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.

Scientists are one step closer to understanding a mystery of the Milky Way.

In 2007, data showed that a young star about 400 light years away from our solar system was blinking. It was being covered, uncovered and covered again in what astronomers call a "series of complex eclipses."

The eclipses told astronomers that something was orbiting the young star, and that the something was very large.

You will likely pay more to heat your home this winter than you did last winter, the federal government says.

The yearly winter fuels outlook report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration finds higher fuel prices and a colder weather forecast than last year will add up to an increase in heating costs.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports natural gas prices have a particularly big effect because nearly half of American households rely on it for heat:

The World Health Organization says global governments are not on track to meet their goals for reducing tuberculosis deaths and infections.

At the World Health Assembly in 2014, leaders from around the world agreed to the twin goals of reducing deaths from the respiratory infection by 90 percent and cases by 80 percent by 2030, compared to 2015 levels.

The United Nations has announced a new honorary ambassador for women and girls, and she's not a human woman or girl.

She's a comic-book superheroine.

According to a U.N. statement, Wonder Woman will be officially appointed Oct. 21, which is the 75th anniversary of the character's debut.

Updated 11:30 a.m. ET

People in Bermuda were bracing themselves as Hurricane Nicole, a Category 3 storm, hit the island Thursday. The eye passed over the island nation around 11 a.m. local time.

The National Hurricane Center called the storm "extremely dangerous," with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph and a wide path that whips everything within 65 miles of its center with hurricane force winds.

German officials say a Syrian man arrested on Monday for allegedly planning a bomb attack has killed himself.

Jaber al-Bakr was being held in a detention center in Leipzig, Germany, reports the Associated Press. The wire service quotes German news outlet Spiegel Online as reporting that al-Bakr had been under constant surveillance at the center because he was at risk for suicide.

The fight over transporting crude oil has spread across the northern U.S., with protesters disrupting pipelines that carry crude from Canada into the U.S. At least one protester has been injured and dozens have been arrested since Monday.

The murder trial of two former police officers in the shooting death of a mentally ill homeless man in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2014 has ended without verdicts.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia illegally detained international chess star and opposition leader Garry Kasparov in 2007.

In May of that year, Kasparov was trying to fly from Moscow to Samara, in western Russia, to attend a march against the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, planned to coincide with a summit between Russia and the European Union. At 8:30 a.m. at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, authorities confiscated his ticket and passport, and then held him for five hours.

He missed the flight, and the protest march.

For years, President Obama has been saying the U.S. must send humans to Mars. Permanently.

There was the 2010 speech when he said, "By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it."

The bombs continue to fall on rebel-held areas of Aleppo.

The European Union and the government of Afghanistan have agreed to a plan that could send tens of thousands of asylum seekers back to Afghanistan, even as fighting in some parts of the country intensifies.

Updated at 6:00 p.m. ET

The wind ripped roofs off buildings. It flattened trees. It snapped power poles.

The rain, in some places more than 2 feet of it, washed out bridges and flooded entire communities, cutting people off as it overwhelmed their homes.

And more than 100 people in Haiti have died as a result of Hurricane Matthew, according to the Haitian civil protection service.

Haiti's electoral council has postponed the country's presidential election after Hurricane Matthew devastated the country. The nationwide vote was supposed to be held Sunday.

The electoral council did not announce a new date.

"Dirty water everywhere."

That's how Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald described the situation in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in an interview with NPR Wednesday morning. "A lot of rain and a lot of wind," she said. "Before [Hurricane] Matthew, the ground was already saturated, so the idea that you could have 25 inches of rain is a very scary thought."

The European Parliament voted Tuesday to ratify the landmark Paris climate accord, paving the way for the international plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions to become binding as soon as the end of this week.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET with further states of emergency in the U.S.

Hurricane Matthew crashed into southwestern Haiti as a Category 4 storm Tuesday morning, dumping rain and scouring the land with maximum sustained winds of 145 miles per hour.

It is the first Category 4 storm to make landfall in Haiti since 1964, when Hurricane Cleo also hit the island nation's southwestern peninsula.

The international Court of Arbitration for Sport has reduced tennis star Maria Sharapova's two-year doping ban to 15 months.

One year after the U.S. military attacked a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, the security situation in the city is deteriorating once again.

Witnesses and police told Reuters Taliban insurgents entered Kunduz early Monday morning and attacked the governor's compound and police headquarters.

The National Hurricane Center is warning that Hurricane Matthew will "bring life-threatening rain, wind and storm surge" to parts of Haiti beginning Monday evening. People on multiple Caribbean islands are preparing for the Category 4 storm.

India has formally joined the Paris climate change agreement, handing over its country's official ratification documents to the United Nations on Sunday.

India's ambassador to the U.N., Syed Akbaruddin, smiled as he delivered the ratified agreement to the international body's office of legal affairs. The ceremony was held in front of a banner depicting Mahatma Gandhi and recognizing Oct. 2, the Indian peace leader's birthday, as an international day of nonviolence.

Pope Francis visited Azerbaijan on Sunday, addressing the Catholic faithful and reaching out to Muslim people in the second largest Shiite Muslim nation.

A wildfire in the mountains of California's Santa Clara County has destroyed a dozen homes and consumed about 4,400 acres of forest.

The Loma fire has been burning in the Santa Cruz mountains since September 26, and although it is more than 60 percent contained, it still threatens more than 150 structures, according to Cal-Fire, the state agency in charge of wildfire efforts. Almost 2,000 personnel, including inmate fire crews, are fighting the blaze.

Britain's prime minister, Theresa May, says she intends to begin the formal process of leaving the European Union by March 2017.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, May said she would seek to begin the 2-year negotiation process required to leave the EU in "the first quarter of 2017".

The BBC's Rob Watson reports for NPR's newscast unit:

"It feels like a big moment. We now know Theresa May wants Britain to have left the EU by around April 2019.

On Wednesday evening, the city of Reykjavik, Iceland, turned off street lights and encouraged people to darken their homes so that everyone could watch the northern lights.

The city council released a statement saying street lights would be turned off in multiple sections of the city between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. local time and warning people to drive carefully.

The federal government has announced a new rule that guarantees the rights of patients and families to sue long-term care facilities.

The rule, released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, bans so-called pre-dispute binding arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts, which require patients and families to settle any dispute over care in arbitration, rather than through the court system.

The rule applies to facilities that receive money from Medicare or Medicaid — which is nearly all of them.

Turkey's national security council is recommending a three-month extension of the state of emergency imposed following a failed coup attempt in July.

The council is chaired by the Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has presided over tens of thousands of dismissals and arrests of opposition leaders, journalists and others since the initial state of emergency went into effect on July 20, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.

A new study of violent behavior in more than 1,000 mammal species found the meerkat is the mammal most likely to be murdered by one of its own kind.

The study, led by José María Gómez of the University of Grenada in Spain and published Wednesday in the journal Nature, analyzed more than 4 million deaths among 1,024 mammal species and compared them with findings in 600 studies of violence among humans from ancient times until today.

The findings tell us two things:

Commercial trade of pangolins, the aardvark-like mammal that is the world's most-trafficked animal, has been officially banned by the international body responsible for regulating the international trade of endangered species.

The U.S. government has agreed to pay a total of $492 million to 17 American Indian tribes for mismanaging natural resources and other tribal assets, according to an attorney who filed most of the suits.

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