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Eric Westervelt

Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.

For a decade as a foreign correspondent, Westervelt served as NPR reporter and bureau chief in Baghdad, Jerusalem, and Berlin. He's covered the Pentagon, the war in Afghanistan, and the U.S. invasion and troubled occupation of Iraq, including the insurgency, sectarian violence, and the resulting social and political tumult.

He has reported on the ground from North Africa during revolutions there, including from Tahrir Square during fall of Egypt's Mubarak, the front lines during the civil war and NATO intervention in Libya, and the popular uprising in Tunisia. He's also reported from Yemen, the Arabian Gulf states, and the Horn of Africa, including Ethiopia, Djibouti, and the Somalia border region.

Westervelt was among the first western reporters to reach Baghdad during the 2003 U.S-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein embedded with the lead elements of the army's Third Infantry Division. He was also among the first western reporters to enter the Gaza Strip via Egypt during the 2008-2009 Israeli ground offensive in the coastal Palestinian enclave known as the Gaza War.

Westervelt has reported extensively across the U.S. on big stories and breaking news, from mass shootings to natural disasters and police use of force. He helped launch NPR's innovative, award-winning education platform NPR Ed, and serves as a guest host for NPR news shows.

Westervelt is currently helping to launch a collaborative team that covers America's criminal justice system, including issues and reform efforts surrounding prisons, policing, juvenile justice, and the courts.

He's been honored with broadcast journalism's highest honors, including the 2002 George Foster Peabody Award for coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the aftermath; the 2003 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for coverage of Sept. 11 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan; and 2004 and 2007 DuPont-Columbia Awards for NPR's in-depth coverage of the war in Iraq and its effect on Iraqi society. Westervelt's 2009 multimedia series with the late NPR photojournalist David Gilkey won an Overseas Press Club Award. He also recently shared in an Edward R. Murrow RTNDA Award with NPR Ed for innovative education coverage.

In 2013, Westervelt returned to the U.S. from overseas as a visiting journalism fellow at Stanford University with the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship

As Jerusalem bureau chief, Westervelt covered the failed diplomatic efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and the social, political, and cultural news across Israel and the occupied West Bank. He reported from the front lines of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah known as the Second Lebanon War. He was on the ground for multiple Israeli-Hamas battles in the Gaza Strip and the Fatah-Hamas civil war and battle of Gaza City that led to the current political split within the Palestinian Authority.

While based in Berlin, Westervelt covered a broad range of news across the region, including the Euro debt crisis, the rise of far right nationalists, national elections, and more.

Prior to his Middle East assignments, Westervelt covered military affairs and the Pentagon out of Washington, DC, reporting on the major defense, national security, and foreign policy issues of the day. He began his work at NPR on the network's national desk where his coverage spanned the mass shooting at Columbine High School, the presidential vote recount following the 2000 election, and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks reporting from the Ground Zero recovery in New York City, among many other stories.

On the lighter side, Westervelt also produces occasional features for NPR's Arts Desk, including for the series American Anthem, as well as Rock Hall Award profiles of blues great Freddie King and an exploration of roots rock pioneer Roy Orbison for NPR's 50 Great Voices series. His feature on the making of John Coltrane's jazz classic "A Love Supreme" was part of NPR's project 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 reporter in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, reported for the broadcast edition of the Christian Science Monitor, Monitor Radio, and worked as a news director and reporter in New Hampshire for NHPR.

Westervelt grew up in upstate New York. He's a graduate of the Putney School and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Reed College. He was a recipient in 2013 of a J.S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

European leaders gather in Brussels Thursday night for the start of their latest summit effort to save the eurozone from crushing debt that now threatens the global economy. All eyes will be on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is looking to build support for efforts to get nations to submit their economies to greater scrutiny and fiscal discipline.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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NPR's business news starts with Europe again shaking financial markets.

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A bit of bond buying from China will hardly solve Europe's financial troubles. Greece remains a major concern. Yesterday, shares in French banks plunged amid investor panic about their holdings of Greek debt. NPR's Eric Westervelt has more.

NATO planes are still in the air and bombing targets over Libya, and Moammar Gadhafi is still on the loose. Nonetheless, NATO is taking something of a victory lap in the wake of an operation that broke new ground for the military alliance.

But the Libyan operation also raised questions about its mission, its future role in such conflicts, and how it determines when to intervene.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told NPR he sees the Libya operation as a template for future NATO missions and proof that the United Nations can outsource its muscle to the alliance.

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