Alan Greenblatt

Alan Greenblatt has been covering politics and government in Washington and around the country for 20 years. He came to NPR as a digital reporter in 2010, writing about a wide range of topics, including elections, housing economics, natural disasters and same-sex marriage.

He was previously a reporter with Governing, a magazine that covers state and local government issues. Alan wrote about education, budgets, economic development and legislative behavior, among other topics. He is the coauthor, with Kevin Smith, of Governing States and Localities, a college-level textbook that is now in its fourth edition.

As a reporter for Congressional Quarterly, he was the inaugural winner of the National Press Club's Sandy Hume Memorial Award for Excellence in Political Journalism, which is given to outstanding reporters under the age of 35. Sadly, he no longer meets that requirement.

Along the way, Alan has contributed articles about politics and culture for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle. He is happy to be working for an outlet where he has been able to write about everything from revolutions in the Middle East to antique jazz recordings.

Alan is a graduate of San Francisco State University and holds a master's degree from the University of Virginia.

Imagine there's no tipping. By getting rid of gratuities, a few restaurants believe they'll make life easier for customers, while providing a more stable income to servers.

"It eliminates the pressure on the guest to worry about paying our staff," says Brian Oliveira, chef at Girard, a French-style restaurant opening in Philadelphia in a few weeks that intends to offer its staff up to $13 an hour in salary, plus health benefits, but with no tips.

Government scientists can speak Southern after all.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has announced that in response to complaints from staff, it's canceling plans to hold a six-week "Southern Accent Reduction" course, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

Officials at the scientific complex in east Tennessee said they had only been responding to an employee request. They've now responded to the anger of offended workers.

Russia says it will appeal an unfavorable decision by a court in The Hague. The Permanent Court of Arbitration awarded $50 billion to shareholders of the defunct Yukos oil company. Russia seized the company in 2003 and put owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky in jail on tax and fraud charges.

A story that ran last Sunday on All Things Considered about a sixth-grader's science fair project has elicited not just criticism but controversy.

Since the student's project built on the work of scientists, she's been accused this week of being a "plagiarist" who "ripped off" earlier work.

Kevin Cooper was convicted of murdering a married couple and two children, and was sentenced to die.

That was back in 1985. Cooper is still awaiting execution on California's death row.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos, who is handling the case, blames the long delay on Cooper's multiple appeals in state and federal courts.

"This is all a big strategic plan to really manipulate the system to attack capital punishment, not just in California, but in the United States," Ramos says.

It used to be that if you were a public employee, you knew your pension benefits could not be touched.

That's no longer the case.

Pensions have been under political attack in recent years, with some politicians arguing they can't afford to fund generous retirements at the same time they're cutting services. Numerous states and cities have trimmed the type of pension plans they're offering employees — mostly new employees.

It sits in an imposing building just across Lafayette Square from the White House. Yet the Export-Import Bank, which has been offering credit to foreign purchasers of U.S. goods for 80 years, could start shutting down operations within a matter of weeks.

"There's about a 50-50 chance," says Dan Ikenson, who directs a trade policy center at the Cato Institute.

It's turning into the largest influx of asylum seekers on U.S. soil since the 1980 Mariel boatlift out of Cuba.

Since October, more than 52,000 children — most from Central America and many of them unaccompanied by adults — have been taken into custody. That's nearly double last year's total and 10 times the number from 2009.

Congress has yet another problem it can't solve.

For years, the main federal transportation program has been spending more money than it takes in. This year, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the Transportation Department will disburse $45 billion while collecting only $33 billion for its Highway Trust Fund.

As a result, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned states on Tuesday that they will start seeing cuts of 28 percent in federal funding for roads and bridges next month unless Congress comes up with some extra money.

It wasn't the worst possible outcome for public sector unions. But that could still happen.

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