Montana Public Radio

Laurel Wamsley

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.

Wamsley got her start at NPR as an intern for Weekend Edition Saturday in January 2007 and stayed on as a production assistant for NPR's flagship news programs, before joining the Washington Desk for the 2008 election.

She then left NPR, doing freelance writing and editing in Austin, Texas, and then working in various marketing roles for technology companies in Austin and Chicago.

In November 2015, Wamsley returned to NPR as an associate producer for the National Desk, where she covered stories including Hurricane Matthew in coastal Georgia. She became a Newsdesk reporter in March 2017, and has since covered subjects including climate change, possibilities for social networks beyond Facebook, the sex lives of Neanderthals, and joke theft.

In 2010, Wamsley was a Journalism and Women Symposium Fellow and participated in the German-American Fulbright Commission's Berlin Capital Program, and was a 2016 Voqal Foundation Fellow. She will spend two months reporting from Germany as a 2019 Arthur F. Burns Fellow, a program of the International Center for Journalists.

Wamsley earned a B.A. with highest honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain Scholar. Wamsley holds a master's degree from Ohio University, where she was a Public Media Fellow and worked at NPR Member station WOUB. A native of Athens, Ohio, she now lives and bikes in Washington, DC.

A new report by an Australian research group has identified and mapped more than 380 suspected detention facilities in China's western Xinjiang region.

Updated at 1:10 p.m. ET

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is seeking information to identify those responsible for an incident of racist vandalism at a park entrance in Tennessee over the weekend.

A black bear skin — including the head — was left draped over the entrance sign, next to a cardboard sign that said "Here To The Lake Black Lives Don't Matter."

Updated at 2:35 p.m. ET

At least 380 pilot whales have died off the coast of Tasmania in what experts are calling Australia's largest recorded mass-stranding event.

Nearly 500 whales have been stranded on a beach and two sandbars along the western coast of the island state.

In a year that's been plenty scary, this much is clear: Pandemic Halloween will be different than regular Halloween. Many traditional ways of celebrating are now considerably more frightful than usual, because now they bring the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Updated at 6:03 p.m. ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted guidance Friday evening saying that aerosol transmission might be one of the "most common" ways the coronavirus is spreading — and then took the guidance down on Monday.

The now-deleted updates were notable because so far the CDC has stopped short of saying that the virus is airborne.

Along the western coast of Tasmania, marine conservationists are gathering to conduct a massive operation: the rescue of some 270 pilot whales that have been stranded on sandbars there.

Tasmania is an island state of Australia, about 150 miles south of the mainland. The whales were first reported stuck on Monday morning.

Updated at 8:51 p.m. ET

Los Angeles' Mount Wilson Observatory, the site of major 20th century scientific discoveries, has so far survived a terrifyingly close brush with a wildfire in the hills northeast of the city. But the threat isn't over.

The Bobcat Fire came within 500 feet of the observatory on Tuesday afternoon. Crews gathered to fight the fire, and tracked vehicles with front blades cleared fire lines to protect the area.

The driver behind the wheel of an autonomous Uber car that fatally struck an Arizona woman has been charged with negligent homicide.

Rafaela Vasquez, 46, appeared in court on Tuesday in Maricopa County, Ariz. She pleaded not guilty to the charge, NPR member station KJZZ reports, and has been released with an ankle monitor.

Her trial is set for Feb. 21, The Associated Press reports.


Wildfires in the Western U.S. continue to blaze, with much of the activity centered in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

In Oregon and Washington, 28 large fires are burning across 1.5 million acres. But the Bureau of Land Management noted that growth has slowed for a number of the major fires. The large Beachie Creek Fire east of Salem, Ore., had recorded no new growth in the previous day.

Wildfires have now burned more than 4.6 million acres in 87 large fires across 10 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. At least 35 people have died in California, Oregon and Washington, The Associated Press reported.

Dense smoke and fog enveloped an area far beyond the fires on Monday, keeping temperatures cooler but also creating new hazards in an ongoing catastrophe, with reduced visibility and a high risk of smoke inhalation.

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