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.

This winter is going to be a warm one for the majority of the United States, according to forecasters at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

They say that the La Niña weather pattern is likely to develop. That means "greater-than-average snowfall around the Great Lakes and in the northern Rockies, with less-than-average snowfall throughout the Mid-Atlantic region," Mike Halpert of the Climate Prediction Center said in a forecast Thursday.

San Diego has started washing its downtown streets with bleach in an effort to combat an outbreak of hepatitis A that has killed at least 15 people and infected nearly 400.

The infectious disease has largely infected homeless people in the coastal California city, and part of the issue is an apparent shortage of public restrooms in areas where the population congregates.

The health insurer Aetna is facing criticism for revealing the HIV status of potentially thousands of customers after it sent out a mailer in which information about ordering prescription HIV drugs was clearly visible through the envelope's clear window.

For example, in a letter sent to a customer in Brooklyn, N.Y., the window revealed considerably more than the address. It also showed the beginning of a letter advising the customer about options "when filling prescriptions for HIV Medic ... "

A federal appeals court has sided with the state of Arkansas against Planned Parenthood, saying it can block Medicaid payments to the medical provider. It reversed earlier injunctions that forbade the state from suspending the money in the wake of a controversial leaked video of Planned Parenthood staff.

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.

It's the right time of year to enjoy delicious tropical fruit.

But for now, U.S. consumers should avoid Maradol papayas imported from Mexico, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 100 people in 16 states have been sickened by strains of salmonella that U.S. health officials say are linked to the papayas.

More than a million malnourished children are living in areas of Yemen hit hardest by a cholera outbreak, according to a new analysis by Save the Children.

A federal judge in Alabama has struck down portions of a state abortion law, saying they are unconstitutional. Under the law, unique to Alabama, a minor who didn't have parental consent for an abortion could have faced a legal proceeding involving her parents, the district attorney and a person representing the fetus.

The parents of terminally ill British baby Charlie Gard have ended their legal fight to transport him to the U.S. for experimental treatment, concluding a months-long saga that has raised nearly $1.75 million and elicited support from Pope Francis and President Trump.

The couple's lawyer, Grant Armstrong, told the London High Court that new medical tests have shown that the experimental treatment would not help at this point, according to The Associated Press. "It's too late for Charlie," Armstrong said. "The damage has been done."

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 nerve agent sarin was used against Syrian civilians in April, according to a report from the international chemical weapons watchdog that confirms the suspicions of experts.

A Michigan emergency room doctor has been charged with performing female genital mutilation on multiple girls of about the age of seven.

After a series of "mishaps," the Navy says it will no longer allow sailors to bring electronic cigarettes onto its ships, submarines, aircraft, boats, craft and heavy equipment.

"The prohibition applies to Sailors, Marines, Military Sealift Command civilians and any personnel working on or visiting those units," according to a statement obtained by NPR's Sarah McCammon, issued by the commanders of the U.S. Fleet Forces and the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

In a victory for Flint residents, the state of Michigan has agreed to spend up to $97 million for new water lines in the city of Flint, which has been struggling with a crisis over lead in its water for the past three years.

A federal judge at the U.S. District Court for Michigan's eastern district approved the agreement Tuesday. Within three years, authorities must examine water service lines for at least 18,000 households and replace those made of lead and galvanized steel.

Starting today, the people of Flint, Mich., will have to bear the full cost of the water flowing through their pipes.

It's a frustrating prospect for Flint residents, who have been struggling with a crisis over lead-laced water that started nearly three years ago.

"We have seniors that are already making decisions between buying medication or paying their water bill," as one Flint resident told Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody.

Authorities are closing live poultry markets in multiple Chinese cities and provinces, in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly H7N9 strain of the avian flu virus.

"Officials in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou – population 17 million – found more than 30 percent of the city's poultry markets are contaminated with the H7N9 strain of bird flu," as NPR's Rob Schmitz reports from Shanghai.

Beijing's sky appears blue at the beginning of the 13-second video. Then it completely disappears from view, blotted out by a cloud of brown smog.

The time-lapse video shot Sunday by Chas Pope, a British citizen, dramatically illustrates the extent of China's pollution problem. Pope says the thick haze moved into Beijing over the course of 20 minutes.

Dozens of Chinese cities have suffered heavy smog for nearly a month.

Michigan's attorney general has announced felony charges against two former emergency managers of Flint, Mich., and two other former city officials. The charges are linked to the city's disastrous decision to switch water sources, ultimately resulting in widespread and dangerous lead contamination.

"All too prevalent in this Flint Water Investigation was a priority on balance sheets and finances rather than health and safety of the citizens of Flint," state Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement.

Before using your food processor for holiday treats in the next few weeks, you might want to make sure the blades haven't been recalled for dozens of mouth lacerations.

Cuisinart's parent corporation, Conair, is voluntarily recalling about 8 million units after 69 consumers reported finding broken pieces of blade in their food. That includes 30 cases that caused mouth lacerations or tooth injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Obama administration has issued a sweeping final rule banning smoking in all public housing units nationwide, extending a smoke-free environment to nearly a million units.

A federal judge has ordered state and local governments to provide home delivery of bottled water to the residents of Flint, Mich., as they continue to navigate a years-long crisis over lead-laced water.

U.S. District Judge David Lawson said in his order that the city and state must provide at least four cases of water per resident every week, unless the officials verify the household has a water filter installed that is properly maintained or the residents opt out.

Some 300 million children around the world are breathing highly toxic air, according to a new report from UNICEF.

Parents can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by keeping their child's crib in the same room, close to their bed, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Environmental Protection Agency had the authority and information to issue an emergency order protecting residents of Flint, Mich., from lead-tainted water a full seven months before it did so, an EPA internal investigation has concluded.

"It is clear that EPA intervention was delayed," the report from the EPA's inspector general states. "These situations should generate a greater sense of urgency."

Just two years after the blood-testing company Theranos was valued at $9 billion, the company has announced that it will close its clinical labs and blood-test centers and cut more than 40 percent of its staff.

Theranos says it is shifting its focus to a product it calls the miniLab, with the goal of commercializing "miniaturized, automated laboratories."

The World Health Organization says 92 percent of the world's population breathes air containing pollutants exceeding WHO limits, in new research released Tuesday.

Alarmed Russians are sharing photos on social media of a Siberian river that has suddenly and mysteriously turned blood red.

Russian authorities are trying to determine the cause of the ominous change to the Daldykan River, located above the Arctic Circle and flowing through the mining town of Norilsk. Photos posted on Facebook by the Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the Taimir Peninsula clearly show the river has turned a vivid red.

Veterinarians at the Smithsonian's National Zoo have turned to an unconventional therapy for an arthritic 41-year-old Asian elephant — shoes.

Huge black boots designed by Teva for Shanthi's front feet, to be exact. They are "about a size 20, with an EEEEEEEEEEEE width," as The Washington Post reports, adding that "a single boot resembled a rubberized birdbath."

More than a thousand residents of a public housing complex in East Chicago, Ind., are now forced to relocate because of dangerously high lead levels in the area's soil.

The West Calumet Housing Complex, which houses primarily low-income families, lies on the site of a former lead smelting company, as member station WBEZ reported.

Construction of a controversial crude oil pipeline set to span at least 1,168 miles from North Dakota to Illinois has temporarily been halted in North Dakota amid protests by Native American tribes.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux fear the pipeline could potentially contaminate their local drinking water and lands sacred to the tribe.

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