Rebecca Hersher | KERA News

Rebecca Hersher

Rebecca Hersher is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.

Hersher was part of the NPR team that won a Peabody award for coverage of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and produced a story from Liberia that won an Edward R. Murrow award for use of sound. She was a finalist for the 2017 Daniel Schorr prize; a 2017 Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting fellow, reporting on sanitation in Haiti; and a 2015 NPR Above the Fray fellow, investigating the causes of the suicide epidemic in Greenland.

Prior to working at NPR, Hersher reported on biomedical research and pharmaceutical news for Nature Medicine.

A hospital in Afghanistan paid for by the U.S. is poorly built, years late and might be too expensive for the Afghan government to run on its own in the long-term.

The findings are detailed in the latest report, published Friday, by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, a military agency set up by Congress to audit U.S. spending in the country.

From the air, it looks like a 2,300-square-mile field of submerged doughnuts on the ocean floor.

The limestone circles amount to a second, deeper reef behind the Great Barrier Reef, researchers say. The scientists who discovered it off the coast of northern Australia say they're surprised by its vast size — and by the strange shapes.

In the capital of Gabon, Libreville, hundreds of people have been arrested and at least three people have died amid protests after the sitting president was declared the winner of last weekend's disputed election.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba received 49.8 percent of the vote, compared with 48.2 percent for his rival, Jean Ping, who is the former chairman of the African Union.

In Idaho, a wildfire has burned nearly 250 square miles of forest and is growing quickly. About 157,000 acres are currently on fire in Boise National Forest in the western part of the state, northeast of Boise.

The blaze, known as the Pioneer Fire, has been burning for several weeks, but hot, dry weather this week caused the wildfire to get much larger.

Scott Graf of Boise State Public Radio reports for NPR's Newscast Unit:

A $7 million, comprehensive census of African elephants has found that the population decreased by nearly a third between 2007 and 2014.

The Great Elephant Census was conducted over three years, and set out to effectively count every savanna elephant in 18 countries in Africa, accounting for 93 percent of the savanna elephants in those countries. The conclusion — that the population declined by 144,000 animals in just seven years — is sobering.

The twin babies were just 5 days old, a month premature and ill-equipped for a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea. But their mother, 26-year-old Tesfamamrim Merhawit, decided the sea ahead was safer than the land they left behind. Traveling alone with her infants, she told The Associated Press she boarded a boat in Libya, bound for Europe.

We are running out of ways to treat gonorrhea, the World Health Organization announced today.

The U.N. health agency released new guidelines warning doctors that it no longer recommends an entire class of antibiotics, quinolones, because quinolone-resistant strains of the disease have emerged all over the world.

Instead, the health agency recommends using cephalosporins, another class of antibiotic. The new protocol replaces guidelines that had not been changed since 2003.

There were 40 boats — some inflatable rubber vessels and others made of wood — packed with thousands of men, women and children who had decided the sea was safer than the land.

They set out from Libya. They did not have enough fuel to reach Europe.

The Norwegian government says 323 reindeer were apparently struck by lightning last week and died.

The animals lived on a mountain plateau in central Norway called the Hardangervidda. The rugged alpine landscape is (usually) a good place for a reindeer — delicious lichens grow on exposed rocks, and the area is protected from development because it falls within a national park.

It has been a year since Christiane Heinicke has had an egg. Or been in a car. Or gone outside without a spacesuit.

Since last August, the German physicist has been living with five other people in a 1,200-square-foot, solar-powered dome on the side of a Hawaiian volcano in an experiment in Mars-like living. The project, known as the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS, ended Sunday.

They call it the octobot.

The squishy eight-legged robot described in the journal Nature is made entirely out of soft, flexible materials, runs on hydrogen peroxide, and looks like a 2-centimeter-tall baby octopus.

A magnitude 6.8 earthquake shook central Myanmar around 5 p.m. local time on Wednesday, damaging buildings and sending people running into the streets across the region.

Paleontologists at the University of New South Wales in Australia say they have identified a tiny new species of marsupial lion that lived around 18 million years ago.

The extinct, squirrel-size animal weighed about 1.3 pounds, very likely lived in trees and had teeth that suggest it was capable of ripping apart other small creatures with its molars.

The researchers named it Microleo attenboroughi in honor of Sir David Attenborough, the famed British naturalist who has hosted numerous documentaries on wildlife.

