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.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has signed a bill that makes his state the second to ban abortion because of a fetal abnormality. The measure also criminalizes the procedure when motivated solely because of factors such as the fetus's sex or race.

An Islamic State leader who has been described as the militant group's finance minister has been killed, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Friday.

"We are systematically eliminating ISIL's cabinet," Carter said. "Indeed, the U.S. military killed several key ISIL terrorists this week, including, we believe, Hajji Iman, who was an ISIL leader — senior leader — serving as a finance minister and who was also responsible for some external affairs and plots."

A Canadian court has acquitted Jian Ghomeshi, the former CBC radio host who was fired in 2014 amid multiple allegations of sexual assault.

In this case, which involved complaints from three different women regarding incidents in 2002 and 2003, Ghomeshi was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance to sexual assault by choking.

The Walt Disney Co. and its Marvel subsidiary threatened Wednesday to stop film production in Georgia if the governor signs a controversial "religious liberty" bill into law — which would be a major blow to the state's burgeoning film industry.

Since then, a range of other companies have joined in opposing the legislation.

The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted seven Iranians with intelligence links over a series of crippling cyberattacks against 46 U.S. financial institutions between 2011 and 2013.

The indictment, which was unsealed Thursday, also accuses one of the Iranians of remotely accessing the control system of a small dam in Rye, N.Y, during the same period.

In the aftermath of Tuesday's deadly attacks in Belgium, the world is learning about people who died, including a mother of twin daughters, a university student mourned by classmates, and a public servant who was "a bit of a joker."

The attacks, which were claimed by ISIS, killed at least 31 people and wounded at least 270 others. Head here for the latest news on the manhunt for an accomplice to the attacks.

Malik I. Taylor, the rapper known as Phife Dawg who was a founding member of the seminal group A Tribe Called Quest, died Tuesday at the age of 45.

His family said in a statement that Phife died as a result of complications from diabetes.

"The Flint water crisis is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice."

That's how an independent task force opened its final report on the lead-tainted water crisis in Flint.

It concluded that primary responsibility for the crisis in Flint, Mich., lies with a state environmental agency called the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality — though it said others are also to blame.

A Russian court has found Ukranian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko guilty of murdering two Russian journalists in Ukraine. She's been sentenced to 22 years in prison.

NPR's Corey Flintoff in Moscow tells our Newscast unit that Savchenko "was accused of directing artillery fire that killed two members of a Russian TV crew in July 2014."

After Tuesday's deadly attacks in Brussels killed more than two dozen people, we're seeing an outpouring of grief and support from around the world.

Like we saw after the November attacks in Paris, many took to social media to express their condolences and solidarity with the people affected — and latched onto prominent symbols associated with the country.

After the violence in Paris, renditions of the Eiffel Tower and the French flag were widely shared.

Details are still trickling in from today's attacks in Brussels that have killed at least two-dozen people. We're keeping you updated on the latest here.

While the tragedy in Brussels is the focus of headlines around the world, we're reminded that there have been a number of other attacks recently that have seen less attention, some in places where access is difficult and reporting resources are limited.

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear Samsung's appeal of a Federal Circuit Court ruling in the company's patent infringement dispute with Apple.

At issue in the case: What portion of the profits is a design-patent infringer liable to pay?

Apple accuses the South Korean tech giant of copying patented aspects of the iPhone's design, such as the round-cornered front face and the colorful icon grid.

NASA has released a new gravity map of Mars, providing a detailed look at the Red Planet's surface and revealing new information about what lies beneath it.

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, one of Europe's most wanted men, has been taken alive during a police raid in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek.

Abdeslam, 26, had evaded capture for more than four months after the terrorist attacks that killed 130 people on Nov. 13.

The news was confirmed by Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel and France's President Francois Hollande during a joint press conference Friday evening.

In Brussels, the European Union and Turkey have reached a deal aimed at stemming the massive flow of people into Europe. It will likely impact tens of thousands of migrants and refugees.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that the sides unanimously agreed to terms.

Where is Queen Nefertiti buried? It's one of the biggest mysteries in Egyptology, and today, archaeologists might be one step closer to an answer.

Researchers have been radar-scanning the walls of King Tutankhamen's tomb in Luxor's Valley of the Kings in search of hidden chambers.

