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.

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.

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