Robert Benincasa

Robert Benincasa is a computer-assisted reporting producer in NPR's Investigations Unit.

Since joining NPR in 2008, Benincasa has been reporting on NPR Investigations stories, analyzing data for investigations, and developing data visualizations and interactive applications for NPR.org. He has worked on numerous groundbreaking stories, including data-driven investigations of the inequities of federal disaster aid and coal miners' exposures to deadly silica dust.

Prior to NPR, Benincasa served as the database editor for the Gannett News Service Washington Bureau for a decade.

Benincasa's work at NPR has been recognized by many of journalism's top honors. In 2014, he was part of a team that won an Investigative Reporters & Editors Award, and he shared Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards with Investigations Unit colleagues in 2016 and 2011.

Also in 2011, he received numerous accolades for his contributions to several investigative stories, including an Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, an Investigative Reporters & Editors Radio Award, the White House News Photographers Association's Eyes of History Award for multimedia innovation, and George Polk and George Foster Peabody awards.

Benincasa served on the faculty of Georgetown University's Master of Professional Studies program in journalism from 2008 to 2016.

Congressional investigators are launching an inquiry into a handful of companies that landed government contracts related to COVID-19, calling the deals "suspicious" because the companies lacked experience and, in some cases, had political connections to the Trump administration.

Many of the companies and organizations getting loans from the Paycheck Protection Program – billed by the SBA as a lifeline for struggling, small companies — aren't what anyone would think of as small businesses.

Among them:

Large restaurant chains, including Applebee's, P.F. Chang's, Ruby Tuesday and TGI Fridays, got loans between $5 million and $10 million.

The Greenbrier Hotel Corporation, a luxury resort owned by West Virginia's billionaire governor James Justice, got a loan between $5 million and $10 million.

When nurses and doctors across the country were struggling to treat coronavirus patients without enough protective gear, and the federal government was scrambling to find those supplies, Quedon Baul saw an opportunity.

His three-person company in McKinney, Texas, distributes medical supplies but didn't have much experience with face shields. Still, he landed two government contracts worth up to $20 million to deliver the personal protective equipment. He couldn't meet the first deadline, so he found subcontractors to do the job.

Don't see the graphic above? Click here.

With traffic dramatically down in recent months, the United States is in the middle of an accidental experiment showing what happens to air pollution when millions of people stop driving.

Updated at 9:00 a.m. ET

Michelle Sweeney could barely sleep. The nurse in Plymouth, Mass., had just learned she would be furloughed. She only had four hours the next day to call all of her patients.

"I was in a panic state. I was sick over it," Sweeney said. "Our patients are the frailest, sickest group."

Sweeney works for Atrius Health as a case manager for patients with chronic health conditions and those who have been discharged from the hospital or emergency room.

Updated at 10:10 p.m. ET

One month ago today, President Trump declared a national emergency.

In a Rose Garden address, flanked by leaders from giant retailers and medical testing companies, he promised a mobilization of public and private resources to attack the coronavirus.

"We've been working very hard on this. We've made tremendous progress," Trump said. "When you compare what we've done to other areas of the world, it's pretty incredible."

But few of the promises made that day have come to pass.

Coal mining companies owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and his family have agreed to pay the government more than $5 million in delinquent mine safety fines, the Justice Department says.

As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies, some communities will be better equipped to treat the sickest patients — specifically those requiring admission to intensive care units — than others. Not only do ICU capabilities vary from hospital to hospital, but also some parts of the country have far more critical care beds by population than others.

An NPR analysis of data from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice looked at how the nation's 100,000 ICU beds are distributed across the more than 300 markets that make up the country's hospital system.

It's a few minutes before services on a Sunday morning at Bethany United Methodist Church in West Jefferson, N.C. The handbell choir warms up and an acolyte lights candles.

Church member Peggy Lynn Gibson walks in with her dog, a stout, cream-colored golden retriever named Rocky. The congregants greet Rocky like an old friend.

"How are you? You're a sweetheart," one man says to the dog. "And so are you," the man tells Gibson.

Pastor Dan Money welcomes the congregation as Rocky, an honorary church member, settles in at Gibson's feet in a pew near the back.

Update: The CITES convention officially adopted the musical instruments exemption on Wednesday.

An international endangered species convention meeting in Geneva is close to exempting musical instruments from trade restrictions on rosewood.

The restrictions under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora — commonly referred to as CITES — went into effect in 2017, after strong demand for high-end rosewood furniture in China led to conservation worries and violence in areas that produce the wood.

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