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.

As Major League Baseball prepares to start its season, a massive set of coronavirus test results shows that 28 out of the league's 30 teams have had a player or staff member test positive.

So far, 71 players and 12 staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus, MLB announced Friday.

When teams convened for training camps at the beginning of the month, the league carried out intake screenings. Some 58 players and eight staff members tested positive. That's a rate of 1.8%, with more than 3,700 samples tested.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined Tuesday how the state will eventually decide to start lifting restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The governor did not indicate when these decisions might happen, only saying that "when it comes to re-opening, SCIENCE – not politics – must be California's guide."

The World Bank has projected that a recession is coming to sub-Saharan African for the first time in 25 years — due to an economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the number of coronavirus cases in his state is doubling every four days now — a marked decrease from early on in the outbreak, when it was doubling every 2 1/2 days.

"It's still doubling, and that's still bad news, because that still means you're moving up towards an apex," Cuomo said at a press conference on Friday. "But there is good news in that the rate of the increase is slowing."

A political twist in Israel may help the embattled prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stay in power.

After three inconclusive elections, the right wing Netanyahu and his centrist rival Benny Gantz are reportedly close to a deal to rotate as prime minister, with Netanyahu taking the first turn.

If you don't already have a REAL ID-compliant drivers license or ID, you have an additional year to get one before you probably need it to board a domestic flight.

The Dept. of Homeland Security has pushed back the enforcement deadline from Oct. 1, 2020 to Oct. 1, 2021 in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Updated at 3:45 p.m.

China will close its borders to foreigners starting on Saturday, March 28, in a dramatic step to try to stop the coronavirus coming in from abroad.

The move is the latest in a string of tough steps by the Chinese government to combat the virus, which first appeared in the city of Wuhan late last year and has spread widely since.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that because of the coronavirus pandemic, he is delaying a constitutional referendum that could allow him to stay in power until 2036. The vote had been scheduled for April 22.

"You know that this is a very serious matter for me," Putin said in a speech on Wednesday. "However...our absolute priority is the health, life and safety of the people. This is why I believe the vote should be postponed."

The U.N. is calling for countries to reduce the number of people in detention, saying that "physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible."

U.N. High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet says authorities should look for ways to release people in detention who are especially vulnerable to the disease, such as those who are elderly or who have health issues. She says they should also consider releasing low-risk offenders.

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.

Forever 21, the fast-fashion mall standby that filed for bankruptcy last year, will live on. Three companies announced Wednesday that they are jointly acquiring the retailer aimed at young shoppers and that they plan to continue to operate its U.S. and international stores.

The buyers are Authentic Brands Group, which owns major brands such as Barneys New York, Aeropostale and Nine West; and real estate companies Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners.

Holden Matthews, the white son of a sheriff's deputy, has pleaded guilty to federal charges over setting three historically black churches on fire in Louisiana during a 10-day period last March and April. The religious institutions were completely destroyed.

"His atrocious actions inflicted severe pain and grief upon these congregations," Bryan Vorndran, the special agent in charge of the FBI's New Orleans Field office, said in a statement.

Updated at 6:15 p.m. ET

An airplane careened off a runway at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport on Wednesday evening, dropping more than 100 feet to the ground where it broke into pieces. Turkish authorities say that at least three people were killed and 179 others were injured.

The plane, from a Turkish low-cost carrier called Pegasus Airlines, was coming from the western city of Izmir and was attempting to land in Istanbul during bad weather.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is considering tightening the rules for taking service animals on planes after increased customer complaints and lobbying from the airlines who think current regulations are too lenient.

Ikea has agreed to pay $46 million to a California family whose 2-year-old son, Jozef Dudek, was killed when an unsecured Ikea dresser fell on top of him. The family's lawyers say the dresser model was "inherently unstable."

Updated at 7:36 p.m. ET

A New York judge has ruled that President Trump must pay $2 million in damages to settle claims that the Trump Foundation misused funds. The money will go to a group of charities, and the foundation is in the process of dissolving.

