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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

Updated at 5:40 p.m. ET

A U.S. service member was killed in a "combat engagement" in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province on New Year's Day, and four other U.S. service members were injured, according to a U.S. military statement.

The U.S. military did not immediately explain what kind of combat the service members were engaged in at the time or whether they were fighting ISIS or the Taliban.

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.

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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