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.

The Trump administration has authorized five companies to "incidentally, but not intentionally, harass marine mammals" by using seismic air guns to search for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean.

It's a decision opposed by environmental groups, who say the blasts could harm marine animals such as humpback whales, and some coastal communities, who fear it could be a precursor to offshore drilling.

Brazil has rescinded its bid to host a major U.N. conference on climate change next year, raising questions about how the incoming far-right administration will handle environmental issues.

Brazil's foreign ministry made the announcement, saying it withdrew its offer due to "the current fiscal and budget constraints, which are expected to remain in the near future," according to a statement provided to The Associated Press.

In a Los Angeles courtroom in 2014, 74-year-old Samuel Little was adamant that he had not murdered three women.

"I didn't do it!" he screamed in court, according to the Los Angeles Times, before he was sentenced to life in prison.

It came down to a series of rapid tie-break games, but defending world chess champion Magnus Carlsen has emerged victorious once again.

Carlsen, a 27-year-old Norwegian, has held the title since 2013. He defeated Fabiano Caruana, who would have been the first U.S. citizen to win the world title since Bobby Fischer in 1972.

The two appeared evenly matched in the 12 games they played over three weeks before Wednesday's climax. Each of those 12 games resulted in a draw, making it the first time in the tournament's history that no player won a game during regular play.

More than 30 years after the release of The Handmaid's Tale, author Margaret Atwood has announced there's going to be a sequel.

Penguin Random House said Wednesday that the new novel is set to be published on Sept. 10, 2019. It's called The Testaments and will take place 15 years after The Handmaid's Tale left off. The story will be told by three female characters, according to the U.S. publisher.

Stephen Hillenburg, who created SpongeBob SquarePants, has died at 57. Inhabited by a good-natured pineapple-dwelling yellow sponge and a motley crew of sea creatures, the Nickelodeon TV program gained huge popularity with both children and adults over its nearly 20-year run.

Nickelodeon said Tuesday that Hillenburg died of ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease.

The World Chess Championship is heading toward a dramatic conclusion on Wednesday, which could give the U.S. its first champion since Bobby Fischer took the crown in 1972.

The players will embark on a series of fast-moving tiebreaks at the event in London, which will get faster and faster if they continue to draw.

Updated at 3:16 p.m. ET

General Motors says it plans to cease production of some models at three vehicle assembly plants in the U.S. and Canada in 2019. It also plans to cut production at two plants in the U.S. that make transmissions. The company said the moves are part of an effort to cut 15 percent of its workforce.

It's part of a major restructuring that will prioritize the company's electric and autonomous vehicle programs.

Samsung Electronics has issued a formal apology to its workers who were stricken with serious illnesses after working at its factories. It also promised to compensate the employees.

At a press conference, Kinam Kim, president and CEO of the company's Device Solutions Division, gave a low bow as part of the apology.

Dozens of people have been hospitalized after a charter bus transporting members of the University of Washington marching band rolled on a Washington interstate Thursday, according to Washington State Patrol.

Trooper John Bryant said "40-45 plus" people were transported to hospitals but that none of the injuries were serious. He said there were 56 people total on the bus.

A former Venezuelan national treasurer has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in an elaborate international scheme that involved more than $1 billion in bribes.

The scheme allegedly involved payments from Venezuelan billionaire Raul Gorrin Belisario, who owns the Globovision news network, to Alejandro Andrade Cedeno and an unnamed senior Venezuelan official. Gorrin allegedly made the payments to gain access to favorable currency exchange rates.

A dead sperm whale found in Indonesia had at least 13 pounds of garbage in its stomach, including 115 plastic cups and two sandals, according to a team of researchers including the World Wide Fund For Nature.

"Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful," Dwi Suprapti, a marine species conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia, told The Associated Press.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET Tuesday

Chicago is mourning an ER doctor, a pharmacy resident and a police officer who were killed Monday after a man opened fire at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center on Chicago's South Side.

"This tears at the soul of our city. It is the face and a consequence of evil," Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters.

Property-renting company Airbnb says it plans to remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin described it as a "disgraceful surrender," while senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called it an "initial positive step."

After years of motorists blazing through a tiny village in Northern Italy, the area's mayor got fed up and installed speed cameras.

And after just two weeks, Acquetico's cameras have caught more than 58,000 speeding incidents, according to Italian media. That's a hefty number for a community of about 120 residents.

Washington, D.C., got its first snowfall of the season this week. And at Smithsonian's National Zoo, at least one animal was really, really excited about it.

On an afternoon last September, a string of explosions suddenly hit Merrimack Valley, Mass. At least five homes were destroyed and a person was killed. More than 20 others were injured.

Federal investigators say they have now pinpointed what caused the sudden explosions on Sept. 13 — a natural gas company field engineer made a major mistake in the plans he developed for construction work that happened earlier that day, resulting in a disastrous chain reaction.

Updated at 1 a.m. ET on Wednesday

CNN has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration after the White House suspended CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta's press credentials.

"This is my very first day at Xinhua News Agency," says a sharply dressed artificial intelligence news anchor. "I look forward to bringing you the brand new news experiences."

A team of researchers peered inside bumblebee colonies and spied on insects individually labelled with a tiny tag to figure out exactly how exposure to a common insecticide changes their behavior in the nest.

Girl Scouts of the USA wants to take Boy Scouts of America to court. The organization has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Boy Scouts of trademark infringement.

This started last October, when the Boy Scouts said it would start allowing girls to join its programs.

For a whopping 57 miles, a runaway train loaded with iron ore hurtled down tracks in Western Australia with nobody on board.

The train was eventually deliberately derailed, creating a dramatic crash scene with huge lengths of crumpled, twisted metal on the bright orange desert sand next to the train track.

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, the man accused of having run the world's largest drug trafficking organization, is about to see his day in a U.S. court. Jury selection began Monday in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Updated at 2:46 p.m. ET

Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor said Thursday that the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in their consulate in Istanbul was premeditated, reversing course yet again on the Saudi account of what happened.

An iceberg recently spotted by NASA scientists looks like it was carefully cut into a perfect rectangle, and it's getting a lot of attention because of those unexpected angles and straight lines.

It looks nothing like the craggy, uneven mass that sank the Titanic, perhaps the most famous iceberg ever.

A German court has sentenced a man to 12 1/2 years in prison on charges of attempted murder and attempted extortion for poisoning jars of baby food and leaving them on store shelves.

According to local media, the 54-year-old man was sentenced Monday at a state court in Ravensburg, located in southern Germany, over the scheme he confessed to last year.

Hold on to your hats: A sea cucumber that looks like a headless chicken has been caught on video in the deep seas near East Antarctica.

It's a surprising location for the species, Enypniastes eximia, to turn up. The last place it was filmed was thousands of miles away in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

Updated at 9:13 p.m. ET.

Newly released surveillance footage shows a man apparently wearing the same clothes Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was wearing the day he disappeared after entering Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. A Turkish ruling party official called the footage evidence of a Saudi cover-up, while another official described the man seen in the video as a "body double."

Editor's note: This story describes graphic allegations of sexual abuse.

The University of Southern California says it has reached a tentative class action settlement agreement worth $215 million over allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by a gynecologist who used to work at its student health center.

Approximately 500 current and former students have accused gynecologist George Tyndall of misconduct, according to The Associated Press.

The Washington Post has published the last column Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi wrote before he disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul.

"We held on to this column he filed the day before he entered the consulate in the hopes that we could edit it with him, as we normally did," Fred Hiatt, who runs the Post's Opinions section, told NPR.

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