Eric Westervelt

After nearly a decade as an award-winning Foreign Correspondent with NPR's international desk, Eric Westervelt returned in September 2013 to domestic news with a new national beat covering American education as an Education Correspondent.

In this role, he covers the news, issues, and trends in classrooms across the country, from pre-K to higher education. He has a strong interest in the multiple ways in which technology is disrupting traditional pedagogy.

Westervelt recently returned from a 2013 John S Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University. The fellowship focused on journalistic innovation, leadership, entrepreneurship and the future of news.

Previously, he was a foreign correspondent based in the Middle East and then Europe. From 2009 to 2012 Westervelt was Berlin Bureau Chief and Correspondent coverage a broad range of news across Europe from the debt crisis to political challenges in Eastern Europe. In 2011 and 2012 his work included coverage of the revolutions in North Africa from the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt to the civil war and NATO intervention in Libya.

As a foreign correspondent, Westervelt has covered numerous wars and their repercussions across the Middle East for NPR as Jerusalem Bureau Chief and as Pentagon Correspondent. Prior to his current assignment, he spent several years living in the Middle East reporting on the war in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Afghanistan and elsewhere. As Jerusalem Bureau Chief he covered the turmoil in the Gaza Strip, and the 2006 Second Lebanon war between the Israeli military and Hezbollah. He also reported in-depth on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict across Israel and the occupied West Bank.

During the US-led invasion of Iraq, Westervelt traveled with the lead element of the U.S. Third Infantry Division, which was the first army unit to reach Baghdad. He later helped cover the Iraqi insurgency, sectarian violence and the on-going struggle to rebuild the country in the post-Saddam Hussein era. Westervelt was one of the few western reporters on the ground in Gaza during the Fatah-Hamas civil war and he reported on multiple Israeli offensives in the coastal territory. Additionally, he has reported from the Horn of Africa, Yemen and the Persian Gulf countries.

Prior to his Middle East assignments, Westervelt covered military affairs and the Pentagon reporting on a wide range of defense, national security as well as foreign policy issues.

Before joining NPR's Foreign Desk nearly a decade ago, Westervelt covered some of the biggest domestic stories as a reporter on NPR's National Desk. His assignments spanned from the explosion of TWA flight 800 to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He also covered the mass shooting at Columbine High School, the presidential vote recount following the 2000 Presidential Election, among other major stories. He also covered national trends in law enforcement and crime fighting, including police tactics, use of force, the drug war, racial profiling and the legal and political battles over firearms in America.

The breadth and depth of his work has been honored with the highest awards in broadcast journalism. He contributed to NPR's 2002 George Foster Peabody Award for coverage of the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath; the 2003 Alfred I. duPont - Columbia University award also for 9/11 coverage and the war in Afghanistan; and a 2004 and a 2007 duPont-Columbia University Award for NPR's coverage of the war in Iraq and its effect on Iraqi society.

Westervelt's 2009 multi-media series with NPR photojournalist David Gilkey won the Overseas Press Club of America's Lowell Thomas Award Citation for Excellence.

In lighter news, Westervelt occasionally does features for NPR's Arts Desk. His profile of roots rock pioneer Roy Orbison was part of NPR's 50 Great Voices series. His feature on the making of John Coltrane's classic "A Love Supreme," was part of the NPR series 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 freelance reporter in Oregon, a news director and reporter in New Hampshire and reported for Monitor Radio, the broadcast edition of the Christian Science Monitor.

Westervelt is a graduate of the Putney School and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Reed College.

It's lunchtime at Oakland High School in Oakland, Calif., and that means fence hoppers. Several kids wear mischievous grins as they speedily scale a 12-foot-high metal perimeter.

In theory, anyway, Oakland High is a "closed campus." That's done in the interest of safety and security and to cut down on school-skipping. It means kids can't leave during school hours without parental consent, especially at lunchtime. But it doesn't stop several students from breaking out.

This is final story in a three-part report on Philadelphia schools in crisis.

Shayna Terrell is in a good mood: It's report card night at the Simon Gratz Mastery Charter high school in North Philadelphia, and parents are showing up in good numbers.

This is the second in a three-part report on Philadelphia schools in crisis.

