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.

As Venezuela reels from hyperinflation that has caused a severe shortage of cash, one city is trying to mitigate the problem by printing its own currency.

Elorza, in western Venezuela near the border with Colombia, is selling its own bills featuring the image of an independence leader from the area, according to Reuters.

A "gold rush" started among residents in eastern Siberia after dozens of gold bars fell out of a cargo plane as it was taking off, according to Russian media.

After having trouble obtaining drugs needed for lethal injections, Oklahoma is planning to change its primary method of execution to nitrogen gas inhalation.

It would be the first time a U.S. state uses this method of execution, though six states have gas inhalation in their laws as a secondary method to lethal injection, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

At least three people claimed that they had a legal right to dispose of the body of cult leader Charles Manson. Now, a court has ruled in favor of Manson's purported grandson Jason Freeman.

Manson died in November while serving a life sentence for directing a notorious killing spree in Los Angeles in 1969. Since then, his remains have been stored in California's Kern County as the legal battle played out.

Greece has suspended indefinitely its Super League after the team owner of PAOK walked onto the pitch apparently carrying a gun in a holster to protest a referee's call in a match against AEK.

Updated at 3:15 a.m. ET on Tuesday

British Prime Minister Theresa May says it is "highly likely" that Russia is behind the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter earlier this month in southern England.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found collapsed on a bench on March 4 in the city of Salisbury. They remain in critical condition, according to The Associated Press.

The American Civil Liberties Union says that U.S. immigration authorities have forcibly separated hundreds of migrant parents, most of them asylum seekers, from their minor children for no legitimate reason.

The ACLU requested class-action status on Friday, expanding an existing lawsuit against the Trump administration filed on behalf of an anonymous asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who was allegedly detained for months — more than 2,000 miles away from her 7-year-old daughter.

Emperor penguins are known to be social and curious. But you probably didn't know that they are also reasonably good at framing a video shot.

When an expeditioner with the Australian Antarctic Division left his camera on the ice while visiting a penguin colony, the birds quickly hustled over to investigate.

It's worth noting that the penguins did not actually push the record button – it was already rolling — but did manage to produce a hilarious 38-second video.

Mississippi's Legislature has passed a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, one of the most restrictive limitations on abortion in the country.

The measure, which is poised to become law once signed by the governor, allows for exceptions only in a "medical emergency and in cases of severe fetal abnormality." It does not allow abortion in cases involving rape or incest. Fifteen weeks is calculated from the first day of the woman's last menstrual period.

Twenty-one top tech companies are banding together to try to stop wildlife traffickers from trading endangered species on their platforms.

The Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, organized by Google and the World Wildlife Fund, was announced Wednesday morning. It includes companies such as Alibaba, Baidu, eBay, Facebook, Instagram and Microsoft, and they're pledging to "work together to collectively reduce wildlife trafficking across platforms by 80% by 2020."

In 1886, sailors on a German barque called Paula tossed a gin bottle with a message inside into waters hundreds of miles off the western coast of Australia.

One hundred and thirty-one years later, a Perth resident stumbled upon the bottle on Australia's Wedge Island.

"My time today as your mayor concludes," Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said Tuesday after pleading guilty to felony theft of property amounting to more than $10,000.

The resignation comes after she admitted last month to having an extramarital affair with the former head of her security detail, Sgt. Rob Forrest, that dates back to 2016.

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced snowballing corruption allegations at home, President Trump said, during the Israeli official's visit to Washington, that the relationship between the two nations is better than ever.

Trump said he is considering attending the mid-May opening of the controversial U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

The two well-preserved mummies from Egypt's Gebelein site – a male and a female — have been in the British Museum's collection for more than 100 years.

But thanks to new technology, archaeologists have just discovered that they have some of the world's oldest tattoos – and what they say are the earliest known to contain figures.

Beer, cars, baseball bats, airplanes: These are a few of the products that could face price hikes when new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum go into effect.

The move announced by the president on Thursday is intended to bolster the domestic steel and aluminum industries. Trump said that imported steel will face tariffs of 25 percent, and aluminum will face tariffs of 10 percent.

New Zealand police say they are re-examining an apparent assassination attempt against Queen Elizabeth II.

