Martin Kaste

NPR's Martin Kaste covers the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and western Canada, and occasionally roams farther afield. Kaste's reports and features can be heard on all of NPR's news programs and newscasts.

Politics is a big part of Kaste's beat, and he's followed the career of Alaska's Sarah Palin since well before the day she was picked as John McCain's running mate.

He also specializes in privacy issues, focusing on the government's wireless wiretapping practices, and the data-collection and analysis that goes on behind the scenes in social media and other new media.

Before moving to the West Coast, Kaste spent five years as NPR's South America reporter. He covered the drug wars in Colombia, the financial meltdown in Argentina, the rise of Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and the fall of Haiti's president Jean Bertrand Aristide. All told, Kaste covered the overthrow of five presidents in five years.

Kaste joined NPR fulltime in February 2000, after working in St. Paul as a political reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, which he joined in 1993. He's a graduate of Carleton College.



Thu October 20, 2011
Around the Nation

Exploring Occupy Wall Street's 'Adbuster' Origins

An onlooker takes a photograph of Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park. The demonstrations were inspired by a blog post by Kalle Lasn, editor of Adbusters magazine.

Stan Honda AFP/Getty Images

The protests go by a variety of names: "Occupy Wall Street," "American Autumn," "The 99 Percent." And the lack of a unified message is matched by a lack of centralized control. But the protests share a common spark: a disillusioned Canadian adman.

The "Occupy" protests seemed to come out of nowhere. But the early participants, like John Garcia, in downtown Seattle, point to a very specific catalyst.

"I get Adbusters, so that's how I heard about it," he says.

Read more


Thu October 6, 2011

With No Steve Jobs, Will Apple Lose Its Juice?

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:21 am

In June, Steve Jobs spoke at a Cupertino City Council meeting to show off his plan for a new headquarters. Even though he was looking quite unwell, he still knew all of the project's details.


The tech world is mourning Steve Jobs, who died Wednesday from complications of pancreatic cancer. Even as the tributes roll in, it's hard to avoid this nagging question: What will become of Apple without its charismatic co-founder?

Jobs rescued Apple from near bankruptcy and turned it into one of America's most important companies β€” and one of its biggest. Now, Apple is trying to keep the Jobs magic alive.

A Knack For Detail

Read more


Wed September 28, 2011
Digital Life

Who Are You, Really? Activists Fight For Pseudonyms

Originally published on Wed September 28, 2011 7:04 pm

In the past, Google Chief Eric Schmidt, shown this month, has expressed impatience with Internet anonymity. At the Techonomy conference last year, he said, "One of the errors that the Internet made a long time ago is that there was not an accurate and non-revocable identity-management service."
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Social media companies don't like people creating accounts under fake names. That's long been the case at Facebook, but over the summer, Google's new social network, Google Plus, surprised users by making a point of shutting down accounts with names that didn't look real.

Some online activists refer to Google's action as the "nym wars" β€” short for "pseudonym wars." They see it as part of a worrying trend to force people to use their real names online.

Trying To Weed Out 'Trolls'

Read more


Wed September 21, 2011

As The 'Un-Candidate,' Palin Tests GOP Patience

Author Joe McGinniss has been out this week promoting his new book about Sarah Palin β€” 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.

Read more


Tue September 13, 2011

Doctors Counter Vaccine Fears In Pacific Northwest

Originally published on Tue September 13, 2011 6:48 pm

Many parents today expect to have choices β€” and that includes picking and choosing which vaccines their children gets.

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.

Read more


Wed August 24, 2011

Child Pornography Bill Makes Privacy Experts Skittish

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 β€” or online identity numbers β€” 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.

Read more


Fri August 19, 2011
Race To The Arctic

In The Arctic Race, The U.S. Lags Behind

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks ice to support scientific research in the Arctic Ocean near Barrow, Alaska, in this file photo from July 2006 provided by the Coast Guard. In addition to the medium-class Healy, the U.S. just has two polar-class icebreakers β€” one of which will be decommissioned soon.
Prentice Danner AP

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.

