Merrit Kennedy

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. 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, 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 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.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

Federal prosecutors are charging 10 former NFL players accused of defrauding the league's health care program, resulting in payouts totaling $3.4 million for medical equipment they allegedly never purchased.

Scientists say they have found the oldest known figurative painting, in a cave in Indonesia. And the stunning scene of a hunting party, painted some 44,000 years ago, is helping to rewrite the history of the origins of art.

Until recently, the long-held story was that humans started painting in caves in Europe. For example, art from the Chauvet Cave in France is dated as old as 37,000 years.

When the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, sailor Lauren Bruner was the second-to-last person to get off the USS Arizona alive.

Bruner and five others were stranded on the doomed ship when a sailor on a repair ship spotted them and threw them a line. Even though Bruner was badly burned and had been shot twice, the 21-year-old managed to climb to safety.

Samoan authorities have arrested a prominent anti-vaccination activist amid an outbreak that has killed at least 63 people, most of them children.

Edwin Tamasese has been charged with "incitement against a government order," according to the BBC.

Updated at 11:12 p.m. ET

As a 23-year-old woman in India was heading to testify against a man who allegedly raped her, a group of men that she says included her rapist attacked her and set her on fire. It's yet another horrifying incident in a country grappling with high levels of sexual violence against women.

One of her doctors at a hospital in Uttar Pradesh says she is in very serious condition.

Chinese officials have expressed outrage after the House passed a bill late Tuesday condemning Beijing's crackdown on China's Muslim Uighur minority.

The bipartisan bill, which passed the House in a 407-1 vote, condemns "gross human rights violations" against the Uighurs and calls for "an end to arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these communities inside and outside China."

In what could be a reference to a new missile test, North Korea is threatening to give the U.S. a "Christmas gift" unless Washington abides by an end-of-year deadline set by Pyongyang for concessions in exchange for a possible deal to curb its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea accused the U.S. of stalling on diplomatic efforts between the two countries because of the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

The weekend after Thanksgiving is already a nightmare for travel, no matter the weather. But storm systems are likely to snarl travel even further across wide swaths of the United States at the end of the holiday weekend.

Heading into Sunday — one of the busiest travel days of the year — there are two major storm systems that forecasters are concerned about, says National Weather Service meteorologist Lara Pagano.

One pummeling the Great Plains region at the moment is forecast to move east and impact travel into the Northeast by Sunday, she says.

Updated at 5:00 p.m. ET

A huge explosion early Wednesday has injured three people at a Texas chemical plant, and the strength of the blast shattered windows and damaged doors of nearby homes, startling sleeping residents.

After dark smoke billowed for hours from the plant after the 1 a.m. blast, another large explosion ripped through the plant in the early afternoon, sending up a huge ball of fire.

Two helicopters full of French troops pursuing militants in a remote region of Mali collided on Monday evening, killing 13 soldiers.

It's the "heaviest single loss for the French military in nearly four decades," according to Agence France-Presse. In 1983, an attack in Beirut killed 58 French paratroopers.

What if a single dose of ketamine could make a heavy drinker dramatically cut back on booze?

A team at University College London thinks that ketamine may be able to "rewrite" memories that shape a person's relationship with alcohol. Scientists say that participants who were given ketamine as part of an experimental study dramatically reduced their average alcohol intake for months after the initial dose. Their research was published Tuesday in Nature Communications.

Colombians have rallied against their leader, President Iván Duque, in a major wave of protests. Duque is trying to get a grip on the unrest by announcing a "national dialogue," and the capital city, Bogotá, was put under curfew Friday night.

Major rallies started in Colombia on Thursday. As reporter John Otis tells NPR from Colombia, the demonstrators are "angry over a great big long list of issues."

Updated at 3:40 p.m. ET

Israel's attorney general has decided to file charges against longtime Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases, according to a statement Thursday from the country's Justice Ministry. Israel has been mired in political uncertainty for months as it awaited the decision.

Netanyahu is Israel's first sitting prime minister to be indicted. He has long denied the allegations, saying they are politically motivated.

Israel is set to continue without a government and may be heading to new elections after Benny Gantz, rival of longtime Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Wednesday that he missed a deadline to form a government.

Netanyahu, who is facing the possibility of imminent indictment on corruption charges, also failed to form a coalition following the hotly contested election in September.

Dutch authorities say that a group of 25 stowaways were found in a refrigerated container onboard a cargo ship bound for the U.K. on Tuesday.

The ship, which according to local media is the Britannia Seaways, has returned to port in Vlaardingen. Local authorities said in a statement that the people are receiving medical assistance.

