Merrit Kennedy

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. 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, 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 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.

Police have arrested three men in northern Georgia who are suspected of belonging to a violent white supremacist group called The Base, saying that they were plotting to commit murder and that they belonged to a criminal street gang.

They're the second trio of suspected Base members to be arrested this week; the FBI announced Thursday that it arrested three other men in Maryland.

"I've only been bald in the privacy of my home and in the company of close friends," Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts says at the beginning of an emotional video in which she revealed she is living with alopecia.

"I do believe going public will help," she says in the video published by The Root. "I'm ready now, because I want to be freed from the secret and the shame that secret carries with it. Because I'm not here just to occupy space — I'm here to create it."

For decades, scientists have been trying to create machines that mimic the way birds fly. A team from Stanford University has gotten one big step closer.

The team created the PigeonBot — a winged robot that it says approximates the graceful complexities of bird flight better than any other robot to date.

The New York Mets have announced that they are parting ways with their brand-new manager, Carlos Beltrán, amid a sign-stealing scandal that has rocked Major League Baseball.

"This was not an easy decision," Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said in a statement. "Considering the circumstances, it became clear to all parties that it was not in anyone's best interest for Carlos to move forward as Manager of the New York Mets."

Pope Francis has announced that he is appointing a woman for the first time to a managerial role in the Secretariat of State, one of the most important departments in the Vatican.

Francesca Di Giovanni, who has worked at the Secretariat for 27 years, will be elevated to the position of undersecretary for the section for relations with states. She'll manage the Vatican's relationships with multilateral organizations such as the United Nations.

A U.S. citizen who was arrested in Egypt amid political chaos there in 2013 has died in Egyptian prison, according to a State Department official and the man's lawyers.

Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker confirmed Moustafa Kassem's death to reporters at a briefing, describing it as "needless, tragic and avoidable."

According to a statement from Kassem's lawyers at Pretrial Rights International, he died after a hunger strike that lasted more than a year. Last Thursday, he stopped taking liquids, his lawyers said.

Updated at 4:49 p.m. ET

The owner of the Houston Astros announced Monday that he is dismissing the baseball team's general manager, Jeff Luhnow, and manager, A.J. Hinch, over an elaborate sign-stealing scheme during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Shortly before owner Jim Crane's announcement, Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred had said the league was suspending Luhnow and Hinch for the 2020 season without pay.

Iranian demonstrators, angry that their government accidentally shot down a passenger plane, took to the streets for a third day on Monday. Videos from these protests appear to show security forces using live ammunition against demonstrators, something that Iran's government has denied.

All 176 people on the Ukraine-bound flight last Wednesday were killed. Iran initially said the Boeing 737-800 crashed because of a mechanical failure but and later said it downed the plane unintentionally. The majority of those who died were Iranians.

Hungary has announced that it will offer free in-vitro fertilization treatments, the latest major initiative to try to boost the country's population numbers, which have been declining for decades.

The Montana Supreme Court has reversed a $35 million judgment against Jehovah's Witnesses for failing to report child sexual abuse.

A lower court had found that the church illegally failed to report a child sexual abuser to authorities, which allowed him to continue sexually abusing another child.

A French court is sending former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to trial over allegations that he attempted to unlawfully obtain confidential information from a court official.

The trial is set to run from Oct. 5 to Oct. 22, according to Agence France-Presse.

Sarkozy, who led France from 2007 to 2012, stands accused in multiple separate legal actions. He has denied wrongdoing.

Ikea has agreed to pay $46 million to a California family whose 2-year-old son, Jozef Dudek, was killed when an unsecured Ikea dresser fell on top of him. The family's lawyers say the dresser model was "inherently unstable."

The U.S. killing of a top Iranian military leader, Qassem Soleimani, in an airstrike in Baghdad this week has raised thorny legal questions. Experts disagree over whether the U.S. had the legal authority to launch the deadly strike.

President Trump stated that Soleimani was plotting "imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and American personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him."

Updated at 8:37 p.m. ET

In the small coastal Australian town of Mallacoota, an out-of-control wildfire on New Year's Eve morning forced some 4,000 people to flee to the water during one of the country's most destructive fire seasons in recent memory.

Alex White, a reporter for the Herald Sun, told NPR that Mallacoota is popular among tourists and fishermen. The extreme conditions threatened all the roads out of town.

Updated at 8:45 p.m. ET

The Pentagon is deploying another 750 soldiers following an attack by Iranian-backed militia members and their supporters on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday. Marines in the compound fired tear gas at the crowds who threw rocks and set fires.

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