Read more


Thu August 18, 2011

Can Low-Key Sen. Murray Guide Supercommittee?

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.

Read more


Tue August 16, 2011
Around the Nation

Crumbling Viaduct Divides Seattle

Washington Department of Transportation surveyors Mark McDonald (left) and Richard Torres work atop Alaskan Way Viaduct in downtown Seattle in 2009. The viaduct, which was constructed in the 1950s, is slated to be replaced by a deep-bore tunnel. A 2001 earthquake seriously weakened the structure, and engineers say another hard shake could bring it down.
Stephen Brashear Getty Images

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.

Read more


Thu August 4, 2011
Crime In The City

A Former Cop Sets His Crime Scene In Seattle

Originally published on Wed August 10, 2011 12:17 pm

Today, Seattle's Pike Place Market is a bustling tourist spot β€” where visitors come to buy lattes at the original Starbucks and watch vendors throw fish. But in the late 1970s, the market was a dicier place. And Lowen Clausen β€” a Seattle cop turned Seattle crime writer β€” would know.
papalars via Flickr

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."

Read more


Sat July 30, 2011

Preparing For Debt Fallout Across The Nation

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.

Read more


Sun July 3, 2011

When Water Overpowers, Wind Farms Get Steamed

The Pacific Northwest is suffering from too much of a good thing β€” electricity. It was a snowy winter and a wet spring, and there's lots of water behind the dams on the Columbia River, creating an oversupply of hydropower. As a result, the region's new wind farms are being ordered to throttle back β€” and they're not happy.

Read more


Wed June 29, 2011

Facebook's Newest Challenger: Google Plus

A screen shot of Google Plus.

Google is trying once again to challenge Facebook's domination of the social networking business. Its main social networking site "Orkut" is very popular in Brazil, but in the rest of the world, Google trails Facebook.

But the company has a new attempt to catch up.

The new social network is called Google Plus, and you're not allowed to join it. At least, not yet.

"It's small but growing," says Bradley Horowitz, who oversees Google's communications products and social applications.

Read more


Thu June 23, 2011

Gray Wolf In Cross Hairs Again After Delisting

Originally published on Thu January 24, 2013 5:49 pm

In central Idaho, local hostility to wolves expresses itself on signs along the highway. Many residents don't like the wolves because the animals kill elk, livestock and pets.
Martin Kaste NPR

Conservation groups howled when Congress removed the Rocky Mountain gray wolf from the federal endangered species list. The "delisting" in most of the Northwest was attached to the budget deal in April between the White House and Congress.

The head of one environmental organization likened it to Congress throwing the wolf off Noah's Ark. But now that states like Idaho have full authority over the wolf's fate, they're eager to use it.

Read more


Mon May 23, 2011
Middle East

Libyan Rebels Restore Old Weapons, Wait For New

At the rebels' outdoor machine shop, they rehabilitate antique automatic weapons and sometimes redesign them. Saleh Likhfayfe shows off the new "grip" welded onto a salvaged machine gun.
Martin Kaste NPR

Rebels in Libya say they need more outside help to finish their 3-month-old rebellion against the government of Moammar Gadhafi. The nightly bombings by NATO are holding Gadhafi's forces at bay, but the rebels say they need heavier weaponry to push deeper into Gadhafi-controlled territory.

At a rebel boot camp on the edge of Benghazi that used to be a Libyan army base, the buildings still bear the scorch marks that resulted from the recent change of management.

Read more


Mon May 23, 2011
The Two-Way

With Lights, People In Eastern Libya Press For Help

Rebels were trying to keep the world's attention on Libya, with lights aimed at the news media and aid workers in Benghazi on Sunday night. Zintan is a town in western Libya β€” a region that rebels hope will also soon be out of the Gadhafi regime's control.
Jonathan Blakley NPR

As the revolt against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi drags into its fourth month, people in the rebel-controlled city of Benghazi are doing what they can to keep themselves motivated β€” and to keep the outside world, interested.

Sunday night, that meant a light show.

