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.

The House voted Monday to allow airlines to advertise lower prices for their routes.

The Transparent Airfares Act, which was approved with minimal debate, would overturn a 2012 rule that requires airlines to post the full price of tickets, including taxes and fees.

Shoppers are smart enough to figure out the price of an airline ticket without federal regulation, said Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio, a bill co-sponsor.

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.

No one really thinks 12-year-old Chloe Stirling presents a menace to public health.

The Illinois girl has a knack for baking cupcakes and has done pretty well selling them. So well, in fact, that her local newspaper published a story about her earlier this year. That drew the attention of the county health department — which shut her down for selling baked goods without a license or a state-certified kitchen.

The nation's largest experiment with charter schools is expanding.

The Recovery School District, a state control board that runs most schools in New Orleans, shut down the last of its five traditional public schools this week, making it the first all-charter system in the nation.

Same-sex marriage supporters continued to enjoy considerable legal momentum this week.

Updated at 6:00 a.m. ET. Wednesday:

Authorities in Turkey say at least 205 workers have been killed after an explosion and fire at a coal mine in the western part of the country. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared three days of national mourning.

Update at 11:19 p.m. ET. More Than 200 Dead:

The sad count of fatalities continues to climb as AP reports at least 201 dead and more than 200 are still trapped underground after a fire and explosion in a coal mine south of Istanbul.

If you've ever seen your waiter sneeze, you may have asked for a different server. If you've seen one sneeze repeatedly, you might wonder why he's still at work, serving tainted food.

See, most restaurant workers don't get paid when they stay home sick. But, some go to work anyway, when they've got the sniffles or worse, because they need the paycheck.

For labor advocates, that's a problem.

States have always struggled to find humane ways to carry out the death penalty. For a generation, they have favored lethal injection, but that method has become increasingly problematic.

It's coming under increased scrutiny following the death of Clayton Lockett, who died Tuesday of a heart attack after writhing visibly during an execution attempt in Oklahoma.

The execution "fell short" of humane standards, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Wednesday.

Ryan Messer decided he could go home again.

Messer was one of a number of gay men of his generation who packed up and left Cincinnati, a city with a history of official discrimination, for friendlier cities on the coasts.

"They still have this Cincinnati group in San Diego," he says. "They're doing great things, and we lost that talent."

But the city charter, which blocked legal protections for gays and lesbians up until a decade ago, has since been amended.

"When I was 23, we were such a novelty," Messer says. "Now, there is no issue."

Ben Pickering can't believe his luck.

"Holy cow," he keeps saying. "Man, that's just incredible. That's just amazing."

Pickering won a drawing for an Ambush rifle, an $1,800 AR-15-style model. Pickering already has a lot of weapons — "I honestly could not count," he says — but he's still excited to be given this new one.

Pickering loves guns, but he's also happy that the National Rifle Association's annual meeting, being held this weekend in Indianapolis, has given him the chance to meet up with family members who live in other states.

Washington is just starting to rebuild.

Much of the central Illinois town was wiped away by a half-mile-wide tornado in November. In all, 1,108 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable — a huge share of the housing stock in a city of 15,000.

"Early on, people were asking me how long it was going to take to rebuild the city, and I said we'll do it in a year," says Mayor Gary Manier. "That was wishful thinking."

Cowardice comes in many forms, but there's a special sense of shame reserved for captains who abandon ship.

South Korean authorities have arrested Capt. Lee Jun-Seok, who was one of the first to flee from the ferry as it sank on Wednesday.

"I can't lift my face before the passengers and family members of those missing," Lee told reporters.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared more than a month ago, but it still compels significant attention, despite the passage of time and lack of definitive information about where it may have gone.

While many events over time fade from general knowledge, the circumstances surrounding this one may serve to secure its place in our collective memory.