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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.

This drug seizure is bananas.

Two sergeants from a Texas prison were picking up two donated pallets of bananas at the Ports of America in Freeport on Friday, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The bananas were being donated to the Wayne Scott Unit in Texas' Brazoria County. The department says they were already ripe — and according to USA Today, they were never claimed at the port.

When floodwaters from Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina's Lumberton area, some families were unable — or unwilling — to take their pets with them when they evacuated.

The flooding hit rapidly, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported, when temporary levees failed and sent water gushing into the surrounding area.

The World Anti-Doping Agency has reinstated Russia's state anti-doping regulator after a major doping scandal that reverberated across international sports. The move has been roundly condemned by anti-doping advocates.

The reinstatement of RUSADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, is subject to conditions. Nine members of WADA's executive committee backed the decision. Two voted against it – the agency's vice president and Oceania. Europe abstained.

As Jet Airways Flight 9W697 took off from Mumbai on Thursday, something terrifying quickly became clear: The cabin was not properly pressurized.

Oxygen masks dropped from the cabin's ceiling. "Thirty out of 166 passengers experienced nose and ear bleeding [and] some also complained of headache," an official with India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation said, according to the Hindustan Times.

Consumers across Australia have reported finding needles stuck in their strawberries, as the government launches a federal investigation and growers install metal detectors to try to stop the contamination.

Several supermarket chains in Australia and New Zealand are also pulling strawberries off the shelves, according to Australian media.

Updated at 10:35 p.m. ET

Storm surges of 9 to 13 feet and rainfall up to 40 inches: Those are two of the most dire warnings about Hurricane Florence's effect on parts of North and South Carolina. Thousands have heeded evacuation orders; others are hoping to cope with the storm in their homes or at local shelters.

As scientists in the Netherlands tried to figure out how to build a super-agile flying robot, they took inspiration from one of nature's most acrobatic flyers: The humble fruit fly.

And by building this robot, they've gained new insights into how the fly carries out one of its flashiest maneuvers.

Human rights groups have repeatedly accused a Saudi-led coalition of causing disproportionate civilian deaths in the Yemen conflict because of airstrikes that have hit markets, weddings and even a bus carrying children from summer camp.

Miner Henry Dole was in for a shock when he went into the Beta Hunt mine in southwestern Australia after the workers set off some explosives.

"Everything was covered in dust, and as I watered the dirt down there was just gold everywhere, as far as you could see," he told Australia's ABC News. "There was chunks of gold in the face, on the ground, truly unique I reckon. ... I nearly fell over looking at it ... we were picking it up for hours."

Updated at 1:22 p.m. ET

The Trump administration says it is closing the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington, D.C., effectively shuttering the Palestinian diplomatic mission to the U.S.

"We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement Monday.

Updated at 10:50 a.m. ET Monday

Les Moonves has stepped down as the chairman, president and CEO of CBS Corporation, after 12 women accused him of sexual misconduct that spanned decades in two reports published in The New Yorker.

Venezuela is responding angrily to a report in The New York Times that details alleged secret meetings between Trump administration officials and Venezuelan military officers seeking to oust the country's authoritarian leader Nicolas Maduro.

Some two million Ford F-150 pickup trucks are being recalled by the company after more than 20 reports of smoke or fire coming from the seat belts.

The recall, which was announced Thursday, applies to certain Regular Cab and SuperCrew Cab vehicles from model years 2015-18.

The two Koreas have set a date for a new summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, even as U.S. diplomacy with North Korea has stalled.

The Korean leaders will meet in Pyongyang from Sept. 18-20 in what will be their third meeting since April.

"The North's official media said today that Kim Jong Un has reaffirmed his commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and the suspension of all future long-range missile tests," NPR's Rob Schmitz reported.

For the first time since a devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, the Japanese government says a former plant worker has died as a result of radiation exposure.

The country's health and labor ministry has said the man's family should be paid compensation, according to state broadcaster NHK.

Russian officials are saying that a tiny leak at the International Space Station was likely caused by a human hand. Now, they're trying to figure out who did it, why they did it and whether it happened in space or on the ground.

