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.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has criticized a tweet sent by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey in support of Hong Kong protesters, saying of Morey, "I believe he wasn't educated on the situation at hand."

James has just returned from the NBA's tense trip to China, where teams played exhibition games but many player appearances were cancelled due to the controversy over Morey's statement, which was deleted shortly after it was posted.

Faced with rare protests, Egypt's government has launched a crackdown that human rights groups say is one of the largest the country has seen during Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's five years as president.

Authorities have arrested at least 3,000 people since the protests began on Sept. 20, according to several Egyptian human rights groups. This is considered a major escalation, even for a regime that has long targeted dissenting voices.

Updated at 7:46 p.m. ET

U.S. troops in the vicinity of Kobani, Syria, came under artillery fire from Turkish positions Friday, according to a Pentagon spokesman.

"The explosion occurred within a few hundred meters of a location outside the Security Mechanism zone and in an area known by the Turks to have U.S. forces present," Navy Capt. Brook DeWalt said in a statement. "All U.S. troops are accounted for with no injuries. U.S. Forces have not withdrawn from Kobani."

Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET

Turkish forces began crossing the Syrian border on Wednesday, launching an operation in Kurdish-dominated areas of the country's north, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced.

The Turkish offensive jeopardizes Kurdish-led forces who have been a key U.S. ally in the bloody fight against ISIS. Turkey says those same forces are linked to militant groups who stage attacks in a separatist movement against the Turkish government.

More than 200 years ago, scholars glued the remains of an ancient papyrus scroll onto cardboard to preserve it. But the scroll, a history of Plato's Academy, also had writing on the back. Now scholars have deployed imaging technology to read what's been concealed.

This scroll came from a library in Herculaneum, near Mount Vesuvius. And it was caught in the famous eruption of that volcano nearly 2,000 years ago — the same eruption that buried the city of Pompeii.

Updated at 7:05 p.m. ET

Seven people were killed when a World War II-era plane crashed and caught fire Wednesday morning as it was attempting to land at Bradley International Airport near Hartford, Conn., according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Thirteen people were onboard the plane, Connecticut Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection James Rovella said at a news conference. Some of the survivors were in critical condition.

Rovella did not release the names of the victims.

Thousands of Dutch farmers rolled their tractors over highways to The Hague to protest a possible crackdown on nitrogen emissions from livestock and farming operations. The angry farmers snarled traffic for hundreds of miles in what has been called the Netherlands' busiest morning rush hour.

It's a make-or-break week in the U.K. right now, as the country barrels toward a deadline to withdraw from the European Union without yet securing a deal on the terms of the divorce.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pleading with lawmakers to support him amid a brewing rebellion in Parliament – even from members of his own party — to try to block the U.K. from leaving the bloc without securing a deal.

A major Australian government report is warning that the time to take action to protect the Great Barrier Reef's long-term future is now.

The Australian federal government says the overall outlook of the reef to "very poor," a downgrade from the "poor" grade assigned to the reef in 2014, the last time Australia released this type of report.

The Trump administration is proposing to slash restrictions on the oil and gas industry for methane emissions, a greenhouse gas that is a powerful driver of climate change.

Environmental groups are alarmed. "This would be a huge step backward," said Ben Ratner, a senior director at the Environmental Defense Fund. "It would cause greatly increased pollution and a big missed opportunity to take cost effective immediate action to reduce the rate of warming right now."

It looks like Costco is a hit in Shanghai. On Tuesday, the U.S. wholesale chain opened its first location in mainland China and was so inundated with eager shoppers that the store closed early owing to "security concerns."

Updated at 3:40 p.m. ET

North Carolina is suing electronic cigarette companies that it accuses of selling products to children, amid a major increase in U.S. teens getting hooked on vaping.

The state's attorney general, Josh Stein, announced Tuesday that his office will be filing lawsuits in state court against eight companies that sell vaping products. His office is accusing these companies of "aggressively targeting children and do not require appropriate age verification when selling these dangerous and addictive products."

A pilot who is credited with saving dozens of lives has died. United Flight 232 went into total hydraulic failure while Al Haynes was at the controls in 1989. With the help of three other pilots, he maneuvered the DC-10 to a miraculous crash landing in Sioux City, Iowa, and 184 of the 296 people on board survived.

Haynes is widely seen as a hero among aviation experts, akin to Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and his "miracle on the Hudson." Haynes' son Dan confirmed to NPR that his father had died.

At a cancer treatment center in Iran's capital of Tehran, a doctor's fight to treat her cancer patients has become harder. As U.S. sanctions sink in, the flow of medicine and medical supplies in Iran appears to have slowed — and the reasons are difficult to pin down.

Dr. Mastaneh Sanei, an oncologist at the Roshana Cancer Center, says she's treating patients without the benefits of consistently functioning equipment and a reliable supply of drugs.

With the right treatment, she says, "you may not cure these patients, but they have the chance to prolong survival."

A Japanese woman met a person online in March 2016 who said he was a U.S. Army captain based in Syria.

