Merrit Kennedy | WGLT

Merrit Kennedy

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's Newsdesk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.

Kennedy joined NPR in Washington, DC, 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 ousting 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.

Early-morning commuters in Oklahoma City on Wednesday may have caught a harrowing sight: a window-washing basket swinging wildly at the top of the tallest building in the state.

A video posted by the Oklahoma City Fire Department shows the basket, connected to a crane but suspended some 50 floors up from street level, extending and spinning over the street, then flying back toward the building.

Updated at 1:08 p.m. ET

Missouri's Senate has passed a bill that would ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy or later, except in cases of medical emergency. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

It's the latest in a series of sweeping abortion restrictions passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures aimed at pushing abortion challenges to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former President Jimmy Carter is recovering after falling and breaking his hip this morning, according to a statement from the Carter Center.

The center said Carter was preparing to go turkey hunting when he fell in his home. It added that he is now "recovering comfortably" after undergoing surgery at the Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus, Georgia. His wife, Rosalynn, is with him at the medical center.

A well-known Afghan television journalist was shot dead in broad daylight in Kabul over the weekend, prompting an outcry from women's rights advocates.

Mina Mangal, who worked for several Afghan television channels and later became an adviser in Afghanistan's parliament, was apparently en route to work early Saturday morning when she was attacked.

Police spokesman Basir Mujahid told Reuters that she was killed near her Kabul home by two unknown men on a motorbike.

Two major craft beer companies are joining forces.

Dogfish Head Brewery and The Boston Beer Co. — the maker of Samuel Adams Boston Lager — announced Thursday that they have reached an agreement to merge. The deal, which is expected to close late in the second quarter of this year, is valued at about $300 million in cash and stock.

Pope Francis has issued new rules obligating priests and nuns to report incidents of abuse or cover-ups to church authorities, saying, "The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful."

The sweeping new regulations are Francis' latest effort to combat sexual abuse involving the church, a long-running and painful issue that has cast a shadow on his papacy.

Updated at 12:34 a.m. ET Thursday

Do ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft make a city's traffic worse or better?

In San Francisco at least, the answer is decidedly worse, according to a newly published study in the journal Science Advances.

Turkish election authorities have voided a major election victory for the country's main opposition party, according to Turkish state media. A rerun of the election for the mayor of Istanbul, Turkey's most populous city, will reportedly be held on June 23.

Ekrem Imamoglu from the opposition Republican People's Party (known as the CHP) narrowly won the mayor's race on March 31.

Updated at 11:33 a.m. ET

The latest royal baby has arrived.

Meghan Markle, who is married to Britain's Prince Harry, gave birth to the couple's first child early Monday. The baby boy weighed in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces. His name hasn't yet been announced.

The baby is "very healthy," Harry told reporters later in the day, adding that "mother and baby are doing incredibly well."

Update3d at 9:08 p.m. ET

The Mississippi River has been at major flood stage for 41 days and counting, and this week a temporary wall failed, sending water rushing into several blocks of downtown Davenport, Iowa.

In that same area — the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois — the river crested at a new record height. The National Weather Service says a new record appears to have been set at Rock Island, Ill.

India's eastern coast has been pounded by Cyclone Fani, an "extremely severe" storm that has torn the roofs off houses and forced millions of people to evacuate. It has also reportedly killed at least two people.

The cyclone's effects were felt more than 500 miles away, on Mt. Everest. "Mountaineers were climbing to lower camps after conditions at higher elevations worsened," as NPR's Sushmita Pathak reports from Mumbai.

Small amounts of cocaine, pesticides and other contaminants have been detected in U.K. freshwater shrimp.

"We found that the most frequently detected compounds were illicit drugs, including cocaine and ketamine and a banned pesticide, fenuron," said King's College London environmental toxicologist Thomas Miller.

He added: "For many of these, the potential for any effect is likely to be low."

The U.S. has lost more than 2,200 lives and spent more than $840 billion on Afghanistan, its longest-ever war.

But the U.S. public is steadily provided with less and less key information about how the war is going. Now, another crucial measure of the war's progress is no longer public.

Nearly five years after the leader of ISIS released his first video, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has purportedly released his second.

It's not confirmed that the man in the video is indeed Baghdadi. The man acknowledges ISIS' recent major defeat in the Syrian city of Baghouz and vows to continue fighting.

The man says that "in truth, the battle between Islam and its people against the crusaders and their people is a long battle."

Indonesia has announced plans to build a new capital city as its current capital, Jakarta, struggles with pollution, traffic gridlock — and the fact that the city is sinking.

After a Cabinet meeting on Monday, planning minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said President Joko Widodo has decided to move the capital out of Indonesia's main island, Java.

It's not clear exactly when this will happen, or where the new capital would be located. The idea has been out there for decades, though previous leaders have been unable to accomplish the ambitious plan.

