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.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is "seriously considering" a request to testify in person before the U.S. Senate intelligence committee about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to a statement from his lawyer.

Assange has been holed up at Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012, in part over fears that he could be extradited to the U.S. and potentially face trial over leaking massive troves of documents.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has explained in a series of tweets why his platform has not suspended conspiracy theorist Alex Jones or his website Infowars. Earlier this week, tech companies YouTube, Apple, Facebook and Spotify banned main content outlets in what Jones described as a "purge."

"He hasn't violated our rules. We'll enforce if he does," Dorsey tweeted. In an apparent reference to other tech companies, he added that Twitter would not "succumb and simply react to outside pressure."

It was just a normal Monday afternoon at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs when suddenly, the sky started pelting down chucks of ice the size of baseballs.

There were more than 3,000 people visiting the zoo at the time of the severe storm who had to seek shelter.

A German woman and her partner have been convicted and sentenced to years in prison for repeatedly raping the woman's young son, then selling him for sex on the darknet.

The horrific crimes have shocked the small town of Staufen in southern Germany. The perpetrators – identified only as 48-year-old Berrin T. and 39-year-old Christian L. — have admitted to the crimes, including to selling the boy for sex acts to multiple men over the course of two years.

Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo has announced that she is stepping aside as CEO after some 12 years at the helm.

Nooyi plans to stay on as chairman until early 2019. The company's board announced Monday that it elected Ramon Laguarta, president of the company since 2017, to succeed her as CEO. PepsiCo prides itself on tapping its leadership from within — every other chief executive has come from its own ranks.

For fans who have dreamed about the return of Captain Jean-Luc Picard to Star Trek, actor Patrick Stewart might as well borrow his character's classic catchphrase and say, "Make it so."

It's a role that he hasn't stepped into since 2002, and fans are elated.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the National Rifle Association's federal lawsuit against him is "frivolous." The lawsuit claims that Cuomo's policies are trying to deprive the NRA of its First Amendment rights by making it more difficult for the organization to function in the state.

Cuomo described the NRA as a "group of extremists" and says he hopes that his actions against the group will expand to other states.

Japanese media is buzzing about reports that a prestigious Tokyo medical school systematically lowered women's scores on an admission test in order to admit fewer women.

Starting in about 2011, Tokyo Medical University started deducting points from female applicants' entrance exam scores, according to multiple reports.

The Catholic Church now formally considers the death penalty "inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" and is pledging to work for its abolition worldwide.

It's a shift for the church, which used to consider the death penalty a "means of safeguarding the common good" in response to "certain crimes." The update to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the book of official teachings of the church, was announced Thursday.

Updated at 11:58 a.m. ET

The Trump administration has proposed a rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions standards, while simultaneously taking aim at California's unique ability to set more stringent rules.

Under the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency called for the fuel economy standards for new vehicles to ratchet up over time. The increasingly strict standards were designed to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Award-winning actor Alan Alda has revealed that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. "I'm not angry," he said.

"It hasn't stopped my life at all. I've had a richer life than I've had up until now," Alda said as he made the announcement Tuesday on CBS This Morning.

Jarrod Ramos, the man accused of killing five Capital Gazette staff members when he allegedly brought a shotgun into their Annapolis, Md., newsroom and opened fire, has pleaded not guilty to all 23 counts against him.

Ramos is charged with the murders of John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith on June 28.

"Gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees," reporter Phil Davis tweeted at the time.

It's unlikely that former Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe will be making a trip to South Africa anytime soon.

A South African court has overturned a government decision to grant the wife of former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe diplomatic immunity in connection to her alleged assault of a South African model with an extension cord.

The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg described that decision as an "error of law," according to South Africa's News 24.

Emmy-award winning writer and television producer Dinah Kirgo, one of six women accusing CBS chairman Les Moonves of harassment, told NPR that she is not trying to destroy Moonves as much as she is trying to change a culture that allows such misconduct.

"People think that we're trying to take these guys down, and that is, at least in my case, that is so not true," Kirgo said in an interview with All Things Considered. "It's about stopping this behavior."

Seventeen-year-old Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi has been released from Israeli prison after serving an eight-month sentence for slapping Israeli soldiers during a confrontation that went viral on the Internet. The teen has become a symbol of resistance for many Palestinians; for many Israelis, she's seen as a provocateur.

