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.

On the High Plains in West Texas, hot winds blast through cotton fields as far as the eye can see.

In the middle of it all is a tiny vineyard.

Andis Applewhite is the owner. She's an artist whose family has worked this land for a century. They once planted crops more typical of the neighborhood, like cotton and wheat. Applewhite decided to try something different: She put in a couple of acres of cabernet franc grapes.

The entirety of Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, is suffering from a crippling drought that is the most severe in recent memory.

The tough conditions are drying up huge swathes of land, leaving farmers struggling to feed their livestock and water their crops. It's also exacerbating bushfires in the state.

Updated at 12:55 p.m. ET

PepsiCo has announced plans to buy Israel-based fizzy drink-maker SodaStream in a deal valued at $3.2 billion.

It's the latest foray into more-healthful offerings for the food and beverage giant, which has shifted from soft drinks toward products such as juices, hummus and oatmeal.

A top Buddhist monk in China has resigned from his post after accusations of sexual misconduct by multiple nuns.

Xuecheng was the president of the Buddhist Association of China. A statement on the organization's website posted Wednesday said that Xuecheng's resignation had been accepted at a council meeting.

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has temporarily lost some Twitter privileges over breaking the site's rules against abusive behavior. Last week, the company was a notable exception after a wave of other major tech companies banned Jones and his main channels.

The penalties to Alex Jones' personal account, @RealAlexJones, are for one week. The Twitter page for his website Infowars posted screenshots of the notice that Twitter apparently sent Jones.

A former Baltimore City police officer has been indicted by a grand jury on criminal charges including first-degree assault after a video surfaced on social media that showed him repeatedly punching a man in the face.

The incident in the video happened on Saturday. Hours later, the Baltimore Police Department suspended the officer, now identified as Arthur Williams. Late Sunday, the department accepted his resignation.

In Paris, authorities are taking an unusual approach to combat the scourge of public urination: Make urination even more public.

The city is experimenting with completely exposed, eco-friendly urinals.

The devices are called "Uritrottoir," which combines the words for urinal and pavement. They're not at all subtle. They're bright red and in heavily trafficked areas — for example, directly next to the Seine near the Notre Dame Cathedral.

And if there's any confusion, a large white and red sign with a red arrow and a cartoon of a man peeing probably clears it up.

Updated at 1:20 p.m. ET

Nebraska has executed its first prisoner since 1997, after a federal three-judge panel denied a drug company's request to halt the lethal injection over concerns about whether the drugs were obtained improperly by the state.

Tuesday morning's execution of Carey Dean Moore is also the first time the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl had been used in a lethal injection in the U.S.

The Baltimore Police Department has accepted the resignation of an officer after a video surfaced in which he repeatedly punches a man in the face.

Updated at 10:05 p.m. ET

A small group of about 25 white supremacist demonstrators rallied next to the White House on Sunday, one year after the "Unite the Right" demonstration by the same organizer turned deadly in Charlottesville, Va.

The demonstrators have since left D.C. via Metro, and WAMU's Elly Yu reports that counterprotesters have headed home, too.

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