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.

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.

Great white sharks have a "hidden life" that is becoming a lot less hidden thanks to a scientific expedition that has been years in the making.

Foods that contains genetically modified ingredients will soon have a special label.

We recently got the first glimpse of what that label might look like, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its proposed guidelines.

Updated at 10:25 p.m. ET

The eruption at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano continues. The lava has now destroyed at least 35 structures and covered the equivalent of more than 75 football fields.

Scientists have been tracking this event since it started last week — but there are still big unanswered questions, the biggest of which is when it will end.

A Flint activist who worked to expose the Michigan city's lead crisis is being hailed as an environmental hero. She's one of the winners of the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize.

The honor, announced on Monday, recognizes grass-roots environmental activists from around the world.

SAG-AFTRA is calling for an end to auditions in private hotel rooms or residences, after a spate of sexual harassment allegations against powerful Hollywood figures.

"We are committed to addressing the scenario that has allowed predators to exploit performers behind closed doors under the guise of a professional meeting," the union's president, Gabrielle Carteris, said in a statement.

The Australian government has ordered a review of its lucrative sheep export trade after some 2,400 sheep died last summer on a ship headed to Doha, Qatar.

Video of sheep gasping and dying in sweltering temperatures was captured by a whistleblower on board the Awassi Express, and aired by 60 Minutes Australia on Sunday.

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.

Between California and Hawaii, there's a teeming patch of garbage that's stretched over an area more than double the size of Texas.

We already knew it was huge. There's a reason it's called the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." But new research has found that there is many times more garbage in this patch than previously thought – 4 to 16 times more than past estimates, according to a paper published today in Nature Scientific Reports.

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."

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."

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 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.

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."

The Trump administration is proposing dramatic changes to policies on offshore leasing for oil and gas, opening the door to radically expand drilling in waters that were protected by the Obama administration.

It's the "largest number of lease sales ever proposed, " Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters. The proposed plan to sell offshore drilling leases in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic over a five-year period was detailed Thursday.

The city of Flint, which has been reeling for years over lead seepage from its pipes into its tap water, is accused of violating the terms of a major settlement agreement aimed at improving its water quality. Advocacy groups say the city is failing to disclose information about its efforts to replace its lead pipes.

They have filed a formal motion asking for a federal judge to force the Michigan city to comply with the agreement.

On a normal night, dozens of tourists would be gaping at the glowing sea life on Mosquito Bay, a cove named after a legendary pirate ship in Vieques, Puerto Rico. But on a night in mid-December, it's empty. The loudest sounds are the frogs croaking in the mangroves.

Outside Puerto Rico's capital, a three-story-high mountain of debris and waste sits smack in the middle of what was a suburban soccer field before Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

Blue bleachers peek out from the edge of the trash pile, as a line of trucks rolls in to dump even more tree branches and moldy furniture. Workmen wearing yellow hard hats operate diggers to add the new waste to the growing pile in the center of the field.

Federal investigators say that construction damage was likely to blame for an oil spill earlier this month from the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota.

The Keystone Pipeline is a 2,687-mile crude oil pipeline that runs from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska, where it then splits, with one portion running to Illinois and the other to Texas. It is owned by TransCanada, the same firm that is seeking to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Della Reese, a performer and pastor best known for her starring role on the CBS spiritual drama Touched by an Angel, has died at 86.

"Her signature television role came late in life," NPR's Eric Deggans reported. "Reese already had been famous for decades as a gospel-influenced R&B performer, TV guest star and talk show fixture."

World wine production is having a historically bad year.

Europe, home to the world's leading wine producers, is making wine at significantly lower levels than usual – and that's because of "extreme weather events" such as frost and drought that have damaged vineyards, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV).

The only known Leonardo da Vinci painting in private hands is heading to auction.

The portrait of Jesus Christ, Salvator Mundi, was only recently confirmed to be by Leonardo. This piece was thought to be a copy of a destroyed original. And it's still not clear where the painting was, exactly, for more than a century.

Café Hacienda San Pedro, a trendy coffee shop in San Juan, is buzzing. A long line snakes through it. People are chatting; dogs sit snoozing. Everything looks normal.

But in a few months, it probably won't.

For the first time since the mid-1950s, students can buy caffeinated soft drinks at Brigham Young University's dining halls in Provo, Utah.

Mormons avoid drinking coffee and tea. In general, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a complicated – and often misunderstood – relationship with caffeine.

In 2012, the Church issued a press release that was explicit: "the Church revelation spelling out health practices ... does not mention the use of caffeine."

Pollinators such as bees play a key part of producing the beans that go into your morning cup of coffee.

In fact, they are responsible for about 20 to 25 percent of coffee production by increasing the plants' yield, Taylor Ricketts, the director of the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Environment, tells The Two-Way. Bees actually increase the quality of the beans by making their size more uniform.

Bernard Pomerance, who wrote the Tony Award-winning play The Elephant Man about the life of a seriously deformed man in Victorian England, has died at the age of 76, according to his agency.

His agent Alan Brodie told The Associated Press that Pomerance "died Saturday of complications from cancer at his home in Galisteo, New Mexico."

The scope of Europe's contaminated egg scandal is expanding, reaching as far as Hong Kong.

Farms in four countries — Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France — have been blocked from selling eggs after detection of the pesticide fipronil, EU trade and agriculture spokesman Daniel Rosario told reporters Friday.

Haruo Nakajima, the Japanese actor who was the first person to put on the Godzilla suit and bring the iconic monster to life, has died. He was 88.

A federal jury in Brooklyn, N.Y., has convicted former pharmaceutical executive and "pharma bro" Martin Shkreli of securities fraud.

He was found guilty Friday on three counts — two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud — out of a total of eight counts. Shkreli is best known for increasing the price of a life-saving drug for people with AIDS by 5,000 percent, from $13.50 to $750 per pill, when he was head of Turing Pharmaceuticals.

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