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.

Updated at 8:41 p.m. ET

Mei Xiang, the 22-year-old panda at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, has given birth to a cub.

"A precious giant panda cub has arrived!" officials announced Friday, adding that they are "overjoyed."

The latest addition to the zoo was born at 6:35 p.m. ET, and zoo officials said that Mama Panda "is caring for her newborn attentively."

"Positive mothering behaviors include nursing her cub and cuddling it close."

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.

The onslaught of fires raging across California has turned deadly, claiming the first casualty as thousands of firefighting personnel battle to contain 23 major complex blazes across the state.

A helicopter pilot who was battling one of the state's smaller fires in central California has died when the craft crashed, according to Cal Fire officials.

"This morning a Call When Needed helicopter crashed while fighting a wildfire in Western Fresno County," the agency said.

Firefighters are battling more than a dozen wildfires across California as a scorching heat wave continues to bear down on the state. And in the midst of record-breaking temperatures, rare lightning storms have also sparked a handful of new fires that continue to rage on.

"We are all experiencing rather extraordinary conditions," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday, adding that there are about 15 fires burning in the northern and southern ends of the state.

Jason Wright knows he's expected to be an outsider as he becomes the NFL's first Black — and youngest — team president.

In a blow to gun control activists, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that California's ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines is unconstitutional, violating the Second Amendment.

In a 2-1 decision, the panel of judges found that such firearm magazines are protected arms under the Second Amendment and are not "unusual arms" that would fall outside its scope.

Gov. Brain Kemp is taking a new approach in his battle over face masks with Atlanta's mayor. Rather than have a judge rule on the conflict, he's going to issue a new order on the subject.

On Thursday Kemp announced the attorney general's office has withdrawn a lawsuit he filed against Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta city council, when she moved to reinstate more restrictive COVID-19-related safeguards.

Airbnb is going through a rough patch just as the rental home-sharing company is reportedly on the cusp of filing for an IPO later this month.

The company's latest challenge is dealing with a party-throwing renter whose large shindig ended with a shooting and three people injured.

Now, Airbnb says that for the first time, it will pursue legal measures against a guest for violating its party-house ban.

Flanked by more than a dozen community leaders, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced Tuesday that his office will not pursue cases against most Portland protesters.

The new policy states that only demonstrators who were involved in "deliberate property damage, theft or force against another person or threats of force" may face charges.

California's coffers are nearly exhausted, and forcing the state to cover a part of extended unemployment benefits would cause "enormous economic strife and enormous stress," Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday.

Despite the state's robust reserves at the start of the year, Newsom said, President Trump's latest executive action would put the state in a perilous position.

President Trump on Wednesday said his administration would "surge" federal law enforcement officials to help fight crime in Chicago and Albuquerque, N.M., as part of the Justice Department's controversial Operation Legend.

Trump accused local politicians in the cities of not doing enough to address what he says are waves of crime as the public and some politicians call for the reduction of police department budgets.

Black mayors in many of the nation's largest cities on Tuesday formally called on governors to repeal orders prohibiting them from enacting strategies that reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The African American Mayors Association passed a resolution beseeching state leaders to repeal any rules that prohibit local leaders from implementing strategies like requiring the use of face masks.

"State, local and tribal governments are uniquely positioned to determine the level of mitigation required to combat the virus in their communities," the resolution states.

Two white men who were filmed in an attack on a Black man on Independence Day at a state park have been charged by Indiana officials.

The Monroe County Prosecutor's office announced the charges Friday, after a two-day review of an investigation report by the state's Department of Natural Resources as well as other digital evidence provided by witnesses.

The Justice Department has executed Dustin Lee Honken in Terre Haute, Ind., the third federal inmate put to death by the government this week.

Honken, 52, was sentenced to die in October 2005 after being convicted of numerous offenses, including five counts of murder — among them two small children — during the course of a continuing criminal enterprise.

A coroner pronounced him dead by lethal injection at 4:36 p.m. ET Friday.

At the time of his death, Honken had served more than 22 years in an Indiana prison.