As dusk fell, people gathered in a plaza outside our hotel, holding up lights. They formed the outlines of a crescent and star β€” symbols of the rebel flag β€” while others spelled out the names of other Libyan cities; including that of Zintan, a town in the western mountains.

Read more


Tue May 17, 2011
The Two-Way

Scene From Benghazi: An Old Glory With 11 Stripes

A homemade American flag flies over Benghazi.
Martin Kaste NPR

If the U.S. flag in this photo looks a little improvised, it's because it is. In Benghazi, Libya, anti-Gadhafi rebels are eager to fly the flags of countries friendly to their cause: Qatar, Italy, France and the United States. The trouble is, the American flag is not exactly an off-the-shelf consumer item in Libyan stores. So these are homemade. This one has only eleven stripes, but it still makes its point.

These flags are outside the Tibesty Hotel, which is the main crossroads for rebel officials, international envoys and aid groups (not to mention journalists).

Read more


Sun May 15, 2011
Middle East

Libyan Rebels Go Into The Oil Business

The longer the conflict in Libya drags on, the more important oil becomes. The U.S. and Europe are squeezing Moammar Gadhafi by preventing him from selling oil, and at the same time, they've given the rebels the green light to export oil from their territory. But, as NPR's Martin Kaste reports from Libya, the rebels aren't getting the boost from oil they'd hoped for.


Mon May 9, 2011
Middle East

After Deadly Clashes, Egypt's Christians On Edge

In Egypt, the army is guarding two Christian churches that were burned over the weekend in an outburst of violence between Coptic Christians and Muslims. The clashes in Cairo left at least a dozen dead and hundreds injured.

The Copts make up about 10 percent of the country's population, and many say they feel more vulnerable to attacks by Muslims since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February.

'A Sense Of Shock'

Read more


Mon May 9, 2011
Middle East

Sectarian Clashes Hurt Egypt's Transition

Relations between Egypt's Muslims and Christians have degenerated to a new low. Riots left 12 people dead and a church burned.


Sun May 1, 2011
The Spark

Years Ago, Sarah Palin Was Recruited As A Moderate

Originally published on Thu May 5, 2011 12:56 pm

Sarah Palin (center) stands with the Wasilla, Alaska, City Council for a portrait in 1998. In 1992, then-Mayor John Stein recruited Palin as a moderate counterweight to the growing anti-government, anti-tax movement. By 1996, Palin challenged Stein in the race for mayor β€” and won.
Heath Family AP

NPR has been profiling some of the Republicans who are considering a presidential run in 2012, to find out what first sparked their interest in politics. Read more of those profiles.

Whether Sarah Palin will enter the 2012 presidential race is the political junkie's favorite guessing game β€” and Palin hasn't said much to end the speculation.

Read more


Tue April 26, 2011
Conflict In Libya

U.S. Professor Reflects On Return Home To Libya

The rebels in Libya are short of many things these days β€” weapons, money, even Cabinet ministers.

In the largely improvised scramble to set up an alternative to leader Moammar Gadhafi's regime, the rebels are leaning heavily on a small number of people. One of them is Ali Tarhouni, a University of Washington economics professor who abruptly left his family and students to join an uncertain Libyan revolution.

Tarhouni is not an easy man to sit down with these days; it would be an exaggeration to call him a one-man Cabinet, but sometimes it seems that way.

Read more


Mon April 25, 2011

Tim Pawlenty: The Young Reaganite Comes Of Age

There are at least a dozen Republicans considering a run for the White House in 2012. Over the next two weeks, NPR will be profiling some of them to find out what first sparked their interest in politics.

You may not be ready yet, but in Iowa, they're already thinking about 2012.

In the tiny town of Fayette, the local Republican Party is holding a fundraising lunch. It's a small event β€” but not too small for Tim Pawlenty.

Read more


Thu April 21, 2011

Apple's iPhone 4 Tracks Where It's Been

Two computer researchers say the new iPhone quietly keeps track of everywhere you take it β€” even if you turn off the GPS function. The iPhone 4 is constantly recording its location relative to nearby cell phone towers and WiFi signals. In other words, it's all the information needed for a detailed map of everywhere the phone's owner has been.