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Eric Westervelt

Eric Westervelt has covered wars and big stories across the world and America for NPR News. He's served as a correspondent in Baghdad, Jerusalem, and Berlin; covered the Pentagon, the war in Afghanistan, North Africa's revolutions, the fall of Egypt's Mubarak, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the troubled occupation of Iraq; and reported on conflicts in Israel, Lebanon, Libya, the Gaza Strip, and more.

Eric's also reported big breaking news stories domestically from mass shootings to wildfires, helped launch NPR's innovative, award-winning education platform NPR Ed, and serves as an occasional guest host for NPR shows.

He recently switched beats again to help build a collaborative team that covers America's criminal justice system including state and local courts, prisons, juvenile justice and policing.

After nearly a decade with NPR's International Desk, Westervelt returned was awarded a prestigious John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University.

The breadth and depth of Westervelt's work has been honored with broadcast journalism's highest honors including the 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 2001 terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan; 2004 and a 2007 duPont-Columbia Awards for NPR's in-depth coverage of the war in Iraq and its effect on Iraqi society. Eric's 2009 multi-media series with NPR photojournalist David Gilkey won an Overseas Press Club award. He shared an Edward R. Murrow RTNDA award with NPR Ed for his education coverage.

As a foreign correspondent for NPR based in the Middle East, Westervelt covered numerous conflicts and their repercussions across the Middle East. He spent several years living in the reporting on the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As Jerusalem Bureau Chief he covered 2006 Second Lebanon war between the Israeli military and Hezbollah, turmoil and combat in the Gaza Strip and the political and social issues across Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Westervelt was one of the first reporters into Baghdad during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 embedded with the lead elements of the U.S. Third Infantry Division which fought their way into capital. He later helped cover the troubled occupation, the Iraqi insurgency, sectarian violence and the on-going struggle to recover in the post-Saddam 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 several Persian Gulf countries.

While based in Europe from 2009 to 2012, Westervelt was Berlin Bureau Chief covering a broad range of news across Europe from the euro debt crisis to political challenges and the rise of the far right Eastern Europe. In 2011 and 2012, his work included coverage of the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt to the civil war and NATO intervention in Libya.

Prior to his Middle East assignments, Westervelt covered military affairs and the Pentagon out of Washington, D.C. 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 9-11 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, racial tensions, use of force, the drug war, racial profiling and the legal and political battles over firearms in America.

On the lighter side, Westervelt occasionally does features for NPR's Arts Desk including profiles of blues great Freddie Rock and roots rock pioneer Roy Orbison as 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 and the Pacific Northwest, as a news director and reporter in New Hampshire for NHPR and reported for Monitor Radio, the broadcast edition of the Christian Science Monitor.

Westervelt is a graduate of the Putney School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Reed College and was a 2013 J.S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University.

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.

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.

Since the U.S. housing bubble burst, many Americans have found themselves struggling to pay off mortgages that are worth more than their homes.

Now, imagine if those mortgages were in a foreign currency that has soared in value compared with the domestic currency — the one in which paychecks are issued.

As Hungary's currency plummets to record lows, this is exactly the plight of some 1 million Hungarians, who, during better financial times, took out mortgages and consumer loans in Swiss francs.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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)

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.

The plan European leaders agreed on last week to save the euro doesn't seem to have reassured the markets.

Two ratings agencies said the plan worked out in Brussels, which calls for greater fiscal integration, failed to address the immediate crisis of rising debts and the crushing costs of borrowing.

And some economists worry that the EU leaders are wrong to put so much emphasis on austerity without any real plans to stimulate economic growth.

For example, Portugal's growth rate last year was anemic, and the economies of Greece and Ireland shrank.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's approach to the debt crisis currently roiling Europe has been calm, logical, methodical and — according to detractors, especially outside Germany, too slow and unimaginative.

Critics are seething that she insists on austerity as the main medicine for debt-ridden southern neighbors while she offers no new ideas for growth and fiercely resists efforts to let the European Central Bank intervene more.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

When the euro was rolled out nearly a decade ago, it was touted as a unifying force across European cultures. Uwe Boek, a 48-year-old Berliner, has seen and embraced these changes: "It's us being Europeans in the European Union. Because the euro is money but the European Union is about identity."

Germany is reeling from revelations this week that a small neo-Nazi group carried out a deadly, decade-long crime wave. Authorities blame the underground cell for the murders of nine immigrants and a policewoman, a string of bank robberies and a bombing. Two suspects are dead and two others are in custody.

The identity of the suspects came as a shock to many in a country that has worked hard to overcome the stain of Nazism. Now, the focus is on the apparent shortcomings of Germany's domestic security services.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Europe could be living through its toughest hour since World War II.

Merkel was referring to the debt crisis that has resulted in bailouts for countries, toppled governments and is now threatening the survival of Europe's single currency.

These are nervous times in places like Germany's financial capital, Frankfurt. But for one former trader — who exchanged his computer terminal for pork sausages sizzling on a grill — these are not necessarily the worst of times.

European leaders met through the night in Brussels and finally emerged Thursday with a debt deal they say is wide-ranging. They're hopeful it will guide the continent out of the widening debt crisis that started with Greece. But it's unclear whether they have the political will and economic flexibility to implement it.

In Frankfurt, Germany's financial capital, all eyes are on the debt crisis meeting in Brussels. Frankfurt is home to Europe's leading stock exchange and some of the largest banks and investment firms on the continent. More recently it's also home to street demonstrators sharply critical of the current state of capitalism. The two worlds have yet to meet.

Financial markets in Europe and the United States slumped badly Monday after Greece conceded it will not meet its deficit reduction goals for this year — or next — despite its austerity measures.

Stocks indexes in the U.S., France, Germany and Spain all fell about 2 percent.

Germany's parliament approved a plan Thursday to expand the power of a European bailout fund for troubled countries that use the euro.

The Bundestag, or lower house, passed the bill 523-85 in a vote considered one of the biggest in Chancellor Angela Merkel's career.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle welcomed the result, saying, "This signals to our European partners that you can rely on Germany."

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