Eric Westervelt

Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.

For a decade as a foreign correspondent, Westervelt served as NPR reporter and bureau chief in Baghdad, Jerusalem, and Berlin. He's covered the Pentagon, the war in Afghanistan, and the U.S. invasion and troubled occupation of Iraq, including the insurgency, sectarian violence, and the resulting social and political tumult.

He has reported on the ground from North Africa during revolutions there, including from Tahrir Square during fall of Egypt's Mubarak, the front lines during the civil war and NATO intervention in Libya, and the popular uprising in Tunisia. He's also reported from Yemen, the Arabian Gulf states, and the Horn of Africa, including Ethiopia, Djibouti, and the Somalia border region.

Westervelt was among the first western reporters to reach Baghdad during the 2003 U.S-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein embedded with the lead elements of the army's Third Infantry Division. He was also among the first western reporters to enter the Gaza Strip via Egypt during the 2008-2009 Israeli ground offensive in the coastal Palestinian enclave known as the Gaza War.

Westervelt has reported extensively across the U.S. on big stories and breaking news, from mass shootings to natural disasters and police use of force. He helped launch NPR's innovative, award-winning education platform NPR Ed, and serves as a guest host for NPR news shows.

Westervelt is currently helping to launch a collaborative team that covers America's criminal justice system, including issues and reform efforts surrounding prisons, policing, juvenile justice, and the courts.

He's been honored with broadcast journalism's highest honors, including the 2002 George Foster Peabody Award for coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the aftermath; the 2003 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for coverage of Sept. 11 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan; and 2004 and 2007 DuPont-Columbia Awards for NPR's in-depth coverage of the war in Iraq and its effect on Iraqi society. Westervelt's 2009 multimedia series with the late NPR photojournalist David Gilkey won an Overseas Press Club Award. He also recently shared in an Edward R. Murrow RTNDA Award with NPR Ed for innovative education coverage.

In 2013, Westervelt returned to the U.S. from overseas as a visiting journalism fellow at Stanford University with the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship

As Jerusalem bureau chief, Westervelt covered the failed diplomatic efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and the social, political, and cultural news across Israel and the occupied West Bank. He reported from the front lines of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah known as the Second Lebanon War. He was on the ground for multiple Israeli-Hamas battles in the Gaza Strip and the Fatah-Hamas civil war and battle of Gaza City that led to the current political split within the Palestinian Authority.

While based in Berlin, Westervelt covered a broad range of news across the region, including the Euro debt crisis, the rise of far right nationalists, national elections, and more.

Prior to his Middle East assignments, Westervelt covered military affairs and the Pentagon out of Washington, DC, reporting on the major defense, national security, and foreign policy issues of the day. He began his work at NPR on the network's national desk where his coverage spanned the mass shooting at Columbine High School, the presidential vote recount following the 2000 election, and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks reporting from the Ground Zero recovery in New York City, among many other stories.

On the lighter side, Westervelt also produces occasional features for NPR's Arts Desk, including for the series American Anthem, as well as Rock Hall Award profiles of blues great Freddie King and an exploration of roots rock pioneer Roy Orbison for NPR's 50 Great Voices series. His feature on the making of John Coltrane's jazz classic "A Love Supreme" was part of NPR's project on the most influential American musical works of the 20th century, which was recognized with a Peabody Award.

Before joining NPR, Westervelt worked as a reporter in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, reported for the broadcast edition of the Christian Science Monitor, Monitor Radio, and worked as a news director and reporter in New Hampshire for NHPR.

Westervelt grew up in upstate New York. He's a graduate of the Putney School and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Reed College. He was a recipient in 2013 of a J.S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University.

The United States Capitol Police have identified the woman who was shot and killed by one of their officers during the pro-Trump rioting on Wednesday as Ashli E. Babbitt, an Air Force veteran from the San Diego area.

She was among the rioters who stormed the Capitol building.

Babbitt, 35, was one of four people who died during Wednesday's chaotic events, according to Washington's Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). MPD Police Chief Robert Contee said the three others who died experienced unspecified "medical emergencies."

After this year's historic wildfires, California's oldest state park — Big Basin Redwoods — looks more like a logging village than an iconic hiking and camping mecca.

There's a near constant buzz of chainsaws. Rumblings from trucks and logging skidders fill the air as crews busily cut charred, fallen trees and chop down "hazard trees" rangers worry will topple on to the park's roadways.

Prisoner's rights advocates are pleading for more action to help stop the deadly toll taken by the pandemic that has ravaged America's jails and prisons.

Their calls come as the country grapples with increases in cases and hospitalizations from the coronavirus, forcing states and cities to impose tougher restrictions on public gatherings.

The advocates want faster, early release of older and medically vulnerable inmates, those nearing their parole date, as well as non-violent prisoners with a track record of good behavior.

Earlier this month California Gov. Gavin Newsom, looking uncharacteristically wan and frustrated, stood in the burnt ruins of an elementary school in Napa County obliterated by yet another catastrophic blaze.

It's a scene the governor acknowledged has become painfully familiar across the Golden State.

In what will be among the largest and boldest urban police reform experiment in decades San Francisco is creating and preparing to deploy teams of professionals from the fire and health departments — not police — to respond to most calls for people in a psychiatric, behavioral or substance abuse crisis.

Instead of police, these types of crisis calls will mostly be handled by new unarmed mobile teams comprised of paramedics, mental health professionals and peer support counselors starting next month.

