Merrit Kennedy

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for The Two-Way, NPR's breaking news blog. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.

Merrit joined NPR in Washington, D.C., in December 2015, after seven years living and working in Egypt. She started her journalism career at the beginning of the Egyptian uprising in 2011 and chronicled the ouster of two presidents, eight rounds of elections and numerous major outbreaks of violence for NPR and other news outlets. She has also worked as a reporter and television producer in Cairo for The Associated Press, covering Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Sudan.

She grew up in Los Angeles, the Middle East and places in between, and holds a bachelor's degree in international relations from Stanford University and a master's degree in international human rights law from The American University in Cairo.

Updated at 8:57 p.m. ET

Millions of years before the brontosaurus roamed the Earth, a massive relative was lumbering around South Africa.

Scientists think this early Jurassic dinosaur was, at the time, the largest land creature ever to have lived. And unlike the even bigger creatures that came later, they think it could pop up on its hind legs.

When floodwaters from Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina's Lumberton area, some families were unable — or unwilling — to take their pets with them when they evacuated.

The flooding hit rapidly, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported, when temporary levees failed and sent water gushing into the surrounding area.

This drug seizure is bananas.

Two sergeants from a Texas prison were picking up two donated pallets of bananas at the Ports of America in Freeport on Friday, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The bananas were being donated to the Wayne Scott Unit in Texas' Brazoria County. The department says they were already ripe — and according to USA Today, they were never claimed at the port.

Updated at 10:50 a.m. ET Monday

Les Moonves has stepped down as the chairman, president and CEO of CBS Corporation, after 12 women accused him of sexual misconduct that spanned decades in two reports published in The New Yorker.

Some two million Ford F-150 pickup trucks are being recalled by the company after more than 20 reports of smoke or fire coming from the seat belts.

The recall, which was announced Thursday, applies to certain Regular Cab and SuperCrew Cab vehicles from model years 2015-18.

Updated at 11:44 a.m. ET

Fewer than 10 months after taking the job of USA Gymnastics president and CEO, Kerry Perry has resigned.

Perry has been under scrutiny from the U.S. Olympic Committee as USA Gymnastics attempts to navigate a path forward following a sexual abuse scandal by former team doctor Larry Nassar that involved hundreds of women and girls. Nassar has been sentenced to decades in prison.

According to a statement Tuesday by the USA Gymnastics board of directors, Perry's resignation is effective immediately.

Researchers investigating the effects of air pollution conducted math and verbal tests over the course of multiple years on more than 25,000 people in 162 Chinese counties. They matched those results with pollution conditions at the time of each test, and found sobering results.

Updated at 5:56 p.m. ET Sunday

Memorial and remembrance plans are taking shape for Arizona Sen. John McCain, a day after he died following a battle with brain cancer. He will lie in state at both the U.S and Arizona Capitols.

McCain will then be buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Md., according to his office. The senator graduated from the Naval Academy and has said multiple times that he wanted to be laid to rest there.

A top Buddhist monk in China has resigned from his post after accusations of sexual misconduct by multiple nuns.

Xuecheng was the president of the Buddhist Association of China. A statement on the organization's website posted Wednesday said that Xuecheng's resignation had been accepted at a council meeting.

Updated at 10:05 p.m. ET

A small group of about 25 white supremacist demonstrators rallied next to the White House on Sunday, one year after the "Unite the Right" demonstration by the same organizer turned deadly in Charlottesville, Va.

The demonstrators have since left D.C. via Metro, and WAMU's Elly Yu reports that counterprotesters have headed home, too.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the National Rifle Association's federal lawsuit against him is "frivolous." The lawsuit claims that Cuomo's policies are trying to deprive the NRA of its First Amendment rights by making it more difficult for the organization to function in the state.

Cuomo described the NRA as a "group of extremists" and says he hopes that his actions against the group will expand to other states.

Japanese media is buzzing about reports that a prestigious Tokyo medical school systematically lowered women's scores on an admission test in order to admit fewer women.

Starting in about 2011, Tokyo Medical University started deducting points from female applicants' entrance exam scores, according to multiple reports.

The Catholic Church now formally considers the death penalty "inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" and is pledging to work for its abolition worldwide.

It's a shift for the church, which used to consider the death penalty a "means of safeguarding the common good" in response to "certain crimes." The update to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the book of official teachings of the church, was announced Thursday.

Updated at 11:58 a.m. ET

The Trump administration has proposed a rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions standards, while simultaneously taking aim at California's unique ability to set more stringent rules.

