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.

Measles is highly contagious, but easily preventable with a vaccine.

However, the numbers of measles cases sharply jumped up in Europe in 2017, according to new data released by the World Health Organization.

In 2017, the disease affected 21,315 people, compared to 5,273 in 2016. Last year, 35 people died in Europe because of measles.

Pita Taufatofua, who lit the Internet on fire with his coconut-oiled, shirtless walk as Tonga's flag-bearer during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremony, had two goals for his cross-country skiing event on Friday.

They were not lofty — but that makes sense for a man who has tried skiing on snow for only three months.

"First step, finish before they turn the lights off," the 34-year-old told reporters. "Don't ski into a tree, that's No. 2."

There are signs of thawing in the tense relationship between the U.S. and Turkey, as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits Turkey's capital, Ankara, and holds lengthy talks with leadership.

The central rift between the two countries is over Syria. The U.S. supports and arms Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, seeing them as key allies against ISIS. Turkey describes them as terrorists.

The world's largest species of orangutans is rapidly disappearing.

Borneo has lost more than 100,000 orangutans in the last 16 years – that's more than the number of the critically endangered species remaining.

This species — the Bornean orangutan — is only found on the island, which is divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. It has seen dramatic deforestation, as lush jungle is converted into palm oil and paper pulp plantations.

YouTube and Instagram are being asked to take down videos and photos at the center of a controversy involving a prominent Russian billionaire and a senior Russian government official.

This follows a high-profile investigation into the men's relationship by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The head of a major Hispanic business association is stepping aside after allegations of improperly increasing his salary and sexual misconduct.

The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said president and CEO Javier Palomarez and its board of directors "have mutually agreed to undergo a leadership transition for the organization effective immediately," the organization said in a statement to NPR.

The African National Congress, South Africa's ruling party, has voted to "recall" President Jacob Zuma. The ANC has tried for weeks to get Zuma, whose term expires next year, to resign following allegations of corruption.

The party wants him to cede leadership either to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was selected in December to replace Zuma as head of the party, or to a caretaker president.

South African police say a suspected poacher was eaten by a pride of lions at a big game park in the province of Limpopo.

The animals "ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains," Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe told AFP. "It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions."

A loaded hunting rifle, found near the man's remains, appears to be the main reason police think the individual was a poacher.

More than 70 years after a bomb was dropped on London, its discovery has prompted authorities to cancel flights all day Monday at London City Airport.

The unexploded bomb is a "German 500kg fused device," according to local authorities. It was found early Sunday in the River Thames, as part of planned work at a dock near the airport, Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

As a police corruption trial in Baltimore reveals major allegations of misconduct, the city's police commissioner-designate is announcing changes.

Darryl DeSousa says the department is starting a new police corruption unit, as well as an Inspectional Services and Integrity Division that will conduct random polygraph tests for police in specialized units.

Different neurological conditions like autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder appear to have more in common than scientists thought they did. A new study finds that they have important similarities at a molecular level.

And understanding the molecular basis of those disorders could help in developing better treatments.

Twitter says it has turned a profit for the first time last quarter, sending its shares surging. As of mid-morning Thursday its shares were up nearly 23 percent.

Roku devices and Samsung smart TVs have easy-to-exploit security vulnerabilities, according to testing carried out by Consumer Reports.

"We found that a relatively unsophisticated hacker could change channels, play offensive content, or crank up the volume," the magazine says. "This could be done over the web, from thousands of miles away."

By raining down laser pulses on some 770 square miles of dense forest in northern Guatemala, archaeologists have discovered 60,000 Maya structures that make up full sprawling cities.

And the new technology provides them with an unprecedented view into how the ancient civilization worked, revealing almost industrial agricultural infrastructure and new insights into Maya warfare.

Updated at 10:10 p.m. ET

The Canadian national anthem is now more gender-neutral, after a bill that changes the lyrics passed the country's Senate.

The second line of "O Canada," which has said the nation inspires patriotism "in all thy sons," will now read "in all of us."

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has admitted that she had an extramarital affair with the former head of her security detail.

"I'm embarrassed, and I am sad, and I am so sorry for all the pain that I have caused my family and his family," she said at a news conference Wednesday. "I know that God will forgive me, but that Nashville doesn't have to. ... I hope that I can earn your trust back and that you will forgive me."

Updated 10:25 a.m. ET Wednesday

Early Wednesday morning brought a lunar event that hasn't been seen since 1866.

It was at least partially visible in all 50 U.S. states, though the views were better the farther west you live.