Philadelphia's Center City area sparkles with new restaurants, jobs and money. After declining for half a century, the city's population grew from 2006 to 2012.

But for people living in concentrated poverty in large swaths of North and West Philadelphia, the Great Recession only made life harder.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is in some hot water over remarks he made last week suggesting that opposition to Common Core of Standards was coming from "white suburban moms." He has since pulled back from those remarks.

It's recess time at Ruby Bridges Elementary School and a third-grader is pummeling a plastic tetherball with focused intensity. He's playing at one of more than a half-dozen recess play stations on the school's sprawling cement playground — there's also wall ball, basketball, capture the flag, sharks and minnows, a jungle gym and tag.

This week on All Tech, we're exploring kids and technology with posts and radio pieces about raising digital natives. Look back at the stories and share your thoughts and ideas in the comments, by email or tweet.

A growing number of school districts across America are trying to weave tablet computers, like the iPad, into the classroom fabric, especially as a tool to help implement the new Common Core state standards for math and reading.

For many high school students this year, the already stressful process of applying to college has been made far worse by major technical malfunctions with the Common Application, an online application portal used by hundreds of colleges and universities.

"It's been stressful, to be honest," says Freya James, a senior in Atlanta applying to five schools — all early admissions. The Common App has been a nightmare, the 17-year-old says.

Sunny Palo Alto, Calif., is awash in multimillion-dollar homes, luxury Tesla electric cars and other financial fruits from a digital revolution the city helped spark. The Silicon Valley city is home to Stanford University, at least eight billionaires, and one mobile home park.

After Japan's Fukushima disaster last year, Germany announced a groundbreaking energy plan: It would phase out all of its domestic nuclear power in a decade and make a transition to safer, carbon neutral energy.

The goal is to have solar, wind and other renewables account for nearly 40 percent of the energy for Europe's largest economy in a decade, and 80 percent by 2050.

One factor that has kept Poland somewhat insulated from the eurozone crisis is domestic consumer spending. Poland had more than 4 percent growth last year while the rest of the continent was mired in negative or flat growth. Poles have more discretionary income than ever before, and they're using it to buy things in swank malls cropping up all over the country.

In Spain, the growing crisis — debt, austerity and joblessness — has prompted more people to vote with their feet. In the first six months of 2012, emigration from Spain is up more than 44 percent from the same period last year.

The Spanish government denies it, but the "brain drain" has become something of a flood with more and more educated, skilled Spaniards moving abroad.

The sun descends reluctantly over Norway's waterside capital, but novelist Jo Nesbo is determined to show Oslo's dark side, to convince me the real city, in parts, is as dirty, twisted and seedy as his own fictional version.

It's a tough sell in this city of bike helmets, clean streets and smiling blond people.

The author has written nine successful novels about the reckless Oslo police detective Harry Hole, a nonconformist with a mercurial mind.

California's Silicon Valley remains by far the dominant arena for high-tech startups and venture capitalists looking to back innovative projects.

But Europe is starting to make its mark on the startup scene. London, Paris and Berlin are starting to hold their own as more and more European startups look to compete on the global stage and attract investors.

A 'Crazy Green Field' For Creative Types

The eurozone will take a short break from its financial crisis to enjoy a sporting event. The soccer teams of Germany and Greece meet Friday in the quarter finals of the Euro 2012 championship in Gdansk, Poland. Germany's coach doesn't think political tensions will have an impact on the field.

The party that won Greece's parliamentary elections on Sunday has accepted the tough conditions international lenders imposed to bail out the ailing nation. But there's been talk that the party wants to seek some concessions on the terms of the rescue package.

At the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her tough line that bailout terms for Greece are not negotiable. After the summit, Merkel returns to a German electorate that is now fed up with a debt crisis that only seems to grow and worsen.

They don't have a plan to save the euro or draw down the war in Afghanistan, nor do they have clear policies on an array of issues, but the German Pirate Party is winning converts and elections with its vision of digital democracy through "liquid feedback."

Despite public relations mishaps and a haphazard organizational structure, the Pirate Party is shaking up the stolid, bureaucratic world of German politics and jolting rival parties with its rising popularity.

