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.

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.

A former National Security Agency contractor who pleaded guilty to stealing vast troves of classified material over the course of two decades has been sentenced to nine years in prison.

Harold Martin III, 54, apologized before U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett handed down the sentence on Friday.

"My methods were wrong, illegal and highly questionable," Martin told the court in Baltimore, according to The Associated Press.

If a fire was reported while you were on an upper floor of a high-rise, what would you do?

For one West Philadelphia man, the answer was: Get to the outside of the building and scramble down more than a dozen floors.

The breathtaking feat was captured in detail by multiple local television stations, bringing us several views of the man descending at least 14 floors of the tall building with apparent ease.

Updated at 9:50 a.m. ET

Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the freshman Democratic congresswomen facing attacks from President Trump and his supporters, was cheered as she arrived back at her home district in Minnesota on Thursday.

A crowd of people at the airport in the Twin Cities held banners with slogans such as "Stop Racism Now" and chanted "welcome home Ilhan" as the congresswoman emerged from her flight.

Updated at 5:48 p.m. ET

A major anime studio in Kyoto, Japan, was hit with a major fire in a suspected act of arson that killed at least 33 people, according to Japanese national broadcaster NHK.

At least three dozen people were injured, the broadcaster said, citing fire department officials in Kyoto.

Police told the broadcaster that one suspect, believed to be in his 40s, is in custody.

Elijah "Pumpsie" Green was the first black player on the Boston Red Sox, the last Major League Baseball team to integrate. He died on Wednesday at the age of 85.

Some of Puerto Rico's biggest stars rallied a crowd of many thousands in San Juan on Wednesday, calling on the island's governor, Ricardo Rosselló, to resign. It was the fifth day in a row of protests in the U.S. territory, following a leak of hundreds of pages of misogynistic and homophobic texts between the governor and his main advisers.

During the day, trap artist Bad Bunny and singer Ricky Martin were among the huge crowd that marched to the governor's mansion.

Updated at 2:45 p.m. ET

The World Health Organization's director-general has declared the Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo an international health emergency.

The outbreak in the DRC has killed more than 1,650 people, and about 12 new cases are reported daily, according to the WHO.

The State Department said it has issued sanctions to four top military leaders in Myanmar over what it called "gross human rights violations" during the "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Two vital research agencies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are hemorrhaging staff as less than two-thirds of the researchers asked to relocate from Washington to the Kansas City area have agreed to do so.

There's a new king of the hill.

The small town of Harlech in Wales has ousted Dunedin, New Zealand, for bragging rights to the world's steepest street. Guinness World Records announced the new title in a news release on Tuesday.

Ffordd Pen Llech, the name of the Wales street, winds up at a slope of 37.45 % stretch over fall, Guinness World Records said. That's in comparison to a slope of 34.97% at Dunedin's Baldwin Street.

Two years after it released the first season of the show 13 Reasons Why with a graphic suicide scene, Netflix has announced that it has edited it out.

The names of several major hotels and camp villages at Yosemite National Park in California are being restored, after a years-long trademark dispute.

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel is back to its original name, The Ahwahnee. And a set of cabins that was temporarily called Half Dome Village now carries its historic name, Camp Curry.

About two hours after a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant closed for business on Wednesday night, a massive blast reduced it to rubble within seconds.

The explosion in the small town of Eden, N.C., which happened Thursday just after 12:30 a.m., was captured in dramatic surveillance footage from a neighboring pharmacy.

It shows a quiet building under street lights, when suddenly the frame fills with white from the blast. Smoke and flames erupt from the demolished building, and debris and sparks fall from the sky.

Curious how much the ground shifted after the two large earthquakes last week in Southern California? NASA has just the map for that question — and it happens to look like beautiful, psychedelic art.

On July 4, a 6.4 magnitude quake hit the town of Ridgecrest, north of Los Angeles. The next evening, the area was jolted again by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Luckily, there were no serious injuries or major infrastructure damage.

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