The crew identified the source of the leak as a 2-millimeter hole in the upper section of a Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, which is docked in the Russian section of the space station.

It's a long shot for most any football player to make a final NFL roster. But Efe Obada, who found out Saturday that he made the Carolina Panthers' 53-man roster, has been through more obstacles than most.

As he has recounted, the Nigerian-born defensive end was 10 when he was brought to London "by a stranger that was supposed to look after me and my sister" – then, the children were almost immediately abandoned and left to take care of themselves.

Updated at 11:44 a.m. ET

Fewer than 10 months after taking the job of USA Gymnastics president and CEO, Kerry Perry has resigned.

Perry has been under scrutiny from the U.S. Olympic Committee as USA Gymnastics attempts to navigate a path forward following a sexual abuse scandal by former team doctor Larry Nassar that involved hundreds of women and girls. Nassar has been sentenced to decades in prison.

According to a statement Tuesday by the USA Gymnastics board of directors, Perry's resignation is effective immediately.

The U.S. Department of Justice is throwing its support behind an anti-affirmative action group that is suing Harvard University over alleged racial discrimination in its admissions policies.

In a document filed in federal court on Thursday, the Justice Department said it is siding with Students for Fair Admissions in its request for a trial, currently scheduled to begin in mid-October.

After a scaffolding collapsed early Wednesday, two construction workers fell to their deaths at a site near the Disney World resort in central Florida.

A third person had a near-miss. The worker "almost fell but he was able to hold onto something and several workers were able to assist him and he was not injured," Orange County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Ingrid Tejada-Monforte told reporters.

Floodwaters are washing over residential areas in Myanmar's Bago region, driving thousands of people from their homes after a dam failed.

According to Reuters, officials say more than 50,000 people have had to flee.

Authorities fear that thousands of people may still be trapped in their homes, Agence France-Presse reported. Rescuers are working "into the night to try to ferry residents out."

Police have taken a man into custody over the violent assault of 22-year-old Marie Laguerre on the streets of Paris.

The CEO of game-maker Electronic Arts has announced the cancellation of three upcoming video game tournaments following a deadly shooting on Sunday at a Madden gaming event in Jacksonville, Fla.

Researchers investigating the effects of air pollution conducted math and verbal tests over the course of multiple years on more than 25,000 people in 162 Chinese counties. They matched those results with pollution conditions at the time of each test, and found sobering results.

Updated at 5:56 p.m. ET Sunday

Memorial and remembrance plans are taking shape for Arizona Sen. John McCain, a day after he died following a battle with brain cancer. He will lie in state at both the U.S and Arizona Capitols.

McCain will then be buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Md., according to his office. The senator graduated from the Naval Academy and has said multiple times that he wanted to be laid to rest there.

Updated at 9:19 p.m. ET Sunday

A 24-year-old male opened fire during a video game tournament at a mall in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sunday afternoon, killing three people, including himself, according to the local sheriff.

Sheriff Mike Williams says the suspect has been identified as David Katz from Baltimore. The gunman used at least one handgun and was a participant in the tournament, according to the sheriff. Authorities planned to release more information about the suspect later on Sunday.

There's a light in the night sky over Canada that's puzzling scientists. It looks like a white-purple ribbon. It's very hot, and doesn't last long. And it's named STEVE.

One of the largest supermarket companies in the U.S. has announced it is phasing out single-use plastic bags in an effort to reduce plastic waste.

The Kroger Co. says it plans to stop distributing single-use bags completely by 2025 across its chains.

As communities across the country grapple with what to do with their Confederate monuments, North Carolina has decided that three monuments at its state Capitol will remain in place.

A committee of the North Carolina Historical Commission says it finds the monuments to be "an over-representation and over-memorialization of a difficult era in NC history."

Five months after Uber reached a settlement agreement in a class-action lawsuit filed by women and people of color who worked there as engineers, new details are emerging about the terms of the deal. The plaintiffs, both current and former employees, say they were subjected to harassment and discrimination at Uber.

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