Brakkton Booker | KCUR

Brakkton Booker

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.

He covers a wide range of topics including issues related to federal social safety net programs and news around the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

His reporting takes him across the country covering natural disasters, like hurricanes and flooding, as well as tracking trends in regional politics and in state governments, particularly on issues of race.

Following the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, Booker's reporting broadened to include a focus on young activists pushing for changes to federal and state gun laws, including the March For Our Lives rally and national school walkouts.

Prior to joining NPR's national desk, Booker spent five years as a producer/reporter for NPR's political unit. He spent most to the 2016 presidential campaign cycle covering the contest for the GOP nomination and was the lead producer from the Trump campaign headquarters on election night. Booker served in a similar capacity from the Louisville campaign headquarters of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014. During the 2012 presidential campaign, he produced pieces and filed dispatches from the Republican and Democratic National conventions, as well as from President Obama's reelection site in Chicago.

In the summer of 2014, Booker took a break from politics to report on the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Booker started his career as a show producer working on nearly all of NPR's magazine programs, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and former news and talk show Tell Me More, where he produced the program's signature Barbershop segment.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Howard University and was a 2015 Kiplinger Fellow. When he's not on the road, Booker enjoys discovering new brands of whiskey and working on his golf game.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department now says that gun shops are essential business and can remain open during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, a reversal of an effort to shutter firearms and accessories stores during the "Safer at Home" order enacted by county and state officials.

It also comes days after the Department of Homeland Security issued new guidelines labeling those that work in the firearms industry as essential critical infrastructure workers.

Plácido Domingo has been hospitalized because of COVID-19-related complications, according to multiple reports.

He is in stable condition in an Acapulco, Mexico, hospital and will receive medical attention for "as long as the doctors find it necessary until a hoped-for full recovery," a spokesperson for Domingo told Opera News over the weekend.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that she had talked with President Trump about a "fix" to the relatively small amount of funding the city is slated to receive from the the landmark $2 trillion economic relief package.

The scale of the crisis in the city was underscored by the death of a member of Bowser's own administration Friday from COVID-19.

Updated at 3:33 p.m. ET

Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Monday that schools in Virginia will be closed for the foreseeable future as a result of the spread of the coronavirus.

"Today I'm directing all schools in Virginia to remain closed at least through the end of this academic year," Northam said during an afternoon press conference.

Northam added that he is issuing an executive order effective at midnight Tuesday, placing additional restrictions on businesses that serve the public.

As odd as it may seem, it became reality Friday: Tom Brady is a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The man who quarterbacked the New England Patriots for the past 20 seasons and brought the franchise six Super Bowl championships posted to his Instagram on Friday: "I'm starting a new football journey."

The coronavirus pandemic is rapidly changing the daily routines of millions of Americans as many settle into their new self-isolation realities.

Some are finding ways to pass the time by streaming television shows, movies and classic sports (and, of course, listening to NPR).

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday announced the state's first death from the coronavirus, a man in his 60s, and also confirmed a 5-year-old girl has COVID-19, making her the youngest known person in the state to contract the disease.

Hogan said there are a total of 107 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, adding it was an "88% increase in the last 48 hours."

"Unfortunately we are only at the beginning of this crisis," Hogan said at a press conference outside the state capitol in Annapolis.

When San Francisco announced its "shelter in place" order this week, it said only "essential businesses" could remain open to support the public's needs, such as grocery stores and gas stations. Missing from that list were marijuana dispensaries.

But a day after residents were told to stay home, the city revised its position and deemed cannabis "an essential medicine," allowing stores to open.

Former Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter has been sentenced to 11 months in federal prison for corruption charges stemming from the illegal misuse of hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds.

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to affect nearly every facet of life, including some governors moving to temporarily shutter movie theaters, Comcast NBCUniversal announced a potentially industry-altering change: It will allow customers to view new films at home through video on demand the same day as their theatrical release.

Trolls World Tour, slated to open in the U.S. on April 10, will be the first to kick off the new initiative.

A scheduled joint European-Russia launch of a planetary rover to Mars this summer has been scrubbed, for now. The European Space Agency and Russia's Roscosmos space agency said the ExoMars mission, planned for July, won't happen now until at least the latter part of 2022.

Updated 6:18 p.m. ET

A federal court on Thursday ordered Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who has jailed for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, must be released.

Judge Anthony Trenga of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia said in court documents it was discharging the grand jury.

Updated at 12:09 a.m. ET

The U.S. Soccer Federation apologized Wednesday after a backlash against statements in court documents this week that players on the men's national team possess greater skill and have more demanding jobs than their female counterparts.

The soccer federation made the claims in hopes of convincing a federal court in California to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit filed by members of the 2019 World Cup championship team.

Beverage giant PepsiCo, Inc. has agreed to purchase energy drink maker Rockstar Energy Beverages for $3.85 billion dollars, the company announced Wednesday. It's a move PepsiCo said will help it become "more consumer-centric and capitalize on rising demand."

Energy drinks have been a relatively weak area for PepsiCo and its rival Coca-Cola, but both companies have trying to bolster their presence in the fast-expanding beverage category.

Updated 4:45 p.m. ET

Wells Fargo Chief Executive Officer and President Charles Scharf told lawmakers Tuesday that the scandal-plagued bank he now leads "had a flawed business model" and a structure and culture that "were problematic."

