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.

Updated at 5 p.m. ET

Ross Perot, the colorful Texas billionaire businessman who ran twice for president, first as an independent and then as a third-party candidate, died early Tuesday at his home in Dallas. He was 89.

Perot, who had battled leukemia, was surrounded by family members when he died, his family said in a statement.

A group of voting rights advocates and felons has filed a lawsuit after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a law that could make it more difficult for felons to vote.

A Catholic high school in Indianapolis says it has decided to fire a gay teacher to remain in the local archdiocese.

In a letter to the community, leaders of Cathedral High School said they had been in talks with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for 22 months before deciding to cut ties with the teacher.

Ten state attorneys general have filed a lawsuit to try to block the merger of telecom giants T-Mobile and Sprint.

Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

A helicopter crashed into the top of a Manhattan skyscraper and ignited a fire early Monday afternoon, sending New York authorities and rescuers racing to the scene in Midtown.

Officials said the crash killed one person, believed to be the helicopter's pilot.

It's not yet clear why the helicopter went down around 1:45 p.m. ET, though it's possible that rainy, windy weather in the area was a factor.

Egyptian voters have approved sweeping constitutional amendments that allow President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to remain in office until 2030 and further entrench the power of the military.

Voters approved the amendments by 88.83%, according to the National Election Authority, which said that 44.33% of eligible voters took part in the poll.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be on his way to a fourth consecutive term, and his main challenger has conceded defeat.

The election was neck and neck between his right-wing party and that of his top contender, centrist political newcomer Benny Gantz. But with at least 97 percent of the votes counted, Netanyahu appears to be in the best position to form a government because of the strength of other right-wing, nationalist and religious parties.

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.

U.S. regulators say several makeup products from Claire's stores tested positive for asbestos, a mineral that has been linked to deadly cancers.

The Food and Drug Administration tested makeup from Claire's and the retailer Justice, both of which market their products to young girls and teens. In a statement Tuesday, the agency reported that it found that three product samples from Claire's and one from Justice contained the substance, and it released a safety alert about the products.

The CEO of British fashion retailer Ted Baker has resigned after allegations of misconduct, including complaints of "forced hugging."

The company said Monday that Ray Kelvin, who founded the firm more than 30 years ago, had resigned "with immediate effect." He will not be entitled to any salary or benefits payments in connection with the resignation, the company added.

A sweet story that went viral has taken a dark turn.

Last week, a South Carolina mother posted on Facebook that a man bought some 120 boxes of Girl Scout cookies so that the children selling them could get out of the cold.

Emma Thompson has pulled out of the animated film Luck over concerns that the studio has hired John Lasseter. Lasseter recently departed Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, where he was chief creative officer, after allegations of sexual harassment.

Thompson's letter to the management of Skydance Media, first published in the Los Angeles Times, blasts the company for hiring Lasseter.

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 11 p.m. ET

An Israeli spacecraft blasted off this evening, aiming to land on the moon. And if the mission is successful, it would make Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface – after the U.S., the former Soviet Union and China.

Updated at 5:32 p.m. ET

President Trump pushed forward Tuesday with his plan to launch a space force as a new branch of the military. But it would at first be under the umbrella of the Air Force, and it requires approval of Congress — which is far from certain.

This represents at least a temporary shift. Trump had stated that he wanted a space force that is "separate but equal" from the Air Force.

In a Los Angeles courtroom in 2014, 74-year-old Samuel Little was adamant that he had not murdered three women.

"I didn't do it!" he screamed in court, according to the Los Angeles Times, before he was sentenced to life in prison.

Updated at 3:16 p.m. ET

General Motors says it plans to cease production of some models at three vehicle assembly plants in the U.S. and Canada in 2019. It also plans to cut production at two plants in the U.S. that make transmissions. The company said the moves are part of an effort to cut 15 percent of its workforce.

It's part of a major restructuring that will prioritize the company's electric and autonomous vehicle programs.

Samsung Electronics has issued a formal apology to its workers who were stricken with serious illnesses after working at its factories. It also promised to compensate the employees.

At a press conference, Kinam Kim, president and CEO of the company's Device Solutions Division, gave a low bow as part of the apology.

The Washington Post has published the last column Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi wrote before he disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul.

"We held on to this column he filed the day before he entered the consulate in the hopes that we could edit it with him, as we normally did," Fred Hiatt, who runs the Post's Opinions section, told NPR.

Updated at 8:57 p.m. ET

Millions of years before the brontosaurus roamed the Earth, a massive relative was lumbering around South Africa.

Scientists think this early Jurassic dinosaur was, at the time, the largest land creature ever to have lived. And unlike the even bigger creatures that came later, they think it could pop up on its hind legs.

When floodwaters from Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina's Lumberton area, some families were unable — or unwilling — to take their pets with them when they evacuated.

The flooding hit rapidly, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported, when temporary levees failed and sent water gushing into the surrounding area.

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.

Updated at 11:44 a.m. ET

Fewer than 10 months after taking the job of USA Gymnastics president and CEO, Kerry Perry has resigned.

Perry has been under scrutiny from the U.S. Olympic Committee as USA Gymnastics attempts to navigate a path forward following a sexual abuse scandal by former team doctor Larry Nassar that involved hundreds of women and girls. Nassar has been sentenced to decades in prison.

According to a statement Tuesday by the USA Gymnastics board of directors, Perry's resignation is effective immediately.

Researchers investigating the effects of air pollution conducted math and verbal tests over the course of multiple years on more than 25,000 people in 162 Chinese counties. They matched those results with pollution conditions at the time of each test, and found sobering results.

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.

A top Buddhist monk in China has resigned from his post after accusations of sexual misconduct by multiple nuns.

Xuecheng was the president of the Buddhist Association of China. A statement on the organization's website posted Wednesday said that Xuecheng's resignation had been accepted at a council meeting.

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.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the National Rifle Association's federal lawsuit against him is "frivolous." The lawsuit claims that Cuomo's policies are trying to deprive the NRA of its First Amendment rights by making it more difficult for the organization to function in the state.

Cuomo described the NRA as a "group of extremists" and says he hopes that his actions against the group will expand to other states.

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