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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.

Updated May 17, 2021 at 1:34 PM ET

Israeli warplanes pounded targets early Monday in Gaza City as the escalating conflict between Hamas and Israel entered its second week. International pressure is mounting for a cease-fire as humanitarian officials raise the alarm about the toll of the conflict on civilians.

Palestinian officials said nearly 200 people have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in recent days, including many children. The death toll on the Israeli side stands at eight, including one child.

Updated April 19, 2021 at 5:40 PM ET

The prosecution and defense, in closing arguments, accused each other of misleading the jury in the trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell had the last word, telling jurors, "the largest departure from the truth" was that "Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big."

Updated April 19, 2021 at 4:11 PM ET

The defense made its closing arguments Monday in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial in the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin is facing counts of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Defense lawyer Eric Nelson began by discussing the presumption of innocence and the state's burden of proving Chauvin's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated April 19, 2021 at 12:42 PM ET

The prosecution made its closing arguments Monday in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of murder in the death of George Floyd.

Updated April 15, 2021 at 12:48 PM ET

Testimony ended Thursday in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The defendant said he will not testify in his defense in the trial and would invoke his Fifth Amendment right.

Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in George Floyd's death after he held his knee on Floyd's neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds on Memorial Day last year.

Updated April 7, 2021 at 2:51 PM ET

Tiger Woods crashed in February because he was driving at an unsafe speed and was unable to negotiate a curve on the road, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Wednesday.

The legendary golfer sustained a compound fracture to one leg in addition to other injuries in the single-vehicle crash Feb. 23 in the Los Angeles area.

Updated April 3, 2021 at 11:53 AM ET

One U.S. Capitol Police officer is dead and another is hospitalized with injuries after an apparent attack Friday at a Capitol checkpoint in which a man rammed his car into officers and lunged at them with a knife, police said.

Capitol Police identified the slain officer as William "Billy" Evans, an 18-year veteran of the force.

Updated March 26, 2021 at 11:14 AM ET

Dominion Voting Systems has filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, saying the network spread false claims that the voting machine company was involved in voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election.

Umpires will have a little help behind home plate in some minor league games this season – from a "robot ump."

Updated at 2:30 a.m. ET Wednesday

Golfer Tiger Woods is "awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room" after undergoing surgery following a dramatic traffic accident Tuesday morning in Los Angeles County, according to an update on his Twitter account.

A Dutch court has delivered a major victory to a group of Nigerian farmers in their 13-year-long effort to hold Shell's Nigerian subsidiary accountable for oil spills on their lands.

The Court of Appeal in The Hague sided with farmers and environmentalists on most of their legal claims, ruling that the Nigerian subsidiary owes the farmers financial compensation for the oil spill pollution in two villages.

San Francisco is pushing ahead with a plan to rename dozens of public schools, committing to potentially remove names of public figures such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.

A "blue ribbon panel of community leaders" recommended 44 school names be changed, joining many other renamed institutions across the country, as the U.S. reckons with its history of racial injustice. But the move has also sparked debate in San Francisco about its timing and whether the list is overly broad.

News that AstraZeneca's promised COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to Europe will be delayed isn't sitting well with officials, who are pushing the company to honor the agreed-upon delivery schedule.

"Europe invested billions to help develop the world's first COVID-19 vaccines," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a video statement Tuesday. "And now, the companies must deliver. They must honor their obligations."

When Super Bowl LV kicks off next month in Tampa Bay, Fla., some special guests will be in attendance – thousands of health care workers from around the country.

A former top South Korean speedskating coach has been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for repeatedly sexually assaulting an Olympic champion.

Shim Suk-hee, a star short track speedskater who has won four Olympic medals including two golds, accused former coach Cho Jae-beom of rape in 2019. He was indicted after she said she endured dozens of incidents of sexual abuse over the course of more than three years, starting in 2014 when she was 17.

