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.

TOKYO — We're in the home stretch of the most dramatic Olympics in recent memory, held against great odds amid a global pandemic in a country where many Japanese residents didn't want it to happen at all.

An ocean expedition exploring more than a mile under the surface of the Atlantic captured a startlingly silly sight this week: a sponge that looked very much like SpongeBob SquarePants.

And right next to it, a pink sea star — a doppelganger for Patrick, SpongeBob's dim-witted best friend.

When revising its mask guidance this week to urge even vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in much of the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was criticized for not citing data in making that move.

Now it has — and the data is sobering.

For some of us, the Olympics don't really get started until the runners take the starting line and the javelins go flying.

With the Olympics underway, Tokyo has set a new, unfortunate record: for coronavirus cases.

Tokyo had 3,177 new positive cases on Tuesday, according to the city's government. The city has become Japan's biggest COVID-19 hot spot and is host to most of the Olympic events.

When Simone Biles suddenly pulled out of the team final after a vault that went awry, her teammate Jordan Chiles was thrust into the clutch.

Chiles, 20, had been slated to compete for Team USA in just two events in the team final: vault and floor. But with Biles out of the competition, she was suddenly competing on the balance beam and uneven bars too.

Protests by athletes have become common and more widely embraced in the last few years, and the Olympics has updated its rules to allow for it – within limits.

Pictogram people become unlikely MVPs

One of the most striking sequences in the Tokyo Olympics' opening ceremony revolved around pictograms. Tokyo organizers have been touting their "kinetic pictograms," which show figures bursting into motion across dozens of disciplines. For Friday's ceremony, they brought all 50 of those pictograms to life.

While the delta variant of the coronavirus has quickly become the dominant strain in the United States, it's not the only variant circulating in the population.

Updated July 20, 2021 at 12:47 PM ET

Wearing a cowboy hat under the West Texas morning sun, Jeff Bezos crossed the bridge to enter the capsule made by his company Blue Origin. He was accompanied by three others – his brother Mark Bezos, female aviation pioneer Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen.

Then the shuttle hatch closed and just before 9:15 a.m. ET, the four blasted into space on the first human flight on Blue Origin's New Shepard launch vehicle.

England has lifted most of its domestic COVID-19 restrictions, marking a milestone as the country moves into a new phase of pandemic life — what some have dubbed "Freedom Day."

Young people gathered at nightclubs just after midnight to celebrate the return of crowds to raucous indoor spaces. "This is what life's about," one clubgoer said.

Richard Branson, the British billionaire, plans to blast into space on Sunday from New Mexico aboard a rocket made by his company Virgin Galactic.

Nine days later, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is scheduled to rocket into space from West Texas in a capsule made by his company Blue Origin.

In many ways, American life is returning to normalcy: Masks are no longer required in many locations, schools and universities are slated to reopen and the days of social distancing have begun to fade as

The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse at his home threatens to exacerbate Haiti's already rampant problems.

"Everything that could go wrong seems to be going wrong," says Robert Fatton, an expert on Haitian politics at the University of Virginia, and a native of Haiti himself.

The Western portion of the island of Hispaniola, Haiti is perched in the Caribbean just 600 miles southeast of Florida. It threw off French rule with a successful revolt, becoming the first Black-led republic in 1804.

Updated July 6, 2021 at 11:31 AM ET

Less than a week after trustees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill belatedly voted to grant tenure to New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, Howard University announced Hannah-Jones will instead be joining its faculty.

Starting immediately, an applicant for a U.S. passport can simply check "M" or "F" as their gender – without needing to provide medical certification if that gender doesn't match their other documents. And soon applicants will have the option to select a gender marker that isn't male or female, the State Department said Wednesday.

Studies have found that Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against several variants of concern, including the delta variant, the biotech company announced.

Moderna said Tuesday that recently completed studies have found the vaccine to have a neutralizing effect against all COVID-19 variants tested, including the beta, delta, eta and kappa variants.

While rescuers continue to search for survivors amid the rubble from the building collapse in Surfside, Fla., law enforcement detectives and crime scene personnel are working to identify the human remains recovered from the wreckage.

Before a large portion of Champlain Towers South came smashing down, the building's condo board sent a letter to residents noting significant deterioration and explaining the need for a $15 million special assessment to be paid by members.

The letter obtained by NPR, and first published in full by The Wall Street Journal, was sent before the condominium association's board meeting in April. It is signed by Jean Wodnicki, president of the board of directors of the condo association.

Updated June 28, 2021 at 8:18 PM ET

Researchers from a government agency that investigated the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11 are already on-site at Surfside, Fla.

A team from NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is in the preliminary stages of an investigation into what caused the apparent building failure early Thursday at the Champlain Towers South condo building north of Miami Beach.

Updated June 25, 2021 at 8:33 PM ET

The family of George Floyd and their attorneys said Friday that the sentencing of Derek Chauvin offers closure, accountability — and a step toward healing for both the family and the nation.

They also demanded political action for lasting change.

President Biden says his "heart goes out" to the families anxiously waiting for updates as rescuers search for survivors in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South complex in Surfside, Fla.

Biden made the remarks Friday at a ceremony signing H.R. 49, designating the Pulse nightclub a national memorial in memory of the shooting where 49 people were killed in 2016.

Updated June 25, 2021 at 4:41 PM ET

A Minnesota judge sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to 22 1/2 years in prison Friday for the murder of George Floyd.

Updated June 25, 2021 at 6:09 PM ET

Wearing a gray headband with a bow on it, George Floyd's daughter Gianna told the court that she missed her father.

In a two-minute prerecorded video, 7-year-old Gianna answered questions from a woman off camera.

"I ask about him all the time," Gianna said. She then explained what she asks about: "How did my dad get hurt?"

At about 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning, residents of the South Florida town of Surfside awoke to a terrible sound: an entire wing of a condo building — and the lives of those within in it — crashing down.

Champlain Towers South was built in 1981 on oceanfront property near Miami. It's not at all clear what caused the building to suddenly "pancake," its 12 floors collapsing onto one another.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state will be receiving federal assistance to help with the aftermath of the condo building collapse early Thursday morning in Surfside, Fla.

DeSantis declared a state of emergency in Miami-Dade County on Thursday, which cleared the path for President Biden to approve federal emergency aid from FEMA in the early hours of Friday.

Updated June 25, 2021 at 11:54 AM ET

There are now 159 people unaccounted for in the partial building collapse in Surfside, Fla., Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday — a rise from 99 people a day earlier.

Three more bodies were found in the rubble, bringing the number of fatalities so far to four. More than 100 people have already been accounted for.

Updated June 24, 2021 at 5:36 PM ET

The case of Britney Spears has turned a harsh spotlight on conservatorship, the legal arrangement under which her father controls her finances and her life.

The United States will relocate thousands of Afghan citizens who worked for the American government before U.S. troops exit the country in the next few months.

The plan is to relocate between 20,000 and 100,000 Afghan citizens, a senior White House official tells NPR. The White House is in the process of informing both the U.S. Congress and the Afghan government, the official said.

Most of the Afghan applicants for Special Immigrant Visas, or SIVs, are translators and interpreters. Their family members will also be relocated.

Pages