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.

Russia says it is beginning to draw down its forces fighting in Syria's war. It decisively entered the war in September 2015, and has been a major factor keeping Syrian President Bashar Assad in power.

This isn't the first time Russia has made this kind of announcement. "Last March, Putin also announced a withdrawal from Syria," NPR's Lucian Kim reports from Moscow. "Instead, Russia ended up intensifying its war effort."

Unexplained, short radio bursts from outer space have puzzled scientists since they were first detected nearly a decade ago.

The elusive flashes — known as fast radio bursts, or FRBs — are extremely powerful and last only a few milliseconds. The way their frequencies are dispersed suggests they traveled from far outside our galaxy. About 18 have been detected to date. They've been called the "most perplexing mystery in astronomy."

Hurricane Matthew. The earthquake in Japan. Flooding in the Deep South, China and Europe. Wildfires in Canada.

Last year sometimes felt like one natural catastrophe after another. Now, new figures from reinsurer Munich Re suggest that it was indeed a particularly bad year.

A crowded commuter train crashed into a bumper block and partially derailed as it pulled into Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal on Wednesday morning, according to N.Y. officials. The FDNY says at least 103 people sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

"It appears that the train was heading into the station, at 10 or 15 miles per hour, and did not stop," WNYC's Stephen Nessen tells our Newscast unit. "It hit a bumper block; the front two cars were lifted off the tracks. One of the rails actually pierced the bottom of the front car."

Beijing's sky appears blue at the beginning of the 13-second video. Then it completely disappears from view, blotted out by a cloud of brown smog.

The time-lapse video shot Sunday by Chas Pope, a British citizen, dramatically illustrates the extent of China's pollution problem. Pope says the thick haze moved into Beijing over the course of 20 minutes.

Dozens of Chinese cities have suffered heavy smog for nearly a month.

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