Now, NPR's Leila Fadel tells our Newscast unit that analysis of scans conducted in November shows there are two empty spaces behind the walls. And those spaces may contain organic or metallic material.

"Let me be blunt," Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in his opening statement to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "This was a failure of government at all levels. Local, state and federal officials — we all failed the families of Flint."

Voters unseated the top prosecutors in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and Cook County, Ill., in Democratic primary races on Tuesday. Both have been under fire for their handling of fatal shootings by police.

Two-term Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez faced criticism for the amount of time it took her to indict the white officer who shot black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. As the Associated Press reports, Alvarez "explained the yearlong investigation by calling it complex and meticulous."

FIFA is requesting tens of millions of dollars in restitution, arguing that it was a victim of its corrupt leadership.

FIFA's Victim's Statement, filed to authorities in New York on Wednesday, contends that the embattled international soccer federation is a "global force for good." The organization is arguing that a group of disgraced leaders — rather than systemic corruption — is to blame for the onslaught of corruption and bribery allegations.

The Obama administration is reversing a plan to allow oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, after an uproar from local communities over environmental concerns.

"We heard from many corners that now is not the time to offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.

Georgia Public Broadcasting's Emily Jones tells our Newscast unit that this is a reversal from a draft proposal issued in January 2015:

Ahead of President Obama's landmark trip to Cuba later this month, the U.S. is loosening sanctions regulations against Cuba.

The changes make it easier for U.S. citizens to travel to the island and allow nonimmigrant Cubans who are in the U.S legally to earn salaries.

"Normalization means not just normalization between governments, it means normalization of our relationship with the Cuban people. And that is what this change really aims to advance," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters as he announced the changes.

Myanmar has elected its first civilian president after decades of military rule.

U Htin Kyaw, a close ally of Nobel laureate and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, won the legislature's vote. Suu Kyi was barred from running herself by the country's constitution — drafted by the former military leaders — because she has two foreign sons.

Eighty million years ago, tyrannosaurs were the top predators in Asia and North America.

And scientists say a newly discovered dinosaur from Uzbekistan helps to explain their rise.

In a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers said they have found a specimen from a 20 million-year gap in fossil records — between the small-bodied "marginal hunters" and the "apex predators" the tyrannosaurid group would become. This group includes Tyrannosaurus rex, Albertosaurus and Tarbosaurus.

Turkish warplanes are conducting airstrikes against Kurdish targets in Northern Iraq, following a deadly car bomb that killed at least 37 people in Turkey's capital, Ankara.

The Turkish military said "11 warplanes carried out airstrikes on 18 targets in northern Iraq early on Monday, including ammunition depots and shelters," Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, mourners held funerals for the victims of Sunday's attack.

This week, several Balkan countries slammed their borders shut on migrants, effectively cutting off their main route leading to Northern Europe.

It's causing growing humanitarian concerns as tens of thousands of people who hoped to move north remain stuck in camps in Greece. Meanwhile, EU nations are still struggling to come up with a solution to the crisis.

The Cleveland Clinic says it has removed a transplanted uterus — the first-ever in the U.S. — after the patient suffered from a "sudden complication."

The clinic conducted the landmark operation in late February. As we reported, the procedure is intended to "open up another possible path to parenthood besides surrogacy or adoption for U.S. women who do not have a uterus, or who have a uterus that does not function."

Iran's military tested two ballistic missiles Wednesday, and an Iranian officer says the missiles are designed to reach Israel, according to an Iranian news agency. Iran has conducted a number of other ballistic missile tests this week.

The tests, which come after Iran won sanctions relief in January by curbing its nuclear program, seem to be "aimed at demonstrating that Iran will push forward with its ballistic program," The Associated Press reports.

Ending a Democratic filibuster lasting more than 36 hours, the Missouri Senate has given preliminary approval to a controversial bill that shields religious groups and individuals who have religious objections to same-sex weddings.

Former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan testified in his invasion of privacy suit in St. Petersburg, Fla., against the media organization Gawker, which published a portion of a sex tape.

The case raises major questions about freedom of expression, privacy and celebrity. That being said — "it really couldn't be seedier in terms of the topic that provoked this suit," as NPR's David Folkenflik told Here and Now.

The Dutch dentist was initially welcomed to the rural French town of Chateau-Chinon, which had been without a dental care provider for two years.

Then the horror stories started.

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