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.

Nearly 30 sworn police officers from a dozen departments attended the pro-Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol last week, and several stormed the building with rioters and are facing federal criminal charges as well as possible expulsion or other discipline.

The officers are from departments large and small. There was veteran officer in Houston, the nation's eighth-largest department; a sergeant in the small town of Rocky Mount, Va., and a group of Philadelphia transit officers.

Members of the insurrectionist mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol last week face what the federal prosecutor in charge calls a "mind-blowing" range of potential charges, from destruction of federal property, trespass and mail theft to possession of destructive devices and felony murder.

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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."

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Hospitals in California are facing a staffing shortage heading into the middle of winter. NPR's Eric Westervelt has been speaking with health care workers there.

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.

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Arizona, as we note, is still counting ballots. The Associated Press, which NPR follows, has called the state for Joe Biden but is continuing to monitor the count, as is NPR's Eric Westervelt, who joins us from Phoenix. Eric, thanks for being with us.

Experts agree the Western U.S. needs to increase intentional burns to head off more catastrophic wildfire seasons. But economic, cultural and institutional barriers are in the way.

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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Nationwide protests over police accountability and racial justice have reenergized longstanding efforts to fundamentally change how police departments respond to someone in a mental health emergency. Many are calling for removing or dramatically reducing law enforcement's role in responding to those crisis calls unless absolutely necessary.

Marin County, just north of San Francisco, is best known nationally as a picturesque gateway to wine country and home to moneyed tech investors and a handful of aging rock stars. The reality, of course, is more complicated.

The catastrophic explosion in Beirut last week has renewed calls in the U.S. to strengthen oversight of ammonium nitrate or AN, a chemical compound used in some farm fertilizers.

Officials in Beirut believe the giant blast, which killed more than 200 people and damaged half of the city, was likely an accident caused by fire and negligent storage of some 2,750 tons of the chemical.

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Updated at 2:06 p.m. ET

An explosion of coronavirus infections at California's San Quentin State Prison, the state's oldest, has public health officials there worried about its impact on prisoners, staff and the wider hospital system in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"Shocking, heartbreaking are certainly the words I would use to describe it," said David Sears, a physician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He recently toured San Quentin and warned officials about just such an outbreak.

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The growing calls for systemic reform of American policing follow years of rising anger at the ongoing deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement, including the recent killing of George Floyd.

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The nationwide demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd's killing have been met at times with heavy-handed police tactics that include beatings, the use of tear gas and rubber bullets fired into crowds.

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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.

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