Eric Westervelt

Eric Westervelt has covered wars and big stories across the world and America for NPR News. He's served as a correspondent in Baghdad, Jerusalem, and Berlin; covered the Pentagon, the war in Afghanistan, North Africa's revolutions, the fall of Egypt's Mubarak, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the troubled occupation of Iraq; and reported on conflicts in Israel, Lebanon, Libya, the Gaza Strip, and more.

Eric's also reported big breaking news stories domestically from mass shootings to wildfires, helped launch NPR's innovative, award-winning education platform NPR Ed, and serves as an occasional guest host for NPR shows.

He recently switched beats again to help build a collaborative team that covers America's criminal justice system including state and local courts, prisons, juvenile justice and policing.

After nearly a decade with NPR's International Desk, Westervelt returned to the U.S. and was awarded a prestigious John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University.

The breadth and depth of Westervelt's work has been honored with broadcast journalism's highest honors including the 2002 George Foster Peabody Award for coverage of the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath; the 2003 Alfred I. duPont - Columbia University award also for 2001 terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan; 2004 and a 2007 duPont-Columbia Awards for NPR's in-depth coverage of the war in Iraq and its effect on Iraqi society. Eric's 2009 multi-media series with NPR photojournalist David Gilkey won an Overseas Press Club award. He shared an Edward R. Murrow RTNDA award with NPR Ed for his education coverage.

As a foreign correspondent for NPR based in the Middle East, Westervelt covered numerous conflicts and their repercussions across the Middle East. He spent several years living in the reporting on the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As Jerusalem Bureau Chief he covered 2006 Second Lebanon war between the Israeli military and Hezbollah, turmoil and combat in the Gaza Strip and the political and social issues across Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Westervelt was one of the first reporters into Baghdad during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 embedded with the lead elements of the U.S. Third Infantry Division which fought their way into capital. He later helped cover the troubled occupation, the Iraqi insurgency, sectarian violence and the on-going struggle to recover in the post-Saddam era.

Westervelt was one of the few western reporters on the ground in Gaza during the Fatah-Hamas civil war and he reported on multiple Israeli offensives in the coastal territory. Additionally, he has reported from the Horn of Africa, Yemen and several Persian Gulf countries.

While based in Europe from 2009 to 2012, Westervelt was Berlin Bureau Chief covering a broad range of news across Europe from the euro debt crisis to political challenges and the rise of the far right Eastern Europe. In 2011 and 2012, his work included coverage of the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt to the civil war and NATO intervention in Libya.

Prior to his Middle East assignments, Westervelt covered military affairs and the Pentagon out of Washington, D.C. reporting on a wide range of defense, national security as well as foreign policy issues.

Before joining NPR's Foreign Desk nearly a decade ago, Westervelt covered some of the biggest domestic stories as a reporter on NPR's National Desk. His assignments spanned from the explosion of TWA flight 800 to the 9-11 attacks. He also covered the mass shooting at Columbine High School, the presidential vote recount following the 2000 Presidential Election, among other major stories. He also covered national trends in law enforcement and crime fighting, including police tactics, racial tensions, use of force, the drug war, racial profiling and the legal and political battles over firearms in America.

On the lighter side, Westervelt occasionally does features for NPR's Arts Desk, including profiles of blues great Freddie King and roots rock pioneer Roy Orbison as part of NPR's 50 Great Voices series. His feature on the making of John Coltrane's classic "A Love Supreme," was part of the NPR series 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 freelance reporter in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, as a news director and reporter in New Hampshire for NHPR and reported for Monitor Radio, the broadcast edition of the Christian Science Monitor.

Westervelt is a graduate of the Putney School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Reed College and was a 2013 J.S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University.

For Shiva Ghaed, the outdoor Route 91 Harvest country music festival one year ago was to be the capstone of a fun girlfriends' weekend in Las Vegas. But it became a struggle for survival when automatic weapons fire on the crowd began killing concertgoers.

In the days after the shooting, Ghaed, a clinical psychologist whose work includes treating veterans with PTSD, realized there were few services available for survivors dealing with the trauma of a mass shooting. So one week after the shooting, she began leading a support group for survivors.

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For more than 15 years, Oakland's police department has been under federal oversight following a police abuse and racial profiling scandal.

As part of a negotiated settlement in 2003, the city agreed to work toward sweeping police reforms. The Riders Settlement mandated ongoing monitoring of the department, including the collection of data on police stops and an end to discriminatory policing.

But there's mounting frustration that federal oversight and better data collection have not led to real change, despite a massive price tag.

