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.

A jittery group of middle-schoolers is about to start the first day of classes since September, when Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico and totally disrupted the island's school system.

The vast majority of the island's public schools — more than 98 percent — are open for at least part of the day, according to Puerto Rico's Department of Education.

In 2006, the U.S. military purchased $12.1 million worth of inspection equipment for five border posts in Afghanistan in an effort to crack down on illicit drug smuggling and boost customs duty revenues to the Afghan government.

After operation, training and maintenance costs, the total investment for the equipment to date is estimated at up to $62.6 million.

A cache of hundreds of eggs discovered in China sheds new light on the development and nesting behavior of prehistoric, winged reptiles called pterosaurs.

Pterosaurs were fearsome-looking creatures that flew during the Lower Cretaceous period alongside dinosaurs. This particular species was believed to have a massive wingspan of up to 13 feet, and likely ate fish with their large teeth-filled jaws.

Researchers working in the Turpan-Hami Basin in northwestern China collected the eggs over a 10-year span from 2006 to 2016.

Federal investigators say that construction damage was likely to blame for an oil spill earlier this month from the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota.

The Keystone Pipeline is a 2,687-mile crude oil pipeline that runs from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska, where it then splits, with one portion running to Illinois and the other to Texas. It is owned by TransCanada, the same firm that is seeking to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

The delicate art of paper folding is playing a crucial role in designing robotic artificial muscles that are startlingly strong. In fact, the researchers say they can lift objects 1,000 times their own weight.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a case challenging the use of a Confederate emblem on the Mississippi state flag.

Carlos Moore, an African-American lawyer from Mississippi who petitioned the court, had argued in court documents that the flag, visible in state buildings, courts and schools, symbolically expresses support for white supremacy. The flag incorporates the Confederate battle flag in its upper left corner.

The Department of Justice has opened a probe into the role of race in Harvard University's admissions policies and is threatening to sue unless Harvard turns over documents by a Dec. 1 deadline, according to correspondence obtained by NPR.

Della Reese, a performer and pastor best known for her starring role on the CBS spiritual drama Touched by an Angel, has died at 86.

"Her signature television role came late in life," NPR's Eric Deggans reported. "Reese already had been famous for decades as a gospel-influenced R&B performer, TV guest star and talk show fixture."

After a Japanese man was killed early Sunday in a car crash involving a U.S. service member, U.S. forces in Japan are prohibited indefinitely from purchasing or drinking alcohol.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is calling for an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan.

The scope of such an investigation isn't clear, but it could have the potential to involve U.S. troops. Fatou Bensouda said in a statement that she has decided to request authorization to open a formal investigation. ICC judges would then decide whether the situation meets the court's criteria.

Updated at 4:15 p.m. ET

A military judge has ruled that Bowe Bergdahl, who has pleaded guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, should serve no prison time.

During a hearing Friday in Fort Bragg, N.C., Bergdahl was sentenced to dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of $1,000 in pay per month and a reduction in rank from sergeant to private, according to a statement from the Army.

Defense lawyers and prosecutors made their closing arguments at the sentencing of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, with prosecutors seeking 14 years in prison and defense lawyers asking for no prison time and a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge.

During the last two weeks of the sentencing hearing at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the military court has heard about three soldiers who were wounded while searching for Bergdahl after he walked off his military post in Afghanistan in 2009.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

NPR's senior vice president for news, Michael Oreskes, has resigned following allegations of sexual harassment from several women.

The accounts of two women, first published by The Washington Post, describe Oreskes unexpectedly kissing them during meetings in the late 1990s, while he was Washington bureau chief for The New York Times. An NPR employee has also come forward publicly about harassment that allegedly occurred during a business meeting-turned-dinner in 2015.

Updated on Nov. 2 at 5:45 p.m. ET

The majority of U.S. funding for Afghanistan reconstruction has gone to supporting the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces, totaling more than $63 billion.

But it's now going to be significantly harder for the public to understand how the U.S.-supported Afghan forces are faring in the fight against the Taliban.

Updated at 5:15 p.m. ET

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl took the stand at his sentencing hearing Monday and offered a lengthy, emotional apology to the current and former service members who were wounded searching for him after he walked off his military post in Afghanistan in 2009.

