Vanessa Romo | Connecticut Public Radio
WNPR

Vanessa Romo

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.

Before her stint on the News Desk, Romo spent the early months of the Trump Administration on the Washington Desk covering stories about culture and politics – the voting habits of the post-millennial generation, the rise of Maxine Waters as a septuagenarian pop culture icon and DACA quinceañeras as Trump protests.

In 2016, she was at the core of the team that launched and produced The New York Times' first political podcast, The Run-Up with Michael Barbaro. Prior to that, Romo was a Spencer Education Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism where she began working on a radio documentary about a pilot program in Los Angeles teaching black and Latino students to code switch.

Romo has also traveled extensively through the Member station world in California and Washington. As the education reporter at Southern California Public Radio, she covered the region's K-12 school districts and higher education institutions and won the Education Writers Association first place award as well as a Regional Edward R. Murrow for Hard News Reporting.

Before that, she covered business and labor for Member station KNKX, keeping an eye on global companies including Amazon, Boeing, Starbucks and Microsoft.

A Los Angeles native, she is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University, where she received a degree in history. She also earned a master's degree in Journalism from NYU. She loves all things camaron-based.

President Biden's COVID-19 czar Jeff Zients told governors on Tuesday that the weekly vaccine supply going out to states is increasing by more than 20% to 13.5 million doses this week, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, announced.

Psaki also said the supply going directly to pharmacies will double to 2 million this week.

Before taking office, Biden promised to improve and streamline Trump's Operation Warp Speed and pledged to get 100 million vaccine doses into arms in the first 100 days of his administration.

Updated at 7:11 p.m. ET

The Senate voted 87-7 on Monday to confirm President Biden's pick, Denis McDonough, to serve as Veterans Affairs secretary, making him only the second non-veteran to lead the troubled department.

President Joe Biden has picked a slate of nearly two dozen acting officials to temporarily lead agencies as he waits for Congress to confirm his Cabinet.

According to a list of officials issued by the White House on Wednesday, most of the temporary leaders are career civil servants.

President Trump has signed an executive order banning business with several leading Chinese technology companies, claiming apps run by the companies have the ability to spy on Americans, including federal employees.

Trump's order seeks to prohibit transactions with eight companies including Alipay, owned by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma; the payment platform on the popular app WeChat; and a Chinese messaging service called QQ owned by the Chinese tech giant Tencent.

Other software apps included in the order are CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, VMate and WPS Office.

Updated at 7:08 p.m. ET

The Wisconsin pharmacist accused of intentionally sabotaging more than 500 doses of the coronavirus vaccine at Christmastime told police he did it because he believed the drug is somehow hazardous.

"He'd formed this belief they were unsafe," Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said of Steven Brandenburg on Monday during a virtual hearing, The Associated Press reported.

Updated at 2:05 a.m. ET

A Milwaukee pharmacist was arrested Thursday and accused of "tampering with and causing the destruction" of more than 550 doses of the Moderna vaccine against the coronavirus last week, Grafton, Wis., police confirmed.

In a statement, Grafton Police Department officials said the pharmacist — now fired from the Advocate Aurora Health hospital system — was arrested on recommended charges of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property.

Updated 11 p.m. ET

President Trump issued dozens more pardons on Wednesday evening to many wealthy and well-connected convicts with ties to his innermost circles, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Republican operative Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father-in-law of Ivanka Trump.

In total, Trump pardoned 26 people and commuted the sentences of three more people — the second consecutive night of what is expected to be a flurry of acts of clemency before he leaves office.

The Food and Drug Administration says that some of the vials of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine being distributed throughout the U.S. contain extra doses and the agency is encouraging hospitals and clinics to use the additional shots to speed up the nationwide immunization campaign.

The agency issued the guidance Wednesday after health care workers reported throwing out the excess vaccine, fearing it would be against the rules to use it.

The Minnesota Board of Pardons on Tuesday commuted the life sentence of Myon Burrell, a Black man who was sentenced to life in prison as a minor.

Burrell, who was 16 at the time of his arrest, was accused of fatally shooting an 11-year old girl, who was struck by a stray bullet while doing her homework inside her family's Minneapolis home.

Following the announcement of his imminent release, Burrell held back tears.

"Thank you. Thank you very much," he said reaching a hand out to the camera.

Tony-winning legend and dance icon Ann Reinking died on Saturday, family members confirmed to news outlets on Monday. She was 71.

"The world and our family have lost a vibrant, amazing talent and beautiful soul. Ann was the heart of our family and the life of the party," her family said in a statement, as reported by Variety.

It was close but in the end, the conservative-led Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday rejected the Trump campaign's bid to throw out more than 220,000 ballots from two Democratic county strongholds. The move, which came just shortly before Electoral College voters were due to cast their ballots, ensured President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

Conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn sided with the court's three liberal members in the 4-3 ruling, finding Trump's legal challenge to change Wisconsin's certified election results "unreasonable in the extreme" and was filed too late.

The St. Louis prosecutor spearheading the case against Mark McCloskey, one half of the husband-and-wife team accused of menacing Black Lives Matter protesters with weapons, has been removed from the case.

Circuit Judge Thomas Clark II on Thursday dismissed Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and her entire staff, saying campaign fundraising emails Gardner sent to constituents that alluded to Mark and Patricia McCloskey's case "raise the appearance of impropriety and jeopardize the defendant's right to a fair trial," The Associated Press reported.