The White House push to vaccinate against the coronavirus will have a new name and new leadership under the Biden administration.

The "Operation Warp Speed" name will be retired, incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted on Friday. She said there was an "urgent need to address the failures of the Trump team approach to vaccine distribution." Psaki did not say what the new name will be.

The New York State Bar Association is considering expelling Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani as a member because of his comments ahead of the Wednesday attack on the U.S. Capitol, and his efforts for months to cast doubt on the results on the presidential election.

The bar association said it received "hundreds of complaints in recent months" about Giuliani, ultimately deciding Monday to launch a "historic" inquiry.

As coronavirus cases soar in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has declared a "major incident" and says hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed.

"The threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point," Khan said in a statement on Friday.

Updated at 9:30 a.m. ET

The Trump administration says it has reached a deal with Pfizer to buy an additional 100 million doses of the company's COVID-19 vaccine, effectively doubling the federal government's supply from Pfizer.

The pharmaceutical giant is to deliver 70 million doses by June 30, 2021, and complete the rest of the order by the end of the following month, according to a statement released Wednesday morning by the Department of Health and Human Services.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has tested positive for the coronavirus and is experiencing "mild symptoms," according to a statement from his office.

The Republican governor, 73, was tested after he was exposed to the virus, and learned late Monday that he was positive. His office said he is "experiencing mild symptoms with a cough and slight fatigue."

Peggy McMaster, the governor's wife, earlier contracted the virus but is asymptomatic, his office said.

Stargazers around the world didn't pass up an opportunity to see a rare event in the night sky.

On Monday evening, Jupiter and Saturn appeared closer to each other than they have for hundreds of years, in what has become known as the Great Conjunction. Their proximity is the view from Earth. In space, the planets are hundreds of millions of miles apart.

Jupiter and Saturn's positions in the sky align "about once every 20 years," according to NASA, though almost never this closely.

Updated at 12:45 p.m. ET

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has approved use of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, just hours after the EU's drug agency gave its authorization. Inoculations are expected to begin across Europe next week.

For more than 100 years, two statues representing Virginia have stood at the U.S. Capitol: one of George Washington and another of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

But early Monday, the Lee statue was removed from the National Statuary Hall's collection. It's expected to be replaced by a statue honoring civil rights activist Barbara Johns.

Updated at 1 p.m. ET

Russia has been banned from fielding a national team in the next two Olympics and any world championship sporting event for the next two years, a decision that reduces the length of Russia's suspension issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency last year. Individual Russian athletes who compete will not be allowed to use their nation's flag and anthem.

Updated at 9:40 a.m. ET

Lebanon's caretaker prime minister and three former ministers have been charged with negligence in connection with the deadly blast at Beirut's port last summer, according to Lebanese state media.

Facebook and Twitter took measures to screen against misinformation after President Trump put posts on both sites that falsely claimed COVID-19 is less deadly than the flu in "most populations."

Facebook took down Trump's post, saying that users are not allowed to make false claims about the severity of the pandemic. The social network says the post broke its rules against harmful misinformation.

At least 24 people have died as a result of fires consuming large swaths of the West Coast, with hundreds of thousands under evacuation orders to get to safety.

One hundred large fires are burning in 12 states across the West — but just five of them have been contained, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Mining giant Rio Tinto is parting ways with its chief executive as it tries to quell public anger over the company's destruction of a 46,000-year-old sacred Aboriginal site in Australia.

In May, the company blasted through two rock shelters in Juukan Gorge in Western Australia in order to mine iron ore. Evidence of human habitation there dates back tens of millennia.

The Justice Department's Criminal Division says it has charged 57 people to date over allegedly defrauding a federal program meant to provide relief to small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Criminal Division's acting assistant attorney general, Brian Rabbitt, told reporters that those charged attempted to steal more than $175 million. They actually obtained more than $70 million, he said, and the Justice Department has been to recover or freeze over $30 million.

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