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.

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.

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.

Updated at 8:50 p.m. ET

Pedro Pierluisi has been sworn in as the new governor of Puerto Rico, succeeding Ricardo Rosselló who resigned in disgrace and appointed Pierluisi as secretary of state.

According to the island's constitution, the secretary of state is the first in line to succeed the governor. Puerto Rico's House of Representatives approved Pierluisi's nomination earlier Friday.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland says an intruder tried to gain entry into his home in Baltimore early Saturday.

Cummings said the incident happened at about 3:40 a.m. ET. "I was notified of the intrusion by my security system, and I scared the intruder away by yelling before the person gained entry into the residential portion of the house," he said in a statement.

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Before turtles are hatched — when they're just tiny embryos inside their eggs — they may be able to influence whether they will become male or female, according to a study in China. And this could help protect them from the effects of climate change.

Scientists have known that for many reptiles, sex is determined by the temperature an embryo experiences as it grows. In some turtle species, for example, slightly higher temperatures cause the embryo to become female and lower temperatures cause the embryo to become male.

The miniature toiletries in hotel rooms might be cute and convenient to toss in your bag as you're packing up, but they're also the source of a whole lot of plastic waste, and a major hotel group says it is phasing them out.

Over the last two weeks, a woman approached bank tellers at four banks across the East Coast with notes demanding money, according to the FBI. She often wore large sunglasses, yoga pants and a baseball cap. And she sometimes carried a hot pink purse, which led to her nickname – the "Pink Lady Bandit."

The suspected Pink Lady Bandit and an alleged accomplice have now been taken into custody.

More than 60 people were killed when armed men attacked a funeral procession Saturday in northeast Nigeria, according to Nigerian state media. The country's president has vowed to hunt down the perpetrators, widely suspected to be Boko Haram militants.

Updated at 4:32 p.m. ET

The Navy has apprehended 18 Marines and one sailor over their alleged involvement in human smuggling, drug offenses and other crimes, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service said.

Sixteen of the Marines were arrested in highly public fashion at a major West Coast military base Thursday.

On Thursday morning, after some 800 Marines gathered in formation at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego, Marine officials working with NCIS pulled out 16 people and placed them under arrest, as NPR's Tom Bowman reported.

President Trump has vetoed a series of measures approved by bipartisan lawmakers that were aimed at blocking the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Trump said the three resolutions would "weaken America's global competitiveness and damage the important relationship we share with our allies and partners."

Lawmakers in support of the bills have criticized the Saudis' actions in the Yemen conflict where thousands of civilians have died, and the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Updated at 4:55 p.m. ET

The U.S. government is poised to carry out the death penalty for the first time in nearly two decades, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has instructed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to change the federal execution protocol to include capital punishment, the Justice Department said.

Rapper Meek Mill has been granted a new trial by a three-judge appeals court panel in Pennsylvania, for a case that dates back 12 years. The only witness who testified against Meek was a police officer who was later found to have committed theft.

"The Commonwealth concedes a new trial is required," the judges' unanimous opinion stated, in light of "after-discovered evidence" about the police officer's conduct.

Updated at 6:12 p.m. ET

Boris Johnson, the polarizing and showboating politician who led the campaign for Britain to leave the EU in 2016, is now officially in charge of ushering the country through that fraught and difficult divorce. With Theresa May's exit, Johnson took office as prime minister Wednesday.

The Senate has voted 97-2 to approve a bill that will virtually ensure permanent funding for rescue workers whose work after the Sept. 11 attacks caused health problems.

The House passed the bill last month, and President Trump is expected to approve it, ending a years-long ordeal for the victims after concerns that the fund was on the verge of running out of money.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

A federal judge in North Carolina has approved a consent decree that enshrines the right of transgender individuals to use bathrooms that match their gender identities in North Carolina public buildings.

Former Chinese Premier Li Peng, who became known as the "Butcher of Beijing" for playing a major role in the brutal crackdown on the Tiananmen Square student protests in 1989, has died at the age of 90.

Updated at 5:06 p.m. ET

President Trump said Iran's claim that it has captured 17 people spying for the U.S. is "totally false," as tensions continue to ratchet up between the two nations after the U.S. said it downed an Iranian drone last week.

It comes on the same day that U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said his country will seek to create a European-led security mission for ships in the Strait of Hormuz, separate from a similar U.S. effort to form a maritime coalition.

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