Updated at 10:25 a.m. ET

According to Amnesty International, the U.S.-led coalition's offensive against ISIS in Raqqa killed about 1,400 more civilians than the U.S. military has acknowledged.

It happens all the time during basketball games. Two players are going for the ball. They touch it at the same time but neither controls it, and it flies out of bounds.

At that point, tempers rise — both are certain that the other player was the last to touch it, which should earn their own team a chance to control the ball.

Are the players just pretending to be so sure it's out on their opponent? Or could there actually be a difference in how they experience the event that has them pointing a finger at the other player?

Egyptian voters have approved sweeping constitutional amendments that allow President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to remain in office until 2030 and further entrench the power of the military.

Voters approved the amendments by 88.83%, according to the National Election Authority, which said that 44.33% of eligible voters took part in the poll.

A new star has risen on a classic game show.

James Holzhauer, a Las Vegas professional sports bettor, is on a Jeopardy! hot streak. He has breezily won the last 12 games in a row.

But most notably, the 34-year-old is drawing attention for his unique strategy and big bets. Over the 12 wins as of Friday, he now holds the top five slots for single-day winning records on the show in regular play, racking up a total of $851,926.

Three of the world's most elite climbers are missing and presumed dead by park officials after an avalanche in Alberta, Canada.

Jess Roskelley, a U.S. citizen, and David Lama and Hansjörg Auer, who are both Austrian, had been attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak in Banff National Park. They were reported overdue on Wednesday, according to the park.

"Based on an assessment of the scene, all three members of the party are presumed to be deceased," the park said.

A London water provider is asking people to please, please, stop pouring concrete down their drains.

The consequences are heavy: Thames Water says a "concreteberg" the weight of a blue whale is blocking three Victorian-era sewers. "It goes without saying that pouring concrete down the drains into our sewers isn't going to do any good," Thames Water said.

The mass is longer than a football field and weighs a whopping 115 tons (or almost 105 metric tons).

Early election results from Indonesia show the incumbent president easily securing victory against his old-guard challenger in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

President Joko Widodo, a former furniture businessman and political moderate, was up against former military general Prabowo Subianto. Subianto was the son-in-law of Indonesia's longtime dictator Suharto, who was ousted in 1998.

The results are not yet official – they're "quick counts" from multiple polling organizations, which show that Widodo won about 54 percent of the vote.

The American Museum of Natural History in New York has announced that it will no longer host an event honoring Brazil's far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who is outspoken about his desire to roll back environmental protections.

Workers on an oil rig about 135 miles offshore from southern Thailand noticed something stunning in the water: a dog.

The animal swam toward the rig's platform on Friday and clung to it as team members tried to figure out how to save him, Vitisak Payalaw, an offshore planner for Chevron Thailand Exploration & Production, told NPR.

Video that Payalaw posted on Facebook shows the shivering animal partially submerged in water, staring up at the workers.

Tiger Woods' historic comeback victory Sunday at the The Masters Tournament shows the enduring star — and earning — power of a player once dropped by many sponsors because of his problems on and off the golf course.

"It's crazy to think a 43-year-old who has experienced every high and every low and has just won his 15th major .... is chasing the same dream as a 3-year-old," a new Nike ad says.

A panel of judges at the International Criminal Court has rejected a request to proceed with investigating possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, including those allegedly involving U.S. armed forces and the CIA.

This is in response to a request from ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in 2017, a prospect that U.S. officials have strongly criticized.

Updated at 6:06 p.m. ET

Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who is already accused of federal financial crimes, has been indicted on 36 counts of embezzlement and fraud by a California federal grand jury, U.S. prosecutors announced Thursday.

If Avenatti is found guilty of all charges in the new indictment, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 335 years in prison.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be on his way to a fourth consecutive term, and his main challenger has conceded defeat.

The election was neck and neck between his right-wing party and that of his top contender, centrist political newcomer Benny Gantz. But with at least 97 percent of the votes counted, Netanyahu appears to be in the best position to form a government because of the strength of other right-wing, nationalist and religious parties.

Updated at 9:00 p.m. ET

The final results of the Israeli parliamentary election are too close to call, but two television stations are forecasting a slim victory by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.

Israel's channels 12 and 13 project that Likud will capture 35 seats in the 120-seat parliament, changing their forecasts from earlier in the vote-counting, according to the Associated Press.

Ukraine's presidential election – which was already high-drama — has taken an unusual turn. The two remaining candidates took highly public alcohol and drug tests on Friday, as part of an escalating series of challenges delivered on social media.

The runoff election on April 21 pits incumbent President Petro Poroshenko against Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian who plays a president on TV. Zelenskiy came out of the first round of election with 30 percent of the vote – nearly double the number of votes cast for Poroshenko.

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