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.

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).

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