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.

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.

John Sullivan, a senior State Department official and President Trump's nominee to be the next ambassador to Russia, faced questions from lawmakers Wednesday about his connection to events at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

Sullivan, currently the deputy secretary of state, has bipartisan support for his appointment. But the open confirmation hearing provided a window into the discussions at the State Department over dealings with Ukraine — at a time when the impeachment testimony hearings are happening behind closed doors.

Teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg has turned down a major environmental prize.

"It is a huge honor," Thunberg said of the Nordic Council Environment Prize. "But the climate movement does not need any more awards."

"What we need is for our politicians and the people in power to start listening to the current, best available science," she added.

The award Thunberg rejected came with prize money of 350,000 Danish kroner — about $52,000.

A Nepalese climber has summited the world's 14 highest peaks in six months and six days, smashing the previous record by more than seven years.

Nirmal "Nims" Purja, who served in the British military before attempting the lofty feat, reached the top of Mount Shishapangma in China on Tuesday morning. The Himalayan summit is some 8,027 meters (26,335 feet) above sea level. It's also the smallest of the 14 mountains on Earth that soar above 8,000 meters — a realm mountaineers refer to as the "death zone."

Updated at 4:32 p.m. ET

A U.S.-brokered deal with Turkey to pause its campaign against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria appears to be largely holding on its first day, though there have been reports of continue Turkish shelling in a key border town, Ras al-Ain.

Updated at 5:49 p.m. ET

U.S. Vice President Pence says he has brokered a cease-fire deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to suspend the Turkish incursion into northern Syria, targeting Kurdish forces. However, minutes later, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated that he did not consider it a cease-fire.

More than 330 people have been arrested around the world in a major takedown of a massive child pornography website, which U.S. officials say is among the first to be found using cryptocurrency to carry out video sales.

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 canceled owing to the controversy over Morey's statement, which was deleted shortly after it was posted.

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