Merrit Kennedy

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for The Two-Way, NPR's breaking news blog. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.

Merrit 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 ouster 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.

The U.K.'s dramatic decision to leave the European Union has set off an open mutiny within the opposition Labour Party against the party's leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The BBC reports that at least 12 ministers have resigned from their positions on the shadow cabinet; in the British system, that's the government body that criticizes the ruling party's government and presents alternatives.

This started when Corbyn sacked his shadow foreign secretary, party veteran Hilary Benn, as NPR's Peter Kenyon tells our Newscast unit.

Iraqi security forces say they have taken control of the city of Fallujah from Islamic State militants after nearly five weeks of intense fighting.

The militant group has controlled the city for the past 2 ½ years, as NPR's Alice Fordham tells our Newscast unit. Iraqi officials pronounced the fight over after pushing ISIS fighters out of Fallujah's Jolan district.

President Obama has declared a major disaster in West Virginia after flash flooding left at least 23 people dead and devastated communities.

A group of attackers detonated a car bomb and then stormed a hotel in the heart of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, taking hostages. Security forces say they have now taken control of the scene.

There are conflicting reports about the incident's death toll — The Associated Press reports that 14 people were killed in the attack, while the Somali government says in a tweet that 12 people were killed and 20 injured. Reuters reports that at least 15 people were killed and an unspecified number were injured, including hotel guards, civilians and militants.

For the last 15 years, Spix's Macaw has been presumed extinct in the wild. That's until one of the blue-feathered parrots was spotted and caught on video flying near the town of Curaca, Brazil.

Conservators say the appearance of the mysterious rare bird represents "a new hope" for the area.

In a visit to Armenia, Pope Francis has urged the world to never forget the Ottoman-era slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians which he termed a genocide – a characterization likely to cause tensions with Turkey.

Six European Union foreign ministers meeting in Berlin are pressing the U.K. to make a quick exit from the bloc. This comes a day after referendum results showed that Britain has voted to leave the EU.

Representatives from the six founding member countries – France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Italy – were huddled in crisis mode at the meeting to plan the bloc's future course without the U.K., as NPR's Eleanor Beardsley tells our Newscast Unit.

They were hoping to conquer their fears by walking over a bed of hot coals. But instead, dozens of people participating in a Dallas event hosted by motivational speaker Tony Robbins were treated for burns.

As a result of walking across coals, "a large number of these people sustained burn injuries to their feet and lower extremities," Jason Evans, a spokesman for the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department, said in a statement. Approximately 30-40 people were injured. Most elected to be treated at the scene, and five opted to go to a local hospital for evaluation.

Two days of flash flooding across West Virginia have killed at least 23 people and seriously damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes, according to the governor.

U.K. voters have decided to leave the European Union — a result that's left many Brits reeling, especially young people.

Social media is flooded with expressions of shock and rage as the country begins to digest what the monumental decision will mean for its economy and its future.

A powerful tornado, hailstorms and heavy rain hit eastern China's Jiangsu province Thursday, killing at least 78 people, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The news service adds that "nearly 500 people were injured, 200 critically."

A California jury has ruled that the members of Led Zeppelin did not plagiarize the opening bars of their hit "Stairway to Heaven," a seminal song in rock history.

The estate of Randy Wolfe, the deceased guitarist of the band Spirit, had filed the federal copyright infringement lawsuit in 2014. It argued that guitar intro was stolen from the opening notes of Spirit's song "Taurus" — which came out before Stairway. At the time, Wolfe was performing under the pseudonym Randy California.

A Baltimore court has acquitted Officer Caesar Goodson of second-degree murder and all other charges in a case related to the death of Freddie Gray.

Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died from a spinal cord injury sustained while in police custody last year.

Goodson drove the van that transported Gray after his arrest. Gray apparently sustained the fatal injury during that van ride, during which he was handcuffed, shackled and not wearing a seat belt. The incident sparked protests and riots in Baltimore and raised questions about police negligence.

After 71 hours and 8 minutes of flight time crossing the Atlantic, Solar Impulse 2 has touched down in Seville, Spain. It's a major step toward the team's goal of circumnavigating the globe using only the sun's power.

The end of this leg means they've now completed 90 percent of that journey.

As The Two-Way has reported, the single-seater plane took off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport early Monday with pilot Bertrand Piccard at the controls.