Declassified documents from New Zealand's intelligence service, newly released to an investigative journalist at the news website Stuff, indicate that there may have been a cover-up after teenager Christopher Lewis fired at the queen's motorcade in Dunedin.

Equifax has disclosed that an additional 2.4 million people were impacted by a massive cybersecurity breach last year, bringing the total to about 148 million people.

The credit reporting agency says the new consumers were identified during forensic examination of the breach. They were previously unidentified, the company says, because their Social Security numbers were not stolen.

After a major doping scandal limited Russia's participation at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the country's Olympic committee has been formally reinstated by the International Olympic Committee.

This comes after the IOC said remaining test results from Russians who competed in the games came back negative.

A new survey of union employees at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., has found that more than two-thirds of respondents say they are food insecure at the resort advertised as the "happiest place on Earth."

Disneyland employs about 30,000 people, according to the company. The surveyors say they heard from about 5,000 employees representing nine unions at Disneyland. One in ten reported that they have been homeless in the last two years, or haven't had their own place to sleep. Nearly three quarters say they don't bring in enough money to cover their monthly basic expenses.

Seventy percent of the world's king penguin population could face threats to its habitat by the end of this century, according to a new scientific model.

The researchers say the problem is that the animals' primary source of food is moving farther away from places where the penguins can breed. They're very likely going to have to swim farther for their dinner.

The Seychelles have brokered a novel deal that will allow the island archipelago to swap millions of dollars in sovereign debt for protecting nearly one third of its ocean area.

It's hailed as the first of its kind. "Seychelles is clearly breaking new grounds and with it, it has positioned itself as a world leader in ocean governance and management," Seychelles vice president Vincent Meriton said in remarks announcing the new protections.

NPR's senior management and board members faced skepticism as they sought to rebuild trust with the network's workforce following the release of a report on the network's failure to curb inappropriate behavior by former top news executive Michael Oreskes.

On Thursday, NPR board members faced tough questions from NPR employees at an open Board of Directors meeting and then a tense all-staff meeting.

As high school students who survived the shooting in Parkland, Fla., travel to the state Capitol to demand action on guns, lawmakers offered a glimpse of the battle they face.

In Tuesday's session, which opened with prayer for the community of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and staff were killed last week, Florida House lawmakers declined to open debate on a bill that would ban assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Measles is highly contagious, but easily preventable with a vaccine.

However, the numbers of measles cases jumped sharply in Europe in 2017, according to new data released by the World Health Organization.

In 2017, the disease affected 21,315 people, compared with 5,273 in 2016. Last year, 35 people died in Europe because of measles.

Pita Taufatofua, who lit the Internet on fire with his coconut-oiled, shirtless walk as Tonga's flag-bearer during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremony, had two goals for his cross-country skiing event on Friday.

They were not lofty — but that makes sense for a man who has tried skiing on snow for only three months.

"First step, finish before they turn the lights off," the 34-year-old told reporters. "Don't ski into a tree, that's No. 2."

There are signs of thawing in the tense relationship between the U.S. and Turkey, as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits Turkey's capital, Ankara, and holds lengthy talks with leadership.

The central rift between the two countries is over Syria. The U.S. supports and arms Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, seeing them as key allies against ISIS. Turkey describes them as terrorists.

The world's largest species of orangutans is rapidly disappearing.

Borneo has lost more than 100,000 orangutans in the last 16 years – that's more than the number of the critically endangered species remaining.

This species — the Bornean orangutan — is only found on the island, which is divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. It has seen dramatic deforestation, as lush jungle is converted into palm oil and paper pulp plantations.

YouTube and Instagram are being asked to take down videos and photos at the center of a controversy involving a prominent Russian billionaire and a senior Russian government official.

This follows a high-profile investigation into the men's relationship by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The head of a major Hispanic business association is stepping aside after allegations of improperly increasing his salary and sexual misconduct.

The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said president and CEO Javier Palomarez and its board of directors "have mutually agreed to undergo a leadership transition for the organization effective immediately," the organization said in a statement to NPR.

The African National Congress, South Africa's ruling party, has voted to "recall" President Jacob Zuma. The ANC has tried for weeks to get Zuma, whose term expires next year, to resign following allegations of corruption.

The party wants him to cede leadership either to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was selected in December to replace Zuma as head of the party, or to a caretaker president.

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