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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 8:36 p.m. ET

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has endorsed a delay in the start of the 2020 games in Tokyo because of the spread of deadly coronavirus.

The U.S. committee released a statement saying it had polled athletes and concluded that "the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can't be overcome in a satisfactory manner."

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET

U.S. taxpayers will have a three-month extension to file their taxes because of the coronavirus pandemic, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday.

He said that at the president's direction, "we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15."

"All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties," Mnuchin added.

At the same time, he encouraged people who are set to receive refunds to file earlier so that they can get their money more quickly.

A federal judge in Boston has handed down the stiffest penalty yet in the massive college admissions scandal. Douglas Hodge, the former CEO of the global investment giant PIMCO, has been sentenced to nine months in prison.

U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton also sentenced Hodge, 61, to two years of supervised release and 500 hours of community service. He also must pay a fine of $750,000.

Updated at 4:52 p.m. ET

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh told his listeners on Monday that he has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.

He said the diagnosis was confirmed by two medical institutions on Jan. 20, after he became concerned earlier that month that something was wrong.

"I wish I didn't have to tell you this, and I thought about not telling anybody," Limbaugh said on his program. "I thought about trying to do this without anybody knowing, because I don't like making things about me."

Updated at 9:40 p.m. ET

The World Health Organization announced Thursday that the outbreak of a deadly and fast-spreading strain of coronavirus constitutes a global health emergency.

"Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen, which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak and which has been met by an unprecedented response," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

The first case of an infection with the new coronavirus has been discovered in the United States.

A man from Washington state returned home after a trip to Wuhan, China, on Jan. 15, sought medical attention on Jan. 19 and now is in isolation at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash.

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 8:45 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.

For decades, major tobacco companies have fought against raising the age limit to buy their products from 18 to 21. But recently, some cigarette and e-cigarette giants have started lobbying for the minimum age to rise.

"Raising the purchase age to 21 reduces underage access," a radio ad from e-cigarette giant Juul declared. "That's why Juul Labs supports making 21+ the law nationwide."

When President Trump signed a $738 billion defense spending bill on Friday, he officially created the Space Force. It's the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Services, and the first new military service since the Air Force was created in 1947.

"Space is the world's newest war-fighting domain," President Trump said during the signing ceremony. "Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital. And we're leading, but we're not leading by enough. But very shortly we'll be leading by a lot."

Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

Federal prosecutors are charging 10 former NFL players accused of defrauding the league's health care program, resulting in payouts totaling $3.4 million for medical equipment they allegedly never purchased.

When the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, sailor Lauren Bruner was the second-to-last person to get off the USS Arizona alive.

Bruner and five others were stranded on the doomed ship when a sailor on a repair ship spotted them and threw them a line. Even though Bruner was badly burned and had been shot twice, the 21-year-old managed to climb to safety.

The weekend after Thanksgiving is already a nightmare for travel, no matter the weather. But storm systems are likely to snarl travel even further across wide swaths of the United States at the end of the holiday weekend.

Heading into Sunday — one of the busiest travel days of the year — there are two major storm systems that forecasters are concerned about, says National Weather Service meteorologist Lara Pagano.

One pummeling the Great Plains region at the moment is forecast to move east and impact travel into the Northeast by Sunday, she says.

Republican lawmakers are asking that the impeachment inquiry into President Trump hear publicly from Hunter Biden and the anonymous whistleblower whose allegations prompted the probe.

In a letter to Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who is leading the inquiry, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes said that calling these witnesses would help ensure the investigation "treats the President with fairness."

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there has been a breakthrough in the investigation into the outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries that has led to the deaths of 39 people and sickened more than 2,000 others.

Investigators announced Friday that they have detected a chemical compound called vitamin E acetate in all the samples of lung fluid collected from 29 patients who were hospitalized after vaping, suggesting a possible culprit for the spate of lung injuries that has swept across the U.S.

Updated at 8:50 p.m. ET

Pedro Pierluisi has been sworn in as the new governor of Puerto Rico, succeeding Ricardo Rosselló who resigned in disgrace and appointed Pierluisi as secretary of state.

According to the island's constitution, the secretary of state is the first in line to succeed the governor. Puerto Rico's House of Representatives approved Pierluisi's nomination earlier Friday.

Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET

The FBI says an "armed and dangerous" 18-year-old white woman obsessed with Columbine is dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Because of warnings about the Florida woman named Sol Pais, more than a dozen school districts in Colorado were closed Wednesday.

The 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings is Saturday.

Updated at 10:15 p.m. ET

Federal officials have charged dozens of well-heeled parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, in what the Justice Department says was a multimillion-dollar scheme to cheat college admissions standards. The parents allegedly paid a consultant who then fabricated academic and athletic credentials and arranged bribes to help get their children into prestigious universities.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

A Florida police chief has announced that Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, will face charges of soliciting prostitution after he was caught on surveillance video allegedly in the midst of a sexual act.

Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr announced the charges on Friday as part of a sting on a local spa suspected of human trafficking and potential money laundering.

Updated at 5:22 p.m. ET

After Hurricane Michael slammed through the Florida panhandle and into Georgia last week, President Trump has surveyed damage and met with officials about recovery efforts.

At a briefing alongside Florida Gov. Rick Scott at Eglin Air Force Base, Trump praised the work of emergency responders and law enforcement.

"The job they've done in Florida has been incredible," he said, and described Scott as a leader who "steps up in the biggest emergencies, the biggest problems, and he gets it done."

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.

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.

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.

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.

The 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach trapped in a complex cave system in Chiang Rai have captured global attention since they disappeared and were found by British divers on Monday, nine days after they'd gone missing.

Now, attention has shifted to the next extraordinary challenge: How can they be evacuated safely from the spot where they are trapped, deep in the flooded cave?

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.

Each World Cup, the sportswear giant Adidas designs an official ball to be used in the tournament.

Updated at 11 p.m. ET

If you are reading this, you are likely one of the more than 14 million people who vehemently believe that this audio clip is saying either the word "yanny" or the word "laurel."

If you haven't heard it yet, take a listen:

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 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.

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