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.

Author Joe McGinniss has been out this week promoting his new book about Sarah Palin — a book widely condemned for gossipy allegations by anonymous sources. The book is getting attention in part because Palin might be running for president.

This summer, Palin certainly looked like a presidential candidate as she rode through Iowa and New Hampshire in a red-white-and-blue bus, but as time ticks away the pressure is building on Palin to make her candidacy official.

Parts of the U.S. are seeing a drop-off in vaccination rates among young children. The falling rates don't necessarily track with poverty or other poor public health trends; in fact, a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report flagged the poorest rates of kindergarten vaccination in relatively prosperous states, like Washington and Oregon.

Late last month, while Washington, D.C., was focused on the debt ceiling, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation that could have long-term consequences on Internet privacy.

The bill requires all Internet service providers to save their customers' IP addresses — or online identity numbers — for a year. The bill's stated purpose is to help police find child pornographers, but critics say that's just an excuse for another step toward Big Brother.

Seattle is the home of the U.S. Coast Guard's entire fleet of polar-class icebreakers.

Both of them.

Capt. George Pellissier commands both the Polar Sea and the Polar Star. He has spent much of his career on these ships, which were built in Seattle in the 1970s.

Get ready to hear the word supercommittee a lot this fall. It's the bipartisan committee created by the recent debt ceiling deal, which has until Thanksgiving to figure out how to cut more than $1 trillion from the deficit.

One of the panel's co-chairman is Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington. With Congress in recess, Murray is back home, doing the obligatory factory tours. She was at Machinists, Inc. on Seattle's industrial south side on Wednesday.

Downtown Seattle is one earthquake away from a transportation catastrophe. The city's last big quake in 2001 seriously weakened an elevated highway called the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and engineers say another good shake could bring the double-decker structure down. Although the city has been living with the threat for 10 years, residents and politicians still can't agree what to do about it.

Seattle would seem the ideal setting for noir crime novels, what with the rain, the port and the gloomy Scandinavians. But it's not as noir as it used to be. J.B. Dickey, owner of the Seattle Mystery Book Shop, says downtown Seattle was once a lot seedier. "It was more about sailors on leave and tattoo joints," he says. "And the Donut Shop!"

The Donut Shop? Tres noir, says Dickey. "People who were here during the '70s remember the Donut Shop as being a very notorious place."

If Democrats and Republicans are unable to meet the Tuesday deadline for raising the debt ceiling, and the Treasury starts running short of money, the government will have to start making choices about which bills to pay. On the West Coast, as elsewhere in the country, taxpayers and state officials are considering what would happen if Social Security and medical benefits really stop.