Merrit Kennedy | WGLT

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.

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.

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.

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.

On an island eight miles off Puerto Rico's coast, homes sit destroyed on hillsides and many of its nearly 9,000 residents still wait for federal aid. Vieques' hospital is operating out of tents in a parking lot. And the island is facing the prospect of six more months without electricity from Puerto Rico's main grid.

The island's bleak trajectory epitomizes the unevenness of the disaster relief effort in the hurricane-devastated U.S. territory, where metropolitan areas such as San Juan are showing clear signs of recovery.

Nearly three months after Hurricane Maria, parts of Puerto Rico are showing clear signs of recovery. But in Vieques, a remote island with nearly 9,000 residents eight miles off the main island's coast, recovery is a long way off. There, some live in dingy conditions as they wait for help to rebuild, while others gather what they can to do it themselves.

Gregorio Velazquez Rivera, an 81-year-old who is blind, has left his destroyed home — which is totally unlivable — virtually untouched in the months since the hurricane.

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.

A jittery group of middle-schoolers is about to start the first day of classes since September, when Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico and totally disrupted the island's school system.

The vast majority of the island's public schools — more than 98 percent — are open for at least part of the day, according to Puerto Rico's Department of Education.

In 2006, the U.S. military purchased $12.1 million worth of inspection equipment for five border posts in Afghanistan in an effort to crack down on illicit drug smuggling and boost customs duty revenues to the Afghan government.

After operation, training and maintenance costs, the total investment for the equipment to date is estimated at up to $62.6 million.

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.

The delicate art of paper folding is playing a crucial role in designing robotic artificial muscles that are startlingly strong. In fact, the researchers say they can lift objects 1,000 times their own weight.

NPR Chief News Editor David Sweeney has left the company following allegations of sexual harassment filed against him by at least three female journalists.

"David Sweeney is no longer on staff," Chris Turpin, acting senior vice president of news, said in an email to staff.

"This is a difficult time for our newsroom and I'm committed to supporting all of you as we move forward. I know you appreciate that there are some questions I cannot answer in keeping with our practice to not comment on personnel issues, but I will do my best to address those I can," Turpin added.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a case challenging the use of a Confederate emblem on the Mississippi state flag.

Carlos Moore, an African-American lawyer from Mississippi who petitioned the court, had argued in court documents that the flag, visible in state buildings, courts and schools, symbolically expresses support for white supremacy. The flag incorporates the Confederate battle flag in its upper left corner.

The Department of Justice has opened a probe into the role of race in Harvard University's admissions policies and is threatening to sue unless Harvard turns over documents by a Dec. 1 deadline, according to correspondence obtained by NPR.

After a Japanese man was killed early Sunday in a car crash involving a U.S. service member, U.S. forces in Japan are prohibited indefinitely from purchasing or drinking alcohol.

NPR CEO Jarl Mohn is going on medical leave for at least one month.

It comes less than a week after the ouster of NPR's head of news, Michael Oreskes, over sexual harassment allegations by multiple women.

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