Danish police say that inventor Peter Madsen has admitted to dismembering Swedish journalist Kim Wall, who was researching a story in August on board a submarine he built. He denies killing her and maintains that her death was an accident, authorities say.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces have agreed to temporarily pause their fighting.

This has the potential to open the door for talks, NPR's Jane Arraf reports, after Iraqi forces moved to wrest territory from the Kurds, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

The Kurdish autonomous region held a non-binding independence referendum last month, despite the opposition of Iraq's government and other regional and international powers. Voters overwhelmingly approved the proposal.

The head of Kenya's electoral commission says just one-third of registered voters cast ballots yesterday in a controversial rerun of the presidential election.

That's far lower than the reported nearly 80 percent turnout the first time the election took place, in August.

The poll was met by clashes and violence in some areas of the country. The electoral commission tweeted that 5,319 polling stations "either didn't open or did not manage to send the 'we've opened signal,' " while 35,564 opened as usual.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has banded together with five conservation groups to offer a $15,500 reward for information about the killing of a federally protected gray wolf.

World wine production is having a historically bad year.

Europe, home to the world's leading wine producers, is making wine at significantly lower levels than usual – and that's because of "extreme weather events" such as frost and drought that have damaged vineyards, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV).

The military judge handling the case of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl suggested that recent comments by President Trump could raise questions about the fairness of the legal proceedings.

At a sentencing hearing Monday, Army Col. Jeffrey Nance spent the better part of an hour on the subject, reports NPR's Greg Myre. This was in response to a renewed motion by the defense to dismiss the case. The defense argued that remarks by Trump last week constitute "undue command influence" on the court-martial.

Hurricane Harvey's floodwaters damaged many homes in the Texas city of Dickinson, and residents are applying for assistance and working to repair their properties.

This winter is going to be a warm one for the majority of the United States, according to forecasters at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

They say that the La Niña weather pattern is likely to develop. That means "greater-than-average snowfall around the Great Lakes and in the northern Rockies, with less-than-average snowfall throughout the Mid-Atlantic region," Mike Halpert of the Climate Prediction Center said in a forecast Thursday.

Taliban militants wiped out almost an entire Afghan Army base in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, leaving just two Afghan soldiers there uninjured. This brings the week's toll to more than 120 people killed by the militant group.

The attack, which started late Wednesday, killed at least 43 Afghan soldiers and wounded nine, reporter Jennifer Glasse in Kabul tells our Newscast unit.

A year after a computer beat a human world champion in the ancient strategy game of Go, researchers say they have constructed an even stronger version of the program — one that can teach itself without the benefit of human knowledge.

The program, known as AlphaGo Zero, became a Go master in just three days by playing 4.9 million games against itself in quick succession.

As thousands of Californians take stock of the damage caused by wildfires, one boy's story has at least half of the teams in Major League Baseball rallying behind him.

In a letter to the Oakland Athletics, posted on Twitter by Katie Utehs, an ABC 7 News Bay Area journalist, 9-year-old Loren Jade Smith writes about his love of the team and the loss of his beloved baseball collection in the fire.

Six months into a protracted battle with militants besieged in the southern city of Marawi, the Philippine military appears to be on the cusp of victory.

In a speech to soldiers in the city on Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte was decisive: "Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence."

Updated at 1:15 p.m. ET

The remnants of post-tropical cyclone Ophelia slammed parts of Ireland with wind gusts of more than 90 miles per hour, reportedly causing the deaths of at least three people and bringing strange red skies to the U.K.

The schools in Puerto Rico are facing massive challenges.

All the public schools are without electricity, and more than half don't have water. More than 100 are still functioning as shelters.

But Puerto Rico's secretary of education, Julia Keleher, tells us that the schools that are open are serving as connection points for communities. They've become a place where children and their families can eat a hot meal and get some emotional support, too.

Back-to-school season didn't last long this year in Puerto Rico. First Hurricane Irma and then Maria forced schools to close and turned the lives of students and their families upside down.

Puerto Rico's secretary of education, Julia Keleher, says that of the U.S. territory's 1,113 public schools, 22 reopened last week and another 145 this week. They're hoping that the majority will be open by Oct. 23. Some are still functioning as emergency shelters.

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