A days-long tense standoff between protesters and police is grinding on at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The numbers of protesters barricaded inside the school has dwindled to about 100, and their food supplies are rapidly depleting after police surrounded the campus on Sunday.

Attorney General William Barr vociferously attacked Democratic lawmakers and federal judges on Friday and accused them of trying to limit Trump's presidential power.

During a sweeping speech at a conference of The Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization, Barr said Democrats "essentially see themselves as engaged in a war to cripple, by any means necessary, a duly elected government."

A federal judge has ruled that a U.S.-born woman who traveled to Syria and joined ISIS is not an American citizen, even though the State Department had issued her a passport when she was a child and later renewed it.

Hoda Muthana, 25, was a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham when she traveled to Syria. She is currently being held at a detention camp in northern Syria with her young son.

As protesters hunker down at university campuses in Hong Kong, police are accusing them of firing arrows and tossing Molotov cocktails off bridges. The clashes between protesters and police are a sign that violence continues to escalate in Hong Kong, even after more than five months of intense protests over concerns that China is seeking to limit freedoms there.

The International Criminal Court has greenlighted an investigation into possible crimes against humanity perpetrated against Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority. Since 2017, hundreds of thousands of them fleeing violence have arrived in neighboring Bangladesh.

Updated at 7:30 p.m. ET

More than 100 fires are raging in eastern Australia, and thousands of firefighters are battling the blazes amid brutally dry conditions that will likely get worse in the coming months. Police say the remains of one man were found in a burned forest in northeast New South Wales on Wednesday night.

Republican lawmakers are asking that the impeachment inquiry into President Trump hear publicly from Hunter Biden and the anonymous whistleblower whose allegations prompted the probe.

In a letter to Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who is leading the inquiry, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes said that calling these witnesses would help ensure the investigation "treats the President with fairness."

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there has been a breakthrough in the investigation into the outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries that has led to the deaths of 39 people and sickened more than 2,000 others.

Investigators announced Friday that they have detected a chemical compound called vitamin E acetate in all the samples of lung fluid collected from 29 patients who were hospitalized after vaping, suggesting a possible culprit for the spate of lung injuries that has swept across the U.S.

If you're serving a life sentence but momentarily "die" and are then resuscitated, does that mean you can walk free?

That's what a convicted murderer is claiming in Iowa. He says he has been in prison for four years too long. But on Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of Iowa gave that idea a firm no.

The judges' opinion states that the prisoner is "either alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is dead, in which case this appeal is moot."

Updated at 7:36 p.m. ET

A New York judge has ruled that President Trump must pay $2 million in damages to settle claims that the Trump Foundation misused funds. The money will go to a group of charities, and the foundation is in the process of dissolving.

For more than a year, a man in Michigan stole sensitive technical data from his employer, according to federal prosecutors. He would then allegedly send it to his brother in Iran, who has connections to the Iranian military.

Amin Hasanzadeh, an Iranian national and a U.S. permanent resident, made his initial appearance in federal court on Wednesday on charges of fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property. According to the Federal Defender Office in Detroit, Hasanzadeh has not yet been assigned a lawyer.

Gunmen opened fire on security forces and civilian volunteers at a checkpoint in Thailand's restive south on Tuesday night, killing at least 15 people in what is believed to be the deadliest single attack in the region in years.

More than 7,000 people have been killed since a separatist rebellion started in southern Thailand in 2004, according to Deep South Watch, which monitors violence there. The region is predominantly Muslim and was annexed from Malaysia by Buddhist-majority Thailand more than 100 years ago.

Updated at 8:45 p.m. ET

Iran has announced that it will begin enriching uranium using centrifuges at a controversial and heavily fortified nuclear facility. It's the latest in a series of breaches by Iran following President Trump's decision to abandon an international nuclear deal and impose economic sanctions.

A Russian law has taken effect that, in theory, would allow the Russian government to cut off the country's Internet from the rest of the world.

The "sovereign Internet law," as the government calls it, greatly enhances the Kremlin's control over the Web. It was passed earlier this year and allows Russia's government to cut off the Internet completely or from traffic outside Russia "in an emergency," as the BBC reported. But some of the applications could be more subtle, like the ability to block a single post.

Late at night, heavily armed CIA-backed Afghan paramilitary forces will land in a village to carry out a raid in Taliban-controlled areas looking for militants. They'll bomb their way through the walls of a compound, then separate whoever they find into groups of women and young children, and men and boys. They'll question the men, and detain some of them. Others will be shot execution-style.

Pages