The American Kennel Club says it is officially granting full status to the pumi, a herding breed originally from Hungary.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says his office has filed a civil lawsuit against two companies involved in Flint's lead-tainted water crisis. The damages could reach hundreds of millions of dollars, he says.

"The more I discover and decipher," Schuette says, "the angrier I become. ... People committed crimes, and a global company and a Texas company botched the job of providing safe drinking water."

The Brazilian army says it shot dead an escaped jaguar shortly after the animal was displayed at a ceremony celebrating the Olympic torch in the Amazonian city of Manaus.

The jaguar named Juma had escaped his leash at a zoo affiliated with a local military training center, after appearing earlier at the Olympic event, the military said in a statement.

As mourners hold funerals in Orlando for the victims of last week's nightclub shooting, the city's theater community is banding together to protect them from anti-gay protesters.

Dressed in white and wearing large wings, the "angels" stood in a row in order to shield the family and friends of the victims. The idea, according to American Theatre, is to allow the mourners to "grieve in peace."

A Colorado woman managed to fight off a mountain lion that was attacking her 5-year-old son.

During the harrowing rescue Friday evening, she "reached into the animal's mouth and wrested her son's head from its jaws," The Aspen Times reported.

A Tennessee jury has found former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Vandenburg guilty of multiple counts of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery in a case that stems from the 2013 gang rape of a woman he had been dating.

Tens of thousands of people are demonstrating against the heavy U.S. military presence on the island of Okinawa, Japan.

It's "one of the biggest demonstrations in two decades" against the U.S. military bases on the island, Reuters reports, and comes after an American allegedly raped and killed a local woman named Rina Shimabukuro.

As investigators probe the background of Omar Mateen, whose attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando left 49 people dead, they say he bore few warning signs of radicalization.

The man accused of killing British Member of Parliament Jo Cox appeared in a London court today, where he was formally charged with murder.

When he was asked to give his name, Thomas Mair used the opportunity to say "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain."

After weeks of debate, Canadian lawmakers have passed legislation to legalize physician-assisted death.

That makes Canada "one of the few nations where doctors can legally help sick people die," as Reuters reports.

The new law "limits the option to the incurably ill, requires medical approval and mandates a 15-day waiting period," as The Two-Way has reported.

Just seven weeks before the opening ceremony of the Olympics, the governor of Rio de Janeiro has declared a "state of calamity." Interim Governor Francisco Dornelles says the state's government is bankrupt and can't meet its financial commitments ahead of the games.

A pair of bloodstained shoes has become a symbol of Orlando's defiance in the face of extraordinary trauma.

The shoes belong to Joshua Corsa, a senior surgical resident at the Orlando Regional Medical Center. They were almost brand new when the hospital received scores of victims of the mass shooting attack on a gay nightclub Sunday morning that left 49 people dead.

Iraqi security forces say that after days of fierce fighting, they've wrested control of Fallujah's main government building from ISIS militants. ISIS has controlled the city for the past 2 1/2 years.

Security forces say "they raised the Iraqi flag over the mayor's compound in Fallujah," as NPR's Alison Meuse tells our Newscast unit, adding that the building houses the city's main court and police headquarters.

Track and field's world governing body has unanimously decided to bar Russian athletes from competing in the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro amid allegations of state-sponsored doping.

The International Association of Athletics Federations made the announcement at a press conference Friday in Vienna.

"Because the system in Russia has been tainted by doping from top level and down, we cannot trust that what we call and what people might call clean athletes really are clean," said Rune Andersen, head of the task force that provided recommendations to the IAAF.

"If there was ever a moment for all of us to reflect and reaffirm our most basic beliefs that everybody counts and everybody has dignity, now's the time," President Obama said in remarks during a visit to Orlando, Fla., to express his support for the victims of Sunday's deadly attack and their families.

As NPR's Scott Horsley tells our Newscast unit, "The president hopes his presence in Orlando will provide some support to the families of the 49 people who died in Sunday's massacre, as well as the dozens of people who are still recovering from the wounds they suffered."

Philadelphia has approved a tax on soda — and it's the first major U.S. city to do so. Now, a legal fight is brewing between the city and the soda industry.

The bill passed Philadelphia's City Council by a vote of 13-4.

Mayor Jim Kenney supported the tax. After the law passed, he called it "a historic investment in our neighborhoods and our education system."

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