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.

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 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.

Scientists say they have developed a computer model that fundamentally breaks through a key test used to tell a human from a bot.

You've probably passed this test hundreds of times. Text-based CAPTCHAs, a rough acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart, are groups of jumbled characters along with squiggly lines and other background noise.

You might be asked to type in these characters before signing up for a newsletter, for example, or purchasing concert tickets.

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.

In a major turnaround, the Kurdish regional government in Iraq is offering to freeze the results of last month's controversial independence referendum.

The Iraqi government and other regional and international powers opposed the nonbinding vote, which was approved by a wide margin but did not take place under the supervision of international election monitors.

Iraqi military forces have recently retaken control of areas held by Kurdish forces, such as the city of Kirkuk.

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).

Amid growing political fallout, the Department of Defense has put forward a timeline for the deadly confrontation with militants in Niger that killed four U.S. troops.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a briefing that major questions remain about this "tough firefight," such as whether the unit's mission changed and why it took days to recover the body of Army Sgt. La David Johnson. He also said investigators are examining whether the troops had adequate intelligence, equipment and training.

A man with a knife burst into the offices of a radio station in Moscow known for critical reporting and stabbed prominent journalist Tatyana Felgenhauer in the neck.

Felgenhauer, the deputy editor of Ekho Moskvy who hosts a radio show, underwent surgery and is now in a medically-induced coma, according to The Associated Press. Her injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

The suspected assailant, identified as 48-year-old Boris Grits by investigators, was immediately arrested and handed over to police.

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.

The only known Leonardo da Vinci painting in private hands is heading to auction.

The portrait of Jesus Christ, Salvator Mundi, was only recently confirmed to be by Leonardo. This piece was thought to be a copy of a destroyed original. And it's still not clear where the painting was, exactly, for more than a century.

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.

Café Hacienda San Pedro, a trendy coffee shop in San Juan, is buzzing. A long line snakes through it. People are chatting; dogs sit snoozing. Everything looks normal.

But in a few months, it probably won't.

Updated at 8:23 p.m. ET

In central San Juan, Puerto Rico, a policeman waves cars away from a closed freeway at about the time that President Trump landed at the airport.

Rain is pouring straight through the bare wooden beams that used to be Angel Joel Alvarez Lopez's roof.

Hurricane Maria razed off half of the tin roof, and blasted all but three of his windows clean out of the wooden walls. A supporting wall fell off and has been hastily pounded back into place.

Over a San Juan freeway overpass, near the low-income Playita community, there's a sign that reads, "SOS Playita Needs Water and Food."

It was a cry for help put up by residents who say they waited more than a week after the storm without receiving any outside aid.

There was a feeling, says 21-year-old Edison Rodriguez, that his community was "running out of time. That you can only have so much water, so much food [between] each other. That's why they put out those signs outside."

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Iraq's government says it will block international flights from the region's airports, a retaliatory move after the country's Kurdish region overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence.

More than 92 percent voted to separate from Iraq, according to results released Wednesday by the Kurdish region's election commission. The referendum results are nonbinding and must be certified by a court, NPR's Jane Arraf reports from Irbil, the region's capital.

Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

Saudi Arabia has reversed its long-standing and widely criticized ban against women driving.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud issued an order on Tuesday that paves the way for women to obtain driver's licenses, according to Saudi state media.

It might surprise you that Australia doesn't already have a space agency.

The country has been involved in the space field for decades — in 1967, it was among the first countries to launch a satellite. Two years later, a NASA tracking station in Australia received and transmitted the first TV images of Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the Moon.

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