Let's break this down. This event – called a super blue blood moon – was actually three fairly common lunar happenings all happening at the same time.

And scientists say that information gathered during the event could help them figure out where to land a rover on the moon.

As the U.S. sends thousands more troops to Afghanistan and ratchets up airstrikes, a new report from a U.S. military auditor suggests that the war is still at a stalemate, with signs of continued decline in Afghan government control.

And the amount of basic information available to the public about the war is getting smaller, making it more difficult for the U.S. taxpayer to understand how U.S.-supported forces are faring in their fight against the Taliban.

Updated Saturday at 11:47 a.m. ET

The National Gallery of Art in Washington says it has postponed two upcoming solo exhibitions following allegations of sexual misconduct against their artists, Chuck Close and Thomas Roma.

Close, a painter and photographer, is best known for his close-up portraits of faces — many of them famous, such as Brad Pitt and Kate Moss. Roma, a photographer, taught at Columbia University until recently and focuses his work on scenes in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The known population of one of the world's rarest fish has just doubled, thanks to a lucky find in the waters off Tasmania, Australia.

Meet the red handfish, a name that reflects the hand-shaped fins on the sides of its body. The striking creature doesn't really swim — it "walks" slowly along the seafloor. And until recently, researchers say they were aware of only one colony of the rare animals, with around 20 to 40 fish.

A new report from the National Hurricane Center takes stock of exactly how big, damaging and deadly Hurricane Harvey really was.

"Harvey was the most significant tropical cyclone rainfall event in United States history, both in scope and peak rainfall amounts, since reliable rainfall records began around the 1880s," the report says.

According to the report, the storm directly killed at least 68 people, all of them in Texas, and indirectly killed some 35 more.

A federal regulator has launched an investigation into a Baltimore hospital after a passerby shot a video earlier this month of a confused patient wearing just a hospital gown discharged at a bus stop on a cold night.

The video provoked outrage across the country, prompting an apology and an investigation by the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus.

Multiple U.S. citizens were killed and injured in the attack overnight Saturday on a luxury hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, a State Department official says.

The Taliban-claimed attack at the Intercontinental Hotel killed at least 22 people and lasted more than 13 hours, according to The Associated Press. Reports of the death toll have varied, with Reuters saying 20 people were killed and some local news outlets saying more than 40.

Facebook is doing some soul-searching.

In a new commentary, the social media giant acknowledges the possibility that social media can have negative ramifications for democracy. This comes after repeated criticism that it didn't do enough to prevent the spread of fake news that had the potential to impact the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Hotel California was, according to a case filed against it by legendary rock band The Eagles, living it up a little too much. The rock band sued the Mexico-based hotel, which shares a name with the band's iconic 1976 song, resulting in a settlement Thursday. The settlement's terms were not disclosed.

Last June, a jury found former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide. Now, Heaggan-Brown is taking a plea deal over separate sexual assault allegations that led the Milwaukee Police Department to fire him.

The shooting death of Sylville Smith, a 23-year-old black man, ignited riots in the north side of Milwaukee in August 2016.

This past year, 2017, was among the warmest years on record, according to new data released by NASA and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

The planet's global surface temperature last year was the second highest since 1880, NASA says. NOAA calls it the third warmest year on record, because of slight variations in the ways that they analyze temperatures.

Both put 2017 behind 2016's record temperatures. And "both analyses show that the five warmest years on record have all taken place since 2010," NASA said in a press release.

In the competition for Amazon's second headquarters, just 20 metropolitan areas remain in the running.

Last year, Amazon set off a hyper-competitive proposal process, saying that it plans to invest $5 billion in building a second headquarters that could create up to 50,000 high-paying jobs.

The Seattle-based company, which is a financial supporter of NPR, says it reviewed 238 proposals in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Here are the metropolitan areas that made the cut:

The U.K. has appointed a minister of loneliness to tackle what Prime Minister Theresa May calls a "sad reality of modern life" for many U.K. citizens.

May announced the position Wednesday, appointing current Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch.

Over the span of three weeks in 2015, more than 200,000 saiga antelope suddenly died in central Kazakhstan.

Scientists knew that bacteria called Pasteurella multocida type B caused the mass death. Now, new research suggests that the bacteria was already present in the animals; it was triggered and became harmful because of a period of unusual weather.

Richard Kock, a professor of Wildlife Health and Emerging Diseases at The Royal Veterinary College, witnessed the "rapidly accelerating death."

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