Brick by brick, Guenther Demnig is working to change how the Holocaust is publicly remembered in Germany.

On a recent afternoon, the 62-year-old Berlin-born artist is on his knees on a sidewalk in a prosperous section of Berlin's Charlottenburg district, working a hammer and small trowel. He is installing dozens of small, square brass bricks, each one inscribed with the name — and details about the death of — people who once lived in apartment houses on Pestalozzi Strasse.

As soon as new French President Francois Hollande was sworn in on Tuesday, he observed a postwar custom and reached out to Germany, in a move intended to underscore European solidarity and the importance of the alliance.

But it wasn't a relaxing social visit. Hollande's plane was struck by lightning en route to Berlin and had to return to Paris as a precaution. He then took another plane.

A political crisis in Greece and economic woes in Spain are again raising concern about the future of the eurozone.

In Athens today, Greek politicians tried again and failed to form a coalition government, though talks are ongoing. There is growing fear that Greece will not be able to remain in the currency union and avoid defaulting on its debts.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, the man who has confessed to carrying out Norway's worst peacetime atrocity goes on trial today. Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing extremist, raised his fist in a Nazi-style salute after bailiffs removed his handcuffs in the courtroom. Breivik has told authorities he acted to protect Norway from Muslims. The rampage in Oslo and at a youth camp left 77 people dead and dozens injured. NPR's Eric Westervelt is in Oslo and reports that the central issue for judges will be Breivik's mental health.

Norwegians will be confronted again this week with the terrible details and trauma of the worst peacetime attack in the country's history.

Police say last July 22, Anders Behring Breivik set off a car bomb in the center of Oslo near government offices. The blast killed eight people and spun residents and police into a state of chaotic alarm and confusion.

Hungary's new anti-vagrancy laws — the toughest in Europe — now mean that homeless people sleeping on the street can face police fines or even the possibility of jail time.

Advocacy and human-rights groups are alarmed by the new efforts to crack down on and effectively criminalize homelessness, where the ranks of the needy have increased during the country's dire financial crisis.

Debt, joblessness and poverty are on the rise. The country's bonds have been downgraded to "junk" status, and the nation's currency, the forint, has dropped sharply against the euro.

For as long as he can remember, German teenager Robin Dittmar has been obsessed with airplanes. As a little boy, the sound of a plane overhead would send him into the backyard to peer into the sky. Toys had to have wings. Even today, Dittmar sees his car as a kind of ersatz Boeing.

"I've got the number 747 as the number plate of my car. I'm really in love with this airplane," the 18-year-old says.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Greek economy continues to suffer. It's been another painful week for that country starting Sunday when thousands of people demonstrated outside of parliament, and rioters torched buildings in Athens. Greek lawmakers passed harsh new austerity measures despite those protests, and still, Greece's European partners refused to approve the new bailout that the Greeks need to avoid default. NPR's Eric Westervelt reports what EU finance ministers will be considering when they meet again on Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Greek spoken)

The European Union says Greece has made some progress, but not enough, to merit the new bailout it desperately needs to avoid default and keep the euro as its currency.

Greeks are increasingly bitter about the austerity measures the EU is imposing on them. And Greece's EU partners are losing trust that the Greeks will implement them.

Now, talk is growing about contingency planning if Greece fails to meet the bailout conditions and defaults.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now to Hungary, where the only independent radio news station in the country may soon go silent. Klubradio lost its license in what its owners charge was a government move to muzzle critics. NPR's Eric Westervelt reports from Budapest.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO TALK SHOW)

GEORGE BOLGAR: (Foreign language spoken)

Veteran Hungarian broadcaster Gyorgy Bolgar, who hosts a popular daily news/talk call-in show on Klubradio, gets a daily earful from ordinary Hungarians upset with Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Many here fear that Orban, a dissident during the communist era, and his conservative Fidesz party are pushing the country backward.

Johann Sebastian Bach's Christmas Oratorio was first performed in Leipzig on Christmas Day in 1734. In Germany, no matter what the economic and political times, it's the Christmas work. In the oldest functioning church in Berlin, the 13th-century Saint Mary's, performance of Bach's Christmas Oratorio is a fixed tradition.

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