Rebecca Hersher

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) 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.

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 Granada 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 the pangolin, 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.

The man suspected of shooting five people in the cosmetics department of a Macy's store in Burlington, Wash., has confessed to the crimes, reports The Associated Press, citing court documents released by Skagit County Superior Court.

Updated on Sept. 29:

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has since corrected statements made by spokesman Lorenzo Veloz, saying the exact time of the accident is still under investigation and that the registered owner of the vessel is, in fact, José Fernández. In addition, the agency has not ruled out the involvement of alcohol and is still investigating the speed of the boat and the exact time of the crash.

Our original post continues:

The largest radio telescope in the world officially opened on Sunday, according to China's official Xinhua News.

Less than a week after a U.S.-brokered Syrian ceasefire collapsed, the city of Aleppo is being pummeled with the most intense air bombardment since the beginning of the conflict, according to the U.N.

Miami Marlins ace pitcher José Fernández died in a boating accident early Sunday morning. He was 24 years old.

In 1970, archaeologists excavating the site of an ancient synagogue in Israel dug up a cylindrical lump of charcoal that looked like the remains of a scroll.

The animal-skin document was badly burned and battered. It was so delicate, just touching its surface sent pieces flaking off. To attempt to read it by unwrapping the layers would be to destroy the artifact forever. For curious scholars hoping to know what was written inside, the so-called Ein Gedi Scroll was a hopeless enigma.

Until now.

Less than a year after China suspended its one-child policy, officials in the central Chinese city of Yichang are asking public servants to have two children.

The request came in a public memo from municipal officials posted to the city government website. After more than 35 years, China relaxed one-child restrictions in January, allowing couples nationwide to have a second child if they want to.

On Monday afternoon, a security engineer named Matt Bryant stumbled upon a part of the Internet that is usually hidden from most of the world: a list of websites available to people with Internet access in North Korea.

The total number of sites was just 28.

Bryant's list includes every site ending in .kp, which is the country code associated with North Korea.

Canada and China have agreed to hold negotiations on a possible mutual extradition treaty, according to statements posted to the websites of both governments.

Dozens of people died in the Democratic Republic of Congo after the country's election commission announced it would postpone the presidential election, and protests turned violent Monday and Tuesday according to Human Rights Watch.

More than 850 people were accidentally granted U.S. citizenship despite being from countries with a history of immigration fraud or that raised national security concerns.

All 858 people had been previously ordered removed from the country. The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General says bad fingerprint records are to blame.

NPR's Brian Naylor reports:

President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly this morning, his final speech before the international governing body.

As he nears the end of his two terms in office, the president spoke about some of his administration's biggest foreign policy initiatives, including the importance of the Paris climate accord, the nuclear deal with Iran and fighting the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly this morning, his final speech before the international governing body.

As he nears the end of his two terms in office, the president spoke about some of his administration's biggest foreign policy initiatives, including the importance of the Paris climate accord, the nuclear deal with Iran and fighting the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

North Carolina's governor has dropped a lawsuit asking a federal court to preserve the state's HB2 law limiting civil rights protections for LGBT people and regulating who uses which public bathrooms.

In court documents Friday, Gov. Pat McCrory cited "substantial costs to the State" as one reason for dropping his lawsuit against the federal government, writing that it did not serve the "interests of judicial economy and efficiency."

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.

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