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.

In the penguin habitat at an aquarium in Sydney, love is in the air.

The newest penguin couple here are named Sphen and Magic, and the two males are about to take the leap into parenthood.

Updated at 6 p.m. ET

Roughly two years after Turkish authorities detained Andrew Brunson on suspicion of espionage, the U.S. pastor is a free man once more. Turkey ordered his release Friday, ending a case that heightened tensions between Turkey and the U.S.

The Washington Supreme Court has struck down the state's death penalty, saying that it is imposed arbitrarily and with racial bias.

"We are confident that the association between race and the death penalty is not attributed to random chance," the justices wrote in a majority opinion.

Indonesia is winding down its search and rescue operations, with thousands of people believed to be still missing after a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck last month on the island of Sulawesi.

The official death toll for the disasters stands at 2,073. But the national disaster agency says that the number of those still missing could be as high as 5,000, after the strength of the quake caused the ground to liquefy and swallow up buildings and people.

Search efforts had been set to end Thursday, but were extended to Friday.

Google plans to shutter its Google+ social network for consumers, citing its limited adoption with users. The tech giant announced the decision at the same time that it disclosed that the privacy of up to a half-million Google+ accounts could have been affected by a "bug."

The company says it discovered and patched the issue in March but decided not to disclose it immediately. It said it had no evidence that any third-party developer was aware of the bug or had misused profile data.

One of France's most notorious criminals, Rédoine Faïd, has been captured three months after he made an astonishing escape by helicopter from a French prison.

The repeat offender has fascinated the country, as NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, and is known there as the "jailbreak king." He's spoken about how his actions are inspired by Hollywood gangster movies like Scarface.

Faïd had been serving a 25-year-sentence for a botched armed robbery in 2010 that killed a policewoman. And, he had previously escaped from another prison in 2013, that time using explosives.

As a researcher looks on, a lemur takes a long whiff of a fruit growing from a tree in an eastern Madagascar rainforest. It passes the animal's test. The lemur takes a bite.

Seconds later it sniffs at another fruit on the same tree. This time, it's not interested.

The bomb specialists suspected that an Oregon home was booby-trapped. As they entered the front door, they noticed what appeared to be a tripwire. Seconds later, a shot rang out, apparently from a booby-trapped wheelchair. And an FBI bomb special agent was hit in the leg.

The top U.N. court has dashed hopes for Bolivians longing for something they haven't had for more than a century: Access to the Pacific Ocean.

In a judgment on Monday, the International Court of Justice stated that it did not find that Bolivia's neighbor Chile has a legal obligation to enter into negotiations with Bolivia about access to the ocean. The vote on the decision was 12-3.

Three Orlando police officers shot dead an emergency room patient who they say was claiming to have a firearm. They later learned the man was unarmed.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina told reporters that officers responded to reports of an issue in the ER at Orlando Regional Medical Center at about 6 a.m. Monday.

The white male, who Mina said was approximately 35 years old, came to the hospital that morning for an unspecified medical issue.

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.

Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET

Twenty-seven years after testifying that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her, Anita Hill says she believes the upcoming hearing on an alleged sexual assault by the current nominee "cannot be fair and thorough."

As it stands now, the hearing cannot provide the senators "with enough information to reach a reasonable conclusion," Hill tells NPR.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has lost a confidence vote, effectively forcing him out of his post and plunging Sweden's politics into uncertainty.

National elections earlier this month resulted in a hung parliament after a far-right party made significant gains. Now, the parliament's speaker will tap another leader to try to form a government, but the shape of any future alliance is far from clear.

The Dallas Police Department has fired Officer Amber Guyger after she fatally shot a black man in his own home earlier this month.

Guyger told investigators that she shot 26-year-old Botham Jean on Sept. 6 after she mistakenly entered what she believed was her apartment in the same complex and saw someone she thought was a burglar. The incident has raised tensions in Texas, with demonstrators demanding that she be fired.

International charities are reeling after Panama revoked the registration for a search-and-rescue ship they say is the only one of its kind in the central Mediterranean used to save migrants in danger. They say it amounts to a death sentence for hundreds of people trying to reach safety.

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.

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.

The World Anti-Doping Agency has reinstated Russia's state anti-doping regulator after a major doping scandal that reverberated across international sports. The move has been roundly condemned by anti-doping advocates.

The reinstatement of RUSADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, is subject to conditions. Nine members of WADA's executive committee backed the decision. Two voted against it – the agency's vice president and Oceania. Europe abstained.

As Jet Airways Flight 9W697 took off from Mumbai on Thursday, something terrifying quickly became clear: The cabin was not properly pressurized.

Oxygen masks dropped from the cabin's ceiling. "Thirty out of 166 passengers experienced nose and ear bleeding [and] some also complained of headache," an official with India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation said, according to the Hindustan Times.

Consumers across Australia have reported finding needles stuck in their strawberries, as the government launches a federal investigation and growers install metal detectors to try to stop the contamination.

Several supermarket chains in Australia and New Zealand are also pulling strawberries off the shelves, according to Australian media.

Updated at 10:35 p.m. ET

Storm surges of 9 to 13 feet and rainfall up to 40 inches: Those are two of the most dire warnings about Hurricane Florence's effect on parts of North and South Carolina. Thousands have heeded evacuation orders; others are hoping to cope with the storm in their homes or at local shelters.

As scientists in the Netherlands tried to figure out how to build a super-agile flying robot, they took inspiration from one of nature's most acrobatic flyers: The humble fruit fly.

And by building this robot, they've gained new insights into how the fly carries out one of its flashiest maneuvers.

Human rights groups have repeatedly accused a Saudi-led coalition of causing disproportionate civilian deaths in the Yemen conflict because of airstrikes that have hit markets, weddings and even a bus carrying children from summer camp.

Miner Henry Dole was in for a shock when he went into the Beta Hunt mine in southwestern Australia after the workers set off some explosives.

"Everything was covered in dust, and as I watered the dirt down there was just gold everywhere, as far as you could see," he told Australia's ABC News. "There was chunks of gold in the face, on the ground, truly unique I reckon. ... I nearly fell over looking at it ... we were picking it up for hours."

Updated at 1:22 p.m. ET

The Trump administration says it is closing the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington, D.C., effectively shuttering the Palestinian diplomatic mission to the U.S.

"We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement Monday.

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.

Venezuela is responding angrily to a report in The New York Times that details alleged secret meetings between Trump administration officials and Venezuelan military officers seeking to oust the country's authoritarian leader Nicolas Maduro.

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.

The two Koreas have set a date for a new summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, even as U.S. diplomacy with North Korea has stalled.

The Korean leaders will meet in Pyongyang from Sept. 18-20 in what will be their third meeting since April.

"The North's official media said today that Kim Jong Un has reaffirmed his commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and the suspension of all future long-range missile tests," NPR's Rob Schmitz reported.

For the first time since a devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, the Japanese government says a former plant worker has died as a result of radiation exposure.

The country's health and labor ministry has said the man's family should be paid compensation, according to state broadcaster NHK.

Pages