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.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

After the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., people across the country went out and bought guns.

A study published Thursday concludes that a subsequent increase in gun exposure led to more accidental firearm deaths than otherwise would have occurred in the months after the school shooting.

Peregrine falcons, known for making spectacular dives to snatch smaller birds midair, conduct their aerial assaults in much the same way that military missiles hit moving targets, scientists have found.

Peregrines have been known to dive at 200 mph or more, plummeting toward dinner with astonishing precision. How, exactly, the birds are able to do that at such speeds has been the subject of decades of research.

Scientists appear to be self-censoring by omitting the term "climate change" in public grant summaries.

An NPR analysis of grants awarded by the National Science Foundation found a steadily decreasing number with the phrase "climate change" in the title or summary, resulting in a sharp drop in the term's use in 2017. At the same time, the use of alternative terms such as "extreme weather" appears to be rising slightly.

NASA has big hopes for virtual reality technology. The agency is developing a suite of virtual reality environments at Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, that could be used for everything from geological research to repairing orbiting satellites.

One displays fiery ejections from the Sun. In another, scientists can watch magnetic fields pulse around the earth. A virtual rendering of an ancient lava tube in Idaho makes scientists feel like they're standing at the bottom of an actual cave.

Juan Flores and his family live in Galena Park, Texas, which is bordered on three sides by pipeline terminals, oil refineries, fertilizer plants and rail yards.

Flores has lived in the town of about 11,000 people just east of downtown Houston since he was 4 years old. For a while, he even served on the City Council.

Shannan Wheeler was born and raised in Baytown, Texas, an industrial suburb east of Houston that is part of the so-called chemical coast.

Houses are tucked between chemical storage tanks. Parks back up to refinery smokestacks.

The floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey had to go somewhere.

Dr. Christopher Fisher was working at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center just off the Las Vegas strip on Sunday evening when the patients starting arriving.

"It did look a bit like a war zone, can't say that it didn't," he remembers. "Frantic families, blood in the hallways."

People came in so grievously injured and so many at a time that Fisher, who is the medical head of trauma services for the hospital, and his colleagues used markers, writing directly on patients, to do triage.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Hurricane Harvey flooded more than a dozen Superfund toxic waste sites when it devastated the Texas coast in late August. An EPA report predicted the possibility of climate-related problems at toxic waste sites like those in Texas, but the page detailing the report on the agency's website was made inactive months before the storm.

Flu symptoms can be more severe when you're pregnant, landing women in the hospital, threatening their lives and even leading to preterm birth or miscarriage. The virus is a risk to the woman and the baby.

So, it's particularly important that people who are pregnant get the flu vaccine. And it's also important that the effects of those vaccines be studied in pregnant women.

When Alexia Boggs was applying to law school, she initially considered all the big specialties, but none of them seemed quite right.

"I was looking for a field of law where none of my family could ever seek my help," she says, sarcastic but also not really joking.

On the first sunny day in Houston after about 50 inches of rain, residents in the east Houston community of Manchester emerged from their homes and gave thanks that their neighborhood had been spared in the floods. "Mama, yeah, I just feel blessed," said 73-year-old Maria Julia Rodriguez, standing in her driveway in late August and marveling at her luck. "God was looking out for us, I guess."

Medical workers in Houston are dealing with a secondary problem after last week's floods: Clinics that offer methadone and other opioid addiction therapies are just getting back up and running, and many people don't have access to the treatments they need.

Updated at 8:15 p.m. ET

Officials are still trying to confirm whether Texas floodwaters have spread contamination from decades-old toxic waste sites, as water recedes and residents return to homes that, in some cases, were flooded with water that passed over known contaminated areas.

In northeast Houston, grocery stores are boarded up. Gas stations are closed. Streets are covered in a thin layer of dusty mud.

And, on block after block, homes are full of people; some returning after harrowing rescues and frustrating nights in shelters, others who never escaped their apartments as the water rose.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Some people have stayed in their homes, and that's been difficult, too, especially in low-income neighborhoods in east Houston. NPR's Rebecca Hersher talked to people there who are struggling to get the basics, like food, water and information.

Among the most pressing medical needs facing Houston at the moment: getting people to dialysis treatment.

At DaVita Med Center Dialysis on Tuesday afternoon, nurses tended to dozens of patients on dialysis machines while another 100 people waited their turn. Some were clearly uncomfortable, and a number said they hadn't been dialyzed in four days.

Those delays can be life-threatening.

Erica Brown called 911 for two days before a helicopter finally spotted her, trapped in her Houston home with her 7-month-old son and three other children. Sometimes when she called, she got nothing, just a busy signal and a disconnection. Multiple times she was told that they'd try to send help. Hours would go by with no rescue.

The family spent two nights in their trailer watching the floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise up the foundation. "It was a hard feeling because I thought me and my kids were going to lose our life in this hurricane disaster."

Updated at 7:00 p.m. ET

A man convicted of killing two people in what prosecutors argued were racially motivated murders in 1987 was executed by lethal injection on Thursday evening in Florida.

A concert in Rotterdam was canceled after Dutch police received a tip about a possible terror plot at the venue.

The American garage rock band Allah-Las was scheduled to perform on Wednesday night, but the event was called off after a warning from Spanish authorities led to the arrest of two men who officials suspected might be planning an attack, according to NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson.

As Soraya reported for NPR's Newscast unit:

On Monday, the moon will completely eclipse the sun, and people all over the U.S. will watch.

For those who have been boning up on eclipse trivia for weeks, congratulations. For everyone else, here are the things you need to know about the phenomenon.

More than two weeks after they were first spotted, wildfires on the western coast of Greenland are still burning, worrying local residents and drawing the attention of scientists.

Well-trained guide dogs are important for visually impaired people who rely on them. But many puppies bred to be guide dogs flunk out of training programs.

A study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests the way a puppy's mother raises it may be the key to the dog's success, or failure. A research team at the University of Pennsylvania found that puppies destined for guide dog training are more likely to fail if they're coddled by their mothers.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The rain began on Good Friday. It fell into the roofless ruins of Port-au-Prince's Catholic cathedral. It swirled through stalls in the market downtown. In the hills above Haiti's capital, the rain ran off the clay roof tiles of upscale homes.

No matter where the rain fell, it was all destined for the same place: the system of concrete canals that cut through the city and down to the sea.

The first problem with the airplane bathroom was its location.

It was March. Greg O'Brien and his wife, Mary Catherine, were flying back to Boston from Los Angeles, sitting in economy seats in the middle of the plane. "We're halfway, probably over Chicago," Greg remembers, "and Mary Catherine said, 'Go to the bathroom.' "

"It just sounded like my mother," Greg says. So I said 'no.' "

Mary Catherine persisted, urging her husband of 40 years to use the restroom. People started looking at them. "It was kind of funny," says Greg.

"They're not gonna want me to play 'babies in space'," says Greg O'Brien. "You know, where I pick 'em up in my hands and I swirl them around over my head like a rocket ship. I always say 'Babies! In! Spaaaaace!' "

It's October 2016, and he is musing about the latest O'Brien family news. His daughter, Colleen, is due to have a baby in November, and ever since he found out, Greg has been struggling with competing emotions.

Emotions, the classic thinking goes, are innate, basic parts of our humanity. We are born with them, and when things happen to us, our emotions wash over us.

"They happen to us, almost," says Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and a researcher at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital.

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