Tamini was greeted by jubilant crowds in her village of Nabi Saleh, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as she smiled and embraced family members.

A California man has been taken into custody on suspicion of arson, as firefighters have contained just 5 percent of the blaze that started Wednesday in the Idyllwild area in Riverside County.

The Cranston Fire has destroyed five homes and forced some 3,200 people to evacuate. The fire spread very rapidly, expanding to 4,700 acres in just a few hours.

Nearly 700 personnel are fighting to gain control of the fire. All of Idyllwild, a quaint town surrounded by pine trees in the San Jacinto Mountains, is being evacuated.

New Zealand has passed a law that provides paid leave to survivors of domestic violence, making it one of the first countries to do so.

Employers must grant 10 days of paid leave to survivors of domestic violence to give them time to cope and potentially escape the abusive situation. This is similar to, but separate from, leave for illness or bereavement. The legislation passed 63 to 57 in New Zealand's Parliament.

Let's get the bad news out of the way first: You won't be able to see this Friday's epic lunar eclipse in person if you live in North America (aside from a very small portion of eastern Canada and parts of the eastern Caribbean).

But here's the good news: if you are almost anywhere else, you'll probably be able to see at least a portion of the event.

Prime viewing is in eastern and southern Africa, the Middle East, eastern Europe and south Asia, based on a NASA map.

Yosemite National Park's most popular destination is shuttering as of Wednesday, as a large wildfire continues to sweep through thousands of acres nearby.

The Ferguson Fire, stretching west of the park, has burned more than 38,500 acres and was just 25 percent contained as of Wednesday morning.

An FBI agent is facing trial on charges linked to a deadly incident in January 2016 during the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Jury selection begins Tuesday at a federal court in Portland.

Superstar U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte is again in hot water.

Two months ago, he posted a photo on social media of himself receiving an intravenous infusion. That caught the attention of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which launched an investigation.

Now, the six-time gold medalist has been suspended for 14 months. That clock started on May 24, the day he took the IV.

Mesut Ozil is widely viewed as one of the most talented players on the German national soccer team. But he says his days of playing for Germany, the country he was born in, are over.

In a lengthy statement posted on his Twitter account, the midfielder said he is quitting due to racism that flared up most dramatically after he posed for a photo in May with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Each spring, barnacle geese migrate more than 1,800 miles from the Netherlands and northern Germany to their breeding grounds in parts of Russia above the Arctic Circle.

The journey north usually takes about a month, and the geese make multiple stops along the way to eat and fatten up before they lay their eggs, says Bart Nolet of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology and the University of Amsterdam.

Japan and the European Union have signed a massive trade deal that creates an open-trade zone for more than 600 million people. The EU and Japan account for about one-third of GDP worldwide.

Nicaragua saw another weekend of deadly violence, as forces in support of President Daniel Ortega besieged student protesters in a church and attempted to assert control over several areas outside the capital.

France is the champion of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final, besting Croatia by 4 goals to 2.

France entered the tournament as a favorite, powered by stars such as Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, while Croatia was seen as a longshot for victory.

"We are world champions and France are going to be on top of the world for next four years," French coach Didier Deschamps said after the game. He called the tournament a "beautiful celebration of football."

President Trump has said he has "low expectations" ahead of a summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin, and added that he sees the European Union as a "foe" of the U.S.

He made the comments in an interview with CBS that aired on Face the Nation, during a visit to Europe that has tested relations with some of the U.S.'s most important allies.

Convicted murderer Scott Dozier has clearly and repeatedly stated that he wants to be executed.

The planned execution, using a three-drug cocktail, had been set for Wednesday evening at Ely State Prison in Nevada. Experts say it would be the first time the opioid fentanyl was used in a U.S. execution.

U.S. officials made threats to Ecuador in an attempt to water down a resolution in support of breastfeeding, according to a report in The New York Times.

As the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed walked off the plane in Eritrea on Sunday, he smiled and gave a big hug to Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki.

The simple, warm gesture shocked many observers, because it happened between the leaders of two Horn of Africa countries that have been locked in a conflict for nearly two decades that has killed tens of thousands of people.

It's a sign of a dramatic, rapid thaw in tensions.

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