Marina Vergara has been involved in distributing food to Los Angeles' large homeless population for years through her work with a nonprofit that supports the chronically unhoused.

But this spring, she heard about something new. Free food refrigerators, or "freedges," were springing up all over New York as the deadly pandemic fueled a striking rise in wider food insecurity and hunger. Vergara reached out to the members of the collective who were setting up them up.

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California's first-of-its-kind effort to get cash aid into the hands of undocumented workers affected by the coronavirus got off to a bumpy start over the past week.

Across the state, tens of thousands of immigrants calling to apply encountered busy signals, crashed phone lines and frustration.

Images of some American farmers dumping milk, plowing under crops and tossing perishables amid sagging demand and falling prices during the deadly coronavirus pandemic has made for dramatic TV.

But it's not the whole story.

As public health experts plead for cities and states to dramatically increase the scale and speed of testing and contact tracing for the coronavirus, researchers in San Francisco, backed by dozens of volunteers, have launched an ambitious effort to test everyone older than 4 years old in a big part of one hard-hit neighborhood.

A small town in northern California will become the first in the nation to try to test everyone for the Coronavirus, regardless of symptoms, in an effort to better understand how the virus spreads and how antibodies against the disease are built.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco who are running the project in unincorporated Bolinas, home to some 1,600 people, started Monday.

Just a month after San Francisco became the first city in the nation to order residents to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, the city has launched an ambitious new effort to try to warn residents who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. The city's goal: Get them all tested and convince them to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

California is releasing thousands of inmates early due to the pandemic without adequate transportation, support services or housing once they get out, statewide prison advocates and reentry service providers say.

"Absolutely do not stop folks from coming home, but we need realistic resources," says London Croudy, with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, a nonprofit that advocates for inmates' rights and the formerly incarcerated. "We want to be there for these folks, but we need help!"

The Trump administration Wednesday said it will crack down on exports of critical medical supplies, including N95 respirator masks, surgical masks and gloves needed to fight the coronavirus.

Customs and Border Protection, working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will now detain exports of these scarce medical supplies at U.S. ports. CBP said the agencies will determine "whether to return the PPE (personal protection equipment) for use within the United States; to purchase the PPE on behalf of the United States; or, allow it to be exported."

California's court system, the nation's largest, announced a series of emergency measures this week to address vulnerabilities related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Editor's note: This story contains language that some may find offensive.

President Trump says the federal government's procurement and distribution of vital medical supplies to fight COVID-19 is "a fine-tuned machine," but many hospitals and state governors say they're still struggling to get what they need.

Across much of the nation, health care workers report ongoing, dire shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) including hospital gowns, face shields and especially respiratory N95 face masks.

President Trump says key help is on the way from the strategic reserve and from private industry ramping up production, including big shipments from 3M.

It's recreation time at a Los Angeles County jail known as the Twin Towers. Nearly a dozen disheveled young men stand docilely as they munch on sandwiches out of brown paper bags.

They're half-naked except for sleeveless, thick, blanket-like restraints wrapped around them like medieval garments.

All are chained and handcuffed to shiny metal tables bolted to the floor.

"It's lunchtime and they're actually [in] programming right now," says a veteran guard, LA County Sheriff's Deputy Myron Trimble.

Charles Gibson pushes a shopping cart toward his soggy tent on a tenuous patch of a grassy drainage ditch along a bike trail in Santa Rosa, Calif. He's one of nearly 200 people living in a sprawling camp here that has sprung up along a popular recreation corridor. It's a community, Gibson says, that often feels caught between opposing forces who aren't always listening.

"I mean, they [local officials] want us to be able to govern ourselves, but they are not giving us the tools we need," Gibson says. "They don't want you hiding, but they don't want you in their face, you know?"

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Faced with a flood of addicted inmates and challenged by lawsuits, America's county jails are struggling to adjust to an opioid health crisis that has turned many of the jails into their area's largest drug treatment centers.

In an effort to get a handle on the problem, more jails are adding some form of medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, to help inmates safely detox from opioids and stay clean behind bars and after release.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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California Governor Gavin Newsom called the death penalty morally wrong, discriminatory and a failure today. He then signed an executive order placing a moratorium on capital punishment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Latosha Poston says she made a lot of mistakes in her life. Her legal troubles began in her teens after her first child was born in Indianapolis. Over the years, bad decisions led to some arrests, some convictions.

"Sometimes we get stuck in our past and let our past guide us," she says.

The 44-year-old has worked hard to straighten out her life. But her criminal records — all involving misdemeanors — continued to haunt her as she tried to find a decent job and place to live.

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Updated at 4 p.m. ET

Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., the parent company of California's largest utility, plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid what could be billions of dollars in liability costs over the massive wildfires that have torn through California in recent years.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

Blues legend Otis Rush, whose unique style of soloing and powerful tenor voice helped shape the Chicago blues sound and deeply influenced a generation of blues and rock musicians, died Saturday of complications from a stroke he suffered in 2003. He was 84 years old.

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Cities in California can no longer tack on exorbitant legal fees to settle minor local code violations, thanks to a new law enacted this week.

The law makes it illegal for cities and counties to charge defendants for the legal costs to investigate, prosecute or appeal a criminal violation of a local ordinance.

As legalization of recreational and medical marijuana continues to expand, police across the country are more concerned than ever about stoned drivers taking to the nation's roads and freeways, endangering lives.

With few accurate roadside tools to detect pot impairment, police today have to rely largely on field sobriety tests developed to fight drunk driving or old-fashioned observation, which can be foiled with Visine or breath mints.

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