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.

A new report out Thursday by the federal government's auditing arm raises big concerns about how the Department of Veterans Affairs handles employees who report wrongdoing and managers found to have committed misconduct.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office's report says VA whistleblowers are far more likely than their colleagues to face discipline or removal after reporting misconduct.

Alan Hyde is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System. He served in Operation Desert Storm, where he suffered an in-service leg injury. But it's his time with the Central Alabama VA, he says, that has left him more rattled, frustrated and angry.

"It's a toxic environment there," Hyde says. "And I feel sorry for the veterans."

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In the early hours of June 5, 1968, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down in a kitchen hallway of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Kennedy was a top Democratic contender. He had just given a rousing victory speech after winning the California presidential primary. He died the following day.

Today, the hotel is gone. But in its place is a kind of living memorial to his ethos of social justice and fairness to everything from immigration to the environment.

Ramona Morales, who turns 80 in May, technically has a criminal record. Her offense? One of her renters kept chickens.

"Beautiful chickens. Beautiful roosters they were," Morales says walking in the backyard of the modest ranch home she rents out in the Coachella Valley city of Indio, Calif.

Beautiful, but annoying to some neighbors and against the Indio's municipal code on keeping farm animals in a residential area.

And violating that code comes with a price. The price for Morales: $6,000.

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Now here's a story of saving lives. It was part of Tuesday's mass shooting in northern California. Teachers, a janitor and others at a school kept it from being worse. Here's NPR's Eric Westervelt.

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The national effort to get states to move away from a bail system based on money — something detractors call unjust and antiquated — got a big boost this week: A yearlong study backed by California's chief justice recommended money bail be abolished and replaced with a system that includes robust safety assessments and expanded pretrial services.

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Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET

Some 9,000 firefighters who are working long hours with little or no rest continue to battle historically destructive Northern California wildfires that have claimed at least 40 lives, wiped out whole neighborhoods and damaged vineyards and farms in the heart of the state's wine country. In this week's fires alone, 22 people have died, the Sonoma County Coroner's office said Saturday.

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There's about 10 feet between Judge Craig Hannah's courtroom bench and the place where a defendant stands to be arraigned here in Buffalo City Court.

But for 26-year-old Caitlyn Stein, it has been a long, arduous 10 feet.

"This is your first day back! Good to see you!" Judge Hannah says as he greets her.

"Good to see you," Stein says, smiling.

"We've got to do that after picture. We did the before," Judge Hannah reminds her.

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And we start this hour in Las Vegas where investigators continue to sift through clues into Sunday's mass shooting. Authorities have now identified all but three of the 59 people killed in the attack, and they say the number of people injured remains around 500.

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The Trump administration is cracking down on so-called sanctuary cities. Yesterday, ICE, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, announced they had arrested nearly 500 undocumented immigrants in a nationwide sweep. NPR's Eric Westervelt has more.

Updated at 8:42 p.m. ET

Organizers of what was being called a "freedom rally" Saturday in San Francisco had hoped to draw an audience for their conservative causes.

Instead, they say rhetoric from politicians and groups on the left compromised their safety by attracting extremists. On Facebook Friday afternoon, one of the organizers, Joey Gibson, announced that the event at San Francisco's Crissy Field was canceled and would now be a news conference at Alamo Square Park.

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Public defenders in Baltimore say hundreds of criminal cases could be tossed out after two incidents discovered on police body cameras this summer show officers allegedly planting drug evidence.

So far some 40 criminal cases have been dropped, mostly involving drug and weapons-related felonies.

But lawyers there say that's just the beginning.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday that it would waive environmental and other laws to ensure the "expeditious construction" of barriers and roads near the U.S.-Mexico border in the San Diego region. Environmentalists have warned that extending the border wall could damage ecosystems and threaten wildlife habitats.

The Golden State Warriors earned their second NBA title in three years with a 129 to 120 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland Monday night, led by All-Star forward Kevin Durant's 39 points and strong bench scoring.

Durant's stellar play all season and throughout the playoffs vindicated Golden State's massive payout to the superstar in a controversial off-season deal.

Fellow All-Star Stephen Curry added 34 points.

But it was Durant, who left Oklahoma City for Oakland at the end of last season, who carried the team.

Activists took to the streets in Washington, D.C., and several other cities Saturday — the traditional Tax Day (which officially falls on April 18 this year) — to try to pressure the president to release his tax returns. Liberal protests are fast becoming a fixture of Donald Trump's presidency.

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