The first clue is the giant frying pan. It's 14 feet tall and a relic of the clam festivals of the 1940s. And then there's the clam statue that spits when you insert a quarter.

But if you really want to see how much people here love their clams, you'd have to be like Karen Harrell and get up before dawn and drive out onto the blustery beach to go clam digging.

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Now to a new survey from the Pew Research Center that's found more evidence of a shift in public attitudes toward illegal drug use.

As NPR's Martin Kaste reports, the survey indicates growing public skepticism about prison terms for nonviolent drug offenders.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: This shift has been going on for a while now. Previous polls already showed a new majority in favor of legalizing marijuana. But in this survey, you also see changing attitudes toward harder drugs.

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Search crews working in Oso, Wash., north of Seattle, have now found 24 bodies at the site of Saturday's massive landslide. As the efforts there settle into a grim routine, local officials face questions about why so many people lived in such a hazardous area.

NPR's Martin Kaste reports.

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Officials in Washington say they've received 108 reports of people missing in the region hit by a recent landslide. But they say that is a "soft number" and rescue efforts continue.

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Search and rescue efforts resume today as soon as the sun comes up on the scene of a landslide about 50 miles north of Seattle. This slide wiped out part of a small town a couple of days ago, killing at least eight people. And authorities are not sure how many people are still missing.

NPR's Martin Kaste reports.

Accused of bias against female victims of sex crimes, the Missoula county attorney turned around and accused the Justice Department of bully tactics. DOJ officials showed up in Missoula two years ago.

Contractors working for the state of Washington are planning a high-stakes operation to rescue Bertha — the world's largest tunneling machine.

Bertha is supposed to be boring a 2-mile highway tunnel under downtown Seattle, but it got stuck in December.

Bertha is on Seattle's waterfront, between South Main and South Jackson streets, about 60 feet straight down. At first, they thought the machine was being stymied by a big glacial rock. Then attention focused on the chewed-up remains of a metal pipe. But now it seems Bertha's ailment is mechanical.

Social media monitoring started in the world of marketing, allowing companies to track what people were saying about their brands. But now, with software that allows users to scan huge volumes of public postings on social media, police are starting to embrace it as well.

Many police departments in Britain use a product sold by CrowdControlHQ. CEO James Leavesley says the company is in the business of monitoring "social media risk."

Police are like the rest of us; they suffer from information overload. The data pour in from 21st century sources ranging from license plate readers to Twitter. But as the information comes in, it hits an old-fashioned bottleneck: human beings.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

And now to All Tech Considered.

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CORNISH: Today is a tricky business of keeping some American technologies out of foreign hands. When a man from Hong Kong met with an aerospace company in Seattle last week, he was really dealing with an undercover Homeland Security agent. See Kee Chin allegedly tried to buy $85,000 worth of highly specialized accelerometers. He was arrested and charged with trying to smuggle the parts to China.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released its draft report into the causes of a devastating 2010 explosion at a Tesoro refinery on Puget Sound. The accident killed seven workers, and the community has been increasingly upset by how long the investigation has dragged on.

When I heard late Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder had come out in favor of bank accounts for state-sanctioned pot businesses, I assumed the industry would react with cheers. After all, they've long complained about being black-balled by banks, which are justifiably afraid of violating federal laws against handling drug money.

But when I started calling around today, the reactions ranged from "That's nice" to "Meh."

Ever wonder what happened with Bertha — the world's biggest tunneling machine, stuck under Seattle? We last checked in on the story right before Christmas, when engineers were preparing to send down inspection teams to identify the blockage. People (OK, the media) were having a grand time, floating ridiculous guesses about what the mysterious object might be. An old ship? Dinosaur bones? Bigfoot?

One month later, there's still no clear answer. Certainly nothing headline-grabbing.

If you think the recent liberalization of marijuana laws around the country is only about smoking leaves and buds, think again. For users younger than 25, "hash oil" is where it's really at. This concentrated resin of marijuana is creating new public safety headaches — even in places where it's legal.

There have always been forms of the substance, but the resins available today are much stronger than in years past. That's due in part to the expertise developed by medical marijuana producers, who have learned how to make more potent versions of the oil.

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The issue we just heard about is also making news in suburban Seattle. A Catholic school there apparently fired a staff member for being in a same-sex marriage. NPR's Martin Kaste has more.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Mark Zmuda was a vice principal at Eastside Catholic School until shortly before Christmas. The school says he resigned. He insists he was fired. But both sides agree about why he left.

MARK ZMUDA: They said it was because I was married to a man, and violated Catholic teaching.

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For a lot of families, Christmas tree tradition spark household debate. For instance, tinsel or beads; white lights or multicolored; star or angel on top. And for some people, it's not how to decorate the tree. It is when to put it up, early or late, late being now, Christmas Eve. NPR's Martin Kaste falls into that last category.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Yes, I belong to that small and shrinking tribe. We're the ones lurking in the Christmas tree lots at the last possible moment. You guys shutting down already?

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. The people of Seattle are puzzled by a mystery unfolding underground: the world's biggest tunneling machine is stuck about 75 feet under street level where it's digging a nearly two-mile-long highway right under downtown Seattle. As NPR's Martin Kaste reports, engineers say it'll take until January to figure out what is causing the block.

As we near the end of 2013, NPR is taking a look at the numbers that tell the story of this year. They're numbers that, if you really understand them, give insight into the world we live in.

This year, for the first time, national polls show a majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. Gallup has been asking the question for four decades, and now it says 58 percent favor legalization.

Washington residents thinking about jumping into the state's new legal marijuana industry need to act soon. The deadline to apply for a state license to sell recreational pot is Dec. 19, and the applications are flooding in.

Danielle Rosellison, a loan officer in Bellingham, Wash., applied for her pot-growing license on the first day. "It's so cool," she says, laughing. "We have butterflies in our stomach all the time. I feel like they're all shot up on adrenaline."

To Rosellison and her husband, a stay-at-home dad, legal marijuana is an opportunity to change their lives.

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