Updated at 9:05 p.m. ET

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced most of the state will come under a stricter set of limitations as intensive care units reach near-capacity levels with the latest surge in coronavirus cases.

Regional stay-at-home orders will likely go into effect "in the next day or two" in places with less than 15% ICU availability, Newsom explained in a daily briefing with reporters.

Sudan's last democratically elected prime minister has died of COVID-19-related complications, his party announced early Thursday.

Sadiq al-Mahdi was 84.

He died in hospital in the United Arab Emirates, where he was receiving treatment after becoming infected with the coronavirus, the National Umma Party, which he led until his death, announced Thursday.

Former Jeopardy! champion, author and know-it-all kind of guy, Ken Jennings, will be the first guest host of the long-running trivia game show, officials said Monday.

The announcement, two weeks after much-loved host Alex Trebek died of pancreatic cancer on Nov. 8, explained that "a series of interim guest hosts from the Jeopardy! family" will take over the show, which Trebek hosted from 1984 until earlier this year.

Tyson Foods Inc., which says it produces 20% of the beef, pork and chicken in the U.S., has suspended managers at an Iowa plant accused of participating in a betting pool on how many employees would become ill with COVID-19.

President and CEO Dean Banks also announced on Thursday the company has launched an investigation led by former Attorney General Eric Holder into the allegations.

Judy Shelton's nomination as a member of the Federal Reserve Board is stalled.

The Senate failed to advance President Trump's controversial pick to the powerful central bank on Tuesday after Republicans Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine joined the Senate's Democrats in blocking Shelton's appointment.

A history-making storm is gaining momentum over the middle of the Atlantic.

Monday, Subtropical Storm Theta became the 29th named storm of the year, surpassing the 28 storms of 2005 and making the 2020 hurricane season the busiest on record.

The system is not expected to make landfall in the U.S.

As of 10 p.m. ET , the National Weather Service reported Theta is moving east through the Atlantic with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph with higher gusts.

A Wisconsin court commissioner on Monday set bail at $2 million for Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old accused of killing protesters in Kenosha, in his first court appearance in the state after being extradited from Illinois last week.

Rittenhouse is accused of fatally shooting two demonstrators and injuring a third during protests on Aug. 25 that followed the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot several times at close range by Kenosha police and is now paralyzed.

Updated Thursday at 10:55 a.m. ET

Some U.S. hospitals have been hit by coordinated ransomware attacks designed to infect systems for financial gain, federal agencies and a private-sector cybersecurity company warned on Wednesday.

A joint advisory by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services and the FBI says there is "credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat" to U.S. hospitals and health care providers.

Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, has revealed himself to be "Anonymous," the author of a New York Times op-ed and book critical of the Trump presidency.

An abnormally early but powerful ice storm has crippled large swaths of Oklahoma, causing power outages for hundreds of thousands and toppling thousands of trees.

"We lost a branch but have propped up others to save them," wrote the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum on Facebook. "We will continue to monitor it 24/7 throughout this historic storm."

Barron Trump, the 14-year-old son of President Trump and Melania Trump, tested positive for COVID-19, after initially testing negative.

The First Lady made the announcement on Wednesday in a post called, "My personal experience with COVID-19," on the White House website, adding it was one of her greatest fears as a parent.

An heiress to the Seagram's liquor fortune has been sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for fraud and forced labor as a leading member of Nxivm, a cult-like self-help group accused of holding women captive and coercing them into having sex with the group's leader.

Clare Bronfman, 41, was a member of Nxivm — pronounced Nehk-see-um — for 15 years, eventually joining its executive board and bankrolling numerous lawsuits against critics of the secretive organization led by Keith Raniere.

After more than 100 days of protests in Portland, there is fatigue and increasing anxiety heading into opposing Labor Day demonstrations as officials urge protesters on opposing sides to stop the violence.

Among labor organizers and Black Lives Matter supporters, who began convening on the city's streets to protest police brutality and social injustice following the killing of George Floyd in May, there is a growing sense of dread over a possible confrontation with pro-Trump groups.

A car drove into Black Lives Matter protesters in Times Square on Thursday, hitting several people on foot and on bicycles.

Several demonstrators captured the chaotic scene and posted video shortly after 8 p.m. ET.

Hogan reports that protesters have "deescalated the situation" between themselves and Pro-Trump supporters who showed up to counterprotest.

A man charged with running a drug syndicate was offered a plea deal in July if he would name Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman who had been killed by police in her Louisville, Ky., apartment, as a member of his alleged criminal gang, according to the man's attorney.

The deal was one of several offered by prosecutors in the months after Taylor's death. All of which carried a penalty of 10 years and none of which were ultimately accepted.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents lack the training to take over the initial processing of asylum claims, a federal judge wrote in a ruling filed Monday.

For nearly 20 years, officers from Citizenship and Immigration Services have conducted all interviews with asylum-seekers and made what are called "credible fear determinations" for those who arrive at the nation's borders while fleeing to the U.S. to escape persecution.

President Trump, in a tweet Tuesday, said he will nominate Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to be DHS secretary.

Updated 1:05 p.m. ET

Lightning strikes, extreme weather conditions, dangerous levels of smoke and ash, and a deadly pandemic are pushing firefighters and the communities they're trying to save into uncharted territory.

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