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.

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.

The Aldi supermarket chain is pulling all eggs from its shelves in Germany over fears of insecticide contamination.

The egg crisis is believed to have originated in Belgium in June and was then detected in the Netherlands, according to The Associated Press. Millions of eggs have been recalled in those countries. Authorities are concerned about the presence of Fipronil, which kills things like mites and is banned from use with animals used to produce food for humans.

Japanese scientists have genetically engineered a chrysanthemum flower that is "true blue" — a color that has long eluded flower breeders and researchers.

Blue has proved a challenge to produce in many other popular flowers, including roses, carnations and lilies.

Chipotle saw its stock dip Tuesday after it temporarily closed a Sterling, Va., restaurant where several people reported getting sick.

"That is an especially sensitive issue for Chipotle, which struggled with recurring problems with foodborne illness two years ago that caused its stock price to plummet," NPR's Yuki Noguchi told our Newscast unit. "Investors showed signs of nervousness again today, with the stock losing, at one point, more than 7.5 percent in value."

The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case on whether the owner of a Colorado cake shop can refuse to provide service to same-sex couples due to his religious beliefs about marriage.

Jack Phillips, who along with his wife owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver, has argued that a state law compelling him to produce wedding cakes for gay couples, which runs counter to his religious beliefs, violates his right to free speech under the First Amendment.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration failed to follow proper environmental procedures when it granted approval to the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project.

It's a legal victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmentalists, who protested for months against the pipeline. Oil started flowing through it earlier this month. The tribe fears that the pipeline, which crosses the Missouri River just upstream of its reservation, could contaminate its drinking water and sacred lands.

Hawaii's governor has signed a bill that adopts goals of the Paris climate agreement, despite President Trump's announcement last week that the U.S. is pulling out of the global accord.

"Reducing greenhouse emissions in Hawaii is now the law — the state law," reports Hawaii Public Radio's Bill Dorman. "While the specifics are a bit vague, the political message is clear: to keep pace with environmental commitments made as part of the Paris accord."

The Trump administration is taking steps to allow five energy companies to use seismic air guns for oil and gas exploration off the U.S. Atlantic coast even though they would incidentally harass marine mammals. Environmental groups and some coastal communities object.

"The testing would take place over a huge area ranging from the Delaware Bay, south to Cape Canaveral in Florida," NPR's Jeff Brady reports. "Ships would crisscross the ocean shooting loud bursts of sound underwater to map the geology."

Crude oil is now flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline, despite months of protests against it by Native American tribes and environmental groups.

The pipeline spans more than 1,000 miles from North Dakota to Illinois and cost some $3.8 billion to construct. It is expected to transport approximately 520,000 barrels of oil daily.

The company that owns the Three Mile Island nuclear plant, site of the worst nuclear disaster in U.S. history, announced that it plans to shutter the facility in 2019 unless the state of Pennsylvania steps in to keep it open.

The plant near Harrisburg, Pa., hasn't been profitable for the past five years, according to owner Exelon Corp. The company announced last week that it failed to auction off future energy production from Three Mile Island for the third year in a row.

The glaciers in Montana's Glacier National Park are rapidly disappearing.

Some have been reduced by as much as 85 percent over the past 50 years, while the average loss is 39 percent, according to a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey and Portland State University.

The researchers looked at historic trends for 39 glaciers, 37 of which are found in the park. The other two are on U.S. Forest Service land.

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