He said that while he is confident that reform plans he's implementing will work, such efforts will likely continue until at least 2021.

Ethiopian investigators said a flawed flight control system triggered by faulty sensor data, is at least partly to blame for last year's crash of a 737 Max airplane operated by Ethiopian Airlines. All 157 people on board were killed.

Authorities in Ethiopia also said training on the Max planes provided by Boeing "was found to be inadequate" adding that the flight control system, known as MCAS, was activated four times as pilots struggled mightily to regain control of the plane before the crash.

Two Wells Fargo board members have resigned, including chairwoman Elizabeth Duke, the bank announced Monday. The departures come days after a House committee report found the bank has been too slow to reform itself in the wake of a series of scandals — including widespread fraud in the consumer banking business tied to overly aggressive sales goals.

Updated 9:20 p.m. ET

Tornadoes gashed through central Tennessee early Tuesday, with the worst damage concentrated in and around Nashville. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency says at least 24 people were killed across four counties, and there are fears the death toll could climb as first responders continue to search for victims.

China's Sun Yang, one of the world's premier swimmers, has been banned from competition for eight years for violating anti-doping rules, the international Court of Arbitration for Sport has ruled. The ban means the 28-year-old athlete will miss the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo — and it could very well end his career.

The Switzerland-based sports body said Friday that the three-time Olympic champion was guilty of a doping offense when he failed to cooperate with officials who tried to collect his blood for testing in 2018.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was sentenced to three years in federal prison Thursday.

It was just months ago that she pleaded guilty to federal fraud, tax and conspiracy charges over a scheme involving sales of her self-published Healthy Holly children's books.

Updated 12:34 p.m. ET

Maria Sharapova, the five-time Grand Slam champion and former No.1-ranked women's tennis player in the world, has called it quits.

The 32-year-old made the announcement not at a press conference, but in an essay she wrote for Vanity Fair and Vogue. Her choice of venue shouldn't exactly come as a surprise. Off the court, Sharapova has built a successful career in business and modeling.

Federal aviation regulators issued a new round of safety fixes for Boeing's beleaguered 737 Max jetliners, mandating repairs to sections of the planes that could make them vulnerable to lightning strikes and other activity which might result in engine malfunction.

The proposed fix issued by the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday said certain panels on the planes, including the metallic layer that serves as part of the shielding for aircraft wiring, is susceptible to potential "electromagnetic effects of lightning strikes or high intensity radiated fields."

Updated 5:17 p.m. ET

Some 20,000 mourners packed the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday for the public memorial honoring legendary former NBA player Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were killed along with seven other people in a helicopter crash last month.

The star-studded ceremony opened with a powerful performance by Beyoncé singing her song "XO" which she said was one of Bryant's favorite songs and includes the lyrics: "In the darkest hour / I'll search through the crowd / Your face is all I can see / I'll give you everything."

Updated at 5:11 p.m. ET

Virginia's Democratic governor seemed poised to make broad changes to his state's gun control laws, but was dealt a stinging blow by his own party Monday when a state Senate committee blocked a bill that would have, among other things, banned sales of assault weapons.

Four Democrats on Virginia's Senate Judiciary Committee broke ranks with their party handing the Republican minority a victory in tabling the bill for the remainder of the year. It also sent the measure to the state's Crime Commission for further review.

Updated at 2:25 p.m. ET

Fourteen U.S. passengers evacuated from a cruise ship in Japan and flown to military bases in California and Texas have tested positive for the new coronavirus, U.S. officials confirm.

Earlier, on Sunday, U.S. officials announced that 44 people from the Diamond Princess ship had tested positive for coronavirus. Those who were sick were to remain in Japan to be treated.

Native American tribes in North Dakota secured a major victory this week when they settled a pair of lawsuits challenging the state's restrictive voter identification requirements.

The lawsuits were brought by the Spirit Lake Nation, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and several individual voters contesting the state law mandating voters present identification that includes their residential street address.

Updated at 6:54 p.m. ET

The Trump administration has notified Congress that it plans to divert $3.8 billion from the Defense Department's budget to build the border wall.

This is in addition to more than $11 billion that's already been identified to construct more than 500 miles of new barriers along the southern U.S. border with Mexico. That includes money that Congress has appropriated and funding that was previously diverted from military construction and counternarcotic operations.

Updated at 6:03 p.m. ET

Editor's note: This report includes descriptions of alleged sexual assault.

Two Ohio State University football players were arrested on rape and kidnapping charges Wednesday after what local police describe as a violent sexual encounter with a woman last week. The men are scheduled to be arraigned on first-degree felony charges Thursday.

Police charged 21-year-olds Amir Riep and Jahsen Wint, both of whom played on the Buckeyes' Big Ten Championship team this past season.

U.S. authorities have seized the domain name of a website that allegedly sold access to billions of usernames, email addresses, passwords and other sensitive information stolen in data breaches.

Now, visitors to the not-so-subtle website – weleakinfo.com — are greeted with a homepage that reads, "This Domain Has Been Seized."

The Transportation Security Administration is reminding airport travelers that it's fine to stuff carry-on bags with clothes and toiletries. Just don't pack any heat.

TSA announced that its officers seized 4,432 guns at checkpoints last year — the most in the agency's 18-year history. It also says that 87% of those guns (some 3,855) were loaded.

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