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.

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 10:35 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

Russian officials are saying that a tiny leak at the International Space Station was likely caused by a human hand. Now, they're trying to figure out who did it, why they did it and whether it happened in space or on the ground.

The crew identified the source of the leak as a 2-millimeter hole in the upper section of a Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, which is docked in the Russian section of the space station.

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 9:19 p.m. ET Sunday

A 24-year-old male opened fire during a video game tournament at a mall in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sunday afternoon, killing three people, including himself, according to the local sheriff.

Sheriff Mike Williams says the suspect has been identified as David Katz from Baltimore. The gunman used at least one handgun and was a participant in the tournament, according to the sheriff. Authorities planned to release more information about the suspect later on Sunday.

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.

There's a light in the night sky over Canada that's puzzling scientists. It looks like a white-purple ribbon. It's very hot, and doesn't last long. And it's named STEVE.

One of the largest supermarket companies in the U.S. has announced it is phasing out single-use plastic bags in an effort to reduce plastic waste.

The Kroger Co. says it plans to stop distributing single-use bags completely by 2025 across its chains.

Five months after Uber reached a settlement agreement in a class-action lawsuit filed by women and people of color who worked there as engineers, new details are emerging about the terms of the deal. The plaintiffs, both current and former employees, say they were subjected to harassment and discrimination at Uber.

Lions and tigers and bears are now roaming free — on the box for Barnum's Animals crackers.

For more than a century, the animal cracker packaging has shown the mighty beasts locked behind bars in a circus boxcar.

A spokeswoman for Mondelez International, Nabisco's parent company, said it was time for a change.

"To continue to make the brand relevant for years to come, we felt this was the right time for the next evolution in our design, now showing the animals in a natural habitat," said Mondelez's Kimberly Fontes.

Updated at 11:35 p.m. ET

Inmates at prisons across the U.S. are expected to stage a weeks-long strike beginning Tuesday to demand better living conditions and prison reform.

Organizers say the demonstrations — including hunger strikes and a refusal to work — are in response to a riot in April at South Carolina's Lee Correctional Institution in which seven inmates died.

On the High Plains in West Texas, hot winds blast through cotton fields as far as the eye can see.

In the middle of it all is a tiny vineyard.

Andis Applewhite is the owner. She's an artist whose family has worked this land for a century. They once planted crops more typical of the neighborhood, like cotton and wheat. Applewhite decided to try something different: She put in a couple of acres of cabernet franc grapes.

Updated at 1:20 p.m. ET

Nebraska has executed its first prisoner since 1997, after a federal three-judge panel denied a drug company's request to halt the lethal injection over concerns about whether the drugs were obtained improperly by the state.

Tuesday morning's execution of Carey Dean Moore is also the first time the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl had been used in a lethal injection in the U.S.

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.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is "seriously considering" a request to testify in person before the U.S. Senate intelligence committee about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to a statement from his lawyer.

Assange has been holed up at Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012, in part over fears that he could be extradited to the U.S. and potentially face trial over leaking massive troves of documents.

Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo has announced that she is stepping aside as CEO after some 12 years at the helm.

Nooyi plans to stay on as chairman until early 2019. The company's board announced Monday that it elected Ramon Laguarta, president of the company since 2017, to succeed her as CEO. PepsiCo prides itself on tapping its leadership from within — every other chief executive has come from its own ranks.

For fans who have dreamed about the return of Captain Jean-Luc Picard to Star Trek, actor Patrick Stewart might as well borrow his character's classic catchphrase and say, "Make it so."

It's a role that he hasn't stepped into since 2002, and fans are elated.

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.

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.

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.

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.

An FBI agent is facing trial on charges linked to a deadly incident in January 2016 during the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Jury selection begins Tuesday at a federal court in Portland.

Japan and the European Union have signed a massive trade deal that creates an open-trade zone for more than 600 million people. The EU and Japan account for about one-third of GDP worldwide.

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