More than a week after record-breaking rain inundated 20 parishes in southeastern Louisiana, President Obama arrived Tuesday to survey the damage.

The president toured a neighborhood in East Baton Rouge Parish ravaged in the widespread flooding that has claimed more than a dozen lives and damaged some 60,000 homes. Afterward, he thanked first responders, the National Guard and "all the good neighbors" who rescued people as the water rose.

The rain fell for days, sometimes 3 inches or more in a single hour, as streets became rivers and rivers ate up entire neighborhoods in southeast Louisiana.

Between Aug. 11 and Aug. 14, more than 20 inches of rain fell in and around East Baton Rouge, one of the hardest-hit parishes. And in some parishes in the region, as much as 2 feet of rain fell in 48 hours.

The National Weather Service says the likelihood that so much rain would fall in so little time was about one-tenth of 1 percent. A flood this bad should only happen once every thousand years.

A former Malian rebel leader has pleaded guilty at the International Criminal Court to destroying priceless monuments in Timbuktu in 2012.

As the Two-Way has reported, the trial against Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is believed to be the first time desecration of cultural heritage has been prosecuted as a war crime by the tribunal in The Hague.

For our Newscast unit, Teri Schultz reports:

George Curry, the legendary columnist, commentator and champion of black journalists, died of sudden heart failure on Saturday. He was 69.

The Transportation Safety Administration is reminding Batman enthusiasts to check their superhero weapons when they fly.

According to the TSA, people keep trying to carry "batarangs" — the sharp, metal bat-shaped weapons that Batman throws at his enemies — onto planes, only to have them confiscated at airport security checkpoints.

Agents have confiscated batarangs at multiple airports, including in San Francisco, where these showed up in a carry-on bag.

Pope Francis has created a commission to study whether women could serve as deacons within the Roman Catholic Church.

News.va, the official news network for the Vatican, announced the commission of seven men and six women on its website:

Apple is replacing its black pistol emoji with a green water gun icon. It's one of more than a hundred new and redesigned emojis that will be available on iPhones and iPads this fall, when the company releases its latest operating system.

The Pentagon says U.S. warplanes began attacking Islamic State targets in Libya today at the request of the U.N.-backed Libyan government. The airstrikes are in the city of Sirte, which is controlled by ISIS.

American aircraft destroyed a tank and two ISIS vehicles that the Pentagon says posed a threat to Libyan fighters trying to retake the city.

"We thought we were gone," one resident told The Washington Post.

"The whole house shook."

A wildfire on the central California coast has burned more than 38,000 acres and could continue throughout August. Already, the Soberanes fire has destroyed at least 60 homes, and one man died when a bulldozer he was driving near the fire line rolled over on steep terrain.

The introduction of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft hasn't had any impact on the number of fatalities related to drunken driving, a newly published study finds.

Researchers at the University of Southern California and Oxford University looked at the 100 most populated metropolitan areas, analyzing data from before and after the introduction of Uber and its competitors, and found that access to ride-sharing apps had no effect on traffic fatalities related to drinking alcohol.

A bone from a human ancestor that died between 1.8 million and 1.6 million years ago shows evidence of cancer, a newly published study finds. It is the oldest known example of a malignant tumor in a human ancestor.

The Turkish government has cracked down on independent media since an attempted coup on July 15, shutting down at least 45 newspapers and 16 TV stations, The Associated Press reports.

On Wednesday, the state-run news service Anadolu Agency reported 47 arrest warrants had been issued for employees of the newspaper Zaman, and 13 people had been detained.

A judge granted John Hinckley Jr. his freedom this week, 35 years after Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan.

His release from a mental hospital comes with a handful of limitations: Hinckley will live with his elderly mother in Williamsburg, Va., and he cannot contact his victims, their relatives or the actress he was obsessed with at the time of the shooting, Jodie Foster.

Ethan Dean, a 6-year-old boy with cystic fibrosis, spent Tuesday as the recycling and garbage superhero of Sacramento, Calif., complete with a fluorescent sanitation safety T-shirt and a green cape.

The 2,200-year-old mummy of an Egyptian man who spent a lot of time sitting and eating carbs went on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on Tuesday and will be open to the public beginning Wednesday.

The prime minister of Australia said he is "shocked and appalled" after seeing footage of children being hooded, shackled, stripped and held on the floor by prison guards at a youth detention facility in the Northern Territory.

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