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.

When I heard late Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder had come out in favor of bank accounts for state-sanctioned pot businesses, I assumed the industry would react with cheers. After all, they've long complained about being black-balled by banks, which are justifiably afraid of violating federal laws against handling drug money.

But when I started calling around today, the reactions ranged from "That's nice" to "Meh."

Ever wonder what happened with Bertha — the world's biggest tunneling machine, stuck under Seattle? We last checked in on the story right before Christmas, when engineers were preparing to send down inspection teams to identify the blockage. People (OK, the media) were having a grand time, floating ridiculous guesses about what the mysterious object might be. An old ship? Dinosaur bones? Bigfoot?

One month later, there's still no clear answer. Certainly nothing headline-grabbing.

If you think the recent liberalization of marijuana laws around the country is only about smoking leaves and buds, think again. For users younger than 25, "hash oil" is where it's really at. This concentrated resin of marijuana is creating new public safety headaches — even in places where it's legal.

There have always been forms of the substance, but the resins available today are much stronger than in years past. That's due in part to the expertise developed by medical marijuana producers, who have learned how to make more potent versions of the oil.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. The people of Seattle are puzzled by a mystery unfolding underground: the world's biggest tunneling machine is stuck about 75 feet under street level where it's digging a nearly two-mile-long highway right under downtown Seattle. As NPR's Martin Kaste reports, engineers say it'll take until January to figure out what is causing the block.

As we near the end of 2013, NPR is taking a look at the numbers that tell the story of this year. They're numbers that, if you really understand them, give insight into the world we live in.

This year, for the first time, national polls show a majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. Gallup has been asking the question for four decades, and now it says 58 percent favor legalization.

Washington residents thinking about jumping into the state's new legal marijuana industry need to act soon. The deadline to apply for a state license to sell recreational pot is Dec. 19, and the applications are flooding in.

Danielle Rosellison, a loan officer in Bellingham, Wash., applied for her pot-growing license on the first day. "It's so cool," she says, laughing. "We have butterflies in our stomach all the time. I feel like they're all shot up on adrenaline."

To Rosellison and her husband, a stay-at-home dad, legal marijuana is an opportunity to change their lives.

America's traditional phone system is not as dependable as it used to be. Just last month, the Federal Communications Commission told phone companies to start collecting stats on calls that fail to complete. According to one estimate, as many as 1 in 5 incoming long-distance calls simply doesn't connect.

Western states have led the way in the legalization of marijuana, first with medical marijuana, and then with the legalization of recreational pot in Colorado and Washington last November.

It's been quite an adjustment for the police. Washington State Patrol is adapting to the new reality in a variety of ways, from untraining dogs that sniff out pot, to figuring out how to police high drivers.

A Smell Once Forbidden

Revelations about NSA spying have left people wondering about the privacy of their digital data. But what about the privacy of their faces?

The movies make facial recognition look easy: In the 1998 film Enemy of the State, a team of NSA agents simply freeze a surveillance tape, tap some keys and identify the face a few computer beeps later.

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