Under the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency called for the fuel economy standards for new vehicles to ratchet up over time. The increasingly strict standards were designed to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Award-winning actor Alan Alda has revealed that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. "I'm not angry," he said.

"It hasn't stopped my life at all. I've had a richer life than I've had up until now," Alda said as he made the announcement Tuesday on CBS This Morning.

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson about two months after he was convicted of failing to report child sex abuse by a priest in the 1970s.

The Australian clergyman had previously stepped aside from his role but did not formally resign, saying he was planning to appeal the conviction.

Emmy-award winning writer and television producer Dinah Kirgo, one of six women accusing CBS chairman Les Moonves of harassment, told NPR that she is not trying to destroy Moonves as much as she is trying to change a culture that allows such misconduct.

"People think that we're trying to take these guys down, and that is, at least in my case, that is so not true," Kirgo said in an interview with All Things Considered. "It's about stopping this behavior."

Superstar U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte is again in hot water.

Two months ago, he posted a photo on social media of himself receiving an intravenous infusion. That caught the attention of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which launched an investigation.

Now, the six-time gold medalist has been suspended for 14 months. That clock started on May 24, the day he took the IV.

France is the champion of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final, besting Croatia by 4 goals to 2.

France entered the tournament as a favorite, powered by stars such as Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, while Croatia was seen as a longshot for victory.

"We are world champions and France are going to be on top of the world for next four years," French coach Didier Deschamps said after the game. He called the tournament a "beautiful celebration of football."

Updated at 3:10 p.m. ET

The charges against Harvey Weinstein in New York have expanded.

The former Hollywood mogul is already facing first-degree rape and other charges involving incidents with two women, in 2004 and 2013. Now, a grand jury in New York has charged Weinstein with allegedly committing a forcible sexual act against a third woman.

Four-time Tour de France title winner Chris Froome has been cleared of doping by cycling's international governing body, paving the way for him to compete in this year's race starting Saturday.

The proceedings against the U.K.'s Froome started after a sample he provided last September at the Vuelta a España was reported to contain a higher concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol than is permitted by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Plants need carbon dioxide to live, but its effects on them are complicated.

As the level of carbon dioxide in the air continues to rise because of human activity, scientists are trying to pin down how the plants we eat are being affected.

Mounting evidence suggests that many key plants lose nutritional value at higher CO2 levels, and scientists are running experiments all over the world to try to tease out the effects.

Scientists have completed the most exhaustive assessment of changes in Antarctica's ice sheet to date. And they found that it's melting faster than they thought.

Ice losses totaling 3 trillion tonnes (or more than 3.3 trillion tons) since 1992 have caused global sea levels to rise by 7.6 mm, nearly one third of an inch, according to a study published in Nature on Wednesday.

Updated at 10:52 p.m. ET

Ten people have been killed and 15 injured after a white van struck pedestrians on busy Yonge St. in Toronto today. The driver, identified by police as Alek Minassian, was located and arrested without injury.

The police had initially identified him as Alex Minassian.

Winter is over, and it's finally baseball season.

The fields are green and the lines are freshly drawn. Yep, it's time to head over to your local ballfield.

Attention credit card users: Starting in April, you probably won't have to scrawl your name on a scrap of paper or an electronic monitor when you make a purchase.

Prince had an extremely high level of a powerful synthetic opioid in his body at the time of his death at his home in Minnesota in April 2016, according to a toxicology report obtained by The Associated Press.

The confidential toxicology information was reported less than a week after the Carver County Attorney Mark Metz stated that the death investigation remains active. Metz is still deciding whether to charge someone with a crime.

A federal regulator has cited a Baltimore hospital for breaches of federal regulatory requirements, after a passerby shot a video of a confused patient in a hospital gown being taken by guards to a bus stop on a cold night in January.

The disturbing video prompted broader questions about the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus's treatment of emergency room patients.

Updated at 5:05 p.m. ET

Two students were injured when another student opened fire at Great Mills High School in St. Mary's County, Md., according to the local sheriff. The shooter, identified by the sheriff as 17-year-old Austin Wyatt Rollins, was confirmed dead after being taken to a hospital.

After having trouble obtaining drugs needed for lethal injections, Oklahoma is planning to change its primary method of execution to nitrogen gas inhalation.

It would be the first time a U.S. state uses this method of execution, though six states have gas inhalation in their laws as a secondary method to lethal injection, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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