David Schaper

David Schaper is a NPR National Desk reporter based in Chicago.

In this role, he covers news in Chicago and around the Midwest. Additionally he reports on a broad range of important social, cultural, political, and business issues in the region.

The range of Schaper's reporting has included profiles of service members killed in Iraq, and members of a reserve unit returning home to Wisconsin. He produced reports on the important political issues in key Midwest battleground states, education issues related to "No Child Left Behind," the bankruptcy of United Airlines as well as other aviation and transportation issues, and the devastation left by tornadoes, storms, blizzards, and floods in the Midwest.

Prior to joining NPR, Schaper spent nine years working as an award-winning reporter and editor for Chicago Public Radio's WBEZ-FM. For three years he covered education issues, reporting in-depth on the problems, financial and otherwise, plaguing Chicago's public schools.

In 1996, Schaper was named assistant news editor, managing the station's daily news coverage and editing a staff of six. He continued general assignment reporting, covering breaking news, politics, transportation, housing, sports, and business.

When he left WBEZ, Schaper was the station's political reporter, editor, and a frequent fill-in news anchor and program host. Additionally, he served as a frequent guest panelist on public television's Chicago Tonight and Chicago Week in Review.

Since beginning his career at Wisconsin Public Radio's WLSU-FM, Schaper worked in Chicago as a writer and editor for WBBM-AM and as a reporter and anchor for WXRT-FM. He worked at commercial stations WMAY-AM in Springfield, IL; and WIZM-AM and FM in La Crosse, WI; and at public stations WSSU-FM (now WUIS) and WDCB-FM in in Illinois.

Schaper earned a Bachelor of Science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and an Master of Arts from the University of Illinois-Springfield.

With President Obama beginning the process of normalizing relations with Cuba this week, many may envision soon soaking up the sun on a warm Cuban beach, sipping a refreshing rum drink.

In reality, that's not likely to happen for quite a while. But just the increased opportunity for travel between the two countries has those with longtime ties to Cuba already thinking about the possibilities it will bring.

Gasoline prices are at their lowest level in four years. The price at the pump in many states is almost a full dollar cheaper than it was last spring.

So some politicians think this is a good time to raise gasoline taxes. Several states are tired of waiting for Congress to fix the federal highway trust fund, so they're considering raising gas taxes themselves to address their crumbling roads.

Imagine Manhattan under almost 300 feet of water. Not water from a hurricane or a tsunami, but purified drinking water — 2.1 trillion gallons of it.

That's the amount of water that researchers estimate is lost each year in this country because of aging and leaky pipes, broken water mains and faulty meters.

Fixing that infrastructure won't be cheap, which is something every water consumer is likely to discover.

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration is trying to deflect criticism over an arson fire at an air traffic control center that shut down Chicago's airports last week.

Administrator Michael Huerta toured the fire-damaged Chicago air traffic control center in suburban Aurora on Friday with members of the Illinois congressional delegation.

Huerta admitted the agency has no quick fix to prevent a similar shutdown of a control facility from paralyzing air traffic across the country.

Hollywood is getting the green light to fly its own drones.

The Federal Aviation Administration is giving approval to six movie and TV production companies to use drones for filming. And the move could pave the way for the unmanned aircraft systems to be used in other commercial ventures.

The FAA will permit the six companies to use remote-controlled drones to shoot movies and video for TV shows and commercials, but there will be certain limitations.

Police in Ferguson, Mo., are bracing for the possibility of a large protest Saturday night, as the community marks two weeks since a police officer shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Racial tensions have cooled considerably in the St. Louis suburb, after nearly 10 days of loud, raucous and sometimes violent protests. During those demonstrations, some protesters would throw rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with rubber bullets, smoke bombs and tear gas.

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Most airlines are now diverting their planes away from the Ukrainian-Russian border to avoid the area where the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot-down. The Federal Aviation Administration banned U.S. operations in the air space around Crimea back in April. Aviation authorities in other countries warned about flying through parts of the region, too. But those restricted flight zones are some distance away from where flight 17 went down. NPR's David Schaper reports.

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Ever since that Canadian train derailment, first responders all across North America wonder, what if it happens here? And as NPR's David Schaper reports from this side of the border, many say they don't have the training, the equipment or the manpower necessary to respond to an oil train disaster in their cities and towns.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: The images of that fiery blast that incinerated much of Lac-Megantic's downtown last summer still haunt many first responders.

Heavy rains over the past couple of weeks have rivers rising all across the Upper Midwest, flooding homes, swamping fields and washing out roads.

Fans hum 24/7 as Laura Westra tries to dry out her sopping-wet basement in the small town of Rock Valley, Iowa.

The nearby Rock River, in the northwest corner of the state, swelled last week wider and deeper than anyone can remember.

"We've lived here 45 years, and this is the first time we had water in the basement," Westra says.

Chicago is practically giving away land: vacant lots for just $1 each. The catch? To buy one, you must already own a home on the same block.

Like many U.S. cities, Chicago has struggled with what to do with a growing number of empty lots in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. Efforts to develop affordable housing or urban farms have had some mixed results.

So Chicago officials and community development advocates hope the vacant lot program can help spark a renewal in some of the city's most blighted areas.

