Martin Kaste

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.

In addition to criminal justice reporting, 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.

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One of the few silver linings to this pandemic is that in most places, there's been less crime.

"Calls for service are certainly down," says Sgt. Adam Plantinga of the San Francisco Police Department. "No open bars means there's fewer late-night brawls, and people are home more, so burglars are having a tougher time of it."

Police departments across the country are facing a new reality in the era of coronavirus. As familiar categories of crime fade, officers are being asked to handle unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable new assignments.

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In mid-March, he was a cautionary tale for medical workers: an unnamed doctor in his 40s" with a case of COVID-19 so bad that he was near death.

Almost a month later, 45-year-old emergency physician Ryan Padgett is back in his home in Seattle, rebuilding his strength and marveling at how quickly the novel virus laid him low.

"This is very scary," he says. "That it's not only medically fragile patients, but young people can be cut at the knees and taken down by this."

Last week, the Army scrambled to set up a 250-bed field hospital in an events center next to Seattle's baseball stadium. This week, the state has decided it doesn't need it.

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Medical rationing is not something Americans are accustomed to, but COVID-19 may soon change that.

The specter of rationing is most imminent in New York City, where the virus is spreading rapidly and overwhelming hospitals with patients.

According to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state has 2,200 ventilators in its state stockpile. Current COVID-19 case projections suggest the state may not have enough of the machines, which help critically ill people breathe, as soon as next week.

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This morning, the Navy hospital ship called Comfort arrived in New York Harbor. Mayor Bill de Blasio praised its arrival as a morale booster for New Yorkers, a clear sign that relief is on the way.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee looks at a graph of the latest coronavirus cases for his state and sees reason for hope. The line is still rising, but not as steeply as before.

"It is a glimmer of hope," he says. "It's suggestive that some of the things we are doing together is having some modest improvement."

But for every note of optimism, the governor adds twice as much caution.

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Public health officials today announced four more deaths connected to the coronavirus in the Seattle area. That brings the total to six.

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Seattle is grappling with a crisis of what is sometimes called "visible homelessness" — people who live in the street and struggle with mental illness or drug addiction. It's a population that often commits small crimes, such as disorderly conduct or shoplifting to pay for drugs. And public frustration is growing.

Some accuse a reform-oriented local criminal justice system of becoming too tolerant.

The man who killed 12 people in a municipal building on Friday in Virginia Beach, Va., fired many rounds — "well into the double digits" — and when officers caught up with the suspect, it took a "long gun battle" to stop him, according to Police Chief James Cervera.

One reason may have been the suspect's gear.

Authorities recovered a .45-caliber handgun with multiple extended magazines that were emptied, Cervera said at a weekend news conference. "The suspect was reloading extended magazines in that handgun, firing at victims throughout the building and at our officers."

A year ago, Facebook started using artificial intelligence to scan people's accounts for danger signs of imminent self-harm.

Facebook Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis is pleased with the results so far.

"In the very first month when we started it, we had about 100 imminent-response cases," which resulted in Facebook contacting local emergency responders to check on someone. But that rate quickly increased.

In the wake of the Parkland high school massacre, there's been renewed interest in "red flag" laws, which allow courts and police to temporarily remove guns from people perceived to pose a threat.

The new research offers insight into the laws' effect — and it may not be what you think.

"Although these laws tended to be enacted after mass shooting events, in practice, they tend to be enforced primarily for suicide prevention," says Aaron Kivisto, a clinical psychologist with the University of Indianapolis who studies gun violence prevention.

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President Obama is putting former CEO Jeff Zients in charge of the "tech surge" — the administration's emergency effort to fix the Web portal at the heart of the federal government's new health care market. But what about the contractors that built the system? What's their responsibility?

The Navy Yard massacre may renew concerns over the potential dangers of mentally ill people who don't get treatment. That issue is especially hot right now in Seattle, where the mayor has called untreated mental illness an "emergency."

Unstable In Seattle

Seattle's Pioneer Square is an uneasy mix of art galleries and skid road; it's gelato over here, and heroin over there. And then there's mental illness.

Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to answer questions on everything from gun control to the Department of Justice's failure to prosecute Wall Street. But he was also asked about an issue proponents of marijuana legalization have been following closely: what the DOJ plans to do about Colorado and Washington state, which have defied federal law by legalizing recreational use of the drug.