Robert Benincasa | KUNC

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.

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.

If they had known, they never would have bought the house on Bayou Glen Road. Sure, it was a beautiful lot, tucked in a bend of the creek, backyard woodsy and wild, the neighbors friendly and the street quiet. A little piece of nature just 20 minutes from downtown Houston. It was exactly what John and Heather Papadopoulos — recently married, hoping to start a family — were looking for in 2007. They didn't think much about the creek that ran along their yard, aside from appreciating the birds it attracted to the neighborhood.

Greg Kelly's grandson, Caden, scampers to the tree-shaded creek behind his grandfather's house to catch crawdads, as Kelly shuffles along, trying to keep up. Kelly's small day pack holds an oxygen tank with a clear tube clipped to his nose. He has chairs spaced out on the short route so he can stop every few minutes, sit down and catch his breath, until he has enough wind and strength to start out again for the creek.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra cellist Dan Katz has two cellos. The better one — the one he prefers to play with the orchestra — is 200 years old and has rosewood tuning pegs. When the orchestra went on an 11-concert European tour in January, he purposefully left it home.

"I worry with that instrument about international travel now, because of those pegs," Katz said after rehearsing for a performance of Schubert's Ninth Symphony earlier this month.

This story is part two of a two-part investigation. Read part one here.

Shortly after Ed Howard's father was diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer and given six months to live, Howard and his sister Kathy Howard-Almagor sat down and talked about what to do.

This story is part one of a two-part investigation. Read part two here.

Ellen Bethea sat alongside her husband's hospital bed after doctors told her that Archie, the man she had been married to for almost five decades, wouldn't make it.

"As soon as everybody else was asleep and I was sitting there with him, he passed on," she remembers. "So I think he kind of waited for me to be with him."

A payday loan is a costly form of credit operating on the fringes of the economy. That's why the target of a new crackdown by federal regulators may surprise you: Instead of a forlorn-looking storefront with a garish neon sign, it's your familiar neighborhood bank.

A small but growing number of banks, including some major players, have been offering the equivalent of payday loans, calling them "deposit advances."

That is, at least, until bank regulators stepped in Nov. 21 and put new restrictions on the loans.

Remember running around the playground when you were a kid? Maybe hanging from the monkey bars or seeing who could swing the highest?

It wasn't just a mindless energy burn. Many have called play the work of childhood. Play teaches children how to make friends, make rules and navigate relationships.

But for kids whose disabilities keep them from using playgrounds, those opportunities can be lost.

If you have ever dreamed of playing big-league baseball, chances are the dream started to fade sometime in high school.

It gradually becomes clear: You won't be starting in Game 7 of the World Series, and tipping your cap after hitting a walk-off homer. So at some point you go from player to fan — watching others chase greatness on the diamond.

But not every baseball dreamer is willing to give up so early. And in Bradenton, Fla., there's a place that lies somewhere between the Little League field and Yankee Stadium.

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