Updated at 5:49 p.m. ET

U.S. Vice President Pence says he has brokered a cease-fire deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to suspend the Turkish incursion into northern Syria, targeting Kurdish forces. However, minutes later, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated that he did not consider it a cease-fire.

More than 330 people have been arrested around the world in a major takedown of a massive child pornography website, which U.S. officials say is among the first to be found using cryptocurrency to carry out video sales.

More than 200 years ago, scholars glued the remains of an ancient papyrus scroll onto cardboard to preserve it. But the scroll, a history of Plato's Academy, also had writing on the back. Now scholars have deployed imaging technology to read what's been concealed.

This scroll came from a library in Herculaneum, near Mount Vesuvius. And it was caught in the famous eruption of that volcano nearly 2,000 years ago — the same eruption that buried the city of Pompeii.

Updated at 2:14 p.m. ET Tuesday

One day after a dive boat erupted in flames, killing at least 34 people, authorities are suspending their search efforts for survivors. At a news conference Tuesday, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the bodies of 20 victims — 11 female and 9 male — have been recovered from the wreckage, while divers are still trying to recover the remains of several other victims they have spotted in the waters near California's Channel Islands.

Updated at 3:40 p.m. ET

North Carolina is suing electronic cigarette companies that it accuses of selling products to children, amid a major increase in U.S. teens getting hooked on vaping.

The state's attorney general, Josh Stein, announced Tuesday that his office will be filing lawsuits in state court against eight companies that sell vaping products. His office is accusing these companies of "aggressively targeting children and do not require appropriate age verification when selling these dangerous and addictive products."

A pilot who is credited with saving dozens of lives has died. United Flight 232 went into total hydraulic failure while Al Haynes was at the controls in 1989. With the help of three other pilots, he maneuvered the DC-10 to a miraculous crash landing in Sioux City, Iowa, and 184 of the 296 people on board survived.

Haynes is widely seen as a hero among aviation experts, akin to Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and his "miracle on the Hudson." Haynes' son Dan confirmed to NPR that his father had died.

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."

President Trump has vetoed a series of measures approved by bipartisan lawmakers that were aimed at blocking the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Trump said the three resolutions would "weaken America's global competitiveness and damage the important relationship we share with our allies and partners."

Lawmakers in support of the bills have criticized the Saudis' actions in the Yemen conflict where thousands of civilians have died, and the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

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.

The Senate has voted 97-2 to approve a bill that will virtually ensure permanent funding for rescue workers whose work after the Sept. 11 attacks caused health problems.

The House passed the bill last month, and President Trump is expected to approve it, ending a years-long ordeal for the victims after concerns that the fund was on the verge of running out of money.

Updated at 9:50 a.m. ET

Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the freshman Democratic congresswomen facing attacks from President Trump and his supporters, was cheered as she arrived back at her home district in Minnesota on Thursday.

A crowd of people at the airport in the Twin Cities held banners with slogans such as "Stop Racism Now" and chanted "welcome home Ilhan" as the congresswoman emerged from her flight.

If a fire was reported while you were on an upper floor of a high-rise, what would you do?

For one West Philadelphia man, the answer was: Get to the outside of the building and scramble down more than a dozen floors.

The breathtaking feat was captured in detail by multiple local television stations, bringing us several views of the man descending at least 14 floors of the tall building with apparent ease.

Some of Puerto Rico's biggest stars rallied a crowd of many thousands in San Juan on Wednesday, calling on the island's governor, Ricardo Rosselló, to resign. It was the fifth day in a row of protests in the U.S. territory, following a leak of hundreds of pages of misogynistic and homophobic texts between the governor and his main advisers.

During the day, trap artist Bad Bunny and singer Ricky Martin were among the huge crowd that marched to the governor's mansion.

The State Department said it has issued sanctions to four top military leaders in Myanmar over what it called "gross human rights violations" during the "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya Muslim minority.

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