A court-appointed federal monitor will no longer oversee hiring in the city of Chicago. A federal judge ruled that the city has put in place enough safeguards to minimize patronage in Chicago government jobs. It took 45 years of court orders and consent decrees, but political reformers say that patronage, which once built a powerful democratic machine, is slowly becoming a thing of the past.

Authorities say they've broken up a major heroin and crack cocaine distribution ring in Chicago.

A joint federal and local task force that includes the DEA, FBI, Chicago police and other law enforcement agencies arrested and charged more than two dozen gang members who allegedly supplied a significant amount of heroin to customers coming from the city and suburbs.

In a case in which some observers suggest the FBI may have gone too far to snare a politician in a bribery scheme, a jury has convicted an Illinois lawmaker of corruption.

The verdict against State Rep. Derrick Smith relates to the then-freshman representative's acceptance in 2012 of a $7,000 payoff from an FBI informant.

The jury agreed with the prosecution that Smith abused his office for personal gain. The defense had argued that the representative repeatedly refused the bribe before finally relenting and that the undercover sting amounted to entrapment.

Gun violence in Chicago is so common in some neighborhoods that the daily reports of shootings can seem like little more than numbers. Our reporter saw the dangers of Chicago's South Side firsthand.

The National Transportation Safety Board is calling on the FAA to take another look at the safety of the battery used in its Dreamliners. The recommendations issued by the NTSB on Thursday call on the FAA to evaluate whether additional requirements and independent testing outside the aviation industry are needed on the lithium ion batteries used in the Boeing 787s. Incidents involving the batteries' failure caused the fleet to be grounded last year.

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It's a historic day on the campus of Northwestern University. Football players there became the first college athletes in this country to vote on whether to unionize. The results may not be known for some time. The National Labor Relations Board is reviewing Northwestern's appeal of an earlier ruling to allow this union vote to take place. NPR's David Schaper reports.

Freight trains roll through the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Ill., every day, many pulling older tank cars known as DOT-111s. They're known as the "soda can" of rail cars, says village President Karen Darch, because their shells are so thin.

Many of the DOT-111s are full of heavy Canadian tar sands crude oil. Some carry ethanol. And more and more of them are loaded with light Bakken crude oil from North Dakota.

When the first pitch is thrown between the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, it will mark the start of the 100th professional baseball season at iconic Wrigley Field.

The ball park on Chicago's North Side, known as the Friendly Confines, opened as the home of the Chicago Federals 100 years ago this month.

The Cubs moved there two years later, and in all that time the Cubs have never won a World Series. There hasn't even been a World Series game played at Wrigley since the end of World War II.

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A ruling by the National Labor Relations Board today could really shake up big-money college sports. The board took the first step in favor of allowing Northwestern University's football players to unionize. A regional director for the board ruled that these college athletes meet the definition of university employees under federal law.

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As morning breaks over the Indian Ocean, crews are searching for objects in the water that could be debris from a missing Malaysian Airlines jet. Australian satellites spotted two objects: one that appears to be almost 80 feet long, the other about 15 feet long. They were located way out at sea in an area of the ocean about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.

A review by the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing has concluded that the troubled 787 known as the Dreamliner is safe.

Bitter cold has returned to parts of the Midwest, mid-Atlantic and Northeast, following another heavy snowstorm that left 1 to 2 feet of snow from Ohio to New England.

And when all this snow finally melts, it'll expose the physical toll of this brutal winter: potholes, broken water mains, collapsed catch basins and other infrastructure problems.

"This winter's crazy, crazy busy," says John Polishak, a foreman for the Chicago Department of Water Management. "Everybody's been working 16 hours a day, seven days a week. It's exhausting."

Oil business in North Dakota is creating some big headaches for Amtrak travelers. Trains on the popular Empire Builder route between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest are often delayed for hours.

One reason for the congestion is an influx of trains hauling crude oil across the Northern Plains.

The delays are becoming so bad that a passenger group now wants the U.S. transportation secretary to intervene.

Frozen Before Ice Fishing

The National Transportation Safety Board is calling for the swift enactment of tough new standards on trains carrying crude oil. And in an unprecedented move, the NTSB made its recommendations jointly with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

With the huge increase in oil shipped by train across North America, the agencies warn another major disaster could be looming.

Papers documenting allegation of sexual abuse by priests in the Chicago Archdiocese were released to the public today by victims' attorneys. The documents cover only 30 of at least 65 priests for whom the Chicago church says it has substantiated claims of child abuse. The papers, put online, were made available through settlements between Church and victims' lawyers. Church officials said most of the abuse occurred before 1988, none after 1996, and that all were ultimately reported to authorities.

While many of us may prefer to never again see temperatures drop below zero like they did earlier this week across the country, the deep freeze is putting warm smiles on the faces of many entomologists.

That's because it may have been cold enough in some areas to freeze and kill some damaging invasive species of insects, including the tree-killing emerald ash borer.

North Dakota and western Canada are producing crude oil faster than it can be shipped to refineries.

Rail car manufacturers can't make new tank cars fast enough, and new pipeline proposals face long delays over environmental concerns. So energy companies are looking for new ways to get the heavy crude to market.

One proposed solution is to ship the oil by barge over the Great Lakes — but it's a controversial one.

A commuter train crash that killed four passengers in New York is raising questions about whether a high-tech safety system could have prevented the derailment.

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