Target and CVS are the latest national retail chains requiring customers to wear masks as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to skyrocket.

The companies announced the new policies on Thursday following similar moves by a growing number of retailers acting to fill a void left by local, state and federal agencies that have so far refused to set mandatory face coverings policies.

As of Thursday, only about half of the country's states require masks in public places.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is suing the Atlanta City Council and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms following her efforts to require face masks in public places as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to skyrocket across the nation.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, asserts that Kemp alone "leads the State of Georgia in its fight against the worldwide novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic" and adds he has the power "to suspend municipal orders that are contradictory to any state law or to his executive orders."

In the 1850s and 1860s, white landowners in North Carolina turned to local newspapers to make large purchases, including buying human beings.

An ad in the Asheville News on Aug. 11, 1859, offers a glimpse into what were considered the pertinent details for the commodification of human trafficking and slavery.

It reads:

The Dakota Access Pipeline may continue to pump crude oil through South Dakota after a federal appellate court on Tuesday temporarily blocked a shutdown ordered by a lower court that was to begin next month.

A federal New York judge has thrown out a proposed $18.9 million settlement between convicted rapist and former movie producer Harvey Weinstein, and several women.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said the offer failed to adequately compensate many of the victims who allege they were sexually assaulted or raped by Weinstein.

He also faulted the money included in the settlement that would help pay Weinstein's legal bills.

The Minneapolis City Council on Friday unanimously approved a proposal to eliminate the city's police department, marking the first step toward establishing a new "holistic" approach to public safety.

The move follows more than a month of national outrage and protests against police brutality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after an officer pressed his knee into his neck for more than eight minutes.

What does it take to reopen an investigation into a police-involved death of a young Black man after the district attorney refuses to press criminal charges and the officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing?

Three former staff members of a Michigan youth home have been charged in the death of a 16-year-old Black boy. He died last month after employees sat on his chest, abdomen and legs in an effort to restrain him.

The Trump administration is defending plans to close 13 federally run coronavirus testing sites in five states at the end of the month.

The testing sites are located in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas. They are the last of 41 federally operated testing sites.

Federal officials say the sites have been closing or transferring to state or local control because it's more efficient to run testing that way. In other instances they argue there are readily available testing sites nearby.

NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime, according to the FBI.

A day-long investigation by 15 special agents into the discovery of a noose in Wallace's garage at the Talledega Superspeedway revealed that the rope had been in the stall since at least October.

The mystery near and around Stonehenge keeps growing.

The latest revelation is the discovery of a ring of at least 20 prehistoric shafts about 2 miles from the famous Neolithic site of immense upright stones, according to an announcement from the University of Bradford.

Phoenix has joined several cities across Arizona requiring residents to wear masks in public spaces as the state contends with an aggressive spike in coronavirus cases.

The City Council voted Friday to implement the mandatory face covering rule, which will go into effect on Saturday at 6 a.m.

Updated at 8:39 p.m. ET

Californians are required to wear face coverings in high-risk settings as the state continues to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the statewide order on Thursday. It follows new guidance from the California Department of Public Health that asymptomatic or presymptomatic people can still spread the disease.

Pacific Gas & Electric pleaded guilty on Tuesday to 84 separate counts of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of unlawfully starting a fire in a case stemming from a horrific 2018 blaze that destroyed much of the town of Paradise in Northern California.

PG&E CEO and President Bill Johnson entered the guilty pleas in Butte County Superior Court one at a time as he watched photographs of each of the victims flash on a screen.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday announced a new initiative to expand diversity and inclusion within the filmmaking industry, as it faces renewed criticism over a lack of diverse representation on screen and behind the scenes.

The latest effort to de-white-ify the film community, called "Academy Aperture 2025," includes a plan to require Oscar nominees to meet certain diversity and inclusion standards.

The U.S. Soccer Federation has repealed the league's three-year-old ban on kneeling during the national anthem, amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice sparked by the killing of George Floyd.

"It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter," U.S. Soccer announced on Wednesday.

Pages