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.

A man drove a truck into a group of peaceful demonstrators protesting Immigration and Customs Enforcement policies outside a detention facility in Central Falls, R.I., on Wednesday evening.

After a video of the incident went viral, the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility said that it has placed a correctional officer named Thomas Woodworth on administrative leave pending an independent investigation. A spokesperson for the facility would not confirm that Woodworth was the driver, saying that is "subject to the investigation."

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.

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.

Updated at 5:53 p.m. ET

People in Guadalajara, Mexico, woke up on Sunday to a thick blanket of ice over areas of their city, after a freak hailstorm that damaged houses and left cars partially buried.

This is particularly striking because it's the middle of summer. In the past month, temperatures most days have hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit or over.

NASA is highlighting the legacy of African American women who played a major role in the space race but are only recently getting widespread recognition.

This week, the space agency renamed the street in front of its headquarters Hidden Figures Way.

Hidden Figures is the name of a book and movie that celebrate the contributions of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Its author, Margot Lee Shetterly, was at the unveiling ceremony, along with members of the women's families.

Updated at 9:15 p.m. ET

Saudi Arabian officials confirmed the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been missing for 18 days, in a statement issued Saturday morning local time.

The statement, translated into English by the Saudi Press Agency, said a preliminary investigation into the events of Oct. 2 revealed that Khashoggi was killed in a fight that broke out while he was visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

This drug seizure is bananas.

Two sergeants from a Texas prison were picking up two donated pallets of bananas at the Ports of America in Freeport on Friday, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The bananas were being donated to the Wayne Scott Unit in Texas' Brazoria County. The department says they were already ripe — and according to USA Today, they were never claimed at the port.

Updated at 10:50 a.m. ET Monday

Les Moonves has stepped down as the chairman, president and CEO of CBS Corporation, after 12 women accused him of sexual misconduct that spanned decades in two reports published in The New Yorker.

Some two million Ford F-150 pickup trucks are being recalled by the company after more than 20 reports of smoke or fire coming from the seat belts.

The recall, which was announced Thursday, applies to certain Regular Cab and SuperCrew Cab vehicles from model years 2015-18.

The U.S. Department of Justice is throwing its support behind an anti-affirmative action group that is suing Harvard University over alleged racial discrimination in its admissions policies.

In a document filed in federal court on Thursday, the Justice Department said it is siding with Students for Fair Admissions in its request for a trial, currently scheduled to begin in mid-October.

Updated at 5:56 p.m. ET Sunday

Memorial and remembrance plans are taking shape for Arizona Sen. John McCain, a day after he died following a battle with brain cancer. He will lie in state at both the U.S and Arizona Capitols.

McCain will then be buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Md., according to his office. The senator graduated from the Naval Academy and has said multiple times that he wanted to be laid to rest there.

Updated at 9:19 p.m. ET Sunday

A 24-year-old male opened fire during a video game tournament at a mall in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sunday afternoon, killing three people, including himself, according to the local sheriff.

Sheriff Mike Williams says the suspect has been identified as David Katz from Baltimore. The gunman used at least one handgun and was a participant in the tournament, according to the sheriff. Authorities planned to release more information about the suspect later on Sunday.

On the High Plains in West Texas, hot winds blast through cotton fields as far as the eye can see.

In the middle of it all is a tiny vineyard.

Andis Applewhite is the owner. She's an artist whose family has worked this land for a century. They once planted crops more typical of the neighborhood, like cotton and wheat. Applewhite decided to try something different: She put in a couple of acres of cabernet franc grapes.

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has temporarily lost some Twitter privileges over breaking the site's rules against abusive behavior. Last week, the company was a notable exception after a wave of other major tech companies banned Jones and his main channels.

The penalties to Alex Jones' personal account, @RealAlexJones, are for one week. The Twitter page for his website Infowars posted screenshots of the notice that Twitter apparently sent Jones.

Updated at 10:05 p.m. ET

A small group of about 25 white supremacist demonstrators rallied next to the White House on Sunday, one year after the "Unite the Right" demonstration by the same organizer turned deadly in Charlottesville, Va.