They quickly became close, exchanging messages over email. She thought she was in a romantic relationship with the man, who called himself Terry Garcia.

Over the course of 10 months, the Japanese woman lost more than $200,000, sending money to accounts in Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte has announced that his resignation amid political chaos and jockeying for power within his own coalition.

In a scathing speech to the Senate, Conte railed against his right-wing coalition partner, Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini. Conte is an independent. His coalition includes the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and Salvini's party, the League, which is staunchly anti-migrant and euroskeptic. Conte's government has held power for some 14 months.

A young woman from El Salvador who was convicted of aggravated homicide after she lost her pregnancy has been acquitted in a retrial.

El Salvador has one of the strictest abortion laws in the world — it's not allowed under any circumstances.

Evelyn Beatriz Hernández, 21, has said she was raped by a gang member and didn't know she was pregnant. In 2016, she gave birth into a toilet, and her mother found her passed out next to it.

Nearly two decades into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. suddenly appears to be nearing an agreement with the Taliban that could bring the remaining 14,000 U.S. troops home.

That's causing unease inside the Afghan government, which has been left on the sidelines as the U.S. and the Taliban have held multiple rounds of talks this year in the Gulf nation of Qatar. The latest round wrapped up last week without a deal, but with signs of progress.

When U.S. officials opened a trailer full of jalapeno peppers last week, they found something a bit more illicit tucked among the spicy chiles.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized nearly four tons of weed mixed in with a large shipment of red and green jalapenos at the Otay Mesa cargo facility in San Diego.

A man drove a truck into a group of peaceful demonstrators protesting Immigration and Customs Enforcement policies outside a detention facility in Central Falls, R.I., on Wednesday evening.

After a video of the incident went viral, the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility said that it has placed a correctional officer named Thomas Woodworth on administrative leave pending an independent investigation. A spokesperson for the facility would not confirm that Woodworth was the driver, saying that is "subject to the investigation."

Say the word "exosuit" and superheroes come to mind — somebody like Tony Stark from Marvel Comics, whose fancy suit enables him to become Iron Man.

Jimmy Aldaoud was deported from the U.S. in June to Iraq, a country that his family said he had never set foot in. Two months after he arrived there, his family got word that he was found dead in Baghdad.

Aldaoud was born in Greece, his sister Mary Bolis said, after his family fled Iraq. He didn't speak Arabic.

He was 41 when he died, and he arrived legally in the U.S. in May 1979 when he was a year old, his lawyer, Chris Schaedig, said. He lived near Detroit until he was put on a plane to Najaf by U.S. federal officials.

Updated at 5:53 p.m. ET

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings issued an emotional appeal for President Trump to visit Baltimore after the president has repeatedly attacked the congressman and his district.

"You know what, I want President Trump to come to my district," the Maryland Democrat said Wednesday at the National Press Club. "God, I want him to come, so bad."

Updated at 4:48 p.m. ET

The FBI has opened a domestic terrorism investigation into last month's mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, after discovering that the shooter had a list that may have indicated potential targets of violence.

Updated at 4:11 p.m. ET

The Justice Department says the U.S. has extradited a Pakistani man from Hong Kong and accused him of bribing AT&T employees to unlock more than 2 million cellphones.

Muhammad Fahd, 34, allegedly committed the crimes as part of a scheme that unlocked and resold stolen iPhones.

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a lower court was wrong to dismiss former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit against The New York Times over an editorial linking her to a 2011 mass shooting.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to a lower court, saying her case against the newspaper "plausibly states a claim for defamation and may proceed to full discovery."

As the U.S. reels from a weekend of two mass shootings, federal authorities have released details of what they say could have been another tragedy — which didn't happen because the suspect's grandmother managed to stop it.

On Friday, federal prosecutors in Lubbock, Texas, said that they have charged a 19-year-old man with making false statements to a federally licensed firearms dealer and that William Patrick Williams was allegedly plotting a mass shooting.

When visiting hours ended at a prison outside Rio de Janeiro, a young woman made her way toward the exit before guards took a second look and pulled her aside. Turns out she wasn't a woman at all – but a well-known male drug trafficker.

Clauvino da Silva was sentenced to 73 years and 10 months in prison. His escape plan, prison authorities told local media, was to have his 19-year-old daughter visit the prison known as Bangu 3, disguise himself as her and then leave her behind in his place.

French inventor Franky Zapata made history as the first person to cross the English Channel by hoverboard, taking off Sunday from Sangatte on France's northern coast and touching down near Dover, England.

The elite jet skier's daring display over the 22-mile channel between France and the U.K. took just over 20 minutes. It seems nobody else has ever tried to cross the body of water by hoverboard, which in Zapata's case was powered by a backpack full of fuel.

Police have identified the nine people who were killed after a shooter fired dozens of rounds into a busy street in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday morning.

The people who died range in age from 22 to 57, and they include four women and five men. Police say the attacker, who was killed at the scene, is 24-year-old Connor Betts. They identified one of the victims as his 22-year-old sister, Megan Betts.

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