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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.

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.

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.

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:

Glenford Turner had surgery in 2013 at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Connecticut. Four years later, according to a new lawsuit, doctors discovered that a sharp metal surgical instrument had been accidentally left inside the Army veteran's body.

"It's perplexing to me how they could be so incompetent that a scalpel that really should only be on the exterior of your body not only goes into the body but then is sewn into the body," Turner's lawyer, Joel Faxon, tells NPR. "It's a level of incompetence that's almost incomprehensible."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormon church, has named 93-year-old Russell M. Nelson as its new president.

"I express my deep love for you — love that has grown over decades of meeting you, worshipping with you and serving you," Nelson, a former surgeon and longtime church leader, said in a live video announcement Tuesday morning from the Salt Lake Temple in Utah.

Japan's public broadcaster sent out a false alert warning of a North Korean missile on Tuesday, just three days after Hawaii residents received an erroneous message about an incoming missile.

"North Korea appears to have launched a missile ... The government urges people to take shelter inside buildings or underground," the message read, according to a translation from Reuters.

General Motors says it is ready to mass-produce a self-driving car that has no steering wheel, pedals or any other manual controls.

The car company said Friday that it has filed a petition with the Department of Transportation for the fourth-generation Cruise AV to hit the streets in 2019.

You've seen the Orion Nebula before – but not like this.

It's part of the Orion constellation, easily visible from Earth: The bright center "star" in Orion's sword, located off Orion's belt, is actually an active nebula where new stars are formed.

Updated at 9:30 p.m. ET

A Baltimore hospital has started an investigation over why a distressed and confused patient was left at a bus stop at night in cold temperatures and wearing just a hospital gown.

A passerby recorded a video Monday showing four security guards walking away from a bus stop next to University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus. One is pushing an empty wheelchair. They appear to have just left the woman at the stop.

Scientists say that images from Mars show large slopes of ice — and provide a hint at how they were formed. One likely theory involves snowfall on the Red Planet.

The researchers say that the size and accessibility of the ice sheets, as well as the fact that they are made of relatively clean water, could be an important resource for astronauts who might travel to Mars in the future.

Warming temperatures are having a profound and potentially devastating impact on one of the most important green sea turtle populations in the world.

Scientists were surprised to find that "virtually no male turtles" are being hatched in a key breeding ground in the northern Great Barrier Reef.

Like many reptiles, the sex of a turtle is determined by how warm the egg is as it's being incubated. And small temperature differences can cause dramatic changes in the male-to-female ratio.

A Louisiana teacher questioned whether the superintendent should receive a raise. Then, she was ushered out of a school board meeting and handcuffed.

Updated at 7:25 p.m. ET

Thirteen people have reportedly died as heavy rain drenched fire-ravaged Santa Barbara County in Southern California on Tuesday. Thousands of people are evacuating from their homes because the rain is raising the risk of mudslides on hills stripped by recent wildfires.

The Supreme Court says it will not take up a challenge to a Mississippi law that allows businesses and government officials to deny services to LGBT people if doing so would conflict with certain "sincerely held" religious beliefs.

By rejecting the cases, the top court leaves in place a federal appeals court decision that allowed the 2016 law to take effect. It came into force in October.

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.

Ethiopia's prime minister has announced that the country will free all of its political prisoners, pardon them and close a notorious prison.

It's a surprising turnaround for a government that has launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent and had not previously admitted that it is even holding political prisoners.

The U.S. unveiled its roster for the men's Olympic hockey team on Monday.

And the joyful, emotional moment when forward Bobby Butler told his dad that he made the team was caught on video.

It shows Butler skating up to the side of the rink as his father walks in. The two men shake hands, then Butler breaks the news. His dad immediately throws his arms around him as his teammates cheer.

Watch, it will probably brighten your day:

There were no fatalities on commercial passenger jets in 2017, according to two groups that track airplane crash data, making it the safest year in modern aviation history.

There were two fatal accidents in passenger airliners involving small turbo-prop planes, according to To70, a Dutch aviation consulting firm.

New Year's Eve celebrations are just hours away. And police departments around the country have been preparing for months for the celebrations. New York and Las Vegas, the sites of recent attacks, will see more security than they have in years.

It's been three months since an attacker shot dead 58 people from a hotel window in Las Vegas.

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.

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