The demonstrators have since left D.C. via Metro, and WAMU's Elly Yu reports that counterprotesters have headed home, too.

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."

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.

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.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says that the government will meet deadlines imposed by a federal judge to reunite migrant families that have been separated by the U.S. government.

At the same time, he criticized the deadlines as "artificial" and said that they could prevent the government "from completing our standard — or even a truncated — vetting process."

The Trump administration's separation policy has been met with widespread outcry, marches and legal action.

Updated at 3:10 p.m. ET

The charges against Harvey Weinstein in New York have expanded.

The former Hollywood mogul is already facing first-degree rape and other charges involving incidents with two women, in 2004 and 2013. Now, a grand jury in New York has charged Weinstein with allegedly committing a forcible sexual act against a third woman.

Scientists have completed the most exhaustive assessment of changes in Antarctica's ice sheet to date. And they found that it's melting faster than they thought.

Ice losses totaling 3 trillion tonnes (or more than 3.3 trillion tons) since 1992 have caused global sea levels to rise by 7.6 mm, nearly one third of an inch, according to a study published in Nature on Wednesday.

Updated at 10:52 p.m. ET

Ten people have been killed and 15 injured after a white van struck pedestrians on busy Yonge St. in Toronto today. The driver, identified by police as Alek Minassian, was located and arrested without injury.

The police had initially identified him as Alex Minassian.

Updated at 4:25 p.m. ET

Nashville police say the man suspected of opening fire and killing four people Sunday at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tenn., has been taken into custody just miles from the restaurant.

Police said Monday afternoon that Travis Reinking, 29, was captured "moments ago."

Minutes later, the police released two photos of Reinking in the back of a police cruiser, his clothing torn and with scratches visible on his shoulder. Police said they apprehended him in a "wooded area."

Updated at 5:05 p.m. ET

Two students were injured when another student opened fire at Great Mills High School in St. Mary's County, Md., according to the local sheriff. The shooter, identified by the sheriff as 17-year-old Austin Wyatt Rollins, was confirmed dead after being taken to a hospital.

The American Civil Liberties Union says that U.S. immigration authorities have forcibly separated hundreds of migrant parents, most of them asylum seekers, from their minor children for no legitimate reason.

The ACLU requested class-action status on Friday, expanding an existing lawsuit against the Trump administration filed on behalf of an anonymous asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who was allegedly detained for months — more than 2,000 miles away from her 7-year-old daughter.

Equifax has disclosed that an additional 2.4 million people were impacted by a massive cybersecurity breach last year, bringing the total to about 148 million people.

The credit reporting agency says the new consumers were identified during forensic examination of the breach. They were previously unidentified, the company says, because their Social Security numbers were not stolen.

As high school students who survived the shooting in Parkland, Fla., travel to the state Capitol to demand action on guns, lawmakers offered a glimpse of the battle they face.

In Tuesday's session, which opened with prayer for the community of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and staff were killed last week, Florida House lawmakers declined to open debate on a bill that would ban assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Updated 10:25 a.m. ET Wednesday

Early Wednesday morning brought a lunar event that hasn't been seen since 1866.

It was at least partially visible in all 50 U.S. states, though the views were better the farther west you live.

Let's break this down. This event – called a super blue blood moon – was actually three fairly common lunar happenings all happening at the same time.

And scientists say that information gathered during the event could help them figure out where to land a rover on the moon.

The Trump administration is proposing dramatic changes to policies on offshore leasing for oil and gas, opening the door to radically expand drilling in waters that were protected by the Obama administration.

It's the "largest number of lease sales ever proposed, " Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters. The proposed plan to sell offshore drilling leases in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic over a five-year period was detailed Thursday.

NPR Chief News Editor David Sweeney has left the company following allegations of sexual harassment filed against him by at least three female journalists.

"David Sweeney is no longer on staff," Chris Turpin, acting senior vice president of news, said in an email to staff.

"This is a difficult time for our newsroom and I'm committed to supporting all of you as we move forward. I know you appreciate that there are some questions I cannot answer in keeping with our practice to not comment on personnel issues, but I will do my best to address those I can," Turpin added.

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